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Looking back at the 2011 D23 EXPO: expectations vs. reality

Looking back at the 2011 D23 EXPO: expectations vs. reality

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And how was your weekend?

Mine contrasted sharply with last weekend. Instead of being inside of the brightly-lit Anaheim Convention Center surrounded by thousands of Disney fans, I was sitting in the dark here at home with Nancy, Alice and the cats. What with all the wind & wet weather associated with Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene, it took Public Service of New Hampshire upwards of 15 hours to finally get the electricity flowing again in our neck of the woods.

Which - I know - sounds like it could have been kind of miserable. It actually wasn't. Even though we were without power for the better part of a day, the six of us were all inside - safe & dry. More to the point, we had plenty of food, water, candles & flashlights on hand. Not to mention the terrific view of this storm that we had through the big picture window which we have at our place.

So - because we'd done a little advance planning AND had realistic expectations (i.e. we live way the hell out in the woods. There's a hurricane headed our way. Which means that we're probably going to be without power for a couple of hours) - Alice, Nancy and I had a pretty enjoyable time yesterday.


The line outside of Anaheim Convention Center on Friday morning just before the D23
EXPO opened its doors. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I bring this issue up because ... Well, over the past week, I've been reading the comments that some people have posted in the wake of the D23 EXPO. Where they then vented their frustration about the lines that these folks encountered and/or groused about the panels & presentations that these people couldn't get into.

And what's kind of interesting about these complaints is that there's a constant refrain that runs through many of these comments. To wit:

"Disney has had years & years of experience of dealing with large crowds thanks to its theme parks. Which is why I'm surprised that they didn't do a better job of managing the lines at the D23 EXPO."

The only problem with that premise is that the D23 EXPO wasn't / isn't a theme park. It's a convention much along the lines of Comic-Con International.


This is just a portion of the line for Hall H at Comic-Con International. The rest of the line
(which typically includes an additional 2,000 - 3,000 people) winds back-and-forth
along the waterfront behind the San Diego Convention Center.

And as anyone who's ever been down to the San Diego Convention Center during the third week of July will tell you, lines are just an unavoidable part of life - at least as far as Comic-Con is concerned. Like it or not, you're going to spend much of your time at this 4 ½ day-long pop culture event standing in a queue. Waiting in line for hours at a time, hoping that you can then actually get into a particular panel or presentation.

Which then bring me to another comment that kept popping up in people's complaints about the D23 EXPO

"Why don't they just schedule multiple presentations of these panels? Or at least stage them in bigger venues?"

Well, not to be blunt here ... But you do realize that the people who were hosting / moderating these various panels & presentations actually do have lives & responsibilities outside of entertaining & informing members of the Official Disney Fan Club?


A sleep-deprived Joe Lanzisero (left) soldiers on through Sunday's Disney Cruise Line,
as he and WDI's Bob Zalk describe the amenities that will be found on the Disney
Fantasy. Photo by Angela Ragno

Take - for example - Joe Lanzisero, senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering. In the days prior to his appearance at this year's D23 EXPO, Joe had been at Hong Kong Disneyland consulting on the three new lands that are being built at that theme park. Lanzisero then flew back to the States just so he could then co-host Sunday morning's "Imagineering the Dream and the Fantasy: Designing for Disney Cruise Line" panel. Which is why Joe kept apologizing from the stage about continually having to consult his script for this presentation, because " ... I'm a little jet-lagged up here."

You get what I'm saying? That the actual people who worked / are working on these new movies, TV shows & theme park attractions for The Walt Disney Company took time out from their busy schedules  to come on down to the Anaheim Convention Center and then talk about what they're working on. And since these films / television series / rides & shows are dynamic, on-going entities ... Well, that's why these folks then weren't available to present their panels over & over again at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day. They had to get back to their actual jobs.

More to the point, the people who run D23 recognize that not every member of the Official Disney Fan Club is a theme park fan. That there are those who are just animation enthusiasts. Or those who watch the Disney Channel & Disney XD religiously. Or maybe they're a comic book collector who wants to learn more about what Marvel & the Mouse have in the works for 2012 & beyond. Which is why creating an event that services all of these needs / addresses all of these interests can be something of a challenge.

