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Disney officials insist that D23 was created for the fans, not just for funds

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Disney officials insist that D23 was created for the fans, not just for funds

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To hear Steven Clark -- the head of D23 -- tell the story, the event that kickstarted the creation of the first official community for Disney fans actually occurred three years ago.  When he made this trip to a certain warehouse in Glendale, CA.

Ah, but this wasn’t just any old warehouse. This was one of the Disney Archives’ off-site storage facilities. And as the co-author of "Disney: The First 100 Years " wandered this building, surrounded by shelf after shelf of the Crown Jewels of Disney history, Steven thought that “ … we’ve gotta share this stuff with people. Our fans will go crazy.”

And from that one little idea grew a company-wide initiative. An effort to give Disney fans the sort of access that they’d previously only dreamed about. Regularly taking them behind-the-scenes at WDI, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Disney Theatrical, virtually every division at the Mouse House in order to meet the men & women who actually make the magic.

The D23 website has all sorts of high quality content, including a This
Day at Disney" feature which looks back at many of the motion pictures
the Mouse has created over the years.
Copyright 2009 Disney.
All Rights Reserved

Okay. I know. Individual businesses at The Walt Disney Company have previously had fan clubs or organizations.  The Magic Kingdom Club and the Disney Movie Club come immediately to mind. But Mickey’s ever never attempted something on this scale before. Where every part of the Company is opening its doors, pulling back the curtain to give D23 members access to really-for-real behind-the-scenes items like production blogs for still-in-front-of-the-cameras Disney films.

And – yes – I’ve read the same things that you’ve read. The Disneyana fans who are already grousing about D23’s $74.99 annual membership fee. These folks are complaining that D23 was only invented so that The Walt Disney Company would then have yet another way to sell the fans limited edition merchandise.

Well, Disney Legend and Walt Disney Imagineering’s ambassador-at-large Marty Sklar insists that this is really not the case this time around. Marty says that Mickey has actually learned from the mistakes that he made in the past. During yesterday’s D23 teleconference, Sklar talked about how “ … the Disneyana Conventions became mostly about merchandise. (D23) isn’t about merchandise. It’s about communicating with our fans, getting them involved more than they already are.”

That said, Boutique 23 is offering some pretty cool collectibles,
including this members-only limited edition statue that depicts
a young Walt Disney with his pal, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And Dave Smith (i.e. the Founder and Director of The Walt Disney Archives. Who was also on hand for yesterday’s teleconference) talked about how “ … we looked at everything that came before.” Those previous efforts that The Walt Disney Company had made to reach out to its fans (EX: The Disney Club, the Disney Insider Yearbook) only to then have those efforts flame out.

This time around, there’ll be no flame-outs and failures. The D23 initiative has huge support from on high, with Bob Iger, Dick Cook and John  Lasseter all determined to do whatever they have to in order to make Disney's new fan outreach effort a success. And nowhere is this more evident than with the D23 Expo.

Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Described as “The Ultimate Disney Fan Experience,” the D23 Expo is supposed to be so large that Baker & Co. couldn't figure out how to stage this event at the Disneyland Resort. Which is why this four-day-long event -- which is scheduled for September 10th  -13th -- is now being held across the street at the Anaheim Convention Center. Months in the making, the D23 Expo (which reportedly cost the Company over a million dollars to stage) will feature celebrity appearances, film screenings, and a collector’s forum.

And just so you know, this is the first of four Disney Expos which will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Walt Disney Company has already committed to holding this annual exhibition (which it eventually hopes will become the Disneyana equivalent of San Diego's Comic-Con International) in Southern California through 2013 and will then consider taking the D23 Expo on the road.

Those of you who are looking to get in on the ground floor with “The Official Community of Disney Fans” can do so today by clicking on over to the D23 website, where you can then sign up to become a charter member. Or if you’re the type who likes to look before you buy … Well, you can always pick up a copy of “Disney twenty-three” magazine at your local Barnes & Noble and/or the Disney Store. Better yet, you could drop by Disneyland Park this coming Saturday, where David Pacheco will be on-site at the Disneyana Shop between 9 - 11 a.m. to sign some of the artwork, a T-shirt and pin that he created for D23.

Or – if you’d prefer to get a sense of where D23 started – tune into “The View” this morning. When Whoopi Goldberg  will be getting a tour of the very same warehouse where Steven Clark had his Disney-related epiphany.  Where he then became determined to create this single all-encompassing entity that would then provide Disneyana fans with quality content as well as unprecedented access.

