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D23 makes tweaks & improvements as Disney's official fan club heads into 2011

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D23 makes tweaks & improvements as Disney's official fan club heads into 2011

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Have you noticed that Dale - as he's represented within the D23 world - is almost always wearing a set of Mickey Mouse ears?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Well, there's a reason for that. The folks who run the Official Disney Fan Club want to get across the idea that they're listening.

Take - for example - last year. When, in response to people's concerns about the cost of joining D23, Disney then created a two-tiered membership system for D23. With Gold-level memberships going for $74.99, and Silver-level memberships (which still provided all of the same benefits as a Gold-level membership with the exception of a subscription to Disney twenty-three magazine) $34.99.

And speaking of Disney twenty-three magazine ... Given how dynamic the Company is these days, it's hard to do justice to everything that's going on in & around the Mouse House with a single quarterly magazine. Which is why - to supplement Disney twenty-three - the Disney Geek vlog was created. So that members of the Official Disney Fan Club would then be updated weekly on what's going at the theme parks, the Disney Channel et al.

Speaking of which ... Recognizing that not every D23 member is a theme park aficiando ... Well, that's why the Official Disney Fan Club made an effort in 2010 to develop events that would appeal to members of all ages. Which is why D23 staged that special screening of "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam " on the Disney Studio lot back in August.

And because there are just as many Official Disney Fan Club Members who have  toddlers as those who have tweens ... Well, that's why D23 decided to hold a preview screening of that new Disney Junior series, "Jake and the Neverland Pirates," in the Studio Theatre on the Burbank Lot on January 29th.

"We're learning as we go here," said Steven Clark, Head of D23 when we spoke last week. "Trying to build on our successes, while - at the same time - listen to what D23 members are actually saying about the Club and then giving them more of what they want."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take - for instance - that Destination D: Walt Disney World Resort 40th Anniversary Celebration event which D23 will be holding at the WDW Resort May 14 -15th. Given how successful (and popular) last September's Destination D: Disneyland 55th Anniversary Celebration event was, Clark and his team were anxious to replicate that experience while -- at the same time - make a few tweaks.

"Rather than do what we did in Anaheim, which was hold the Great Disney Scavenger Hunt right after two full days of panels & presentations,  we decided to switch things up this time around," Steven explained. "Put the Scavenger Hunt - which, because that Disney World is so much bigger than the Disneyland Resort, is two days long - ahead of all those panels & presentations. So that - after all that running around -- people will then be ready to sit down and listen for a while."

And speaking of Disney World's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt, while Steven and his team were down at WDW last month for D23's Magic and Merriment event, they actually got to try out a few of the trivia questions that had been created for the Epcot portion of this challenge.

Chip 'n Dale dressed up in their holiday best for last month's Magic and
Merriment event. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We have this great group of people, this army of volunteers down at Walt Disney World who are helping us out with the scavenger hunt portion of this event," Clark continued. "And they've come up with some extremely challenging questions that I think people are really going to enjoy."

And speaking of volunteers ... Given that more divisions of The Walt Disney Company now have a better understanding of what exactly D23 is, what a great conduit the Official Disney Fan Club has become when it comes to reaching the Company's most dedicated fans ... Well, that's why a lot of these parts of the Company are now extremely excited about this year's D23 EXPO.

"The first time we presented a D23 EXPO, we only had 8 or 9 months to pull it together. This time around, we've had a full two years to prepare. More importantly, we've been meeting with every division of the Company. Trying to coordinate who will be giving presentations and what will then be put on display," Steven said.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

As for those presentations at this year's D23 EXPO (which will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center August 19th - 21st) ... Clark wasn't quite as forthcoming with details about that event as I'd hoped he might be. Other than to say that the nominating committee for the Disney Legends just had its first meeting and that some very interesting & deserving candidates had been nominated this time around.

