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September 11, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 1

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

I'm taking just a few minutes here to give you a quick recap of the events of yesterday, September 10, the first day of the first-ever D23 Expo, AKA the Ultimate Disney Fan Experience.

Wow, is it ever! Someone described yesterday to me as like drinking out of a fire hose and they couldn't have been more right. There is so much coming at you, full force, from the moment you set foot in the doors of the Anaheim Convention Center.

I mean, every aspect of Disney you can imagine is represented here. When you walk in to the first floor convention hall area, it's simply breath-taking. It seems like every square inch of the place is crammed with something to look at or something to do or, well, let's be honest, something to buy. But still, if you're a Disney fan, what better place to find ways to spend your money?

Yesterday's big events were the kick-off keynote address by Disney CEO Bob Iger, followed immediately afterward by the induction of the 2009 Disney Legends. It seemed like it took forever to fill the 4000 seat Arena, due in part I guess to the fact that attendees not only had to check ALL electronics (everything, cell phones, cameras, etc.) before entering, but also had to pass through a security checkpoint.


As a result, Iger's talk started a half-hour late. He opened with a montage of images from all of Disney's various business units, from TV to movies to ESPN to theme parks to you name it. Zac Efron, Captain Jack Sparrow, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers... all of it. After pointing out Disney Legend Art Linkletter in the audience, Iger spoke about the meaningfulness of honoring the fans with the creation of the fan club D23, as well as other things happening within the company. When he mentioned Disney's recent announcement that it planned to acquire Marvel Entertainment, he met with enthusiastic applause.

A special treat of Iger's presentation was a 30-minute sneak peek of Disney's upcoming animated film, "The Princess and the Frog." As Iger noted, the clip we saw was only about 87% in color, with a temporary score in place. Still it was fascinating to see this work in progress. And I have to admit that I was so totally engrossed in the story I was disappointed when it ended! Iger said it was "destined to be a classic," and while as CEO I know that he has to say that, I agreed with him.

Another bonus was that singer Anika Noni Rose, who voices the lead character in the film, came on stage and performed one of the songs - she was fabulous, even though battling a bout of bronchitis.

The final surprise of the presentation was the awarding of a night in the Walt Disney Suite in Disneyland - an unexpecting audience member found a secret envelope taped under his chair and claimed his prize only after several awkward moments had passed. The young man was clearly stunned and mentioned as he accepted the prize that his father had been a street sweeper in Disneyland many years ago. Awww... that was really nice.

Following Iger's presentation and a 10-minute break, the Disney Legends ceremony began, hosted by television personality Tom Bergeron and Iger. It was extremely interesting to me to hear the backgrounds of the various legends, and I was pleasantly surprised that many were on hand to receive the award themselves - although a few of the awards were bestowed posthumously. But what a surprise to find out that present-day Imagineer Kim Irvine is the daughter of newly inducted Legend Leota Toombs Thomas - the Haunted Mansion's Madame Leota. Tony Anselmo (the voice of Donald Duck) and Bill Farmer (the voice of Goofy), both spiced up the proceedings by accepting their awards in character, and the audience was of course delighted to see former "Golden Girl" Betty White and comedian Robin Williams, who quipped that when Disney builds a theme park in Shanghai, perhaps they will have a character called, "Mickey Mao."


The ABCs of Disney, which featured clips of many of ABC-TV's new shows, was another highlight for me. Following the snippets, actors Ed O'Neill, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer, and Courtney Cox (who was apparently a substitute for previously announced Joseph Fiennes) came on stage to talk about their new roles.

The new season of Dancing with the Stars was also touted, and dance professionals Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke performed a short routine, followed by one of this coming season's new contestants, singer Donny Osmond, with his partner Kym Johnson.


After the presentation, Osmond, the Dancing stars and Bergeron were available for autographs and photos, but unfortunately the queue snaked halfway around the world - no autographs for me.

Aside from those big presentations, here are a few of things I saw that stood out to me:

--In the Parks and Resorts pavilion, the animatronic dinosaur Lucky and the lovable Wall-E are available for photo ops - Photopass photographers are even on hand! The two alternate appearances at 20-minute intervals, and I made sure to get my close-up with both.


