Disclaimer: This post will center solely around my D23 expo experience. In the next post, I’ll discuss the announcements that were made and my thoughts on them.
Wow. What a weekend. I’m exhausted, thrilled, disappointed, intrigued, and giddy all at the same time. I didn’t know it was possible to feel all these emotions at once, but I suppose that’s what happens when you spend a day at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.
Where to begin?
As a first-timer, I spent a lot of time researching what to expect at D23, and a lot of that research came in handy. I joined D23 Facebook groups, tracked the tag on Twitter, and watched YouTube planning videos. As the day got closer, I saw pictures of the overnight lines come in, and I began to feel apprehensive. Eric and I only had tickets for Saturday, so we wanted to make the most out of our time there (the Expo was from Friday-Sunday)- but how could we, with so many panels and so many lines?
Luckily, I needn’t have worried. True, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted, but I also got to experience a lot of special presentations and see a lot of special people in the Disney community. Plus, I knew a lot of the big panels would be on YouTube later, and I’d be able to read and watch the announcements in the comfort of my home after the Expo (Truthfully, I learned more breaking news on the parks and films from Twitter than I did from attending the Expo itself).
Eric and I got to the convention center shortly after it opened (around 9 am), and the line was already so far back, it took us fifteen minutes to reach the end. However, the line moved fast, and we were walking through security and entering the doors right around 10:30 am. We were able to see 3 panels and 1 presentation (Character & Costume Design, Level Up: The Walt Disney Company’s Video Game Showcase, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure: A Sneak Peek at the New Frozen Short Film, and A Kiss Goodnight with Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Floyd Norman). Actor John Boyega from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, came out during the video games panel, which was really exciting! This was without us having any Stage Passes or standing in long queue lines.
We also got to shop at the Disney Dream Store (about a 30-minute wait) and see the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney Archives Exhibit (about a 45-minute wait). The main floor was huge with tons of stuff to look at, and a lot of photo opportunities. I was able to network with a few authors of Disney books, including David Koenig, one of my favorites. All in all, it was a pretty great time!
I didn’t get to attend The Power of the Princess panel (I was five minutes late due to the line to get in the building), go to the Auli’I Cravalho (voice of Moana) signing at Disney’s Music Emporium (all the Moana records were sold out by the time I got there, and I believe you needed to buy one of those in order to attend the signing), or get a picture with Colin O’Donoghue (Captain Hook from the show Once Upon a Time). Nevertheless, I was very happy with the things we did get to do, and I was grateful to just be at D23.
I think the best way to share and sort my overall thoughts is through a list- who doesn’t love lists, right? Below, you’ll find the things I liked and disliked about attending the D23 Expo as a first-timer.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first:
Not First-Timer Friendly
My husband brought this one up, and I think it’s an accurate statement. You really needed to have done research before the Expo- and by research, I don’t just mean download the D23 Expo app. There was information out there that wasn’t on Disney’s official app at all- info such as overnight lineups (the app said it wasn’t allowed, but people camped out overnight anyway). If I hadn’t read about past experiences people had at the 2015 Expo, picked out panels I wanted to attend ahead of time, and kept up with real-time updates, I would have missed out on a lot more.
Then there was the actual convention center itself, and the employees. The Anaheim Convention Center is HUGE. The app did have a map, but I was still confused as to where all the panels were being held. It took us 3 times to find Stage 28, and I didn’t realize that a lot of the presentations were held at the different booths on the main Expo floor. We eventually figured it out, but I think there could have definitely been more signage. I had to keep asking the convention center staff for directions (not the Disney Cast Members- they were lovely, as usual).
Lines, Lines, and more Lines
This one is obviously a given, but everyone seemed to agree that the lines were more hectic this year than any other year. A lot of this could have been because San Diego Comic Con is later this week, and a lot of people are in town for both. Also, I knew there would be lines for the major panels and I wasn’t planning on attending those, but I didn’t realize there would be a huge line just to get in the building itself.
Then there were lines for Stage Passes (passes to get you into certain panels faster and get better seats), lines for the stores, lines for photo opportunities with props, and lines to see certain exhibits, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean prop exhibit put on by the Disney Archives. There was just so much waiting, and while lines didn’t ruin my day, it certainly did hinder a few things I wanted to do.
With a convention as big as this, it’s understandable for things to get lost in translation. However, it still can be irritating, even to someone with a positive and patient attitude. I had heard about a debacle at the Animation panel on Friday (apparently, they accidentally miscounted and a few thousand people lost out on seats for that- they did, however, end up fixing that situation). Things seemed to flow a bit smoother on Saturday, but there were still some flaws in the system, mostly with the convention center staff.
For example, The Power of the Princess panel started at 10:30 am. We got in the building exactly at 10:30, and I asked a staff member if they were still letting people in (naïve, I know). He told me “oh yeah, they should still be letting people in,” so Eric and I bolted upstairs to Stage 28. However, by the time we got there, the gentleman outside was barking out to everyone around that the panel was closed. Now, I had already figured that I wouldn’t be on time for the panel, but if the staff member downstairs hadn’t given me false hope, I wouldn’t have felt as let down as I did. Luckily, it didn’t ruin our day at all, and we saw some other amazing panels later on.
Next, I had seen on the app that there would be a photo opportunity with Colin O’Donoghue at 5:15 pm. I was wearing my Captain Hook shirt and really wanted a picture. It didn’t mention anywhere that wristbands were needed for the photo, so Eric and I went to line up at the Talent Central station about an hour early. Much to my dismay, it turned out that you did need to have a wristband for the photo- apparently, they had given out wristbands at a random time and place earlier in the day, without telling anyone…and all the wristbands were gone by the time we got there. I was a bit miffed at this, as were other fans next to me who wanted a photo as well. If only they had told us about the wristbands, I would have been more prepared.