"I realize that the 2011 version of the D23 EXPO will be one day shorter than the 2009 version. But given that we'll be extending the operating hours of this year's event as well as offering lots more programming, I'm sure that the 2011 event will be just as big a Guest satisfier as the 2009 event was," Steven stated.

And with each year that goes by, Clark and his crew will continue to futz with the Official Disney Fan Club's mix of elements. Trying to give D23 members the sorts of perks that they'll actually use (EX: 40% off on seats to selected performances of Mary Poppins on Broadway, a year-round 20% off  discount on merchandise ordered through ABC's online store et al) plus give them access to the sort of cool, behind-the-scenes info that die-hard Disney fan really crave.

"That's why we created Armchair Archivists. To give D23 members some idea of how big the Archives actually are. The great wealth of material that we work with every day," Steven said. "We actually just shot our first episode on the new set of Steve (Czarnecki) and Josh (Turchetta)'s show. It'll be interesting to see how people react to the new, improved version of this web-series."

And that - when you get right down to it - is what Steven Clark & Co. are always trying to do with D23. While he's quick to talk up what he thought Disney's official fan club did really well in 2010 ("I thought that the concert which we presented at Destination D - which Jeffrey Epstein put together, by the way - was spectacular. Easily one of my favorite things that D23 did last year"), Clark's also always looking for ways to improve the Club's offerings. Finding new things for D23 members to see and do.

"Wait 'til you see some of the film footage that we'll be screening at May's Destination D event,"  Steven enthused. "There's stuff that's just going to thrill Disney World fans."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So as the Official Disney Fan Club finishes up its second full year of operations, what sort of tweaks would you like to see D23 make in 2011 and beyond?

Your thoughts?

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  • You know, I love Disney, a lot specially all related to theme parks and animation... but D23 as well as The Disney Store on line forgets that there are also a huge international community of fans outside the US.  The fan club just takes care of the fans in the US and what about the ones that live abroad like me? The same is with the Disney Store on line. If I want to buy something from them I have to pay astronomical air shipping prices and still they need to take in account the customs taxes to pay each time you pick up stuff coming from abroad. So if I'd like to get my D23 membership it will basically cost me from double to triple the money of what an average American customer pays.

    If they really wants to make changes , then they should start to think more about international customers. Having theme parks abroad is not enough since we cannot always afford going to them. After all if they build a much better system for international customers, they will be getting more money and we will be happier just getting more Disney stuff.

    Fernando Yache

    Tel Aviv


  • I'll agree with Fernando, including those of us living outside of the States is something they should really consider in the future.  I'm an American living in Brazil, I only make it back up north every few years.  I've held off buying a D23 membership because there just isn't much in it for me at this point.  I'm not complaining that we aren't being 'served', I'm just suggesting that we're another segment out there that they might consider including in the future.  

    I considered a membership just for the magazine, however my experience with magazines shipped from the States is that less then half of them will ever arrive.  I too don't purchase from Disney as the shipping and duty triple the costs.  It's not Disney's fault and I don't mean to infer that in any way that it is, just a reality that we have to deal with.  While we will be vacationing at DW in September, so far D23 memberships don't mean much to overseas Disney fans.  I hope in the future that can change.

  • I agree with the previous commentators. There isn't much Disney stuff outside of the United States except for theme parks.

    And there is just about nothing Disney in Saudi Arabia... I don't think that is about to be fixed, though!

    But, at this point, I wouldn't be able to use a D23 membership until I move back to the States.

  • Because D23 enjoys such a direct marketing connection with diehard Disney fans, surely the Disney Movie Club could become a D23-sanctioned DVD release vehicle? Many of us would love to see episodes of the long-running Disney anthology series or episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club", perhaps similar to the Warners Archive on-demand system that's proven very successful for creating on-demand DVDs of classic titles? The Home Video division already focuses on new releases from the company, i.e., "Toy Story 3."

  • Would love a third tier of membership that consists of just a (discounted) subscription to D23 Mag.  Live in central PA so the events and stuff are irrelevant to me.  Would be nice to not have to make a special trip to B&N to get the mag.

