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August 31, 2015

Photo Update from Disneyland Resort 8/28

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 28, 2015.

It has been a while since I posted a look at the projects and changes around the parks on AllEars.net so here is a look at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure then some Disneyland Forever pictures from in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle to close out the set.

Arriving at the Tram stop in Downtown Disney, the Aladdin Home Video release and Inside Out are being advertised.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A couple of attractions down during this brief off season time between summer and Halloween.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

First stop Disney California Adventure. Some work going on as you enter Paradise Pier.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Looks like they are working on the joint between the pavement and boardwalk. This is the open side of the walkway.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

More work going on, again at the transition point.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Went for a spin on the Fun Wheel to see if you could see anything. From this angle you cannot really tell anything about the progress on Luigi's in Cars Land.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Back on the ground some barriers up at the Toy Story Meet and Greet

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Guess the fountains in Paradise Park are not going to return. You would think if they were the 100 degree weather is the perfect time to run them.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

The sixth and final Disneyland 60 Diamond Photo Spot opened since my last visit. It is near the entrance to Flik's Fun Faire in "a bugs land".

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A look at the backdrop.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

How the effect is created..

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Next stop Disneyland. The third Emporium Enchanted Window was unveiled a few weeks ago featuring the Princess and the Frog.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A couple video clips of the Princess and the Frog window. This visit the audio was working.

Halloween is creeping into the windows along Main Street.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A look at the work between Fantasy Faire and Frontierland... no visible progress

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Some work going on along the walkway along the Rivers of America

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

The Haunted Mansion is closed for the Holiday transformation until September 11th.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Le Bat en Rouge was closed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

During the D23 Expo a few weeks ago the house of Patrick Begorra the Little Man of Disneyland magically re-appeared at Disneyland. It is located at the base of the tree that supports the sign for the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015



Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015/

The Disneyland Band performs on Main Street USA at 4:10pm as a pre-parade for Soundsational. Today they stopped here and performed their attraction medley.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Video clips of the Disneyland Band Main Street performances.

More Halloween in the windows as I headed to Town Square.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

The Disneyland Band performs at the Nightly Flag Retreat.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A video clip of the band performing the Armed Forces Medley at the Flag Retreat.

Tomorrowland... work on the Star Wars Launch Bay & Marvel meet and greets continues. No signage up, I thought they might have a coming soon sign.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

No visible progress on the Starcade

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A clip of the Dapper Dans performing.



Some Halloween merchandise.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Halloween Pins are now available.

Notice they are generic DisneyParks not Disneyland.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

Star Wars Halloween pins

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

No Summer or Hawaiian Nights promotion in Downtown Disney like last year when there were signs up...this year, though, the same group is back performing. This time on the main stage by ESPN.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A couple video clips from their show.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

I returned to Disneyland at this point and found a spot for Disneyland Forever in front of the Castle about 7:50pm. As the Paint the Night Introduction plays Sleeping Beauty Castle puts on a small show with lights. Here is a video clip of it.

Show time. Here is a video clip from the opening of Disneyland Forever.




Tangled...

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


The Lion King

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

The Matterhorn during the Nemo segment

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


A video clip of the Let it Go segment during Disneyland Forever


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 28, 2015

A clip of the Finale to Disneyland Forever

A couple video clips of the Live the Magic and Kiss Good Night exit/post show.



Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







August 27, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: Movies and Parks and Once Upon A Time

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Saturday, typically the busiest day of any convention, started out as usual for me with a quick run around the Exhibitor's Floor to get a look at some of the booths and exhibits before all the panels of the day started.

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The John Lasseter Hawaiian Shirt Exhibit showcased all the hawaiian shirts he's commissioned for the various Pixar films throughout the years.

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Over at the Disney Music Emporium, they were offering an Expo-exclusive shirt for $15 with a $50 music purchase.

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The Disney Store booth displayed the special merchandise of the day for the next day outside the entrance so you could plan accordingly.

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The Walt Disney Studios booth had costumes on display from all the big films they were going to present at this day's Live Action panel.

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Overnight, a beanstalk had erupted from the Walt Disney Animation Studios area, celebrating the new film "Gigantic," which was announced in the Animation panel the day before.

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Finally made it into Mickey's of Glendale, which was on the same difficulty level as breaking into Fort Knox, and took in all the Shanghai Disneyland and other Imagineering-exclusive merchandise available.

