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Huffington Post -- Will the third time be the charm for Disney's D23 EXPO?

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Huffington Post -- Will the third time be the charm for Disney's D23 EXPO?

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Starting today, Disney fans from around the world will be pouring into the Anaheim Convention Center, eager to sample all of the wonders that the Mouse will be unveiling at this year's D23 EXPO, that trade show / Comic-Con clone that the Company presents biannually.

Photo by Jim Hill

"What sort of wonders?," you ask. These will range from relatively intimate, heartfelt affairs -- like that panel Disney author Dave Bossert will be hosting today at 1:30 p.m. which then pays tribute to the late Roy E. Disney -- to celebrity-filled extravaganzas which will be presented inside of the cavernous Anaheim Arena. Which is where Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures will all be offering sneak peeks at upcoming projects at these elaborate presentations which will be held today & on Saturday morning respectively.

The team from Freeman just finishing "kicking in the carpet" as Thursday night's D23
preview reception was getting underway. Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, when there are 45,000 die-hard Disney fans who are expected to take part in this three day-long event and your biggest onsite venue only seats 4000, there are bound to be some people who get turned away. So what has the Official Disney Fan Club done out ahead of this year's event in an attempt to mitigate that disappointment? As Steven Clark -- the Head of D23 -- explained in a recent interview, his organization has taken the lessons that it learned at the first two EXPOs to heart. Which is why -- for the third go-round of this Ultimate Disney Fan Event -- D23 has put a number of changes in place that it hopes will lead to a better overall Guest experience for EXPO attendees.

What sort of wonders await inside of  the Imagineering pavilion? Photo by Jim Hill

"One of the great things about the team at D23 is we really do listen to feedback from our members. This year we added a 2,000-seat overflow theater for the D23 Expo Arena so a guest who may not make it into an arena presentation will still be able to see these spectacular events such as Disney Legends, the presentations from The Walt Disney Studios and 'The Disney Songbook' concert with Richard Sherman and Alan Menken," Clark stated."

Well, for starters, here's some examples of what the silhouettes of the forest  of Pandora
will look like in James Cameron's World of Avatar. Photo by Jim Hill

"We also expanded the capacities for Stage 23 and Stage 28. To help alleviate lines, we create StagePass this year, which works similar to FASTPASS and will allow guests to pick up tickets for presentations in Stages 23 and 28. And we created a more dynamic D23 Expo mobile app with complete schedules, talent bios, a show floor map, trivia and much more," Steven continued.

El Fortuno represents the next generation of Audio-Animatronics,
both with his fluid movements as well as his ability to have a
spontaneous, real-time conversation with Guests. Photo
by Jim Hill

So will these changes be enough to placate D23 members who are among the most passionate & dedicated Disney fans on the planet? More to the point, who were very quick to jump on Twitter & Facebook back in 2009 & 2011 and then complain bitterly about how they were being forced to stand in lengthy queues in order to see a particular panel or presentation. This is why Clark & his team decided to develope StagePass. Which will allow event attendees to obtain free tickets that then guarantee them a spot in many panels ahead of time. Provided -- of course -- that they actually show up 20 minutes ahead of when these presentations are supposed to begin.

Here's a great bit of Disney theme park history: The original maquettes for that trio of
hitchhiking ghosts which you see in the Haunted Mansion. Photo by Jim Hill

And once these D23 members no longer have to wait in hours-long line in order to guarantee themselves a seat at a particular panel or a presentation ... Well, it's hoped that these people will now go off and explore the show floor, where they'll then discover some of the real treasures hidden there. Take -- for example -- the collector's forum, which is where much beloved fan artists like James Silvani and Amy Mebberson will be selling prints and doing sketches over the course of the show.

And speaking of ghosts, how about a full-sized Audio-animatronic
figure of the Haunted Mansion's most infamous ghoul, the
Hatbox Ghost? Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, if you're really  looking to make the most of your time during this three day long event, Clark suggests that you plan ahead. Take advantage of the EXPO schedule which D23 has posted online as well as that free D23 mobile app to then form some sort of strategy when it comes to which presentations you really, really need to see and which panels you can then take a pass on.

