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D23 fine-tunes its selection of special events for 2010

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D23 fine-tunes its selection of special events for 2010

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D23 is still a few weeks out from its really-for-real birthday (Just for the record, The Walt Disney Company launched its Official Community for Disney Fans back on March 10, 2009). But given that D23 just revealed that it will be holding first anniversary parties at Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom in March, this seemed like a pretty good time to talk with Steven Clark – the Head of D23 – about how he felt the organization’s first year had gone.

Mind you, when Steven & I spoke on the phone this past Friday and I asked him about his favorite memory from D23’s inaugural year, Clark’s inner geek immediately came out.

“You have to understand that I’m almost as big a Star Wars fan as I am a Disney fan,” Steven explained. “So to be able to stand on stage at the D23 EXPO and then get my pictures taken with all of those stormtroopers was very very cool.”

Jay Rasulo addresses Darth Vader at D23 EXPO 2009
Jay Rasulo addresses Darth Vader at last year's D23 EXPO.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But when asked about what he was proudest of when it came to the Official Community for Disney Fans’ first year of operation, Clark talked about his team at D23. In particular how quickly they’d moved when it came to addressing Disneyana fans’ comments & concerns about the Club.

“We made a point of really trying to hear what people were saying,” Steven continued. “Take – for example – the new two tiered approach that we’ve taken with D23 membership. We introduced our Silver membership level in direct response to those people who said that they wanted a more affordable option when it came to their family joining the Club.”

Clark also pointed to this year’s “50 and Fabulous” screening series (which will allow 400 D23 members at a time to come onto the Lot in Burbank and then see a Disney film that hasn’t been up on the big screen in ages) as a way the Official Community for Disney Fans is addressing previous comments & concerns.

Poster of Disney's Toby Tyler
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Those ‘D23 Day at The Walt Studios and Archives’ tours that we offered last year were incredibly popular with our members. The only problem with those events – due to the extremely limited number of people that we could bring into the Archives at any one time -- had very low capacity. Which meant that – try as we might – we’d invariably disappoint those D23 members who didn’t make the list for the tours and thereby lost out on this opportunity to get on the Disney Lot,” Steven said. “By bringing our “50 and Fabulous” film fest to Burbank, we not only give 400 D23 members the chance to come on the Disney Lot, they also get to see one of our classic films for free.”

This brings us to one of Clark’s main goals for 2010. Which is to have D23 deliberately stage bigger events in larger venues. Which will then allow even more members of the Official Community for Disney Fans to come and get in on the fun.

“That’s actually why we’re holding the Club’s 1st anniversary parties inside of Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom. So that hundreds of our members will then have the opportunity to attend one of our events. So that they can see all of the care and planning that we put into a party like this,” Steven stated.

The fireworks party at D23 EXPO 2009
Photo by Jeff Lange

Speaking of planning … Though the list of special events that D23 released last week was already pretty impressive, Clark warned that the Official Community of Disney Fans has even more in the works for 2010. Things like the next D23 EXPO, which has yet to be officially announced.

“We’ve already been meeting with other divisions of the Company in regards to our next EXPO. And there are some pretty neat things in the works,” Steven said. “But as for dates, specific panels & programs, we’re really not ready to talk about that yet.”

But as for what D23 will admit is already in the works, here’s some of the highlights from last week’s press release. Which starts off with this Friday’s event at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Where members of the Official Community of Disney Fans will get to attend a performance of the North American touring company of “Mary Poppins.”

Mary, Bert and the Banks children in the stage musical of Mary Poppins
Photo by Joan Marcus. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, what will make this D23 event special is what happens after the curtain drops. When Club members will get an exclusive post-show experience with the “Mary Poppins” cast. Which will include an appearance by an actor who appeared in the classic 1964 film (Anyone care to Bert … er … bet who that might be?).

On February 13th, the Official Community for Disney Fans will present its next “D23 Day at The Walt Disney Studios and Archives.” Three tours will be offered on this particular date. And given that each tour group can only accommodate 50 people at a time … Well, if you want to score some tickets this time around, you’d best be online on January 26th at 10 a.m. PT and ready to plunk that $50 down.

Then – on March 5th – D23 members from around the globe will be journey to The Walt Disney World Resort. Where – in honor of the Official Community of Disney Fans’ first anniversary – they’ll be invited to take part in a private dinner at the Magic Kingdom’s Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. Then – following an exclusive viewing of Mickey’s PhilharMagic – Imagineers will then tell Club members about that theme park’s Fantasy Forest expansion project. This presentation will be followed by a dessert party.

Concept art from "Ariel's Adventure", the Little Mermaid ride going into Disney's Fantasyland
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

On March 10th, D23’s 1st anniversary celebration shifts to the West Coast. Where Club member will have Fantasyland all to themselves for one magical night. Where they can then see rare pieces of Disney history up-close. Not to mention hanging out with some seldom-seen walk-around characters as well as snacking on some delicious Disney-inspired dessert.