Look, as someone who was a moderator at this year's EXPO as well as being someone who attended this event as a member of the media, I'm not going to pretend that my D23 EXPO experience was typical. But that said, I spent an awful lot of time on the show floor on Saturday & Sunday. And judging by the huge screaming crowds in front of the Disney Channel / Disney XD / Disney Junior stage, the long lines for autographs & giveaways at the Walt Disney Animation Studios booth, not to mention how crowded Mickey's of Glendale and the on-site Disney Store were, there were clearly a lot of people who had a perfectly fine time at this year's D23 EXPO.


"Good Luck Charlie" fans line up to get the autographs of the cast of this Disney Channel
series. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

What's that you say? Your chief complaint about the 2011 edition of the D23 EXPO is that Friday's Disney Parks & Resorts presentation was underwhelming? This is honestly one of the more ridiculous comments that I have ever heard coming from Disneyana fans.

I mean, think about it. The Walt Disney Company just spent upwards of $1.2 billion (or $1.7 billion, depending on who you talk to) on reinventing Disney California Adventure. Not to mention the $350 million (or is it $500 million?) that the Imagineers are now spending on expanding & enhancing Fantasyland at WDW's Magic Kingdom. That's roughly $2 billion that the Company has recently invested in its stateside resorts. And let's not forget about the work that's being done on the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Aulani, as well as the soon-to-begin-construction Disney Vacation Club at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

So given the enormous amount of money that the Mouse has just plowed into the Disneyland & Walt Disney World Resorts (more importantly, given what's going on with the economy right now. With consumer confidence back at November 2008 levels as everyone worries about whether we're now headed into a double-dip recession), is it realistic to then expect that Mickey would now be announcing yet another billion expansion of its stateside properties? I'm thinking that someone who's actually been paying attention to what's been going on in financial circles lately would likely say "No."

Which brings me to the part of today's JHM article that I'm sure will get me the most hate mail. Which is the unrealistically high expectations of some Disneyana fans. Who seem to insist that every new attraction that's being added to the theme parks has to be this state-of-the-art E Ticket. Or that an event like this year's D23 EXPO be completely glitch-free.


Concept art for Disneyland's new Fantasy Fair area. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Look, I know that the PR department at Disney regularly tosses around terms like "magic," "wonder," "dreams," "wishes" and "pixie dust" just so we'll then get all warm-and-fuzzy whenever we think about the Mouse's latest project.  But I myself, I don't live in Fantasyland. I live in the real world. Where life is full of small setbacks, tiny hiccups and little disappointments.

So when I found myself unable to get into Stage 23 for Friday night's Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix concert, did I pitch a fit? Did I immediately get on Twitter and then complain about this year's D23 EXPO was ineptly run & how everyone associated with this event should be fired? Nope. Because I'm an adult who can actually handle disappointment, I got on the escalator and then headed back downstairs. With my only thought being that I wish that I'd been smart enough to get on line earlier. That way ... Well, maybe I could have actually scored a seat to this supposedly extraordinary show.

What's that you say? D23 could have easily avoided this problem if they'd just had Dick perform in the D23 Arena (which had seats for 4000) rather than Stage 23 (which only had seats for 750 - 1000)? Sorry, but that wasn't D23's call. It was Van Dyke himself who supposedly insisted that the Vantastix perform in a more intimate venue. With his main concern being that - what with the acoustics of the cavernous Anaheim Arena - that oversized venue just wouldn't lend itself to the sort of close harmony that Dick's group does.

"Well, D23 should have just insisted that Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix perform in the Anaheim Arena," you say. Look, the Official Disney Fan Club knows that it was damned lucky to land this 86-year-old Disney Legend for this year's EXPO. You see, Dick turns down hundreds of requests each year when it comes to interviews, appearances and performances. So whatever it took to keep Van Dyke happy (i.e. have the Vantastix perform in an intimate space versus an enormous arena), that was what they were going to do.


Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix perform at the 2011 D23 EXPO. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway ... You wanna know why I had a great time at this year's D23 EXPO? It wasn't because I was the moderator of the Pixar Shorts panel. Nor was it because I attended the event as a member of the media.