On to the Walt Disney Studios Live Action presentation. I actually live-tweeted this one, so if, for some reason, you haven't already heard what transpired, you can see those tweets here

[All photos and video, unless otherwise attributed, are courtesy of Disney.]

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The panel was also covered in more detail over on the AllEars News Blog, here.

Highlights from Marvel included the appearance of Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie to introduce "Captain America: Civil War:"

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - Live Action Falcon and Captain America Intros from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

A much more comfortable Johnny Depp returning to Hall D23 for The Walt Disney Studios and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tails" as Captain Jack Sparrow:

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - Johhny Depp as Jack Sparrow from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

And JJ Abrams with the cast of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" being joined by Harrison Ford:

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - Star Wars The Force Awakens - JJ Abrams brings Harrison Ford onstage from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - Star Wars The Force Awakens - Harrison Ford from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

So then we thought it was done, but no! Then, in a bizarre twist, Iger came back and announced Star Wars Land! During the Studios panel, and some two-and-a-half hours before the Parks and Resorts panel! It was quite a surprise.

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - Star Wars The Force Awakens - Bob Iger announces Star Wars themed lands at Disney Parks from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

After the panel, guests were given posters of "Jungle Book," and a new Drew Struzan image for "Force Awakens."

In between the two big Hall D23 panels of the day were some outstanding smaller ones. "Welcome to Zootopia," featured a large group of the film's directors, writers, producer and production designer hosted by animator Darrin Butters.

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They gave some background into the research they did for the film, including a trip to Africa in both Animal Kingdom and the actual continent, and showed us some concept art and preview clips.

"Disney on Broadway: 'The Originals'" was a phenomenal concert featuring Ashley Brown, Broadway's original Mary Poppins, James Monroe Iglehart, Broadway's original Genie, and Josh Strickland, Broadway's original Tarzan.

D23 - Saturday 8/15 - The Originals Broadway Musicals Medley from Disney D23 on Vimeo.

At the end, it was announced that "Frozen" will be the next big Disney on Broadway production.

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Next up was the big "Walt Disney Parks and Resorts" presentation, the announcements from which were posted up here

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This was kind of an unusual panel, mostly because it started out with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek coming out and delivering almost word-for-word, the exact same speech that Iger had just given in the Studios presentation (you would have remembered too, if you had just heard the deathless prose "...ever wondered what bantha fodder smells like? Or the taste of blue milk?")

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Most of the announcements were just expounding on topics long in the works, with the bulk of the content going to Imagineer Bob Weis presenting on Shanghai Disneyland.

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Longstanding Imagineer Joe Rohde was joined by "Avatar" director and producer James Cameron and Jon Landau to give probably the most effective segment on "Pandora: World of Avatar."

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The final bizarre note to the panel was a prolonged bit in the "Iron Man Experience" presentation where they kept teasing the appearance of Iron Man, and just when everyone was hoping Robert Downey Junior would show up, Stan Lee made an appearance! He declared himself the World's Greatest Cameo Actor, and showed us his clip roll from all the movies he'd been in! In the Parks and Resorts panel! It was quite a surprise.

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Then a cast member chorus did a very nice medley of songs from Disney nighttime spectaculars around the world to play us off.


Video by MouseSteps

The last panel I had for the day was "Once Upon a Time: An Evening with Snow White & the Evil Queen."

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Video by MouseInfo

Hosted by Jeffrey Epstein, the erstwhile D23 Disney Geek, creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were quizzed on what we might expect to see in the upcoming Season 5, from Camelot to the introduction of Amy Manson as Merida.

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Actresses Ginnifer (Snow White) Goodwin and Lana (Evil Queen) Parilla then joined them for a rousing discussion on the long and sometimes troubled relationship between the step-relatives.

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--Parilla's favorite line: "I shall destroy your happiness if it is the last thing I do."
--Snow's reaction to Dark Swan is to consider herself a failure as a mother, versus Regina's resentment at being in Emma's debt.
--Camelot exists in the same time frame as the Enchanted Forest. "Like Anaheim and LA. No time difference." "But a lot of traffic."

Eventually they decided to take a question from the audience, and the man in the Jango Fett helmet was none other than Josh (Prince Charming) Dallas!

