D23 Expo 2013 – Day One: Friday August 9, 2013

expoAll the magic and excitement of the past, present and future of Disney entertainment will come together once again when D23: The Official Disney Fan Club presents an all-new D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center on Aug. 9-11, 2013.  Among the highlights of D23 Expo 2013 will be expanded capacities at some of our most popular venues; the 2013 Disney Legends Ceremony, which honors the talented men and women who have made significant contributions to the Disney legacy; Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, a treasure trove of crown jewels from the Walt Disney Archives; the bustling aisles of the Collectors Forum, where Disney fans can buy, sell and trade Disney collectibles, memorabilia and merchandise; and a massive show floor full of special opportunities to see what’s on the horizon for Disney around the world—and where guests may bump into their favorite Disney stars, characters, Imagineers, animators and filmmakers.

I’ve been looking forward to this D23 Expo since the last one two years ago.  It seemed last time, that while it was a lot of fun and there was a ton of stuff to see and experience, you could tell that putting on an event this big was something new to Disney and they still had some kinks to work out.  While the Comic-Con convention in San Diego isn’t perfectly run, they at least know how to do deal with crowds and most of their staff know what they are supposed to be doing, Disney should still take a look at how they run the convention.  I was hoping that this third time around, the good people at Disney would have their staff be better prepared this time, but the third D23 Expo opened Friday to chaos and confusion amongst the fans in line.  

Even the event staff that should have been able to assist the crowd seemed to not know what to do.  Having recently covered Comic-Con, I was prepared for the onslaught of fans, but the very un-Disney like attitude of the event staff caught me by surprise.  The staff were unprepared and one of them repeatedly yelled at the crowd that they needed to stop getting “pissed off”. Knowing that guests were arriving from 48 states and 21 countries, I would have expected Disney employees to be ready with their A-game so it was disappointing that even with two years to plan the event things still haven’t improved.  With that observation out of the way, let’s talk about the good parts of this Expo!  From this point forward, I will just run down what’s happening as it happens live.


After finally making it inside the convention center I made my way straight to the D23 Expo Arena just in time for the opening welcome from Disney CEO Bob Iger. Iger tells the crowd that leading Disney has been the “ride of a lifetime” and quickly brings out crowd favorite John Lasseter. Lasseter is there to share what’s ahead for Disney animation. He mentions the addition of Lucasfilm to the company (bringing cheers and a single lightsaber glowing in the audience) but warns that not too many details about the next Star Wars movie will be available this weekend.


The crowd is treated to brief clips of upcoming movies including The Good Dinosaur, Saving Mr. Banks and Frozen. Angelina Jolie as Maleficent has me intrigued but the image of Darth Vader is clearly the crowd favorite. John Lasseter explains that he leads Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Toon Studios. First up is what’s ahead for Pixar, and Lasseter is wearing his Monsters University Hawaiian-style shirt as he introduces the unexpected fan favorite character from the movie, The Slug voiced by Bill Hader.  Bill Hader is brought to the stage. For those that saw the movie but did not stay through the credits, we get to see the clip of the slug finally getting to class only to find out the semester is over.  Next is the exclusive world premiere of the Monsters University short film “Party Central” which will be appear before next summer’s The Good Dinosaur.  Sadly, Nathan Fillion, was not in attendance.


Director Peter Sohn and Producer Denise Ream discuss The Good Dinosaur, a film that asks what if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs had missed Earth?  We learn that Peter Sohn was the voice of Squishy in Monsters University. The Good Dinosaur stars John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, and Neil Patrick Harris.  The film also includes the voice talents of Judy Greer, Lucas Nell and Bill Hader who appear in person. In The Good Dinosaur, the dinosaurs are all farmers and this does look quite different than the animated dinosaur movies that have already been made.


At the last D23 Expo, John Lasseter discussed a movie called The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind. The film finally has a title – Inside Out.  Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera take the stage to discuss the premise.  Riley is a young girl and both the main character and the setting as the film takes place in her brain.  Her emotions are characters as well including Anger voiced by Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling as disgust and Amy Poehler as Joy.  The actors who voice the characters of fear and sadness are brought out as are Phyllis Smith (“The Office”) and Bill Hader.