Then – on March 27th – D23 members will get the chance to see a Disney movie that hasn’t been seen on the big screen since its initial theatrical release back in January of 1960, “Toby Tyle r, or 10 wqeeks with a Circus.” Reservations for this exclusive screening (which will be presented in the recently renovated, state-of-the-art, Studio Theater on the Burbank Lot) made be made starting on January 26th at 10 a.m. PT.

  • April 10: 2010’s second round of The Walt Disney Studios and Archives tours will be held to this date
Poster from Walt Disney Pictures "Pollyana"
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

  • May 8: D23’s second “50 and Fabulous” screening for 2010, “Pollyanna,” will be presented in the Walt Disney Studio Theatre
  • May 29-30: 2010’s “Flowers and Fireworks” event (which will be expanded to two days this year) will be held at Epcot
  • June 26: A special celebration will be held at the Walt Disney Studios marking the 40th anniversary of the Walt Disney Archives

Poster of Walt Disney Pictures "Swiss Family Robinson"
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

  • July 10: D23’s third “50 and Fabulous” screening for 2010, “Swiss Family Robinson,” will be presented in the Walt Disney Studio Theatre
  • August 14: 2010’s third round of The Walt Disney Studios and Archives tours will be held on this date

Original poster from Walt Disney's "Sign of Zorro"
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

  • October 23: D23’s fourth “50 and Fabulous” screening,”The Sign of Zorro,” will be presented in the Walt Disney Studio Theatre
  • November 13th: 2010’s fourth & final round of The Walt Disney Studios and Archives tours will be held on this date
  • December 11-12: “Magic and Merriment” weekend at the Walt Disney World Resort

Christmas candelight at EPCOT at Walt Disney World in Orlando
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of this last event ... When I asked Clark when he was most looking forward to 2010 schedule of special events, the Head of D23 revealed that his interests go  beyond Disney and Star Wars.

“I’m actually a big Christmas nut,” he admitted. “And while I wasn’t able to attend last year's ‘Magic and Merriment,' members of my staff were. And they just raved about how great this event was. Which is why – when December rolls around again – I’ll definitely be going out of my way to attend 'Magic and Merriment.' ”

If you'd like to add a little magic & merriment to your own 2010 ... Well, maybe you should consider signing up for D23. For further information on the Official Community for Disney Fans as well as the various special events the Club has planned for the coming year, please click on this link.

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  • Yawn.  Still not worth the money.  I can read the magazine for free on Main Street, I don't need to see the fireworks EVER again even if it's w/flowers.  I don't need to sip and stroll at food and wine. I don't need to see Swiss Family Robinson on the big screen, I bought the DVD foor $9.  Fantasyland to yourself?  Ever been there on a Saturday night when the park is open to 1am...you'll have the WHOLE park to yourself.  About the only thing interesting is the archives...and $50 to walk through them isn't a value, that's a rip off.  Nice try guys...you'll get lots of middle aged losers who still think pin trading is cool, but anyone w/half a brain won't attend..we'll just wait for archive pictures to be posted on flickr.  

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  • MapoOverride -- you're exactly the sort of "fan" Disney doesn't need ... no doubt you're elsewhere online talking about how "Avatar" lacks story and "American Idol" is stupid fodder for the masses.  As someone else pointed out spectacularly well on another message board, if D23 loses, the fans lose.

  • IRV...no offense...but I practically live at the resort...the joys of living an hour away, having worked there, having an annual and being there all the time.  I've been going to WDW for 37 years...long enough to realize when Disney is out to sucker people out of money.  I guess you're right I'm not the usual fan...I don't fall for everything Disney does and think that it's great.  They do a lot of stuff very well and they also do a lot of stuff very bad.  I'm pretty sure that Disney fans would survive w/o D23...I have.  I feel bad for people that feel as though they HAVE to be part of EVERYTHING Disney does out of some crazy need to belong to a middle aged cult of losers.  I may be brainwashed...but I don't fall for every little thing that they do and blindly believe that they can do no wrong.  So, you're right I'm not the fan that they need because I don't need to sped a load of money to have a good time there.  I know how to work the system to either save ALOT of money or get stuff for free...wisdom, experience and knowledge of how the company works are wonderful things.

  • I would have to agree with both IrvThal and MapoOverride (although I don't like Mapo's tact).

    I am a D23 member and I have enjoyed the club. My concern is that D23 is a club for RICH people not "middle aged losers". I understand that Disney needs to make money and that D23 should also try and make some money, but $50 to go on the studio tours?!?! The 50 and fabolous movies are not free either, but they are only $5 for processing. Now that makes sense to me, but not $50!

    Most of the D23 events are VERY expensive. I thought that D23 was supposed to be more of a marketing tool. I don't think it should be a money loser, but should it be a MAJOR profit center?? Does it need to make 30-40% profits?!?