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After hopping up on stage and getting a quick smooch and lipstick wipe-off from his real-life wife, Dallas took his share of questions.

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--"I had to ride a giant pickle once."
--"It was meant to be a dragon."
--"It was a dragon in post-production!"
--"It was Maleficent, to be honest."
--"I rode...Maleficent..."
--"D23 after dark."

--"Full-on bromance" between Prince Charming and King Arthur.

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--Goodwin is a Charter Member of D23.
--None of the others seem like they've spent a huge amount of time with the Disney catalog.
--Overarching themes for the next season: Sometimes things aren't what they appear to be; and Love is a very dangerous weapon.

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So that was it for the second day of Expo. Two midnights gone!


Thoughts on the day:

--The live action presentation was pretty strong, I thought, with some loss of momentum in the middle...but when you're sandwiched in between Marvel and Star Wars, there's only so much you can do.
--Marvel once again shows impressive finesse when it comes to these fan events, largely due to Kevin Feige's easy affability and obvious knowledge of his topic. Notably, he was the only presenter who didn't use the teleprompter at all.
--Probably the biggest surprise for me was how good "Jungle Book" looked, for a film that really didn't generate any blip on my radar at all, when it was announced. The cast is impressive, and Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, was utterly charming.
--The movie that came off the flattest for me overall was "Pete's Dragon." Maybe it's just an association with Bryce Dallas Howard, but it had the feel of a mashup between "Jurassic Park" and "The Village."
--I was trying to explain it to my Mom later, and was all "it's a live-action remake of 'Pete's Dragon'...wait a minute, it already was live-action!"
--Ah Harrison.
--"Zootopia" looks as cute as you'd expect a Disney animated feature about animals to be, with some pretty funny voice work by Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin.
--The Disney on Broadway concert was great and it is too bad it wasn't scheduled as a nighttime event like the Richard Sherman and Dick Van Dyke concerts have been in the past, because they probably could have easily filled Hall D23. As it was, it was impossible to see all of it if you also attended the Studios and the Parks presentations.
--Joe Rohde is one of the great presenters left at Imagineering, who really gives the impression of putting not just passion but brains into his projects. He always has an overriding vision that keeps his talks from degenerating into simple marketing spiels.
--Both Shanghai Disneyland and Pandora really looked great and exceeded the expectations I had developed from their earlier concept art.
--While the two new attractions planned for DHS' Toy Story Land will help differentiate it from the ones in Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, that's a lot of parks to have the same fairly uncomplicated land.
--Man, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that none of the panels I attended did Q&A. General Q&A is the worst. I have never seen a Q&A that wasn't pre-screened that didn't devolve down to "can I have a hug/kiss/autograph/selfie?"


August 25, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: Disney Legends and Imagineers, Both New and Old

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So the sun shone brightly on the first day of D23 Expo 2015...A little too brightly, as a heatwave ensured temperatures hitting around 100 degrees every day of the weekend.

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While attendees were able to escape the heat for the rest of the day once inside, lines to get in had people waiting out in the sun for longer than was probably magical--an hour more for those not Gold or Silver D23 members, who had to wait until 1000 to gain access to the Exhibitor's Floor.

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[Unless otherwise marked, all photos provided by Disney.]

Prior to opening, the Disney Store booth put on a little show each day to officially unlock itself for the day's commerce.

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The booth featured a variety of merchandise, some of which changed daily, that was either not yet for general sale or was exclusive to the Expo. Lines, accordingly, were huge from before opening to after closing, typically ranging from 45 minutes to 2-3 hours.

(To be honest, if I had known at this point the kind of wait people were going to have to undergo the rest of the weekend to get into this booth, I'd have tried harder to fight the kid to open it.)

On the way over to the Disney Legends Award ceremony, I passed by the Pixar Studios booth where "Good Dinosaur" Director Pete Sohn and Producer Denise Ream were signing lithographs.

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The Disney Legends Awards was held in the huge "Hall D23" which took the place of the Arena this Expo for the largest presentations. While the capacity was almost doubled, the visibility from the flat seating in the cavernous hall was not nearly as good as the tiered circular Arena seating.

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Bob Iger, Walt Disney Company CEO, hosted the Legends Awards, and started off by welcoming everyone to the D23 Expo

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A number of Disney luminaries were honored, among them animator Andreas Deja,

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Original Disney Ambassador Julie Reihm Casaletto,

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Filmmaker George Lucas,

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And surprise recipient Johnny Depp, who actually seemed as surprised as anyone to be there.

