Expo 2015 Archives

August 29, 2015

Disney Consumer Products previews fall merchandise for tweens at D23 Expo


At the recent D23 Expo, Disney fans could find something new and fantastic to experience everywhere they looked. Despite all the temptations, though, my almost 11-year-year-old daughter zeroed in on the Disney Consumer Products pavilion and spent a good chunk of her day there. Rightfully so, too, because there were great preview products and giveaways that certainly were designed to appeal to tween girls.

Before we had even arrived in California for the event, my daughter had determined that she wanted to experience the Tinker Bell bun bar and the Minnie Lounge for an adorable mouse manicure. Both complimentary salon services were being offered in the Disney Consumer Products pavilion to guests of all ages as a means to promote new Tinker Bell and Minnie Mouse-themed merchandise.


Both marketing ideas were popular with the crowds, too. My daughter happily waited an hour in each line for her turn with the professionals. At the bun bar, a hair stylist created the signature Tinker Bell topknot using a bun donut sponge and bobby pins and then decorated it with pony-tail holder with a gold bow, all of which each recipient was allowed to keep.


Nearby, fairy lookalikes could peruse a selection of Tinker Bell merchandise. There were boots, flats and sandals inspired by Tink’s look, plus apparel. Another case displayed already-released Tinker Bell jewelry. (I wish we had gotten a preview of future Pandora charms!) In addition, several pairs of blank white canvas slip-on shoes were decorated with Tinker Bell’s likeness by Disney artists.


In the Minnie nail bar, D23 Expo attendees were invited to select a design from four choices and it would be applied to one nail on each hand. Similar to the neighboring Tink bar, the Minnie nail bar also displayed Minnie Mouse-inspired apparel and Pandora charms, plus large-scale storyboards showing how to draw Minnie Mouse. At the nearby Disney Store, a new line of Minnie Mouse-themed home goods and apparel was introduced. It will be available to the public this fall.


The Disney Consumer Products pavilion had plenty of other areas of interest for tween girls, as well. Among them:


** Whisker Haven Tales with the Palace Pets. This display introduced fans of the royal animals to a secret realm deep in a fairy-tale land between the Disney Princess kingdoms called Animal Royal Kingdom of Whisker Haven, where the Palace Pets characters can meet up with their friends, play, and save the day. New products were on display. (Giveaway for attendees: collectible buttons)


** Star Darlings. Disney introduced its new original brand: a diverse group of girls who dream of being able to grant the wishes of others to reclaim the wish energy that powers their beloved planet, Starland. More about this franchise can be found in my previous blog post. (Giveaway for attendees: bookmarks)


** Disney’s Descendants. Participants got an exclusive look at the wicked world of fashion and toys inspired by the new hit Disney Channel movie. Plus, the cast did a meet-and greet. (Giveaway for attendees: Pose in Maleficent’s shadow)


** Frozen. New merchandise, of course! For me, the most notable item was finally seeing normal-size Snowgee plush animals. The Disney Store sold tiny Snowgees attached to Olaf plush animals right after ‘Frozen Fever’ debuted. (Giveaway for attendees: large-scale photo op in Kristoff’s sleigh with Sven waiting to pull.)


** Disney Princess craft. Attendees were invited to “unlock their inner princesses” by leaving empowering messages on a special Keys to the Kingdom gate.

The D23 Expo offered lots of sneak peeks of merchandise and crafts and fashion items that Disney-loving tweens will appreciate, and soon they will see these and more on store shelves. The temptations, and the choices, will be many – and just in time for the holidays.


August 25, 2015

Disney Citizenship aims to inspire kids and families at D23 Expo


One division of The Walt Disney Company that is perhaps less well-known to those outside of Orlando and Anaheim boosted its presence at the D23 Expo with unique activities for convention attendees. Disney Citizenship hosted hands-on volunteer activities each day in its pavilion, and volunteers only had to donate a few minutes to get involved.

Disney Citizenship is a branch of the company that seeks “to promote the happiness and well-being of kids and families by inspiring them to join us in creating a brighter tomorrow,” according to the website. One way that Disney accomplishes this goal is through voluntEAR activities that benefit various communities. At the D23 Expo, the slogan “Be Inspired” was prominently displayed for those entering the pavilion.


Each day, volunteers could participate in a different project. On Friday, bags were stuffed with books for First Book, which donates new books to children in need. On Saturday, packages that included toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and small Mickey Mouse plush animals were assembled for the Red Cross to use for families displaced by disasters. Finally, on Sunday, we could make planting kits for Inside the Outdoors, which is a hands-on environmental education program administered by the Orange County (Calif.) Department of Education.


Once D23 Expo participants finished each activity, they were encouraged to post on social media with the #DisneyCitizenhip hashtag. For each post on Instagram and Twitter, Disney donated $1 to the day’s charity organization. In recognition of their efforts, volunteers each received a Disney Citizenship D23 reusable tote bag each time they donated their time.

Disney Citizenship focuses on four key areas to build strong kids and families: think creatively, live healthier, conserve nature and strengthen communities. Large-scale displays in the pavilion illustrated how Disney is contributing to those goals.