It certainly seems as though Bill Hader has a part in every Pixar film.  The next one introduced, Finding Dori, doesn’t star Hader but he appears on stage dressed as a sea cucumber trying to find a role.  Hader wants to be Pixar’s lucky charm with four films.  Next a marching band, and Pixar’s true lucky charm, John Ratzenberger, appear on stage to a standing ovation from the crowd.  Ratzenberger jokes about needing talent, creativity and modesty to be the lucky charm.  After a look at Ratzenberger’s 14 film characters, confetti cannons are fired, ending the Ratzenberger spectacle.  Ratzenberger is a good transition to Toy Story, and we are treated to the first ten minutes of Toy Story of Terror which will air on ABC on October 16th.


After a video tour of Disney Toon Studios (pool tables and cereal bar included), John Lasseter announces two new Tinkerbell movies. First is the Legend of the Neverbeast, directed by Steve Loter.  The second, and most exciting title is The Pirate Fairy which is directed by Peggy Holmes who is there to bring stars Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston to the stage.  Hiddleston appears with short, neatly cropped hair and is dressed nicely in a gray vest.  He discusses his love for Disney films and sings a bit of “The Bare Necessities” – a far cry from his appearance at Comic Con as Loki, demanding obedience from the crowd. Hiddleston plays James who is revealed to be Captain Hook (with two hands at this point) in the film.


Next up is Planes, which is to be screened in 3D for the audience later in the day, Director Klay Hall appears and we’re introduced to next summer’s Planes Fire and Rescue with it’s Director Bobs Gannaway.  The role of Dusty Crophopper is played by Dane Cook who appears to discuss the film.  He jokes that it’s a no brainer to think family friendly entertainment and Dane Cook together.  Cook says he liked that the script had heart and talks about his own childhood fears of speaking publicly.

fire and rescue

John Lasseter, who has been wearing his Planes shirt has now changed into his Wreck It Ralph garb for a celebration of Burny Mattinson an animator celebrating his 60th anniversary with the company.  Mattinson is the last animator on staff to work with Walt Disney personally.  Mattinson tells about his start as a traffic boy (messenger) which eventually lead to directing Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which happened to be Lasseter’s first job with the company.


The crowd is the most excited for new announcements, and Lasseter introduces a planned 2016 film called Zootopia which is described as a buddy action comedy in an animal world without humans.  This is an animal world designed by animals.  The animal civilization includes different neighborhoods like Tundra Town for the cold weather animals, Sahara Square for the desert animals, Little Rodentia the mouse town and Burrow Borough where the bunnies lives. This looks like it will shape up to be one of those kid movies I won’t mind taking my son to.


Finally the big finale starts with a trailer for Frozen which stars Kristin Bell as Anna a princess who considers herself ordinary.  Her sister Elsa has the power to turn things into ice.  We see a clip from the movie and hear from Kristin Bell and directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.  Olaf the snowman is voiced by Josh Gad who also appears.  When asked why he wanted to be a part of the film Gad jokes, the residuals.  Elsa is played by Idina Menzel who appears to sing the song “Let Go” from the film and closes the event surrounded by snowflakes projected on the ceiling and falling snow.

While some some of Disney’s event staff  need to learn how to provide good customer service, there’s no denying that Disney sure knows how to set the mood and atmosphere for this Expo.  The Art and Imagination event is well planned and flows quickly.  Unlike Comic-Con panels, the audience is treated to many of their favorite stars in one event but that also means that you only get a few brief comments from each actor.  I had been thinking of the D23 Expo as Comic-Con for Disney, but this is definitely something else.  As you leave the Expo Arena you head right into the show floor and the ability to walk without bumping into other people lets you know you’re definitely not at Comic-Con.  Sadly the inability to find a t-shirt or suitable toy for my five year old was a big difference from Comic-Con.

The wait to get into the Disney Store was over two hours and I also skipped the Dream Store because the crowd around it was too thick for me to see if there was anything inside that looked interesting.  I fear that the souvenir I promised to return home with may end up coming from the airport.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there are better vendors on day two.  Despite the early issues with the event staff and the lack of good to buy, all in all this was a fantastic event and I can’t wait for the next two days!  If the big arena shows are as good as the one today, (and I’m pretty sure they will be), then I’m in for a treat tomorrow as we will get to hear from Marvel and LucasFilm and more!

If you’d like to experience these presentations yourself, please take a look at the following videos that I’ve found that will make you feel like you were there!

Disney Animation presentation highlights:

Tom Hiddleston Is Captain Hook Plus He Sings The Bare Necessities:

D23 Expo 2013 Aug 10: Walt Disney Archives Dresses & Mary Poppins:

2013 D23 Expo show floor tour – Imagineering, Animation, Interactive, Consumer Products, and More…:
Undiscovered Disneyland Full Presentation

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