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Monday Mouse Watch: D23’s Steven Clark looks ahead to 2011 and beyond

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Monday Mouse Watch: D23’s Steven Clark looks ahead to 2011 and beyond

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On the heels of last week’s news that there would be no D23 EXPO in 2010 – but, rather DESTINATION D, a history-based event that celebrates Disneyland’s 55th anniversary – I reached out to Steven Clark, the Head of the Official Community for Disney Fans. And – as usual – Steven was forthcoming.

“We knew before we held last year’s EXPO that these would have to be every-other-year events,” Clark explained. “Given all that we revealed at our first EXPO, we want to build anticipation for the next event and to make sure that – when it comes to the EXPO – D23 would always able to give its members something special, something new. And by staging an EXPO every other year … well, that allows us to preserve the specialness of this event.”

Steven also stressed that logistics played a big part in The Walt Disney Company’s decision to hold a new D23 EXPO every other year.

Disney's D23 EXPO
Photo by Angela Ragno

“People have to understand that – that first time around – we pulled off the first D23 EXPO with just 9 months of preparation. And given that we want our next EXPO to be even bigger and grander, we’re already well into the planning phase,” Clark said. “You’d think that 15 months would be more than enough time to stage something like this. But we’re already coming up against deadlines. At least when it comes to some of the collectibles that D23 has in development for its 2011 EXPO.”

As for shifting the dates of next year’s event from September to August, Steven admitted that there was a practical reason for doing that as well.

“Last time around, we scheduled the D23 EXPO outside of the traditional vacation cycle. Which disappointed some of our members because – due to the fact that their children were still in school during the first two days of the EXPO – it meant that they then had to miss out on some of the panels and events,” Clark continued. “We wanted to take those concerns into account as we were considering date for our 2011 event.”

Disney's D23 EXPO took place in Anaheim in 2009
Photo by Angela Ragno

This is why Steven and his team decided to refine the D23 EXPO from being a Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday event to just a Friday-Saturday-Sunday event. More to the point, this is why this gathering of the Official Community for Disney Fans got pushed up from September to August.

“To be honest, given how many of our D23 members live in Southern California, we wanted to make sure that they and their family members could attend our 2011 EXPO,” Clark said. “Which is why we deliberately looked for a date when as few schools as possible in Southern California were in session. We also had to work around the other events for this region – the Orange County Fair and the LA County Fair. Which is why we eventually settled on August 19th – 21st.”

Meeting members’ expectations as well as increasing capacity at D23 events remains an on-going concern for Steven and his staff. Striking just the right balance between these issues has sometimes proven to be a challenge.

Disney's D23 EXPO took place in Anaheim in 2009
Photo by Angela Ragno

“That said, I’m pleased with the way with the way this past week’s First Anniversary Party at Disneyland went,” Clark admitted. “We gave 1,500 of our members a pretty intimate experience at that theme park, allowing them to run elbows with some Disney Legends, not to mention easy access to all of those classic Fantasyland attractions. From what I hear, everyone had a really great time at this after-hours event.”

Speaking of 1,500 … that’s approximately the number of tickets that Steven believes will be offered for the inaugural DESTINATION D when this event (which celebrates the “ … design, creation, debut and magical history of the world’s first Disney theme park”) is held in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel on September 24 – 25th of this year.

“Again, it’s all about striking the right balance. Allowing as many D23 members as possible to have access to an event while – at the same time – giving the people who actually attend an intimate and memorable experience,” Clark said. “Given that we’re looking to do something really special at Saturday night’s banquet, 1,500 seems to be the right number when it comes to just how many members we’ll allow to attend this particular event.”

D23 EXPO Anaheim, California
Photo by Angela Ragno

But recognizing that there are D23 members who actually live outside of Southern California and Central Florida who can’t always attend screenings or parties that are held on the Burbank lot, the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, Steven said that the Official Community of Disney Fans is actively exploring ways to stage D23 events in other parts of the country.