Be sure and go upstairs to check out the "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives"
exhibit. Which includes such amazing pieces as the original storyboards for
"Mary Poppins" Jolly Holiday sequence. Photo by Jim Hill

Just please keep in mind that the D23 EXPO is a dynamic event and its schedule in ever-changing. Take -- for example -- that "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." screening which will now help close out the show on Sunday afternoon. The screening of this highly anticipated ABC pilot was only just added to the EXPO's schedule this past Tuesday.

There's also some great fan-produced art up in this area. Including this
spectacular dimensional piece, "Raspberry Ice, Cakes and Tea" by
Britni Brault of Dana Point, CA. Photo by Jim Hill

So with the help of StagePass and that new mobile app, Clark & his team are hoping that the third time really will be the charm for the D23 EXPO. Which officially gets underway today at 8:30 a.m. out on the Grand Plaza in front of the Anaheim Convention Center. Which is when Disney will be unveiling Dr. Doofenshmirtz's most evil "inator" yet, the Waffle-inator.

If you're going to see all of the amazing things that are
currently on display at the D23 EXPO, you're going to
really need to get a head start (Sorry. Couldn't
resist). Photo by Jim Hill

Yes. You read that right. A Waffle-inator. Ask your family's resident  "Phineas & Ferb" fan. They'll be able to explain it to you.

The Waffle-inator was still under wraps as the D23 EXPO's preview reception drew to
a close last night. Photo by Jim Hill

Your thoughts?

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  • To be honest, after the Expo '11, I said to myself "Never again" - after spending thousands of dollars and flying and driving all the way across the country to attend, I wrapped up Sunday afternoon feeling swindled.  While there was plenty of interesting things to see/do, the value I got for my money (the ridiculous lines and then not getting into far to many things) was incredibly low.  Sorry, Mr. Clark - you burned this bridge to a crisp - I didn't bother renewing my D23 membership and it's not worth my time/money/frustration level to bother considering coming back - which kills me, because if you take out the crowd and disorganization problems, the overall Expo really is an incredibly cool and awesome event!

  • The Avatarland tree silhouettes look kinda creepy.  I hope they aren't going to try to build fake trees, the great thing about Adventureland, and really all lands in Disneyland, is that the plants, shrubs, trees, vines, are all part of the show.  

    There's so much that would work better in AK than Avatarland, such as a new Australia land, with animal exhibits and an E-Ticket, or maybe even a land based off of the Jungle Cruise movie . . . if they build Avatarland they're going to be stuck with it for decades, feels like something Universal would do, not Disney.

  • I can look back at Expo 2013 and say, "Well, they've made some improvements".  StagePass mostly saved  us the hassle of standing in 2-plus hour standby lines to get in to a presentation (or to being shut out with little notice).  Disney seemed to be better organized and more adept at queue handling, and the extra seating in the presentation areas meant more fans got to see stuff.  The WDP&R exhibit was an interesting look at the various disciplines that make up WDI, and the palytest of the Adventure Jujus was a lot of fun. There was a little better representation from parts of the Company that haven't been involved before or barely had a presence before (ESPN comes immediately to mind), and the app was much more useful and user-friendly (although it would have been nice if Disney had sprung for free Wi-Fi coverage so that more people could take advantage of it). They even tried to tackle some of the complaints about the long lines for crummy food by bringing in food trucks!

    Does that mean they got it all right? Nope. Getting into the Arena was still a nightmare - comitting to one of the WDS presentations basically meant you blew all morning & could forget about getting a StagePass for the most interesting afternoon events. Offering free D23 memberships made the member privileges for attending Expo a joke - you were a fool if you didn't take advantage of getting in early and cheaper by signing up for a free membership, and except for the charter member lounge, there were no real perks for the people who paid for D23 memberships. I wouldn't be surprised if many Silver members and some Gold members drop their paid memberships based on the fact that they can now get most of the same perks for free. Communication among the Expo staff and with the public was still an issue - the app helped with breaking updates, but it seems like information didn't filter down as well to the Expo volunteer staff; there were still several occasions where the answers you got depended on the volunteer you spoke to.  

    One suggestion to the folks at D23: since you've got that nifty members-only site, how about making videos of the seminars available there? That way the members can see events they misssed at Expo, and you may get others to sign up for memberships and go to the next Expo to see it all for themselves (assuming there will be one - Disney's being kinda vague about that).

  • Another expo *is* scheduled in 2015. Bob Iger confirmed it during this year's Disney Legends ceremony.

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