Friday, September 09, 2011

A Weekend at the 2011 D23 Expo, Part Two

Picking up where last week's Part One left off!

Saturday we enjoyed seeing John Lasseter and many other members of Pixar's creative team at a panel celebrating 25 Years of Pixar...

...followed by an excellent presentation on the upcoming prequel to MONSTERS, INC. (2001), MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013):

We really enjoyed learning how the animators approached taking the characters of Mike and Sully backwards in time.

The Pixar Times has a report and video of the "25 Years" panel, and The Desk of Brian reports on the Monsters panel.

Sunday we had an excellent time seeing John Lasseter and the Imagineers discuss Cars Land, which is recounted in detail by Mark Goldhaber at MousePlanet.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Lasseter put in a plug for his John of the Jungle contest. He's hoping that someone can track down a photo of him as a Jungle Cruise skipper circa 1977; he's convinced there must be shots of him sitting in someone's family album!

A detour for a nostalgic side note...all over the Anaheim Convention Center were these relics of the pre-cell phone era...children probably wouldn't have any idea what used to be stored in those cubbies under the counter, seeing as how phone books are on their way to being obsolete too!

Sunday we finally had the opportunity to visit the Treasures of the Archives exhibit:

At the time of our visit, legendary Disney Archivist Emeritus Dave Smith was on hand personally greeting guests in the Archives exhibit. We had seen Dave give a talk at last year's Destination D event, but having the chance to say hello and ask questions was a real thrill.

The highlight of the archives was a recreation of the office of animator Frank Thomas, one of the "Nine Old Men":

Dave told us the items that were originally in the office were tracked down from multiple sources, including the Thomas family and the current office of animator Tony Anselmo, who voices Donald Duck.

I also especially enjoyed seeing Guy Williams' costumes from ZORRO:

And especially the jeweled book from the opening of my favorite animated movie, SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) flash photography allowed:

As for a critique of the weekend, my comments fall somewhere between those who were very upset (check out, for example, some comments at Mice Chat) and a post at Jim Hill Media which seems to bend over backwards to excuse Disney. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. We had a wonderful time, but Disney has definite room for improvement, and hopefully they will take the lessons of 2011 to heart.

This year's Expo was not just scaled back from four days to three, the number of events were also scaled back, and seats in the arena were also inexplicably reduced. Too few events for the number of tickets sold resulted in seeing far fewer presentations than we had hoped, as well as the need to get in lines very early -- as in two to three hours early. Consequently, much of our weekend was spent sitting in lines in holding rooms like this:

Seeing Dick Van Dyke, who was scheduled in a too-small venue, proved to be an impossibility, but fortunately the "Voices of the Parks" panel we attended instead proved to be a highpoint of the weekend.

There were too many Disney Channel and Radio Disney events, and definitely not enough panels focusing on Disney history. A comment seen online by Jeffrey Epstein, the "Disney Geek," seemed to hint that Disney sees the Destination D events as the main place for Disney history enthusiasts in the future: "... much of the Expo is about looking forward at all the exciting things on the horizon at Disney. We created the Destination D events to celebrate Disney’s legacy — and will continue to do so!"

The 2009 guidebook is filled with panels on everything from Don DeFore's Silver Banjo restaurant in Disneyland to "lost Disney music" to SOUTH OF THE BORDER WITH DISNEY to "Disney Rarities" to the "Evolution of Mickey" to the music and sound effects of the Haunted Mansion to a chat with Roy Patrick Disney to discussion panels at multiple movie screenings. The list goes on from there. The movie screenings and discussions, in fact, completely disappeared from the schedule this time around, other than THE LION KING in 3-D and a celebration of Pixar shorts. I was quite disappointed by that change.

The Disney history panels this time were more limited, consisting of a wonderful presentation on the Disneyland Hotel, a "Vintage Disneyland" presentation by Imagineer Tony Baxter, and I'd class the "Voices of the Parks" panel in that category. "It's a Small World" and the Legends of Disney Imagineering panels seemed to duplicate presentations we'd previously seen at the 2009 Expo or at Destination D. The 2011 Expo seemed, as Epstein indicated above, to be more focused on current and future Disney. I hope that future Expos will seek more balance in this regard. Indeed, more panel choices will help address the 2011 problems with lines and crowding.

Disney also did a much better job managing lines in 2009, and generally seemed to have more people available on the floor to answer questions and keep things running smoothly. I was "tuned in" to the Expo Twitter hashtag all weekend, and D23 did a poor job of promptly utilizing it for updates, often posting news about lines closing after we had already discovered the news "in person." We got a lot more news from other Expo guests' Tweets than we did from official Disney Tweets. Disney does a great job with their official blog and with D23, in general; the company could do a lot more with Twitter at the next Expo than they did in 2011.

I'd also like to see more on the Expo floor in the future. The Parks and Resorts pavilion is wonderful, but so much of the floor is aimed at young children. More balance and more to do would be welcome. For instance, what about some sort of pavilion celebrating Disney's Broadway shows? They could have previewed the upcoming production of NEWSIES, for example.

The merchandise this year was greatly improved, thanks to the presence of the Imagineering store Mickey's of Glendale, as well as the store next to the Archives:

There was a wonderful reproduction of a 1971 Walt Disney World "preview" book sold in the Archives store. If only Mickey's of Glendale had sold the WED mug I covet... On the other hand, once again Disney needs to find a way to speed the lines in the merchandise areas. There's just no reason for such long lines for people willing to hand Disney their money!

Critical comments aside, we enjoyed a wonderful weekend immersed in all things Disney. And where else can you have composer Richard Sherman walk past you, simply enjoying the Expo along with Disney fans? (He also attended Destination D.) It will be interesting to see how the Expo evolves in 2013, and I'm sure I'll be reporting on that two years hence.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I enjoyed your posts on the convention very much. Like any big event, there are always issues and always good times.

A weekend at the kitchen table re-reading books on the history of the studio pales in comparison. Thanks for sharing.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I completely agree! So glad to know you enjoyed the posts, I appreciate you taking the time to let me know!

Best wishes,

11:32 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I agree with what you had to say. Because I did not go to the first one, I really couldn't compare so maybe it didn't seem as bad to me. The waits were not great though, as I felt I was wasting time. I did get to see those things I wanted to and I only went for the one day. I do have friends though that did not enjoy it and have been very vocal about it.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It definitely would have been nice to have spent that time in line doing other things -- it's really a "lose" for Disney, too, when their audience is sitting in a holding room. Hopefully they'll think this through. I was surprised as it seemed like some of the problems were simply the foreseeable result of poor planning.

Best wishes,

3:49 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Yes. One expects better than that from Disney.

6:12 PM  

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