For example, to encourage kids to “think creatively,” Disney provides opportunities for 83,000 kids to participate in the Magic of Play, 10,000 students to join Disney musicals and 10 million youth access to computer science tutorials. Disney promotes its Mickey check – a tool to help families identify nutritious choices in stores, online or on vacation – for healthy living. Did you know the steam trains at Disneyland run on recycled cooking oil from the restaurants at the resort? That’s an example of how Disney conserves nature. It also has donated more than $27 million to conservation projects in 14 countries. Finally, one way Disney helps strengthen communities is by giving back through volunteering; last year, Disney employees contributed more than 500,000 hours.


But you don’t have to be a Disney employee to get involved. Check out and sign up for the latest Disney Citizenship projects online at The deadline has just passed for students to apply for Summer of Creativity grants. Stay tuned for fall events from The Walt Disney Company.


August 22, 2015

Disney Legend Marty Sklar, fellow Imagineers offer advice at D23 Expo to those wanting to join The Walt Disney Co.


Imagineers are the cornerstone of The Walt Disney Company, creating much of the magic that guests experience in attractions, rides, environmental design and live entertainment at the theme parks and on the cruise line ships. As such, the jobs are coveted roles in the company, and kids, teens and college students – my almost-teen son included -- often wonder how they can land such jobs, and even make them into long-term careers.

At the D23 Expo last weekend in Anaheim, Calif., Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar attempted to answer that question by presenting panelists whose paths to Imagineering varied but ultimately have led them to success. These current Imagineers also have contributed to Sklar’s book, “One Little Spark!” which served as the framework for the panel discussion.

My son met Disney Legend Marty Sklar after the Imagineering panel.

Sklar pointed to two tools in his book — Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering — that have helped him become a revered Imagineer, one who worked with Walt Disney himself.

“The first thing I thought of was my Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” Sklar said. “Basically this is my philosophy for creating new things – Disney projects or community projects or just about anything that required creative leadership.”

Here is his list of must-dos:

1. Know your audience
2. Wear your guests’ shoes
3. Organize the flow of people and ideas
4. Create a wienie (visual magnet)
5. Communicate with visual literacy
6. Avoid overload – create turn-ons
7. Tell one story at a time
8. Avoid contradictions – maintain identity
9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat
10. Keep it up (and maintain it)!


Artist Patti Nelson illustrated “The Road to Imagineering” map on the inside of the book’s dust jacket. It’s designed to inspire and guide future Imagineers with some basic sentiments, such as “Ask why,” “Try things,” “Love what you do,” and, of course, “Dream it, Do it.”

The other panelists described their own roads to Imagineering, offering the audience some advice for breaking into Imagineering.

Daniel Joseph, a senior special effects designer, said, “I love to invent and create new things that can solve a problem or create a better experience where there once was a status quo. We have the ability to make the world a better place and make people happy and even mystified through the gift of design.”

“For me, Imagineering started where I grew up, which is one of the smallest states in the Union, Delaware, on the other side of the country – equally far from every Disney park possible. But, still, that’s where I managed to be inspired by Imagineering at a really young age.

“I had to teach myself about mechanics and other things because at school I was learning about civics and other things. I also at the same time got into making haunted attractions, little haunted houses in my basement, and did it for the neighborhood kids at age 11. Learning about all this stuff, like how to make a fog machine, are fun things to learn as a kid.

“I went to this Disney park in Florida and went on Haunted Mansion and Horizons and realized that people do these things for a living. So I amped up things and started making the haunted houses more and more elaborate, and I got in a few local newspapers. [Disney Imagineer and special effects creator] Yale Gracey to me as a teenager became like my Michael Jordan. I just wanted to learn everything about him, and I couldn’t believe that someone like this actually existed. So it became my goal to learn more and more about him and try to be like him and do things as he would do them.

“But I wondered how to do what I do and get a degree for it because there really is not an Imagineering degree. I chose industrial design and that was a lot of product design. … My dorm room became my R&D room with lasers and fog and inventions. … My thirst for knowledge hasn’t stopped. At home, right next to our baby’s room is a room of 3D printers. So nothing has changed.”

My son with Imagineers Dex Tanksley and Daniel Joseph.

Dex Tanksley, an Imagineering project design manager, said, “If it wasn’t for Marty Sklar and the Imaginations program, I probably would be designing strip malls in Rochester, N.Y.!”

Tanksley entered the national Imagineering competition called Imaginations with two friends, and they won first place with the design for an indoor ski slope, which didn’t exist at the time.

“We even came up with characters like Dog-o-mite, who was the super secret agent snow dog. We created characters, a comic book, a model, drawings,” Tanksley said.

“When I first showed up on the scene here in Anaheim as an intern, my first experience was on the balcony of Club 33, looking at a new nighttime extravaganza called Fantasmic! and it just blew my mind. Looking at the amazing special effects and the great storytelling in a place that has been here for years. And it was a brand-new experience. That was the night I ended up being a fan of Mickey Mouse, and he’s been my favorite ever since.