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After the award ceremony, I was able to take a look around the Parks and Resorts booths, dedicated to the Pandora area being created for Animal Kingdom, and Shanghai Disneyland.

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[Deb Koma already described these booths in her blog here.]

The Shanghai booth in particular was particularly well done, and presented a level of detail in the park's design that I hadn't seen before.

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After exploring those areas, I was able to take a quick look around the floor at some of the smaller displays. The Tsum Tsum booth had a sneak peek at some of the vinyl Tsums that will be coming out, complete with stackable props.

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Over at "An Animator's Gallery: Eric Goldberg," over 100 of his Hirschfeld-esque caricatures of various Disney characters were on display, including one he did particularly for the Expo.

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So at this point, I attempted to get into the big Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios panel, also in Hall D23. Attentive readers can probably foresee the difficulty here a lot sooner than I did, which is actually arguably a cardinal rule of con-going: If People Have Been Waiting Out All Night To Attend A Panel, You Should Probably Not Get In Line An Hour Before It Starts. To be fair, I found the line corrals, which were in the basement, confusing as it wasn't immediately obvious to me which lines were moving where, in what order, and what doors people were being taken out. Periodically the line would move, and I would just have to assume folks were going up some back way and not getting eaten like that Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man."

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As time went by, it was about 45 minutes after the presentation was supposed to have started that they finally called it and told everyone else in the standby queue (surprise! I was in the standby queue!) to leave. After I staggered back upstairs, I saw some people leaving the panel and went over to see if there was any open space...and was basically waved in. Sadly, the previews ran over by around an hour, causing me to have to leave early to attend another panel, but I did manage to see presentations on "Zootopia," "Gigantic," and "Moana." And The Rock!

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[More animation panel details: http://land.allears.net/blogs/dnews/2015/08/news_from_the_d23_expo_2015_an.html]

The last panel for the day was "Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland"--a two-part discussion about Disneyland with both Legendary and current Imagineers. Moderated by filmmaker Leslie Iwerks, the guests included Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante, Richard M. Sherman, Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Charita Carter, Steve Davison, and Kevin Rafferty.

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Although there wasn't really any new ground covered in the interviews, the Imagineers are all engaging speakers and clearly have an enormous amount of enthusiasm for their work at Disneyland and reverence for the original Imagineers that made it possible.

Here are the full video presentations courtesy of MouseSteps and Jeff Lange DVD


A strong ending to Friday, but the weekend had barely begun...

Thoughts on the day:
--The Disney Store booth, both this Expo and last Expo, is the only booth that I was never able to enter, except as a brief tour.
--Status matters: Gold and Silver D23 members were able to enter the floor at 0900, an hour ahead of general or non-members. During that hour, entire panels and autograph sessions were held that, while not strictly labeled as just for paid members, were clearly not accessible to others.
--Even panels that started at 1000 when everyone should have been able to enter were hard for general/non-members to attend, as they required people to be in a separate line from the general admittance line considerably earlier. This became more challenging as different panels starting at the same time had different lines and masses of people made distinguishing them difficult.
--I don't know if it's his incipient retirement or what, but Iger seemed way more at ease on stage than he has at almost any other time I've seen him, including his taped intro to the 2011 Expo, where he basically said "have a good time! I'm on vacation!"
--In general, for a big, popular event at a convention, getting in line 1-2 hours ahead of time is just the worst. Chances are excellent that you won't get in and will end up spending an uncomfortably long amount of time standing around in the Line of Futility. If you're unwilling to commit to the long haul wait, you're probably better off just showing up right before and seeing if, by some fluke, you can walk in. You'll have about the same chance of getting in (slim->none) but you won't have wasted a lot of time verifying it.
--At SDCC, a lot of the panels end on the quarter-hour, which gives people a chance to race over to a different panel starting on the hour. That would have been helpful at Expo, where I frequently had to leave a presentation early to ensure getting a seat at the next panel. Given that a lot of the events started late and ran over, this sometimes meant that I missed around half of the first panel, and then had to stand around waiting for the second one.

August 19, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: "Disneyland: The Exhibit"

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Expo Time!