Here’s hoping that Disney stays true to D23’s original goals. Which isn’t to raise funds. But – rather –  to reach out to the fans and then convince them to come sign up for The Walt Disney Company's first official community.

So what do you folks think? Is all of thd top quality content that's already been over at the D23 website tempting you? Or is that $74.99-a-year price-tag making you somewhat hesitant to join Disney's new community?

Your thoughts?

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  • The way I understand it, for $75, you get 4 issues of a $15 magazine, plus the priviledge of a discount on admission to whatever gathering they want to offer.

    First, the magazine looks suspiciously like an expanded Disney News that was discontinued not that long ago. One reason given for discontinuing was that the internet had replaced magazines as the company's preferred method of communication with its customers. Okay,,,      It's still easier to sell a magazine than it is to sell internet communication.

    Next the convention center gathering. The main thing I have to compare this to is the Disneyana Conventions that rotated between Florida and Anaheim. They had the full backing of every division of the Company as well, and were made for fans to experience the magic at a deeper, more expensive level. They started out alright, and each year got increasingly worse. Don't take my word - ask anyone who went to several. I went to the first three and the very last one about 7 years ago, where Disney performers were getting booed off the stage. These conventions also started before the internet really took hold. If you can't attend Comic Con, you can get a pretty good idea of what happened online. I realize it's not the same experience, but from an informational standpoint, you can definately save a lot on hotels and admission fees.

    Next, the merchandise that you have the honor to purchase. Frankly, the Disney Co's track record hasn't been that good recently. Going back to the Disneyana Conventions that quickly evolved from being for collectors to being for dealers, I realized I didn't have to attend a convention - it was far cheaper to purchase whatever trinket I wanted at twice the convention price, and visit the park whenever I wanted, rather than bend my whole trip around Disney's schedule.

    And finally, of course it's about the money. It's a tough time economically to start something like this, but I'm sure there's enough fans in so-cal that won't be spending a couple thousand on a vacation, but will plunk down the $75 just to see what it's about. If it wasn't about money, they'd display all these really cool things that were "discovered" in Disneyland's Opera House, or anywhere in DCA, or even on a website with no admission fee.

  • Five reasons why this will be a disaster:

    (1) Disney will use the $15-PER-ISSUE magazine to endlessly pimp its films and other products.  Look for the language of marketing to be arranged into "magazine articles."

    (2) Because all of the articles will be vetted through legal and marketing, no interesting stories will really end up in either the magazine or in the web content.  Or to put this another way: Disney is a company that trades on its image.  It has teams of people whose job it is to manage the company's public image.  There's no way that Disney will print any articles about the company unless those articles  further the company's present image objectives.  

    (3) As Disney official announcements tend to lag behind leaked announcements on the internet.  You can get the same news quicker and cheaper on line.  I can think of four websites that regularly scoop Disney by months.  Take for example the secret D23 project.  It's been up on a few Disney related sites for weeks.  But Disney officially announced it yesterday.

    (4) If D23 is not about the merch, why is the D23 crowded with new merch?  I'm confused.

    (5) Lastly, $75 to join.  Seriously?  Now.  In this economy.  For the privilege of purchasing overpriced trinkets and to receive a magazine that will be one long promotional spiel for Disney?  I don't think so.  

  • Actually, having just read the magazine, I can say with certainty that it is NOT a "promotional spiel".  I love how the internet continues to produce the critics who don't need to bother looking at something to pronounce judgement.

    The magazine is much closer to a coffee table book then an "expanded Disney News".  The quality of it is top notch.  The pictures are all beautiful.  The articles are all in depth and extremely well written.  There's not a trace of "the language of marketing" or whatever the heck you want to accuse it of without reading.  This is an authentic geek treasure.

    I particularly enjoyed the articles on Dave Smith and the one on Anne Leibowitz.  My only complaint is I don't like Anne's new picture.  Looks way more Snow White then Sleeping Beauty.

    I'm still deciding on the club but the magazine is worth the cost on it's own so I may just subscribe to that.

  • Also, this is something exclusive to the US Disney fan, right? Because 75 bucks to an international fans, plus all the stuff that'll never really get anywhere near around the world...

  • Maybe I'm missing something; where does the name come from? I don't recall 1923 being an especially significant Walt year, so where does it come from?

  • GreatAndoski:

    The company was founded in 1923.   http://corporate.disney.go.com/corporate/overview.html

    While there's a part of me that wants to join, part of me can't yet.

