Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Visit to the D23 Expo

There's just one word for our experience at the D23 Expo in Anaheim today: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

We arrived first thing this morning and had a wonderful day.

The Expo was extremely well run; it felt like a day at a Disney park. We were impressed with the number of Disney Expo employees in red shirts who were always available to answer questions. The room on the future of Disney theme parks didn't simply have exhibits, there were Imagineers in yellow shirts explaining each model and exhibit and available to answer questions. There were numerous Disney photographers, who used Disney's Photopass system so photos can be purchased online after the Expo.

In short, the Expo was run with the extra level of organization and guest services which sets Disney experiences above the rest.

There was a nice crowd but at the same time it wasn't so packed that it was uncomfortable.

One of the extra-special touches was the entrance to the exhibit on the future of Disney theme parks. Guests watched a "World of Disney" type intro on a large screen, and then a laser "sliced" the screen which pulled open as we were invited to step into the future of Disney theme parks. This sign for Cars Land was one of the first things visible as the screen opened and we walked through; the "reveal" was very impressive!

A model of Cars Land:

Here's a model for the new Disney hotel resort being built on Oahu, which looks amazing. I'm ready to make reservations! It opens in 2011.

We got in line for Disney Parks Chairman Jay Rasulo's speech on the future of Disney theme parks about an hour beforehand. Below is just one part of the queue. The arena was packed, and according to at least one website they ran out of seating.

Rasulo was very personable. We didn't see any teleprompters and were wondering if he memorized his presentation because he did an excellent job.

He opened with a big announcement about the expansion of Fantasyland at Florida's Magic Kingdom. You can see this part of the speech on YouTube. Fantasyland will double in size. Florida will be importing California's new Pixie Hollow, as well as the Little Mermaid ride currently under construction at California Adventure. A new Beauty and the Beast restaurant looks neat...and they are doubling Dumbo's capacity!

Another wonderful moment was a computer-generated peek at part of the new Cars Land ride, Radiator Springs Racers; a YouTube video of this announcement is here.

The highlight was Rasulo's long-rumored announcement about the upgrade coming to STAR TOURS, which is now over 20 years old. The ride is going 3D! The Expo preview came complete with 3D glasses. You can see the preview on YouTube.

Both the announcement and the ride preview itself were greeted with loud cheers.

More coverage of the announcement was posted by the L.A. Times and Orange County Register.

After the Rasulo session we visited some of the booths, including MiceAge, MousePlanet, and the Walt Disney Family Museum:

At the end of the day we also saw a presentation about the Museum, which opens in Northern California next month. I hope we'll be able to visit it within a year or two.

Our only complaint about the Expo was that the D23 store didn't have a good selection of Expo merchandise -- we would have liked to see a better selection of t-shirts and the inclusion of ceramic mugs.

The Archives exhibit was one of our favorite parts of the day. We saw the jeweled SLEEPING BEAUTY book; an 11-foot model of the Nautilus; the dress, hat, and scarf Mary Poppins wore when she arrived at Cherry Tree Lane; Giselle's wedding dress from ENCHANTED; and much more.

The Archives display was in a darkened room and no photography was allowed in order to help protect the items being shown from deteriorating.

We also saw a very interesting hour-long presentation on the history of It's a Small World with Imagineers Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, and Tom Morris.

The Imagineers covered the way the ride has evolved at various parks; for instance, the bright colors on the exterior of the Paris version are because they have so many months of gray days. (You can see my photos taken in Paris last May, complete with gray skies, here.) And who knew there are two different kinds of boat flumes, "flood" versus "canal"? That's the kind of trivia Disney park fans love.

Morris did a lot of the work on Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris. Baxter offered the opinion that Disneyland is the most "charming" park and Disneyland Paris is the "most beautiful." I certainly won't disagree with Mr. Baxter.

There was a wide variety of panels and presentations we would have loved to attend, on everything Disney: theme parks, movies, music, collectibles, books, animation, stores, and so much more.

A great example of a presentation being held tomorrow which sounds really fun: David and Ron DeFore, sons of actor Don DeFore, will appear at an hour-long session on "Don DeFore's Silver Banjo BBQ." According to the Expo guide, DeFore's BBQ was the only Disneyland concession to ever bear the name of a real person. The DeFore sons will share their memories of Opening Day, riding with Walt in a Christmas parade, and testing the prototypes for the park's Flying Saucer ride. I hope someone who attends will share the details online.

I would have also loved to see yesterday's screening of the new documentary WALT AND EL GRUPO, which will be playing limited engagements. The movie focuses on Walt's tour in South America as part of the Good Neighbor program during WWII. The tour, which led to films such as SALUDOS AMIGOS (1942) and THE THREE CABALLEROS (1944), is also the subject of an upcoming book.

We hope Disney will hold another Expo next year; I would definitely try to attend at least two days at the next Expo.

We were home in time for the kickoff of the USC-Ohio State game. A great day ended with the Trojans winning a thriller over Ohio, 18-15.

Update: D23 Expo Recaps and Reviews.


Blogger Irene said...

I just finished seeing your daughter's photos and comments over on Facebook. Looks like you two had a really good time. I saw a video of the entrance that starts as a TV and then opens into the room which was very cool. I'm very happy to hear they are finally redoing Fantasyland at WDW. When we were there we thought it looked very dated and sort of dowdy. I sure do hope they do this Expo again as I would really like to attend.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a wonderful day, Irene! I hope they do have it again next year so you can attend. I'm sure you'd love the experience too.

Best wishes,

10:03 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Thanks to your link to one of the presentations on YouTube I've found a bunch of others. I'm glad I get to see at least some of it though I know it's now the same as being there, what with crowd energy and all. I'm waiting to hear from my brother and find out what his day was like.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

Did daughter make her pictures public on Facebook? I'm not her friend on Facebook, that sounds awful, but you know what I mean, so I haven't seen them.

Thanks for sharing!


5:45 PM  

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