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The 2015 Expo took place from August 14-16 at the Anaheim Convention Center, and as usual, the biennial Disneyfest was a virtual cornucopia of offerings from every branch of the Walt Disney Company.

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My Expo experience started the day before opening, as I attended the media preview for “Walt Disney Archives Presents—Disneyland: The Exhibit.”

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The largest of all the exhibits the Archives has produced for Expo, it housed over 300 pieces honoring Disneyland's 60 years of being the Happiest Place on Earth.

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A nice tour of the exhibit is over on the AllEars.Net YouTube channel:

Additionally, a handful of Disney Legends were also in attendance, taking in the view:

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Marty Sklar, former Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering

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Tony Baxter, former Senior Vice President of Creative Development in Walt Disney Imagineering

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Bill Farmer, voice of Goofy

Later, as the time for the opening of the exhibit for the Sorcerer level guests drew near, the Dapper Dans came out to perform a few numbers for the waiting crowd.

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After a few words, head of D23 Adam Sanderson, Becky Cline, director of Walt Disney Archives, and Mickey Mouse all gathered to cut the ribbon and officially open the exhibit.

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[Photo by Disney]

As a last surprise, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering, put in a surprise appearance to welcome the Sorcerers to the 2015 D23 Expo.

Thoughts on the day:
--The placement of the exhibit on the main exhibitor's floor was a big improvement this year. It felt like it had a lot more space to move around and see things, and the openness meant that people who couldn't wait out the lines to get in could still see the larger pieces from outside. It also made it more prominent for people who might have forgotten about it and missed it when it was upstairs with the presentation rooms.
--I liked the unified Disneyland theme it had this year, vs the more hodge-podge collections they've had before, where concept art for the House of the Future could be displayed next to a dress from High School Musical.
--Some of the more historically significant items have been on display a number of times in the recent past, particularly at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library exhibit.

I'll be back with more D23 Expo blogs!

August 13, 2015

Disneyana Mania 2015

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The Disneyana Fan Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enjoying the legacy of all things Disney, once again held their annual convention, Disneyana Mania 2015.

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As always, their two-day affair was packed with presentations and banquets and a plethora of Disney luminaries.

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One of the first presentations was "Sherman Brothers: A Songwriter's Observations," in which Robbie Sherman, the son of Disney Legend Robert Sherman, talked of the counterpoint that ran through much of the Sherman Brothers' music and lives.

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An accomplished songsmith himself (he currently has a musical "Love Birds" playing in Edinburgh,) Sherman then presented the club with a song he wrote particularly for them, performed by "The Liberty Voices," from EPCOT's American Pavilion.


(Warning: It is as charmingly persistent an earworm as many of his father and uncle's songs ever were.)

Lunch was Disneyana's annual "Lunch With A Disney Legend," where two new legends were inducted into the Disneyana roster of Legends: Joe Lanzisero, and Dick Nunis.

Joe Lanzisero, current Senior Vice President Creative at Walt Disney Imagineering, started in animation and has worked on projects for the Disney Cruise Line and Disney Parks around the world, e.g., Winter Summerland Miniature Golf, Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, Mystic Point, and the Aquaduck.

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He spoke briefly on his transition from animation to Imagineering, the process of developing Mystic Manor and the new Animation Magic experience on the Disney Fantasy, and his perpetual search for the next "fun, cool thing to work on."

Dick Nunis, during his tenure at the Walt Disney Company, served both as Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and as President of the Outdoor Recreation Division, overseeing Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, and the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.

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With some enthusiasm, he shared anecdotes from his time working in Operations with Dick Irvine, the various challenges involved in opening "Project X," and his memories of working with "the greatest man who ever lived on the face of the Earth."

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After lunch, we heard from Dennis Tanida, a Disneyana member, Architect, and Imagineer, about his accidental career with the Walt Disney Company in "Six Degrees of Separation from Walt." (Long time AllEars readers may remember Dennis from way back in 2008 when I mentioned the talk he gave in Tokyo DisneySea on the work he did for the Fortress Exploration and sailing ship Renaissance: http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_par.html)

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The first day concluded with author Jeff Barnes introducing us to his book "The Wisdom of Walt," which uses practical examples from both Walt Disney and Disneyland to help people live their dreams.

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Highlights from the second day included an interview with Disney Legend Bill Sullivan about his career working operations on projects as varied as the Winter Olympics, the New York World's Fair, the Contemporary, and EPCOT.