    It is a bit laughable to say it's not about the money and all about the fans.  After all, how many fans are going to pay $300-$900 for a pen?   So...   an entire week at WDW or a pen?   Tough decision to make there...

  • I won't be joining this Disney club. Not for $74.99. Now here's the thing though. I think that Disney fans who do join will get their moneys worth. However, I'm among the many that just don't have $74.99. Maybe if they start a teired type membership. Then I'll consider it.

  • After reading some of the comments on here, I'm relieved I'm not the only one who is questioning this. I questioned it in length over on my blog (http://bewarehitchhikingghosts.blogspot.com/2009/03/are-you-23-not-quite.html).

    They need to add more perks to attract people, and I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. I've had experiences in my professional life that lead me to suspect this is how D23 was formed: One person at the company came up with a really great idea to get fans connected. The higher-ups agreed and then blew most of the budget on the magazine and the expo, not realizing that it'll take more to get people to shell out $75 in this economy. The people who came up with the great idea are now stuck trying to convince fans that this is great, despite the meager offerings.

    The magazine looks great, but $75 a year for a subscription and discounts on collectibles?

  • Ditto everything that Curmudgeon stated.

    I do plan to pick up the magazine at Barnes and Noble on my lunch break today to at least see what all of the fuss is about.  If the magazine is indeed phenomenal it still looks like I can get the 4 magazines a year for less than the membership cost.  Also, I'm not a collector so the merchandise holds no appeal to me.  While the convention sounds good in theory I'm on the east coast and can't think of flying cross country to attend.  As far has Disney history I'm quite content to read the online historical accounts of Jim and Floyd on the site and others like Wade Sampson over at Mouseplanet (or even the free daily postings on the offical D23 site.)

    If its not about the money and Disney truly wants to share the contents of the Archives then they should present more frequent rotating displays in stagnant spaces like One Man's Dream at Hollywood Studios or the Main Street gallery in Disneyland.  Even creating a traveling exhibit or working with local museums or the Smithsonsian would be great step forward.    

  • Seems pricey for basically a subscription and exclusive ability to buy some merchandise.  If I were in So CAL where i might get to USE some of these exclusive rights, I might be more enthusiastic.  For now. i want to read other peoples thought on the mag.  And just WHAT is the special gift? Is it a really awesome collectable, or is it a lame copy of an animation cel? And I do like the web site.  As long as it's free.  For now, I have to wait.

  • It may be worth the price, but all I'd like to see is the Disney magazine get resuscitated (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Magazine).

  • I was a "charter" member of the Magic Kingdom Club. At that time, the card afforded significant discounts in the parks as well as advantageous rates and special deals for resort stays. Unfortunately, D23 makes no mention of anything similar in their promotional material. If there was such, I might consider signing up.

  • Hummmm.  Steven Clark says:

    "our goal is to make every moment special, new and — I don't think it's a stretch to say — magical."

    And then he claims it's all about the fans and not merchandise.  $74.99 (let's just say $75 to join and you get four issues of a magazine, a special pin (it must cost all of $2.00 or less to have these produced) a membership card and a certificate.  Then this also allows you to attend the big Expo in Anaheim this September at a discounted rate (if it's anything like the ODC's that will run you hundreds if not well over a $1,000).  And now we have D23 Merchandise...let's look at a few of these....a journal for $159, a Fantasia pen for $320 a Sleeping Beauty pen for $200.  But remember it's not about the merchandise, it's all about the fans!  Are they crazy?  These prices are rediculous!  Just another way to get more money into the Disney coffers.

    Sorry Disney, not from me!

  • I leafed through the magazine today at Disneyana on Main Street here on the West Coast.  First off - this is not Archival material...there is really nothing historical of interest to me about the company and it's arms of operation.  What it comes across as is a rip of the Laughing Place quarterly magazine that is published.  

    This is nothing more than the Disney Company, once again, attempting to corral the money from the Disney Collector demographic.  They tried to run the NFFC (and other groups) out of town when they had the "Official Disneyana" Conventions several years ago.  That didn't work then, and, I do not think it is going to work now.  

    This is akin to the Disney Classic Collections (or whatever it is called) ceramic pieces that people can pay an equivalent $ 75 (or so) for a yearly membership in to buy exclusive pieces at overpriced gouging.

    Once again - four day conventions with presenations and special activities and merchandise to...PURCHASE.  

    This is not an effort to really support the Disneyana Collector or those who are interested in the history of the company...it is just another way for a greed based corporation to, once again, try and corner a market unto themselves.

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