  • Well, they still don't get it.  Most Disney fans want discounts on all things Disney and D23 is just a pale shadow of what the old Magic Kingdom Club provided.  D23 is clearly just another device for Disney to empty the pockets of loyal fans.

  • What Disney fans want -

    1). Animated movies that aren't "All Princess, All the Time."

    2). Admission prices that don't feel like they require a mortgage and a payment plan.

    3). Restaurant prices that don't feel like we've been transported to a movie theater concession stand.

    4). Merchandise prices that don't feel like they require a down payment or layaway plan.

    5). A WDW Magic Kingdom Main Street that doesn't feel like one huge shopping mall.

    6). A WDW EPCOT Center that doesn't feel like a ritzy attempt at a county fair.

    7). A WDW Hollywood Studios without "The Hat."

  • I'm a charter member of D23, but even I can't say I'm thrilled with everything they've done so far.  For instance, why - after more than 2 years of holding special events - can't D23 offer a lottery system for events like the Studio and Archives tours so that people who can't get to the D23 website in the first five minutes after tickets are available have a shot at participating?   Why doesn't D23 offer some kind of perks to members who attend D23 Expo other than ticket discounts (unless they're willing to spend big bucks for special treatment)? Why isn't D23 making more of an effort to hold more events outside of Los Angeles and Orlando? Most importantly in my book, why isn't D23 working more with the unofficial fan clubs and organizations instead of essentially shutting them out - most D23 members belong to some of those other clubs, so they should be working more with those clubs instead of acting like they're the only game in town.  

    The magazine and Armchair Archivists are fun; Expo and Destination D were great. I don't expect to get a ton of discounts (honestly, as an annual passholder and a Disney Visa carholder I get more offers than I could use anyway).  I just wish I could feel like there were more ways to participate in D23 that don't involve handing the Mouse a check.

  • I would have loved to attend the Expo in California, or even one of the D23 events at Walt Disney World or New York ... but as an Ohioan, as with many non-coastal dwellers, it's often cost-prohibitive just to travel to one of those destinations. More events at local Disney Stores would be nice, however those are unfortunately not as nearby as they once were.

    Instead, I would love to see Disney use movie theaters to simulcast exclusive D23 events.  The cost would be much less than a physical presence, yet the reach could be much more broad. Events could even be more frequent and cater to more varied interests.  I'd be more inclined to shell out for a membership that yielded such a possibility, and maybe many others would too.  What better place than where the original Mickey Mouse Clubs got their start?

  • I second WhatADisneyFanWants!


    Disneyland is much better than Disney World when it comes to quality. Walt Disney himself supervised its construction, and he was a perfectionist.

    All I want to say is that it would be great if the Theme Parks could be elevated to Walt's level of quality.

  • I really don't think they get it. They are approaching it from entirely the wrong standpoint. It's supposed to be about being a Disney fan not about buying a bunch of stuff. The events are NOT what people want. If they have 200 people at an event and 20,000 members, shouldn't they be doing more for the 19,800 people NOT going to the event?  Ok, here are my suggestions:  

    * Create member "goodies" when you go to the parks, even something as simple as a D23 "viewing area" for fireworks where a member and a guest can get in, or a D23 "souvenir card" that you can pick up at Guest Relations

    * Train all cast members on D23 so members will feel special when they flash their membership card

    * Give some sort of discount that annual passholders can't get ....but what this is, I don't know since Disney has so many annual passholders

    * Stop the glossy, oversized magazine and just make it a regular magazine where members can send their photos of them in the parks, artwork, stories, etc. -- encourage members to participate

    * Add a REAL community to the online site -- with all due respect to the excellent work of Jim and others, Disney should OWN its fan communications, not play second-fiddle to rumor-mongering (that's not you, Jim!) websites

    * Get rid of that awful video blog, which is information everyone already knows

    * Stop being a corporate shill -- that is what has kept me from renewing this year; it's just a bunch of commercials

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