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!
The previous post in this blog was Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure .
The next post in this blog is NEWS! D23 Expo - Day 3.