No, I had a great time at this year's D23 EXPO because - just like with this past weekend's hurricane / tropical storm - I went into this event with realistic expectations. I knew that there was just no way that I'd be able to see each & every panel and presentation. Which is why I then carefully chose those events that I really wanted to attend.

More to the point, because I anticipated that there'd be lines & crowds for the D23 EXPO's more popular panels, I did some advance planning. I found out where I needed to go. More importantly, when I needed to get on line. And as a direct result, I wound up being able to see about 75% of the presentations that I really wanted to attend at this year's event.

Which - I know - if you're going by Disney theme park standards, only getting to experience 3 out of 4 of the rides, shows and attractions that you came out to the park to see ... That's somewhat disappointing. But if you're going by Comic-Con standards, getting into 3 out of every 4 panels & presentations that you really wanted to attend ... That's huge. That's the pop culture equivalent of winning the lottery.


Some of the Disneyana enthusiasts who chose to dress as their favorite characters for
this year's D23 EXPO. Photo by Florence Doyle

So I guess what I'm saying is - if you've been reading some of the negative post-D23-EXPO comments that are out there and are now thinking that you may take a pass on attending the Official Disney Fan Club's 2013 convention ... Don't be a chump. You'll just be letting those people who are already predisposed to complaining when it comes to whatever it is that The Walt Disney Company does rob you of the opportunity to experience something pretty extraordinary.

Which - provided that you do a little advance planning & walk into the Anaheim Convention Center with realistic expectations - can be a very entertaining and informative way to spend three days.

Your thoughts?

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  • I agree with most of what you are saying, but the biggest problem was lack of programming. Having only 3 venues having any panels with the crowds so large, you need at least one more venue for overflow.   This is what Comic Con does very well (though obviously d23 would never have TONS of programming) but to be in a spot where everything fills in an instant, with no other options, especially on sunday where they didnt even use one of the venues at all, is the big miss.

    In my opinion if they had one more venue with programming all day, and added a couple of things to the venues themselves (they had animators doing autographs, they could grab them to do a 45 minute conversation as part of their day and the room would be filled to capacity) it would have made the crowds and disappointments less.

    There just was not enough to do with that amount of people, that is the bigger issue in my humble opinion.

  • Jamie --

    Sunday, as I understand it, was particularly problematic for the D23 EXPO. Given that Disney had to be completely packed up and gone out of the Anaheim Convention Center by midnight Monday night. So that the next event that was scheduled for this venue (which I believe was Tom Ferry's Success Summit. Which was scheduled for August 24 - 26th) could then be loaded into the convention center.

    This is actually why the "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" exhibit closed an hour ahead of the rest of the D23 EXPO on Sunday. So that they could then begin packing up all of those costumes, props & artifacts.

    I know, I know. D23 should have picked dates for this year's EXPO where there weren't then be such a time crunch in regards to when this show needed to be packed up. But hindsight is always 20/20, Jaime. Hopefully by the time the 2013 EXPO rolls around, they'll have addressed this issue.

    j

  • I addressed this exact thing a few days before D23: fabrocks.wordpress.com/.../adventureland-anything

    D23's website had an FAQ/what to know before you go, schedule, show floor info, all sorts of things that would help you plan.  

    People wrote about the lines, waiting and being turned away from presentations from last year.  

    There are about a billion articles and trip reports written about Comic-Con; D23 Expo doesn't share the size, but definitely shares the scale of Comic-Con, percentage-wise)

    If someone didn't plan accordingly, it's no one's fault but their own.  But it's a fact that there are people who consider complaining about Disney to be more vital to their existence than water.  

    This waters down the very valid and realistic complaints and suggestions for the things that truly do need improvement with the Expo.  Those remarks were sent to the appropriate person aligned with the Expo, which actually might have a real impact on decision-making instead of just complaining on a website.

  • Jim,

    Well said.  Unfortunately there is chunk of Disney's audience that is extremely hard to please.  These are the folks who think that going on 30 cruises or owning an Annual Pass entitles them to more than a casual guest.  Disney actually bends over backwards more than most.  Sadly, it is the presence of this faction that always makes me think twice about even attempting the convention.  Thanks for the hard work reporting though.  I can always count on you to keep me in the loop.