“Next, I was given the opportunity to work with the design team on Indiana Jones. What a way to begin my career! Autopia was the first time I had the chance to take a design from the conceptual phase all the way through to construction. Those milestones are important to Imagineers because we take lessons we have learned back to Imagineering and we make the next attraction a better attraction.

“Why should the sky be the limit? If we let the sky be the limit, we wouldn’t have been able to advance what Walt started 60 years ago. Your imagination should be like the universe: To infinity and beyond!”

Shelby Jiggetts-Tivoney, a creative development executive, said, “I think it’s wonderful to have a vision and focus on it, but I think it can be equally rewarding to work from a role of attrition. Basically, I took anything I did badly, didn’t understand or didn’t like to do off the table. I went to school and to college and decided on a profession.”

Furthermore, she said, “You are never limited by your circumstances. I am very fortunate to share this stage with a number of people who fell in love with the parks at a young age and discovered Imagineering. … I have the opposite side of the journey. I didn’t go to a Disney park. I didn’t have any affinity for the Disney brand. It really wasn’t a part of my background. I’m from Richmond, Va., and my mom was a single mom for most of my childhood. She was a master of acquiring opportunities for us for free. Sometimes it would be cheese or powdered milk and other times it would be concerts.

“The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Endowment for Humanities were all part of the government-subsidized opportunities where artists toured the country. For me as a child, I was able to see a touring company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I saw Judith Jamison, a brillant, brillant dancer do a performance called ‘Cry’ and it changed my life. This was modern-dance theater and it moved me and excited me and I saw the broader world of what performing arts can do.

“I didn’t know what in the theater I ultimately would end up doing, but I felt passionate about the theater. I did everything: production management, grant writing, script reader. My college career focused on only things that allowed me to read and write, not science or math. That taught me to be good at script analysis and dramaturgy so I matriculated and worked for Lincoln Center Theater, New York Shakespeare Festival , etc.

“I was fortunate enough to have been headhunted by Disney. While I didn’t have the understanding of Imagineering or any experience the parks, I entered through creative entertainment, which is the division that recruited me, and it’s been amazing. I’ve worked all over the world.”

My son at an autograph session with Imagineers Shelby Jiggetts-Tivoney and Kevin Rafferty.

Kevin Rafferty, an executive creative director at Imagineering, was crucial to the development of the very popular Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. His path to Imagineering started as a dishwasher at the Plaza Inn on Main Street while he was earning an art degree. He worked his way up to the position of an Imagineer.

“When I got my art degree, I had an interview set up with Disney Studio, but then I saw a job board and it said WED Enterprises was hiring designers to work on Epcot Center. Although my job was entry level – dusting bottles, cutting masks, setting up chairs for artists – I learned from them. I did a lot of special projects on the weekend to try to prove that I could do this.

“Randy Bright, vice president of Creative and a writer by trade, recognized something in me,” Rafferty wrote for Sklar’s book. “He began to compliment my writing, and whenever he asked for my thoughts in a meeting, the floodgates burst open. Randy gave me my first break. I’ve listened and learned from the masters, paid close attention to my colleagues from all other disciplines, so much so that I’ve learned to think like them and have come to understand and appreciate what works, what doesn’t, and why in the wonderful world of Imagineering.”

Even if you couldn’t attend Sklar’s D23 Expo preentation, you can learn from the many Imagineers who contributed and the Disney Legend himself by reading his book “One Little Spark.”


March 7, 2015

D23 Expo 2015 contests to award Disney fans with trip to Aulani, $2,300 cash prize


Dedicated Disney fans already are counting the days until the next D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., largely because of all the exclusive Disney experiences. But this week D23 announced that it is upping the ante with two new contests that will culminate at the fan convention and award winners with a whole lot of magic.

The first contest, Mousequerade, invites participants to create their own Disney-inspired costumes for a chance to win a trip for two to Aulani. Costumes must fall into one of these categories:

** Heroes Unmasked
** Once Upon a Costume
** The Wonderful Worlds of Disney
** Best of Star Wars
** Weird, Wild, and Goofy!

Submissions will be evaluated on the basis of creativity and originality, quality and craftsmanship of costume, and relationship of costume to the contest theme. 15 finalists will be chosen in each category to appear on stage at D23 on Aug. 14 for the final, live judging.

To get started, fill out the entry form at and submit a photo of yourself dressed in the costume by April 30. Be sure to read the official rules about what types of costumes are allowed. You must be 18 years old and a resident of one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia to compete.

The second contest, D23 Expo Design Challenge, honors Disneyland's 60th anniversary by encouraging artists to create their own interpretations of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The winner will take home a cash prize of $2,300. Submissions will be evaluated on the basis of creativity, originality and artistic expression.

Twenty-three finalists will be selected and their artwork will be on display throughout the D23 Expo weekend on the show floor, located in the Walt Disney Archives area.

To enter, visit to submit sketches or proposed artwork by April 30. It's important to also read the official rules about what can and cannot be included with your creation. You must be 18 years old and a resident of one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia to compete. The winning artist will be chosen prior to the start of the D23 Expo.

Finalists in both competitions will receive two complimentary tickets to attend the D23 Expo 2015. Contestants do not need to be members of D23 to enter either contest. The Expo takes place Aug. 14 to 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center.


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