The D23 EXPO 2015 hasn't even officially begun and I am already exhausted!
After attending the previous three D23 Expos as a member of the media or as a "private citizen," I am going to this year's event with what is known as the Sorcerer Pass. This is part of a special package that comes with a number exclusive benefits (and a big price tag), among them the opportunity to get a sneak preview of a lot of the Expo before it officially opens tomorrow, August 14.
After obtaining my special Sorcerer welcome package first thing this morning, I spent the day taking advantage of all the previews that were offered. I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.
One of the main benefits of the Sorcerer Pass is early access to the merchandise. Today Sorcerers were able to poke around in the three main Disney shops at the Expo: The Dream Store (D23 EXPO 2015-themed official merchandise and other specialty items from Disney Theme Park Merchandise), the Disney Store and Mickey's of Glendale (Walt Disney Imagineering exclusive merchandise). I'm not usually much of a shopper, but when the goods are this special, I found that I couldn't resist. You've probably seen a lot of the merchandise on other blogs already, but to give you an idea of what's available.
From the Dream Store:
From The Disney Store:
In Mickey's of Glendale:
OK, I admit it. I actually enjoyed shopping a little bit today and succumbed. I bought those last two shirts for myself. And maybe I got a few Star Wars-related things in the Dream Store -- I mean, how could I resist that adorable droid R4-D23 with its cute little Sorcerer's Hat? And maybe a Pandora charm found its way into my shopping bag as well. I couldn't help myself. But I think that's what the Expo does to you -- when you're surrounded by so much cool Disney merchandise, what's a die-hard Disney fan to do?
Another one of the perks of being a Sorcerer guest, is a sneak preview of the Expo show floor and the Disney Parks and Resort pavilion before the grand opening. For me, these looks behind the scenes were priceless.
Early in the day, we were shown around the floor, just to give us an idea of the lay of the land. No photos were allowed during this glimpse "backstage," as things were still very much in process -- forklifts carrying pallets of boxes and rolls of new carpeting, cherry-pickers lifting workers up to adjust displays, designers ripping fabric to drape around exhibits... it was such a beehive of activity and you could almost see things coming together as you stood and watched. The excitement was building!
But the real treat came later in the day, when we were taken for a special advance viewing of the Parks and Resorts pavilion.
SPOILER AHEAD -- if you're going to the Expo and want to be surprised as to what's on exhibit, read no further!
The first section of the pavilion is dedicated to the new area of Disney's Animal Kingdom that is being developed based on the film AVATAR. We were introduced to the exhibit with a film from "Alpha Centauri Expeditions" (ACE for short), the fictitious travel company that will transport guests to another world -- the world of Pandora. If you've seen the film AVATAR you'll be familiar with the sights shown in this short video (watch for the special cameo appearance of Imagineer Joe Rohde, responsible not only for this project but also Animal Kingdom, Disney's Aulani resort in Hawaii and so much more). The video gives big hints about the types of attractions guests will be able to experience when this new section of Disney's Animal Kingdom opens -- in 2017! Who can wait that long?
Further into the pavilion, we saw a model of Pandora, with cast members there to answer our questions.
They confirmed that among the attractions guests will be able to ride a banshee around floating mountains. There were also models of creatures and artifacts from Pandora, as well concept art.
As we exited the exhibit, we found a fun photo op -- a chance to pose with a striking bust of a Navi, one of the blue-skinned natives of Pandora. I was lucky enough to be joined in my photo op by the aforementioned Joe Rohde, who just happened to be entering the area when I popped back in for a quick second look.
The other major area of the Parks and Resorts pavilion focuses on Shanghai Disneyland. As the opening date for this new Asian Disney resort nears (2016 is right around the corner), more and more information has been released, but seeing the models, cast member costumes, artwork and even concept videos in person was quite interesting.
Every area of the new Shanghai resort was represented, from pirate-themed Treasure Cove to Gardens of Imagination, not forgetting the Disneytown shopping district and the Toy Story Hotel. Most exciting for me was learning more about Shanghai's Tomorrowland, which will feature a new ride called TRON Lightcycle Power Run, a coaster-style attraction where you will board a train that looks straight out of Disney's groundbreaking TRON films. We captured a short video of the exhibit here:
Coaster fan that I am, I hope that I'll be able to ride this attraction some day -- truly looks amazing!
And although it's an overused word, that's how most of today was -- amazing. All the little sneak peeks and behind the scenes glimpses that we got today did little more than whet my appetite for what's to come the next few days.
If you're curious to see what I see, follow me on twitter @dmk_allears and on Instagram @dcdeb52. And, if the internet gods smile on me -- I hope to also broadcast a Periscope or two -- you'll find those through my Twitter account as well. Hope you'll tag along with me as I explore!
Kidani Village Grand Villa Meet and Greet December 4th
The final component of our 20th Anniversary Celebration is now finalized.
On December 4, 2015 we will be having a special meet and greet at a Kidani Village Grand Villa!
We are pleased to announce our SPECIAL GUEST is none other than the DREAMFINDER himself, RON SCHNEIDER! He is happy to meet folks and chat. Please note the photo below is from his days as Dreamfinder - he will not be in costume and won't have figment with him. (Scroll to bottom if you wish to order his book for signing.)
In addition to Ron, many of the AllEars Team and Mouse Fan Travel team will be in attendance (including Deb Wills, Deb Koma and Beci Mahnken to name a few). We will have a pin trading board, AllEars Trading Cards - including 2 new releases, and door prizes!
There is no charge for tickets but we want to manage how many folks are in the villa at any given time, so you must register for the event.
We will have water and light snacks. Please do not bring food or beverages into the villa. Also, no strollers in the villa. Please note that children must stay with parents the entire time.
We will not know the villa location until we check in. Specific information on how to find us will be provided approximately 2 weeks before the gathering.
Our Saturday Evening, December 5th, Signature Event at Epcot is sold out.