As you probably know, if you're any sort of Disney fan, the D23 Expo is being held this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. Several of us from the AllEars.Net Team are here, and will be reporting on all the happenings as much as time (and our stamina) will allow! There's a LOT going on!
Last night, Deb Wills and I had the chance to attend a media preview of the Expo floor, and also got a sneak peek at the Treasures of the Disney Archives collection. Before I get into the thick of all the presentations today, I thought I'd share some of what we saw.
We walked over to the Anaheim Convention Center for the preview, which started around 7:30 p.m. We were greeted outside the Parks and Resorts pavilion, which features what they're calling the "Carousel of Projects", by none other than my favorite, Sorcerer Mickey!
Once we were let into the pavilion, we were treated to a brief pre-show, a montage of images of Disney parks and resorts throughout the years. Black-and-white and full-color images whizzed by, enhanced by familiar voiceovers from Walt Disney -- early Disneyland memories, plans for Walt Disney World, and finally images from the expansion parks in Asia whirled by to get you in the mood for what you were about to discover inside.
As the curtain drew back, the first visual that struck us was that of a huge model of the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.
And then we were free to roam around the pavilion and explore.
There is quite a large exhibit relating to the cruise line, including a replica of Mademoiselle Minnie, who will grace the lobby of the Disney Fantasy when it is launched next March.
Being more of a Walt Disney World person than anything, though, my eyes went straight to the huge model that dominated the one section of the room -- the new Fantasyland currently under construction in the Magic Kingdom.
I spent some time talking about the project with Imagineer Lauren Baldesarra, who told me that this was the first time they'd revealed a full model of the project like this. I have to say, seeing it in 3D like that really brought everything to life much more than just seeing the 2D artists' renderings had.
I asked her specificially about the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, as they also had a short video showing the development of that new coaster. She pointed me to the mock-up they had on display of what a "mine car" will be like, illustrating how it will sway from side to side as it rolls along the track, simulating what a real mine car might be like.
As for the Snow White Scary Adventures attraction, she confirmed that it would eventually be closing to make way for a new princess meet-and-greet location.
She also talked enthusiastically about the new Casey Jr. waterplay area, which will feature a Casey Jr. train that's been hijacked by monkeys, who will be squirting water at guests, as well as the new Big Top merchandise area, the Silly Side Show, the rethemed Barnstormer (known as the Great Goofini) and the play area that will connect the double Dumbos.
According to her, they are still projecting phased openings of the new area, with an early 2012 opening for the first phase. Quite honestly, I can't wait!
Another attention grabber in the pavilion was the Amazing Destini, an exhibit that showcases future technology, presented by Walt Disney Imagineering.
Featuring a little Audio Animatronic type fortune teller who bore a strong resemblance to Tom Morrow, only sporting a moustache and a turban, the Amazing Destini will actually interact with you in a very individualized experience. (I could swear I took a photo of him, but I guess I didn't. You'll have to wait until I get back over there!) You talk to him, and he responds, telling your future in an amusing demonstration. At first I thought it was akin to Turtle Talk with Crush, where a live human is somehow watching and reacting to you, but in talking to the Imagineers on hand, I learned that no, Destini is completely acting on his own. Clearly, they are using some sort of facial recognition technology, but Destini can also tell if there are others around you, and can also tell the denomination of coin you insert in his slot to start the fortune-telling process. According to the Imagineers, they aren't quite ready to put Destini into the parks yet, but I really do think he'd be quite popular just about anywhere -- the repeatability factor is high, since he has so many different "fortunes" in his repertoire, you'll seldom get the same experience twice.
After we had had a chance to meander a bit, Steven Clark, head of D23 spoke about the Expo for a few minutes and introduced Tom Staggs, president of Disney Parks and Resorts:
Both men talked about how the Expo gave Disney a chance to share the "unbelievably exciting" things that are coming up in the future for Disney Parks and Resorts.
Other highlights in the pavilion are some glimpses at what'll be coming to Carsland at Disney California Adventure, as well as other changes around the Disneyland Resort, like revamped Cathay Circle theater and Buena Vista Street.
To cap off the evening, we were allowed to browse through the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit upstairs, even able to take photos of some of the amazing memorabilia that's on display. Deb Wills put up a short video showcasing these items here:
And here are some stills:
All in all, it was a great way to rev up my excitement for the next few days -- I can't wait to get out there and see what else the Expo has in store!
If you're not already, be sure to follow the AllEars.Net Team on Twitter:
Deb Wills is @AllEarsDeb
and the site is @AllEarsNet
Laura Gilbreath will be blogging each day, and other members of the team, including Jeanine Yamanaka and Lee Zimmerman, will be attending presentations and taking photos and videos to share with you in the coming days.
Oh, look at the time! I better get going or else I'll miss everything!
The previous post in this blog was Disney Apps: Hipstamatic.
The next post in this blog is D23 Expo 2011: Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix.