Disney’s D23 Expo 2013 took over the Anaheim Convention Center one year ago this weekend. Tens of thousands of Disney fans gathered in the monstrous venue to peek into Disney’s future films and theme park creations, as well as to reflect on the company’s inspired history of brands and products. We at Geeks of Doom brought you live coverage of the event that included videos, previews of upcoming movies, and tours of exhibits.
Much has changed since the event, in terms of how certain properties evolved. This Disney In Depth reflects on the D23 Expo, based on what worked best, what deemed disappointing and how next year’s event can be even better.
Angelina Jolie making an appearance during a look into Maleficent won over crowds, especially when she injected some humor. Among the other notable stars who promoted their films were Ty Burrell of Muppets Most Wanted, Chris Evans of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Tom Hiddleston of both Thor: The Dark World and The Pirate Fairy. There may not have been a “holy cow” moment akin to when the cast of The Avengers stepped on stage at the 2011 D23 Expo or even Johnny Depp‘s arrival as Captain Jack Sparrow at the inaugural D23 Expo back in 2009. Jolie was undoubtedly the biggest star and every other celebrity Disney managed to bring served his or her purpose. They engaged with the audience, offered some laughs, shared stories about working on their respective projects and demonstrated enthusiasm. Jobs well done. D23 Expo’s main Studios presentations showcased a diversity of films in an extremely engrossing, if not overlong manner.
How could next year’s D23 Expo be better in this regard? Deliver on the star power, if at all possible. I, for one, was not disappointed with the celebrity appearances, as everyone who came out for their presentations seemed genuinely proud of their titles. But more surprises could raise the profile of D23 Expo. Harrison Ford could drop by to promote Star Wars Episode VII during the 2015 D23 Expo, to be held in August, just months before the film’s release. Furthermore, I’m sure Ellen DeGeneres would love nothing more than to share her excitement about June 2016’s Finding Dory.
Speaking of the forgetful fish, last year’s D23 Expo was when D23 provided details about the plot of Dory, among other future Disney-Pixar entries. However, only weeks after the event, The Good Dinosaur was shifted from its scheduled May 2014 release to November 2015. As a result this bumped Dory to June 2016. Dinosaur‘s presentation proved encouraging in setting up a unique world with delightful characters, but its behind-the-scenes story issues could not be rectified in time for May 2014. Disney-Pixar made the smart decision to delay the premiere in order to fix these problems.
Many major announcements came out of this three-day event. For one, we heard the first tidbits about both Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ upcoming features. These two projects reflect the variety of content Disney has been releasing, and only until recently has more info even emerged about November 2014’s Big Hero 6. Zootopia, much like the covert Tomorrowland project, is very much a secret.
But one movie, for long kept under wraps, was revealed in full glory at D23 Expo 2013. We were treated to several clips from Frozen, including a live performance of “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel herself. I had heard an early recording of the Oscar-winning song at the previous year’s Destination D event and knew it would be a treasure. Not until D23 Expo, though, did the general public listen to the showstopper for the first time. It was marvelous, to say the least.
Marvels were abundant all over the Anaheim Convention Center and the Marvel product placement proved unmistakable, from the merchandise to the character presence. Captain America made his first appearance at a Disney event, drawing crowds whenever we came out for photo opportunities and meet-and-greets. He was present to promote Disney Cruise Line’s re-imagining of the Magic ship, which now hosts an entire Avengers-themed play area for children. But no news of Marvel in the actual parks. Months later we would hear of an Iron Man Experience attraction coming to Disney… Hong Kong Disneyland, that is. It would have been more thrilling to hear the news at D23 Expo, but alas, sometimes the timing is not quite right.
Those of us at the 2011 D23 Expo would have figured some major theme park news to break, but only weeks later did we discover that Avatar Land would be coming to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Here, too, the timing was disappointing. Some naysayers believed this project would not come to fruition due to much time elapsing without any updates. However, Avatar Land is arriving, likely in 2017. Though 2013’s D23 Expo lacked pizazz regarding the new land, a small exhibit within the Journey Into Imagineering area gave attendees a peek into the concept art and models.
Some individuals were expecting news of a Star Wars section of the park emerging at D23 Expo. That did not come, though, but rather we were treated to “teasers” and R2-D2 photo ops. I couldn’t resist having a picture with the droid and that fulfilled my Star Wars fix, but others walked away with their shoulders shrugged. At least they could find Star Wars art and merchandise displayed in the Disney Consumer Products area or dress up as their favorite Jedi figures.
Why yes, D23 Expo was an occasion for anyone brave enough to walk into a venue – not during Halloween – sporting a costume. Some chose the Disney Princesses, but others opted for more obscure figures, such as the legendary Hatbox Ghost from The Haunted Mansion. Disney recognized the talent of its attendees by staging a cool costume contest designed to honoring their craftiness. This is where D23 Expo 2013 shined, in that the event was not only catered to its legion of fans, but also allowed them to participate. The expanded Collectors Forum area and numerous interactive exhibits demonstrated a marked improvement from previous expositions. The overall event was more fan-friendly and organized better, though the Studios presentations still seemed chaotic.
I fondly reflect on D23 Expo 2013, in many ways the best of the three held to date. Yet Disney can make some improvements that would appear accessible and more rewarding for its attendees. For one, the Studios presentations, each around 2 1/2 hours, were far too long for fans who had already waited for hours in line. No doubt the content was fantastic, but the length was uncomfortable. Breaking up the content into three distinct presentations would be ideal, or, at the very least, the two presentations could each be reduced by 30 minutes or so. Likewise, certain areas, such as the stores, felt congested due to space limitations. Reorganizing placement of merchandise locations, or allocating more space, would be appreciated. Last, offering multiple sessions of presentations in smaller venues could allow more attendees to catch these talks.
Tickets for D23 Expo 2015 go on sale soon, so get them early to attend what is sure to be another must-see experience.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.