-- Also in the Parks and Resorts pavilion, there is a huge display on the upcoming new land for Disney's California Adventure, Carsland, with plenty of Imagineers available. Look for more on that, once Laura Gilbreath, our Disneyland correspondent, has a chance to get online.

-- As a more frequent Walt Disney World visitor, I was a little disappointed at the lack of exhibits relating to the Florida parks, but I guess there isn't much new going on there at the time. Jay Rasulo is supposed to be making a presentation on Saturday, however, so I'm anxiously awaiting that.

-- There's a special VoluntEARS area where attendees are encouraged to spend a few minutes working on a charity project. Yesterday they were putting care packages together, today getting people to send video messages to the troops overseas.

-- The collector's area is impressive - all sorts of Disneyana, memorabilia, various goods and services" THE place to stop for the Disney collector.

-- The Treasures of the Disney Archives room is amazing as well. So much history in such a small space. As a Mary Poppins fan, I got a bit teary-eyed when I saw her actual traveling costume, even though it was missing the famous parrot-head umbrella.

-- One of the last sessions of the day was an Afternoon with Imagineering Legends, featuring the likes of Marty Sklar, Don Iwerks, and X Atencio. I was shut out of that session, unfortunately, but was able to attend a brief press conference held afterward. The stories these men and women have to tell!


I paid brief visits to the Baby Einsteins play area and the Disney Consumer Products displays -but I really need more time to investigate! Truly, there is so so much to see and do, it's almost like being at Walt Disney World - you just can't do it all!

OK, that's it for the Day 1 wrap-up. I have to get back over to the Convention Center now -- Need another drink from that fire hose!

September 12, 2009

NEWS! D23 Expo - Day 3

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

OK, OK, I know I said I'd write a Day 2 recap, and it's coming, I promise... but we have breaking news from TODAY.

And when the news breaks, the news breaks!

So, what's so important?

Well, today, at a presentation I attended just a little more than two hours ago, Jay Rasulo, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Chairman, made some really exciting announcements that I wanted to share right away!

First, the rumored expansion of Walt Disney World's Fantasyland is TRUE!

They are going to be more than doubling the size of Fantasyland and adding a number of
amazing new attractions.

The down side? Toontown is going to go away. Completely. Although the Imagineers have said they are going to try to save Goofy's Barnstormer somehow... they're just not sure how yet.

Based on Rasulo's presentation, and a press conference I attended afterward with several Imagineers and Rasulo as well, here are some of the major features of the expansion:

-- A country chateau where Cinderella lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, where you'll see her transform.
-- An area for Sleeping Beauty, in which you can make birthday cards for Aurora's Sweet 16 birthday party and give them to her.
-- Beast's Castle, which will house a 552-seat restaurant that is counter service by day, table service by night. The castle will have three areas, including the "West Wing", in which you will be able to see the Beast's private antechamber and the rose with dropping petals, featured in the animated film, Beauty and the Beast.
-- An "under the sea with Ariel" attraction, like the new Little Mermaid attraction in Disneyland, only with a completely different queue area.
--Expanded Dumbo -- Basically two Dumbo rides, and NO queue. Instead, there will be a 3-Ring Circus interactive play area with bleachers for adults, so that you can have fun while you wait for your "feather" to be called so that you can ride.
-- Pixie Hollow, which will be a second phase of the expansion, will eventually join the rest of Fantasyland.

Construction on the first phase of the expansion is expected to start soon, and, according to the Imagineers, impact on guests and existing attractions in Fantasyland should be minimal. The new areas should be completed by 2012, with the second phase following in 2013.

The second biggest announcement came as a good news/bad news thing.

The bad news? Star Tours in Disneyland is going to close in October 2010.

The good news? A whole new Star Tours, in 3D, will open in 2011!

The new attraction will feature scenes like the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace.

Although it was unclear when Star Tours in Walt Disney World will close, it, too, will be
receiving the new makeover.

For the official press release on this and other remarks Rasulo made today at the D23
Expo, as well as some artist renderings, check out our Disney News Blog HERE.

I'll be back more later with a recap of Day 2 and 3!

September 13, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 2

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Well, Day 2 of the D23 Expo was quite a day, if not as hectic as Day 1.