“Of course, you have to take into consideration the number of D23 members who live in a particular region,” Clark explained. “Then you have to come with a suitable Disney-themed hook for that city. Be it the latest touring Disney Theatrical production or Disney on Ice coming through town.”

But Steven stressed that these sorts of outside-of-Orlando-Anaheim-and-Burbank events are still very much in the works. And looking out to 2012 and beyond, he hopes to keep alternating between the D23 EXPOs and the DESTINATION Ds.

Photo by Angela Ragno

“That way, we’d have an event on even-numbered years where we celebrated Disney’s past. And then – on odd-numbered years – we’d look ahead to what the Company has in the works for the future,” Clark explained. “We’re working hard to give D23 members just want they want.”

Which – in addition to planning far-off, large-scale events like the next EXPO and the inaugural DESTINATION D – means addressing members’ more immediate concerns. Like the creation of more D23 exclusive merchandise. Not to mention figuring out how to get even more people on the Lot so that they can then experience D23’s super-popular Disney Archives tour for themselves.

Photo by Angela Ragno

“D23 Members just love to get on the Disney lot,” Steven said. “Take – for example – this month’s ’50 and Fabulous’ screening. Who ever thought that a screening of ‘Toby Tyler’ would sell out? But because this event will finally allow some of our members who haven’t yet been able to book our Archives tour to finally get on the Disney Lot, those ‘Toby Tyler’ tickets went fast.”

Of course, what’s kind of ironic about all this is – even though he often spends months planning all of these events for the Official Community of Disney Fans – Clark rarely gets the chance to actually attend any of the D23 functions that he helps plan.

“Like the inaugural D23 EXPO,” Steve said. “I got to attend some of the key notes and walk the show floor every now and then. But most of the time, I was up in the production office in Hall B, making sure that everything ran smoothly.”

Photo by Angela Ragno

That said, Clark did get a kick on Saturday morning when – as Bill Rogers announced the next event that was to be held in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena – he was able to look out of that production office window and then see the thousands of people who were on the show floor turn and head on over to the Arena.

“To see something like that, when – just a few months earlier – the D23 EXPO was just been this idea on paper … That was a real thrill,” Steven concluded, “Which is why we’re working so hard now on DESTINATION D and the next D23 EXPO. To make sure that the people who enjoyed our inaugural EXPO will have an even better time at our next event.”

For further information on what the Official Community for Disney Fans has planned for 2010, 2011 and beyond, please click on this link.

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  • I understand the need to limit the number of people at these events, but the way that they are doing that now is to charge a LOT of money so that only people with large amounts of disposable income can go. Which just reinforces what most people said when this was announced, that D23 is a club for rich people.

  • No disrespect meant to you or to Steven, Jim, but I've seen gyroscopes with less spin on them than Steven had in some of his comments.

    "We meant to do Expo every other year all along"?  Then why'd Disney announce that they'd booked the Anaheim Convention Center every year for four years? C'mon, Steven - would it have really been so terrible to admit that attendance at Expo (or D23 membership leveles in general) didn't live up to expectations and that D23 decided to scale back its plans?

    Now that said, I'm glad to hear that D23 is learning from its mistakes, just as we saw that they learned from their mistakes at Expo.  They realized that they needed some kind of event as a draw for current & potential members, so they came up with Destination D. They realized that the weekly attendance wasn't what they wanted, so they cut baack to 3 days. They realized overall attendance wasn't that impressive, so they pushed the dates back earlier (although expecting that people will go to Comic-Con or the NFFC Convention and Expo may be expecting a bit much - or do they expect people will readily abandon the former for the latter?).

    They heard the complaints from D23 members that there really wasn't anything at Expo that was exclusively for them, so they've announced they'll change that for Expo.

    If Expo and D23 join other attempts at an affinity program in the Disney graveyard (Disney Club, anyone?), it least it won't be because of an unwillingness to bend to members's tastes on Disney's part.

  • Okay. Quick show of hands. How many of you remember Mr. Creosote from " Monty Python's the Meaning

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