  • D23 does some great things. Tours of the studio, screenings, the dedication of the Roy E. Disney animation building. That stuff was great. You felt being a member of D23 offered you a privileged look behind the Disney curtain.

    That's Disney at its best.

    The problem with the d23 Expo event is this, Jim -- It's got the word Disney attached to it. That, by itself, carries a lot  expectation.

    The event was stunningly pedestrian.

    I was bothered by the over commercialization and the under entertainment. Yes, it's an expo, product must be sold. TOTALLY get that. But the event felt like a big, tricked out Disney store. It felt crass.

    And then the events were underwhelming, or simply a sly way of selling you MORE Disney stuff.

    The archives were lame. Mostly, a bunch of costumes on display, which is the laziest archival items one can display. The only thing interesting to me was the Frank Thomas office. Other than that: yawn. Oh look, a Zorro outifit. Whatever.

    The panels were designed to just sell more Disney stuff. Personally, I wanted to see more "insidery" things, (i.e. more process panels and Disney secrets revealed, etc). I also feel not enough is made of Disney legacy and history.

    Clearly, from your article you feel oddly protective of the brand. I love all things Disney too.

    I just expected something more, something special, not just an ordinary garden variety expo, cheapened by BUY THIS BUY THIS BUY THIS.

    Less of that, more of a (real, genuine) peek behind the curtain.

  • Some thoughts on D23 Expo:

    * It would be nice if D23 Expo prepared overflow a few rooms where larger events could be simulcast for crowds that aren't able to get into the larger, more in-demand events. (example: The movie presentation). Comic-Con has successfully done that in the past and it has worked out nicely... even nicer when panelists and presenters popped in to surprise the overflow crowds that couldn't get into the main hall.

    * Overall, there seems to be a distinct effort to separate the Disney from the non-Disney - given the large gap between the collector's forum and the other booths.

    In that, one of the things I (and I think other fans) may have found lacking from D23 is the a major disconnect of what many fans want to see/are interested in as opposed to what the company wishes to push/market to them. To that end, there was a lot of Disney Channel stars and product being marketed/sold, but where were any Legends (besides Dave Smith) in the Disney autograph area, or did the company offer them an organized opportunity to meet with fans?

    Paige O' Hara, Jack Lindquist, Margaret Kerry, Bill Farmer and Eddie Carroll's widow all appeared at vendor booths in the Collector's Forum, but weren't seen within the official company spaces except to trot them out for the Legends ceremony - which has become another marketing event (Regis Philbin as a Disney Legend? Really?) Why in this way are the Legends treated almost as second-class citizens instead of the true draws that they are? They had some of the longest and most consistent lines of the whole event as they are the true stars.

    * Along those same lines, Disney brought out a plethora of stars and upcoming stars on stage for the big Disney movie presentation, but there were no autograph signings, or meet n' greets scheduled for any of those?

    * The thing the Disney Company has always done best is storytelling, and weaving cohesive narratives. Within D23 this is absent. There is no cohesive storytelling narrative here, as it is made up of so many disparate company entities, but D23 and the Expo would be all the better to find/create one. Mr. Disney was all about the give-back, and that feels lacking at D23 Expo. They would do well to reflect on Marty Sklar's famous "Mickey's Ten Commandments".

    * A huge difference between Comic-Con and D23 Expo is that Comic-Con was started by fans who did it (and still participate) because they loved it and wanted to do it without profit motivation. Disney as a corporation has a difficulty understanding or assimilating this, and is put on/run by employees who already have regular jobs/tasks and the expo is an extra burden for them. Thus, Comic-Con has been an organic outlet for fans to encourage fans to express themselves (Cosplay being one avenue of that). D23 being a corporate controlled event has little, if any outlets for such organic type fan creation/growth.

    * Another seeming disconnect from the fans: Little to no character appearances or meet n' greets. Even lesser  characters (Chip n' Dale) at regular times would be welcome and at a Disney event seems conspicuously lacking.

    * No Pixar or Marvel booths??