I started the day with a session that was supposed to feature authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, talking about the books that they write for Disney's subsidiary Hyperion -- they collaborate on a series of books that are prequels to the Peter Pan story (the "Peter and the ..." books) and Pearson writes a series of teen thrillers (the "Kingdom Keepers" series).

Unfortunately, Barry was not here in California, but he appeared live via a video link from his home in Miami. Though he was miles away, that did not decrease his humorous perspective on things. He was a delight to listen to, as was Pearson, whose work I was unfamiliar with -- but I'll be seeking him out now! I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation, both as a writer, and as a Disney fan.

The Kingdom Keepers books, if you don't know, are not only thrillers for younger readers, but are set IN the Walt Disney World theme parks. To research for these books, Pearson has been given "unfettered" access to the parks. This means he's been there at all hours, behind the
scenes, with the chance to ride Expedition Everest multiple times at 5 a.m., or walk through It's a Small World in the dark... without "that song" playing over and over again. His anecdotes about his experiences in the World, along with Barry's stories, made for a very entertaining session.



After this presentation, I walked around the main Expo floor, checking out some of the exhibits that I'd missed earlier.

I encountered PUSH, the walking (OK, rolling) and talking trash can:


Took a stroll through the Disney Consumer Products area, which had a larger-than-life recreation of Andy's Room from Toy Story:


And I wandered past the Spectromagic turtle float again (Spectro Rules!):


And then I made one of the most foolish decisions I've ever made -- I decided to NOT go to the presentation on upcoming Disney films, Disney Movie Magic. I decided instead to go back to the room and work on a blog.

Why was this such a foolish choice? Because at that presentation, a whole slew of celebrities showed up to help promote their latest films! I missed the opportunity to see producer Jerry Bruckheimer, directors Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton, singer Miley Cyrus, and actors Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston and... Johnny Depp. JOHNNY DEPP! I cannot believe I missed the chance to see Johnny Depp, in full Captain Jack Sparrow gear as they announced the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. What a disappointment. *sigh*

My afternoon was not such a disappointment, however. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Although I had to wait in line for nearly 90 minutes (the Storytellers Theater, in which many of the more notable presentations are being held, only holds about 500 people so lines and wait times are incredibly long -- just like being at a Disney theme park!), the session "We Make the Music" was more than worth the wait. (I should also add that my wait was made a lot more enjoyable by my line-mate and AllEars reader Arturo -- our conversation made the time almost fly by. Thanks!)

The program featured a number of composers who have been involved in developing music for theme park attractions, and it couldn't have been more interesting. I was expecting maybe three musicians, but instead we had the opportunity to listen to Bruce Broughton (who composed the new score for the updated Spaceship Earth, as well as the music for Ellen's Energy Adventure, among other things); Joel McNeely (who wrote the music for the Tower of Terror in Tokyo and the recent Hall of Presidents update); husband and wife team Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn (responsible for the Toy Story musical that's performed on the Disney Cruise Line); Richard Bellis (the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland, Reflections of China in Epcot); and Michael Giacchino (Space Mountain in Tokyo, and most recently, the score for the new Luxo Jr. show in Disney's Hollywood Studios). Each of these composers has a non-Disney resume that is unbelievable -- many Emmy and Grammy awards among them -- but when you factor in their contributions to the parks, you have to be impressed.




It was fascinating to listen to each of these composers discuss the challenges they've faced in developing music for the theme parks, as well as hearing snippets of those compositions. Many of them had extremely interesting anecdotes about traveling to Disney parks to get the sense of the space or attraction they were writing for -- I absolutely loved Richard Bellis's story about riding the Indiana Jones Adventure repeatedly with stopwatches and legal pads, trying to get a sense of where the music should go. Host Jeff Kurti, who has authored several Disney-related books, did a good job of keeping the conversations flowing, and even though the program ran a half-hour longer than scheduled, I was never bored.

That was pretty much all I had time for on Day 2, but I'll be back with a report on Day 3 soon. (If you haven't already, though, be sure to read the news update I published from Day 3 HERE.)

September 18, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 3 & 4

Jet lag. Ugh. It's an awful thing.

It's taken me a few days to recover from being on the West Coast, sorry about that.