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Garner Holt, along with his team of Bill Butler, Tracy Cathey, Vic Martin, and Dave Feiten, presented a hilarious panel on "Mechanized Magic, The Art and Technology of Animatronics."

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Some interesting notes: Most of the panel had worked at WDI for decades, and then left to work at Garner Holt; DCA is the first theme park where they have made the majority of the figures (120;) a large project for Garner Holt is the creation of an animated mock-up shooting gallery for the military to simulate hostile situations; Dave Feiten has animated more characters than anyone living; and they displayed what may be one of the only photos of the Confucius head created for the never-realized Disneyland Chinese Restaurant--possibly the earliest human Disney animatronic.

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(Past readers may also remember Garner Holt from blogs I wrote on the 2014 TEA Awards, and the 2010 "Marvelous Mechanized Magical Kingdom" event.)

The convention ended, as it typically does, with their Celebration Banquet--this one was commemorating Cinderella's 65th Anniversary, with Disney historian and former Archivist Paula Sigman Lowery talking about the history of Cinderella.

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(Lowery also co-wrote the liner notes for the recent Legacy Collection "Cinderella" soundtrack."

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The Disneyana Collectables Show and Sale was the following day with overflowing amounts of the memorabilia so dear to a Disney collector's heart.

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So once again Disneyana provided fans with an eventful convention filled with interesting speakers with both historical insight and a view towards the future. While it's not the cheapest convention to buy into, it is non-profit and certainly the most stress-free of all the ones I've attended this year. If you're looking for a smaller, more intimate event, with no lines and the opportunity to meet and talk with virtually all the speakers at reasonable length, I highly recommend looking into Disneyana for next year. Maybe you'll have gotten the song out of your head by then.


Disneyland 60th Event Viewing

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I've had several opportunities to experience some of the events of Disneyland's Diamond Anniversary this summer, so I thought I'd follow up with some additional observations, especially now that I've seen the parade and fireworks from different locations.

The question I am most frequently asked is: "How long will the celebration last?" Disney so far has only stated that it will be a "long celebration", and will continue throughout the holidays and into 2016.

My own personal opinion is that Disneyland Forever, Paint the Night parade, and World of Color - Celebrate! will be around for a long time. There's nothing in any of them that ties them specifically to the 60th anniversary. The 60th anniversary merchandise, decor, character costumes, and so on may come to an end sometime next year, but I think you can count on the shows being here for a number of years to come. (And past history demonstrates that Disney does not make this kind of investment in something that's only going to be around for a year.)

One of the things that I expect to be around for a somewhat limited time is the Diamond Celebration Photo Spots. These are special photo backdrops that are multidimensional, and offer a fun photo experience. At this writing there are three at Disneyland: near Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Trail, and the Matterhorn.

Disneyland Haunted Mansion Photo Spot

And there are two at DCA: near Grizzly River Run and California Screamin'. There is supposed to be a third at "a bug's land", but it has not yet appeared.

DCA Grizzly Peak Photo Spot

There are PhotoPass photographers at each spot who will get everyone positioned properly to maximize the effect, and coach you in multiple expressions or poses. In addition to the PhotoPass pictures they will also take a few with your camera or phone.

Disneyland Matterhorn Photo Spot

We've found that it's great fun, and the photos are surprisingly effective.

And it's the only way we'll ever get Deb on California Screamin'. :-)

DCA California Screamin photo spot

Recently I saw Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever from the "small world" area - it was the first time I'd seen the parade any place other than Main Street. We were on the terraced area between the Matterhorn and "it's a small world".

Paint the Night 8/8/15

I thought it was a great view. Everyone in front of us was below us and sitting on the ground, so we could see everything. Being a little further away from the parade was a very good thing. Most of the floats are so big that you don't get the overall view when you're close to them as you are on Main Street. I thought the distance enhanced the overall viewing experience. We were still close enough to see the characters and their expressions.

Paint the Night 8/8/15

For the fireworks we moved up the street and around the corner to where we could see almost all of the "it's a small world" facade as we looked in the direction of Toontown, which is the launch point for most of the fireworks.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

I've now seen Disneyland Forever from the three main viewing areas: Main Street, Rivers of America, and "small world". I think Main Street is still the best overall, but I've really enjoyed the other two locations, also. As long as you have a decent view of some of the projection surfaces I think it's a wonderful show no matter where it's viewed.