    * Many presentations, signings and/or appearances were only listed at the booths (such as Feature Animation's) and not found within the Expo guidebook. Who knew Lella Smith, director of the Animation Research Library, was having a signing of the Archives Series books except for a single sheet of paper taped up at the ARL booth?

    Or that animator Mark Henn was doing a live drawing demo of Winnie The Pooh at the Feature Animation Booth?

    * Comic-Con is great for a plethora of counter programming, so that even if you can't get into one thing you wanted to see, there is about a billion other things happening simultaneously (or shortly) that are equally just as cool and engaging - a signing, a screening, a presentation.

    * Where were the Disney films? They could have a whole room(s) running all day set up just to screen rare shorts, films and Disney films in their entirety. You think that audience wouldn't love to see "Black Hole" or "Gus" projected on a big screen?

    * I think that the Treasures exhibit was particularly well received this year and a highlight of the show, despite the long lines, because it was giving the fans precisely what they wanted.

    Dick Van Dyke performing is amazing, despite the small audience. I can imagine the crowds would enjoy seeing Richard Sherman perform too. Why didn't that happen?

    These are just some of the things that could be improved upon and that I think fans can sense are lacking, even if they can't rightly put their finger on it to express it outside of complaining about the lines. The line length is a complaint, but there are bigger issues underlying it, as every Disney fan will ultimately wait 4 hours in line for a ride if they feel the ride is worth it.

  • Disney sets the expectations so high that anything short of perfect will be met with criticism. They have also shown the ability to learn from experience, so I suspect that some tweaks will be made for the next convention. I am far more concerned with the apparent lack of concern for the Florida parks. "Good enough" was the Paul Pressler mantra, and has seemingly infected the powers that be in Orlando. Conventions are once a year, parks are everyday.

  • Jim, great article.  BTW that is my son dressed as Ironman in the group photo in your article.  Can't wait to show him.  

    Anyway, I wrote a variation of this thought on another blog site a week ago and wanted to share it here...

    I went with my family to the D23 Convention and got into every event I got in line to see. There were three keys to this.

    1.) plan ahead and get in line early. Our whole group got to the expo every morning at 7:30am to get in line.

    2.) send portions of your group or partner to secure a place in line while the other(s) shop or get food for the rest.

    3.) most important...BECOME A D23 MEMBER. sorry to all that disagree with me on this but we pay a membership fee for a reason. It was well advertised for a year that D23 members would get in an hour early before anyone else. That was key. I don't know why anyone would act surprised.  And to the people that were upset watching the Sorcerers and the premium ticket holders get in early, get over it!  They paid for that privilege.

    The bottom line is a lot of Disney fans have a false sense of entitlement. I pointed this out to my wife and family over and over at each occurrence we saw over the three day expo. The truth to the matter is you have no guarantee you are going to get into any panel or event on the schedule. You plan ahead and try your best and hope it all works out. Sorry folks but showing up a half hour before is not going to get you in.

    Thanks for letting me rant.

    Sincerely,

    Membership has it's rewards

  • I agree with a lot of the comments made by 2 Cents on his/her post. So much about this year's Expo lacked in comparison to the first Expo. You can go through Flickr galleries and see images of Mary Costa or Tommy Kirk and others out and about. It's a shame that private vendors were providing the access to the few Disney celebs that were in attendance.

    Instead of Tom Bergeron, how about having Mary Costa, voice of Sleeping Beauty, present the awards to the voices of the new princesses who became legends? Talk about old school meeting new school. Disney fans would eat that up!

    I understand the corporation has big, modern projects to push, but truthfully, so many of them fail to connect emotionally with many Disney fans. As counterprogramming, why not have 250 or 500 seat panels with the likes of Dean Jones reminiscing about his Disney work? Or Kevin Corcoran and Tommy Kirk? Or the kids from The Apple Dumpling Gang? Hayley Mills? Clearly a lot of people wanted to see Dick Van Dyke as opposed to some kid from a new Disney Channel show. And if the answer is that Disney is too cheap to pay performers to participate, shame on Disney. D23 and Disney should concentrate more on putting on a good show to counteract any naivete about long lines.