However, here I go, with a recap of Days 3 and 4 of the D23 Expo.

You already know about the biggest highlight of Day 3 -- Jay Rasulo's Parks and Resorts presentation, in which he announced a huge expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, as well as the update, finally, of the Star Tours attraction! If you missed that news, be sure to read HERE and view the videos my colleague Laura Gilbreath included in her blog HERE

There's also Disney's official video from that presentation here:

The rest of Day 3 was actually a string of disappointments for me.

I had intended to go to the Princess and the Frog presentation at 3:00 that day, but was shut out -- got over to the line too late, and when I say it was unbelievable, I'm not exaggerating:

When I went up to see if I could sneak in about 45 minutes after the show was supposed to start, I was told they were still trying to seat people -- they had to check bags/cameras and go through security! When I went back up 45 minutes after *that* I was told that they had only just started about 5 minutes before.

I had been planning to go to the Prep & Landing presentation after that, but because of the late start, that show wasn't going to start until
probably 7 p.m.! Prep & Landing is an animated holiday story done
by Disney for ABC -- the first time they've done anything specifically
for TV like that. Previews I saw for it in other presentations
were really cute, so I really did
want to see it... guess I have to wait until December, since I couldn't
stay until 7 p.m. -- I had dinner plans. Ah well.

Instead, I walked around down on the main floor and tried to see some
of the exhibits I'd missed. Most notable was the Storytellers Sandbox,
a cute interactive exhibit that had you getting your hands dirty in the sand, upon which various images were projected.


I eventually wandered back to the room to work a bit, then had a lovely evening with my colleagues Deb, Laura and Lee at Catal in Downtown Disney. But that's the topic of another blog...

Day 4, Sunday. I would be lying to you if I said by Day 4 I wasn't exhausted. Running up and down the length of very long convention center multiple times a day, getting up at 6 a.m. and hitting the hay very late each day -- well, let's just say this convention-going isn't as glamorous as it sounds!

Still, I persevered.

Day 4 saw me over at the convention center early to be sure I had seating for the big John Lasseter presentation at 11 a.m. Not to worry, I managed to secure a good seat. Although we couldn't take photos, Disney did supply some footage from the presentation, at which Lasseter showed lots of clips of upcoming Pixar films, most importantly Toy Story 3 (in 3-D)!

Aside from Toy Story 3, we also heard about the upcoming sequel
to Cars, which has a great storyline featuring Mater the tow truck, as
well as the other original characters. There were also clips of Rapunzel, the new Tinker Bell series, Winnie the Pooh, and Princess and the Frog.
(I have to say, all told I saw about 45 minutes of this film this weekend,
and it only made me want to see the rest -- this looks like such a great

Later in the day, I desperately wanted to see the special Muppets presentation, but again was shut out due the crowds. How long must
those people who got in have waited?! I hear, however, that several
big Muppet announcements were made in this presentation, including that Muppet*Vision 3D was going to be upgraded to digital 3-D, and that there would be a new preshow video for this attraction. Also, they announced a Mobile Electrical Mayhem Band, along the lines of the
Mobile Muppet Lab that was tested in Epcot a while ago. I'm really sorry I missed this presentation, but they did take our names and addresses and promised to send us a "We're Sorry" gift. Maybe it will be a DVD of
the presentation we missed.

Since I couldn't get into the Muppets program, that freed me up to attend the second John Lasseter program of the day, "Imagineering Pixar for the Disney Parks." It was touch and go for a while, but eventually I managed to get in to this presentation, and it was so worthwhile! The Imagineers and Lasseter basically went over the evolution of how Pixar characters have been incorporated into Disney parks -- with some interesting factoids along the way.

Lasseter was as charming as could be but he really won the crowd over when, near the end of the session he spoke a bit about the importance of quality both for Disney and Pixar. After saying that they would rather
not do a project at all if they had to cut too many corners to meet a budget, he added:

"Are you gonna be the one explaining to everyone getting off the ride that it's successful because it's done on time and under budget, but it's a piece of crap?!"

Thunderous applause followed. Talk about tapping into the zeitgeist of the audience!