The aspect I enjoyed most about "small world" was the facade gave a larger continuous projection surface than Main Street. So images could go from one side of the facade to another.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

For example, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider's boat moved all the way from the right to the left across "small world". We were far enough away that we could see that. While Main Street is longer, guests are closer to the buildings and can't see the length of the street, so that effect doesn't work the same way.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

We also could see the fireworks without turning our heads away from the projections. Though we didn't get the extra fireworks that are launched from the tops of the buildings on Main Street.

I like the fireworks viewing from the Rivers of America - I think that's the best view of the main fireworks shot off over Toontown. They look very close, and from the middle of the viewing area they appear centered over the projections.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

The projections there are the weakest, though - the mist screens are not a solid surface so the images can be blurry and not very crisp. Most of them are still very recognizable, though. One advantage of Rivers of America viewing is that if you have a Fastpass for the first Fantasmic! show you can get a pretty decent viewing spot for the fireworks without waiting two hours for it. Getting one of the Fantasmic! dinner packages will really help with that. We had a prime spot when we did the River Belle Terrace Fantasmic! dining package, and Blue Bayou is even a little better.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

But Main Street...well, it's still my first choice for seeing this fireworks show. When you're standing on Main Street with projections on the buildings on both sides going all the way up the street it becomes quite an immersive experience.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15

You also get to see some of the additional fireworks and lighting and a few other effects that are only visible from Main Street. If you want to view the parade and fireworks from Main Street be prepared to wait for a long time. I'm afraid I don't have any tips for great viewing and minimal wait.

Disneyland Forever 8/8/15





August 10, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Photos From the Floor

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So to finish up SDCC for this year, here are some photos from in and around the Exhibitor's Floor--generally the heart of any convention.

Over at the Disney booth, they had a display of a variety of new upcoming Tsum Tsum products, along with a contest to guess how many Tsums were in a given container.

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From the looks of it, there should be some Marvel Tsum Tsums in the pipeline--booth workers would only note that they expected Marvel Tsums to be added to the game, shortly.

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Over at the Marvel booth, promotion was high for the new release "Ant-Man."

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Leveraging their social media, they featured a vending machine that required guests to post a photo with a code number in order to get a randomly dispensed prize.

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Over at Sideshow Collectables, the usual dazzling array of detailed figures from virtually every franchise imaginable was on display.

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The ABC Network booth this year was a mockup of a sound stage, in which people could take a gander at set replicas for "The Muppets" sitcom, including those for Miss Piggy's late night talk show, "Up Late With Miss Piggy."

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All around the floor there was a plethora of books, art, and merchandise either of Disney properties, or by Disney artists.

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...And of course there were the meticulously assembled cosplayers.

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The winners of the Comic-Con International Masquerade was a group called "Women of the Haunted Mansion."

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It is, after all, an essential part of the con atmosphere to have people wandering around in costumes often more carefully put together than you'd find in a professional exhibition.

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Ah, Comic-Con.

August 4, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: A Smattering of Panels

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At Comic-Con, there are panels for just about every topic and every source of fandom imaginable, most of which are scheduled directly opposite the panels you want to see. Consequently, although there were a myriad of presentations concerning Disney products and Disney personalities, one was forced to pick and choose which ones to attend and which ones to shrug and decide to pick up on YouTube afterwards.

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(This is a skill that may come into more practice at the upcoming D23 Expo, but that's another blog.)

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"Disney Kingdoms" featured Imagineers Josh Shipley and Andy DiGenova, along with former Imagineer Brian Crosby, Marvel's SVP of Sales & Marketing David Gabriel, and author of the "Figment" comic series, Jim Zub.

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These creators discussed the origins and development of the popular Disney Kingdoms comic line, with an emphasis on "Figment," which was recently announced to have a sequel series, "Figment 2."

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In the sequel, Dreamfinder and Figment find themselves transported to the modern day, where their Academy has taken on a rather familiar configuration...

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"Floyd Norman Documentary" showcased an impressive lineup of panelists discussing the upcoming documentary on the life and career of phenomenal Disney Legend/Animator Floyd Norman.

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Filmmaker Michael Fiore showed the first teaser trailer for the documentary and moderated a short discussion during which each panel member spoke of their past histories with Norman.