    There was also a disconnect between many of the representatives of various Disney divisions. For example, when I asked the Disney Movie Club representatives about releasing some of the Wonderful World of Disney anthology series episodes to DVD, they had never heard of ANY of the titles! Does Disney not train its employees on their company's output? Is a new Marvel film all they teach them to promote? It's an alien feeling to try to talk Disney with Disney employees who are clueless about the things that YOU like about Disney.

    The crass commercialization was also distasteful. I didn't like ESPN or Marvel before Disney owned them, so why does Disney expect me to like them now? Just because Disney owns them now? ESPN and Marvel is not the emotional connection I have with Disney. It's not what I signed up for growing up with Disney films and characters. Regis Philben? Seriously? Yet Eyvind Earle was never named a Legend? Nor James MacArthur?

    I could go on and on. Disney just doesn't get it now, and I predict that as the emotional resonance fades with time and the aging of people who invested a lot of time and money into loving Disney, the company is in for hard times in a few decades. Do you seriously expect long lines 25 years from now to reconnect with the stars of the disposable, Nickelodeon-style Disney Channel shows of today?

    D23 seems torn between celebrating classic Disney (as was heavily emphasized in its early marketing material) vs. acting as a corporate shill for other Disney divisions. I had the same reaction at the Expo that I have to Disney's theme park merchandising when I'm reminded of how Disney used to be about unique collectibles, yet now we're stuck with nothing but snowglobes and pins. I used to be one of those folks but I've grown highly more discerning about supporting that kind of commercialization in the hopes that good Disney fortunes will support more of what I otherwise like about Disney. It rarely seems to happen. The only collectibles I bought at the Expo from Disney was their Archives Treasures book and the Disneyland Hotel book. The rest of my cash was spent at the Collector's Forum on things I actually wanted. If D23 ever lives up to what it initially promised, I'll be glad to support them more ---- how about on-demand, Warner Archive-style DVD releases of classic Disney films or TV shows? Or how about a limited edition (say, 2,500 run), D23 exclusive/Intrada-style CD soundtrack for "The Sword in the Stone"? Those things I would buy!

    The Expo this time? Meh. The disorganization was noticeable but secondary to the listless company that Disney seems to have become ---- too big, on too many pages for Disney to even know what Disney is about these days. It showed at the Expo.

  • TJ --

    Your post is a perfect example of why D23 genuinely struggles to be all things to all Disneyana fans. By the films & celebrities that you referenced, the version of The Walt Disney Company that you're fondest of is clearly the one that existed from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s. Yet when I interviewed Steven Clark back in June, he talked about how he constantly hears from Disneyana fans who grew up in the late 1980s / early 1990s. And these folks keep badgering Clark about "Why doesn't D23 ever doing anything about the Disney stuff that I love? Like Disney Afternoon series like 'DuckTales' or "Darkwing Duck' ? Or  movies like 'Flight of the Navigator' ?"

    You gotta remember that Disney is a multinational corporation that will be 90 years old in 2013, TJ. Which means that this Company means a lot of different things to many different people. Which is why I always find it so fascinating when baby boomers will speak so reverently when it comes to the Disney child stars that they grew up with (i.e. Hayley Mills, Kevin Corcoran & Tommy Kirk) but then be so quick dismiss the Disney child stars of today.

    I mean, when you get right down to it, is there really all that much of a difference between Annette Funicello and Miley Cyrus? Both are talented young ladies that the Disney PR machine eventually turned into stars .... right?

    j

  • Jim -

    I believe what TJ and 2 Cents are pointing out is that the company has an opportunity here with the EXPO (the official FAN event) to utilize their true Legends (official and unofficial) and isn't. That doesn't have to neglect the new product, but it shouldn't either gloss over the historical Disney legacy product . Those personalities, films, and stories could be from 5 years ago or 80. That is what the company is built upon and fans ultimately want to connect with (arguably more so then the cast of a Disney Channel show that has just debuted.)

    I would agree that Miley Cyrus belonged at D23. So I guess the bigger question is why wasn't she, or numerous others that could've been? Why were former Disney stars that did attend given short shrift? Just because they aren't part of the current product Disney is pushing?