I believe Deb Wills captured this moment and the following press conference on video and will share it in her D23 Expo blog coming soon. If memory serves, this is where they casually dropped into the conversation that they would be doing an update soon of One Man's Dream in Disney's Hollywood Studios!

While we were in Pixar heaven, elsewhere in the convention center a bevy of Disney Channel stars were holding forth. Though no one from our team attended this event, Disney provided some footage here:

And thus ended my D23 Expo Adventures. I was sad that I wouldn't
be able to attend the debut of the Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3-D double bill, but my red-eye flight back to the East Coast awaited me.

In summary, I really enjoyed the D23 Expo -- every program that I got into was excellent, and overall I thought the whole weekend was extremely well done. In fact, I've written an article expressing my thoughts about the execution of the D23 Expo here: http://allears.net/btp/issue521.htm

Reflecting on it all, I think I would go to the Expo again next year -- I just need some time to recover from the jet lag!

September 25, 2009

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival Day 1

Debra Martin Koma is in Walt Disney World this weekend covering the opening of Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

Her photos will be posted here :

You can also follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dcdeb_allears

Misc notes as the evening winds down:

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy puts on an awesome show - hope the video I took turns out.

EDIT: Here's the video:

Did you know? You can only get full Food & Wine programs at turnstiles & a few other places, instead they have weekly guides at most locations.

Longest lines at the festival food booths that I saw were for the Lamb Chop at Melbourne, Australia.

Here's an interesting tidbit -- I walked 18, 776 steps today (7.4 miles). Yes, my feet hurt.

Caymus wine seminar

Caymus wine seminar

More shopping at Festival Center

Festival Center Shopping

Shopping for Wine at the Festival Center

Shopping for Wine at the Festival Center<br />

For dessert creme brulee! Yum!
creme brulee

Tonight's concert Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Concert

Rava masala dosa

Rava masala dosa

Food & Wine has officially begun!
Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

Hello Walt Disney World!

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

September 26, 2009

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - Day 2

Debra Martin Koma is in Walt Disney World this weekend covering the opening of Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

Her photos will be posted here :

You can also follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dcdeb_allears

Final note of the night: walked 18,523 steps (7.30 miles) just in Epcot and to/from Dolphin. Must. Soak. Feet. Good night

One of the evening's standouts -- beef w/roasted potatoes and beet salad w/manchego and serrano

Party for the Senses

The entertainment for the Spanish-themed evening:

Party for the Senses

Party for the Senses was awesome and ended with a spectacular thunderstorm! Back in the room after dodging the raindrops and lightning!

Party for the Senses

My table in the Wine View Lounge at Party for the Senses

Party for the Senses Wine View Lounge

Waiting for Party of the Senses

Waiting for Party of the Senses<br />

Gaaah, I'm melting, it's so hot! Back to the room to get ready for tonight's Party for the Senses - Spanish theme!

Pointing out the way to the Festival Center

Food and Wine Festival Signage'

More Signage

Food and Wine Festival Signage'

Approaching World Showcase

Food and Wine Festival Signage'

Just a few shots of the signage -- approaching World Showcase

Food and Wine Festival Signage'

Lamb chop in Australia is outstanding!

Lamb chop in Australia '

Crowds are moderate probably because it is sooo hot!
Moderate Crowds'

A break from F&W. Soarin! Love the feet!


Pierogi & kielbasa at Poland

Pierogi & kielbasa at Poland

Spanish cheeses at tasting. Yummy!

Spanish Cheeses

Ready for cheese tasting

Ready for cheese tasting

Love this year's Food and Wine posters & merchandise!

Early in World Showcase

World showcase so quiet in the morning

Early in World Showcase

September 27, 2009

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - Day 3

Debra Martin Koma is in Walt Disney World this weekend covering the opening of Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

Her photos will be posted here :

You can also follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dcdeb_allears

Tequila tasting

Tequila tasting

Front of Epcot

Front of Epcot

Getting ready for tequila tasting!

tequila tasting

Potstickers in Shanghai. Mmmm!

Potstickers in Shanghai

Panna cotta w/yuzu granita at Sweet Sunday!

Panna cotta

Great breakfast @ sweet sunday!


Beautiful eh? But it's hotter than heck!


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About September 2009

This page contains all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in September 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

October 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.