    Just my thoughts.

  • I don't think that Disney's charging for the D23 events with the idea that it's going to be a profit center - I think that they're expecting the thing to at least break even if not make a small profit, and so far it hasn't delivered.

    The Company spent a boatload of money promoting D23 ,and probably spends a fair amount of money organizing and running the D23 events, especially the Expo. (Yeah, I know most of these events are taking place at Disney facilities with Disney providing all the cast members and the amenities and services for the guests, but all of these things cost money, and those costs have to be charged to somebody, even if the "charging" is nothing but a bookkeeping exercise.)

    I don't have any actual proof, but based on the fact that D23 was offering discounts for joining at the end of 2009 and that they introduced multi-tier pricing for 2010, I'm pretty sure D23 didn't meet its initial membership targets - and more importantly, it probably didn't cover its startup expenses. Unlike other parts of the Company, if D23 isn't making it's nut, it can't cover itself by shuffling over excess funds left over from other projects or extra profits from something else that did better than expected.

    My guess is that Corporate made it clear to Steven Clark and his staff that D23 wasn't going to be allowed to be a money loser, even if having D23 helps the Company overall, and the Studios made it equally clear that if D23 wanted to have members running around on the Studio lot for the tours and for the "50 and Fabulous" screenings, they'd have to find a way to pay for the expenses associated with it. It stinks that people are going to have to pay for the tours, but it's better than not having any events at all.

  • I understand that D23 needs to at least break even, but it would make more sense if they did more "marketing" related events and get the particular division to pay for it out of their marketing budget. Heck, I like the magazine, but it's one big marketing tool!

    D23 could do something special for D23 members related to an upcoming new TV show or movie and get ABC or the studios to pay for it. This could be a win-win for everyone. D23 members get special access and the studios (or whoever) gets their best fans to get excited about their offerings.

    I think that part of the goal of D23 should be to get fans of one part of Disney to be fans of the rest of Disney (ie to get Disneyland fans to buy more DVDs or to get them to watch ABC shows, etc). It is easier to market to a fan and get them to buy more of your stuff than it is to market to someone who has little brand awareness.

  • You know D23 could be the greatest Street Team that ever walked the planet.  It's so easy to do but I don't think they understand how Street Teaming works.  They need to spend some time in the music industry.

    Jedited hit the nail on the head...allow members to do things like goto the ABC Upfront's FOR FREE,  send them preview passes for every Disney Movie opening up FOR FREE, allow them to talk college football with Kirk Herbstreit, Let them beta test interactive games FOR FREE, etc.  If you do these things and let people meet stars, see previews, beta test things, etc they will go tell everyone they know, post pictures on Facebook and spread the word for the absolutely fantastic price of $Free.99.  And what company doesn't like FREE marketing?

    They do this w/Annual Passholders and I'll tell you what, it works.  The first time I did Kimpossible  I told EVERYONE that I knew outside of the parks and even guests wondering what in the world I was doing w/a cell phone blasting everywhere.  I did Disney's work for them and all they had to do is let me play w/the thing for a day for no additional cost.

    I think they dropped the ball on this and it seems more and more obvious that there are loads more fans that don't want any part of it then there are that do.  It's a rip off and even the new "silver" membership is redonkulously overpriced.  But I give Disney credit, they know how to play the game.  They're simply wise to the fact that a small niche of fanatics will drop money on ANYTHING related to Disney no matter what it is.  For those of us that have been around The D as long as I have it's sad to watch how they manipulate these people with such ease.        

  • I'm not a D23 member and don't intend to be. It's so cynical it makes me sick. The company is banking - literally - on the idea that there are lots of people out there simply intoxicated by the legendary Disney magic.

    But that magic's gone. The company legacy is being thrown out the window. Walt Disney's beliefs and core values are ignored in pursuit of profit and pleasing stockholders (well, this is one stockholder who is NOT pleased in the least). Characters are being bought instead of that money going into innovation, park enhancement (don't talk to me about the Fantasyland expansion - that is NOT an enhancement, just a cheap meet-and-greet moneygrubbing scheme), and new technologies (as I understand it, Disney didn't even do the effects and CGI for its Alice in Wonderland film!) So what the hell are you buying when you buy a membership into D23? You're buying a ticket, not into Fantasyland or Adventureland, but into Nowhereland. For a way of life and a company that for all practical purposes, no longer exists.

    Hell, now that the parks are being promoted by those frigging Muppets and are likely to get infested with Spiderman and the Hulk, the day will soon come when I won't even visit them anymore. What difference does it make whether you choose Universal or WDW? It's all going to come down to which park is using the most current and popular pop culture characters (or those barely kept alive by baby boomer memories - as per the Muppets), as opposed to having real attractions involving innovation, imagination and the ability to transport you into a wonderful fantasy world.

    Walt is truly dead. And so is his company.

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