  • Here's what I expected: to feel the way I did in 2009, that Disney really appreciated it's fans and showed me. Unfortunately, because of less programming and organizational miscues, I didn't. Some reasons why:

    Let Me In

    Friday morning put everyone in a bad mood from the start. This was avoidable, and frankly, ridiculous. (They did fix it for Saturday, but by then the bad aftertaste had tainted many palates.) Too few people scanning badges, no line organization, tangled lanyards--really? It was a very avoidable disaster.

    Fill The Seats!

    The media probably didn't notice this, but there were empty seats that the ushers did not fill. (I'm not referring to the hundreds of seats that should have been rented in the arena.) It frustrated those who actually made it into sessions. Even at the Studios presentation with thousands turned away, there was an empty seat in my section, and many others within view.

    Offer Alternatives

    I expected lines. But I also expected "plan B" options. There were far fewer in 2011, and none on Sunday. In 2009, there was always something else to do, like a Dave Pachecco/Andreas Deja panel on merchandise that became a Plan B highlight for me. As Andreas put it, "we're among friends." I gave up after Marvel and went to a movie--even though I traveled from NYC for D23--as I didn't want to spend 3 hours to maybe see something, I had done everything on the floor. I wasn't angry or annoyed, just accepting that the Expo was over for me. (The explanation about packing up doesn't make it right; as a guest, I should be given three fairly equal days.)

    "Provide Immediate Service Recovery"

    No, not refunds. Online, with people raging, D23 said nothing. In fact, they acted like everything was wonderful. That's insulting--and helped keep the comments roaring. I posted Friday morning, to the D23 Facebook wall with the Expo-promoted D23 Twitter hashtag, that I was frustrated being stuck outside. What did I want to hear? A reply; any reply. I got nothing. If they would have said, "Sorry to hear so many D23 members are waiting to get in. We are working to get everyone in quickly and are sorry it's taking so long," I would have at least felt like they were listening. Unlike Steve Clark, Tom Staggs gets this: when fans were disappointed in his presentation, he responded on the Parks blog. He appreciated their concerns, and wished he could have said more. It made many take a step back and put his presentation in a better light.

    Other Thoughts:

    - I missed ABC. I became a fan of The Middle, Modern Family and Cougar Town because of the first Expo (and knew Kelsey Grammer--whom I love--was doomed); got excited for LOST again; and tried the failed-but-promising Fast Forward and V. The '09 "ABC screening room" was a miss, but a small booth on the floor, tchotkes (really dug my "what did you see?" hat), bags, stars, etc. would have been smart.

    - As a fan asked Sunday at the Marvel presentation, where was a Marvel booth? This would have helped with the "what should I do now?" issues. You couldn't buy a comic, a Captain America shield or Thor hammer (all available at Disneyland stores).

    - Rich Ross is no Dick Cook. The Studios session, while good, was missing the magic spark from '09. Actually, the session may have added to the feeling that the Expo was all about being sold to; "please buy tickets/DVDs to these movies you already know about; now here's Robert Downey, Jr. to move you along." This comment is overly critical; I truly enjoyed the session, but there was nothing unexpected besides Pixar Untitled 1, Untitled 2 and--bonus--Billy Crystal.

    - While not for me, I had no qualms with Disney Channel. Kids and tweens like it, and that place was hopping. It should have been larger in area to fit more fans.

    - Disney Living had some interesting panels that needed a bigger forum and more promotion. Maybe not their own room, but give them more than 50 seats and an area that's not competing against loud toys, and boom, you have Plan Bs for folks.

    @TJ

    Agree with many of your thoughts (esp. worry about emotional connection years from now), and actually brought up the Warner/TCM video idea to the guy working the BluRay booth. Of course, he couldn't say anything other than agreeing that music rights are a huge issue. I'm hoping they do something like WB or a "Netflix for Disney" that isn't only about The Cheetah Girls. Disagree with you on Regis: the man has been on Buena Vista TV for 25+ years, and has hosted more Disney World TV specials and parades than probably any other person; he deserves to be a Disney Legend.

