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The countdown begins for the 2011 edition of the D23 Expo

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The countdown begins for the 2011 edition of the D23 Expo

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It all starts one week from today.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

A solid two years of planning has gone into the 2011 edition of the D23 Expo. We're talking about months of meetings with the various divisions of The Walt Disney Company.  Hundreds of hours spent putting together various panels and presentations. Thousands of e-mails being sent and phone calls being made just to make sure that all of the surprise and announced celebrities and Disney Legends will actually be on hand at the Anaheim Convention Center next week.

So you'd think - what with all of the last-minute preparations that must be involved with pulling off an event of this size - that Steven Clark would be stressed at this point. But when I spoke on the phone with the Head of D23 last week, Clark sounded surprisingly calm.

But that may because Steven has actually already seen some of the truly cool exhibits that will be on display at this three-day-long fan event. Take - for example - Frank Thomas' old office from the Animation Building.

Frank Thomas animates a scene from "Robin Hood."
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"I just walked through the mock-up of this exhibit last week. Ted Thomas - Frank's son - let us borrow a lot of material, as did Disney Legend Tony Anselmo. We'll have Frank's Firehouse-Five-Plus-Two helmet in there. Plus some of the pencils he drew with and the mirror that Frank would use whenever he was studying which expression his characters should make," Steven explained. "That combined with the artwork that we're getting from Disney's Animation Research Library will make it seem as though Frank has just stepped away from his desk. That you're looking in a real working office in the old Animation building back when many of the Studio's animated classics were being made."

Mind you, it's not just the Walt Disney Company's past that's going to be celebrated at the D23 Expo. Take - for example - the costumes from such present-day hits as ABC's LOST and Walt Disney Pictures' Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Which are going to be on display in an elaborately themed Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit at this year's event.

"As popular as the Treasures exhibit was with attendees at our 2009 event, we thought that we could make it even better and this time around," Steven said. "Really take advantage of Becky (Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives)'s background in theater. Which is why the LOST and Pirates costumes & props will be displayed in an island/beach-theme area. Whereas the costumes & props from TRON will be showcased in a special blacklight environment, which will make them appear to glow in the dark."

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Which brings us to one of the main themes of the 2011 edition of the D23 Expo: upping the ante. Taking everything that Disney fans enjoyed about the first Expo and then plussing that experience.

"Take - for example - what we're doing with all of the fan art that D23 members created for our One Hundred and One Dalmatians contest," Steven continued. "These folks did such a nice job with all of their entries that we didn't just to display their artwork in a basic art gallery environment, so we recreated Cruella de Vil's office from Disney's 1996 live-action version of 101 Dalmatians. And now all of our favorite entries are going to be showcased in this spectacular all-black-and-white display area."

But when I asked Steven about what he thought his very favorite part of the 2011 edition of the D23 Expo was going to be, he talked about the more-forward-looking panels and presentations that are scheduled for this year's event.

Cruella de Vil's office from Disney's 1996 live-action remake of "101 Dalmatians."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"The people who belong to D23 are obviously among the Company's most passionate and dedicated fans," Steven observed. "Which is why I'm always excited when we then get to show these people concept art for a theme park attraction that's never been seen in public before or show them test footage from an animated feature that's still in production. And when I think about some of the stuff that we're going to spring on event attendees this time around, D23 Members are going to be really, really happy."

Of course, recognizing that not every D23 Member is a theme park or animation enthusiast, Steven and his team have really made an effort to have this year's edition of the Expo touch on all aspects of The Walt Disney Company. So if you're a Disney Channel fan, you can meet the stars of that cable channel's latest hit, Shake It Up. Or if you're a Marvel maniac, Marvel Studios president  Kevin Feige will be on hand to give you an extended sneak peek of next summer's sure-to-be blockbuster, The Avengers.

In short, this year's D23 Expo is looking to celebrate the past, present and future of The Walt Disney Company. And while I wished that Steven had more time to talk on the phone with me about what was going to happen at next week's event, at present the Head of the Official Disney Fan Club was pressed for time.

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"I just approved the show guide today. So that's headed off to the printer. Likewise the catalog for our Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives display," Steven concluded. "So it's a busy but exciting time right now. And I hope that D23 Members enjoy the fruits of our labors when the Expo officially gets underway on August 19."

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  • Thanks Jim for bringing this discussion with Steven to us.  I had a tough time believing Disney would be able to top their first D23 Expo since they shrunk it down to 3 dayss But it seems like they are going to have even more displays and museum like artifacts to view which I think is really awesome!

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