Apparently, this isn’t out of the norm for D23, but I was amazed at the people who bought bags and bags of Limited Edition items from the store, only to sell them later at exorbitant prices on eBay. These people also did this for signed posters and other rare Expo objects. Now, I didn’t particularly care for any of the pins or tsums tsums the stores were selling, even though they looked cool and were pretty rare. However, I don’t think it’s fair that these people were robbing little kids, and others, for the chance to buy an item they wanted. Someone told me they were limiting certain items to “one per person,” but as these people came in groups, the LE items still sold out very early.
Running out of Swag
This isn’t a big deal at all, but they were giving out free lanyards, souvenir guides, and D23 bags at the Expo entrance. I was able to get one of each except the bag, which were all gone, and had not been restocked until after I left. Later, I saw photos of people on the D23 Expo Facebook Group with handfuls of these free bags- basically, they robbed people like me of the chance to get one. Because, you know, god forbid you don’t pick one up for your sister’s cousin’s daughter, right? Anyway, it was mildly annoying, especially since it would have helped a lot with everything I had to carry that day.
Okay, I think we’ve read enough rants about the Expo by now to last a lifetime, so here are the positives. Luckily, these far outweighed the negatives for me, and let us have a wonderful experience:
D23- The Positives
All the Panels
Every panel we went to was an amazing experience, even though they weren’t any of the “big” panels with celebrities and major announcements. I knew I would hear all the announcements later anyway, so I wasn’t that fussed about camping out overnight for a seat at one of them (the “big” ones being the Pixar/Disney Animation panel, the Live Action panel, and the Disney Parks and Resorts panel).
I got learn a lot about what goes into costume design for animated films by some really talented ladies at the Disney Animation Studios. Also, I got to see a sneak peek of the new Frozen short film, which will show in front of the movie Coco this November (it’s a 22-minute film with four new songs, centering on Olaf and his mission to find a holiday tradition for Anna and Elsa). Then I got to learn about new video games from Star Wars and Marvel, as well as learn about Kingdom Hearts III- when they announced a new world for that game (Toy Story), the crowd lost its mind. It was great to be in rooms with such talented people and learn more about the company I love.
My favorite panel was the one with Richard Sherman, who is famous for many iconic Disney songs, including those for Mary Poppins. He played “Feed the Birds” on a piano in the middle of the arena, and got a standing ovation. That moment gave me chills, as it was Walt Disney’s favorite song- Richard Sherman used to play it for him after long nights at the studio. To see and hear this legend, and to hear the applause and adoration from fellow fans, was very emotional- I’m so glad I chose this over waiting in line for a Stage Pass or a photo.
The Expo Show Floor
There was SO much to see on the main floor. Stages, presentations, merchandise booths, autograph signings, collectibles, books and their authors- it was jaw-dropping. I could have spent all day walking around and visiting every booth- they even had a booth from the Walt Disney Museum in Marceline, Missouri (Walt’s childhood town) where Walt Disney’s old school desk was on display. There were exhibits from the Disney Archives, which had one of my favorites- dresses on display from famous Disney live action films, including the iconic blue dress from Cinderella (2015) and the yellow ball gown from Beauty and the Beast (2016). Everyone who knows me knows that the live-action Cinderella is one of my favorite movies, so I literally gasped when I saw that blue dress.
I watch a LOT of Disney YouTube channels (an embarrassing amount), and a lot of my idols were there in person. True, the only ones I got to meet were the guys from the Dis Unplugged channel, but they were very nice and even gave us free pins! MouseSteps, Adam the Woo, Fresh Baked Disney and Justin Scarred were also there, but the only ones with an actual booth was the Dis. Still, it was cool to know they were there, and I look forward to watching their footage of the Expo over the next week. Links to their channels are here:
I don’t do Cosplay (“costume play”) myself, so it was really exciting to see all the costumes people were wearing, and the creativity and talent that went into these costumes. I saw a lot of Annas, Elsas, Belles, Storm Troopers, Spidermans, and Moanas, but also rarer character costumes such as Honey Lemon and Sergeant Calhoun. It was amazing to see little kids gawk over these costumes and run over to an Elsa or a Moana for a photo. There were also people dressed as actual Disney attractions- one woman wore a Big Thunder Mountain dress with an actual working railroad, and another was dressed as a Jungle Cruise Skipper, complete with a boat of his own that he walked around in. I definitely felt underdressed and I think the cosplay, more than anything, was what made Eric see how hardcore Disney fans really were.
It was great just to be in the midst of so many Disney fans; people got so damn excited over EVERY little announcement, and it was infectious. The video game panel received a standing ovation when Kingdom Hearts III was announced. Tweets and news articles were coming out every five minutes. Everyone was so NICE- we took a lot of pictures for other couples, and they always returned the favor. With the exception of the eBay scalpers, I thought everyone attending the Expo was lovely. Even if they weren’t the best with information, the staff (for the most part) were great. They kept the lines moving, they gave us directions, and were very patient during what must have been a hard weekend. D23 was just a really overwhelming experience, and I don’t know when I’ll ever be in such a big crowd of Disney fans again.
Overall, it was such a wonderful weekend. I do plan to write more about the panels we saw, and my reactions to the major announcements that were made. However, I wanted to jot down my general thoughts on the Expo itself first. Keep an eye on this blog for more D23 Expo reviews, and a giveaway of a D23 Expo 2017 Souvenir Guide!
Did you attend D23 this year? Was your overall experience good, or bad?
Hugs and Fishes,