    @Jim Hill

    Agree with your comment about Annette/Miley (although Miley may not be the best example). The Mickey Mouse Club was Walt's first "for kids only" product, and Boomers remember it fondly. They should not judge their children's (and for many, grandchildren's) show's so harshly. I'm a 80s/90s fan, but was luckily enough to have the Disney Channel through that time, so I got DuckTales (syndicated) and Walt Disney hosting Disneyland, original and new MMC, Edison Twins and Zorro. D23 is trying to capture this broad swath of fandom. Here's hoping they do better at the next Expo.

  • I don't think I'm being unrealistic or unprepared when I tell you that on Friday D23 lost my ticket reservation in their computer [even though I had a confirmation #], made me wait in two additional lines to correct the error and sadly, no, I didn't get into 3 of 4 events. I got into 1 of 6 events. I literally spent over 8 hours waiting in lines to continually be turned away and only got to see ONE panel. I'm an understanding person. I'm very patient, but sadly, I came away from this event feeling ripped off. I don't think this was my fault. I feel like it was D23's responsibility to be prepared; not mine. I'm sorry if some of the people who spoke were tired, but guess what...so were we!

  • your premise is okay if Disney was doing this as a free event out of the kindness of their hearts or the desire to promote their upcoming projects, but the fact is, they sold tickets.

    If I buy a ticket to a concert, i don't really care if Coldplay is tired, or has been touring a lot, or has other work to do. I BOUGHT A TICKET, with the implicit guarantee that a show commensurate with their standards would be performed.

    When you SELL something, especially if it says DISNEY on it, you not only better be damn well ready with excellence and responsive solutions--don't be a big whiny Corporate baby when people call you out on your TERRIBLE work!

    And why are you being SO defensive of the Company and D23, when a few years ago you would have ripped them an new one for such a shoddy, haphazard, and mismanaged event--especially given that they learned NO lessons from the FIRST Expo!

  • D23 Expo was a mixed bag for me. I got the chance to see everything on the show floorover the three days, and I managed to make it in to more events than I got shut out from.  But overall, I was disappointed in Expo 2011 - because it seemed to me that Disney made some of the same mistakes they did at Expo 2009.

    I didn't go into Expo expecting to get into every event I wanted to - I didn't get into every event I wanted to in 2009, even with a media badge. But I also didn't expect to have to stand in line for more than two hours the first thing in the morning on every day of Expo and then wind up missing or nearly missing a couple of presentations because Disney didn't have a better plan for getting people into the buiding.  As in 2009, Disney recovered from their initial stumbles, but given that they had some of the the same issues getting people into the ACC and getting people into seminars in 2009, maybe they shouldn't have had some of those stumbles to begin with.  

    I'll agree with Andy that membership had its privileges at D23 Expo - and that would have been fine if Expo had been open only to D23 members.  But this event was open to members and the general public. If I were a non-member and I had spent the money to come, and then had the experiences I saw non-members have - with seminars being scheduled for times when ACC wasn't open to them and their entry time to the Expo all but guaranteeing that they would be shut out of other events - I would have been seriously upset. Not upset as in "I need to join D23 so I can have a better shot next time", but upset as in "I can't believe Disney's treating me this badly -- I'll never come to another Expo".  How much goodwill toward the Company and D23 was lost because of how things were handled?

    Why weren't there satellite locations set up or plans ready to adjust the schedule and open up other venues when it became clear that events were at capacity? Why weren't there locations available for taped repeat showings of seminars? Disney was  documenting the seminars on video - those could have been shared with attendees on site instead of just being recorded for posterity.  Why weren't there monitors in all the queue areas showing seminars, instead of there just having monitors in the Arena queue playing promo videos?   Why were PA annnouncements made advertising events when the queues for those events were already long enough that people would probably have to be turned away?   I'm not claiming I have all the answers, or that any of my suolutions would be practical, but Expo's organizers should have anticipated some of these problems and come up with possible solutions even before Expo began -- because they ran into some of these same problems in 2009.

    Will I come back to Expo in 2013 (assuming there is an Expo)? Most likely. But I hope that well before that event, Expo's organizers will take a serious look at both what went right and what went wrong, then build on what they learned to make it a better event. No perfect, mind you - just better.

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