Floyd Norman - An Animated Life - Teaser 1 from Michael Fiore Films on Vimeo.

Norman was also celebrating his 80th birthday and showed no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

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ABC's popular series "Once Upon a Time" was represented in a large panel with the majority of the main cast members, along with co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

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The presentation started off with a trailer catching people up on the history of Emma Swan and the journey that has brought her to becoming the Dark Swan of next season.

Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown made sure each actor got their share of questions as they merrily swapped around their name cards.

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Upon being asked what Belle would like for herself at this point, Emilie de Ravin commented "a vacation." Robert Carlyle speculated that Rumpelstiltskin still has some trickery to fall back on, even without his magic, but isn't doing all that much right now, as he's in a coma.

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Asked about which lady on OUAT holds Robin Hood's heart (figuratively) Sean Maguire said that by the script, he understands Regina does...however he suggested they resolve it by all going on Maury Povich's show (Adam and Eddie: "Thanks for spoiling the Maury reveal!") Rebecca Mader commented that Zelena is the best character she every played, by virtue of her being a total psychopath.

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Lana Parrilla spoke briefly on the evolution Regina's had over the last few seasons, and how Henry's influence and her newly-inherited family have all helped her get over the notion that she would never be happy without her true love--that her happiness has to come from herself.

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On the flip side of evil, Jennifer Morrison explained her understanding that Emma had lost faith in her own moral strength over the past season, having found out that her parents had manipulated her inherent goodness before birth, and was unsure how much her ability to overcome her past obstacles was due to her own strength.

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From an acting standpoint, she was looking forward to the fun of villainy, as evidenced in this teaser clip.

The wildly popular Colin O’Donoghue was asked what Hook would ask The Author to change about his life--"two hands?"

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Real-life couple Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas noted that having their first baby "changed everything," as Goodwin no longer has to act to get a panic attack when Emma is threatened. Asked about their turn as Dark Side versions of their characters, Dallas said that they loved it and that he misses the guyliner.

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In a response to a query on why anyone with any sense stays in Storybrooke, they played a comical piece by Jane Espenson, with Patton Oswalt, getting to the heart of some lesser known Storybrooke denizens.


Finally, Kitsis and Horowitz thanked the fan base for supporting them through to their fifth season, and speculated that the series has drawn together people who are tired of cynicism.

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One last little reveal, and then the panel was concluded.


August 3, 2015

Photo Update from Disneyland Resort 7/31 - Entertainment!

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 31, 2015.

I spent a "lazy summer" afternoon/evening at the Disneyland Resort. As I wandered around the parks I stopped to enjoy a variety of live entertainment. Here is a look at the various groups I saw on Friday. I have the full picture set from the trip on my site, disneygeek.com

First up the Straw Hatters were performing in the hub near the line board.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Boot Strappers performing in New Orleans Square.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Disneyland Band marching through the hub playing the theme from Indiana Jones

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Disneyland Band performing their Western set in Frontierland (guess Western plus Princess and the Frog)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

Lightning rolling through Radiator Springs (while not a performing group decided to include him and Olaf below).
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The All-American College Band has a few weeks left in its run. I stopped by to watch the 3:00pm set.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

No signs of guests by Olaf so I wandered over. Olaf no longer requires a FastPass. They stopped distribution recently. There was no one around so I stopped by to say hi and grab a couple pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Dapper Dans of Disneyland wrapping up a performance.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Pearly Band posing for a picture during their performance in Fantasyland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

At the French Market in New Orleans Square

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

Stopped by Town Square for the nightly Flag Retreat featuring the All-American College Band and the Dapper Dans this evening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

A Mariachi Band performing in Frontierland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

A video clip of the Mariachi band.

Because of the filming the College Band audible and performed on Main Street instead of in front of the Castle

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

This weekend is the 45th anniversary reunion weekend for the band. There were some alums enjoying the performances.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

Tomasina performing at the Tomorrowland Terrace

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The All American College Band performing in Town Square.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

Ron enlisted several alums for the Stevie Wonder medley.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015

The Alums were treated to a seat in the middle of the parade route to watch the pre-parade at 8:15pm.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 31, 2015


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.






July 29, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Star Wars

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While SDCC is a grand paean to just about every facet of pop culture, its love affair with Star Wars has been long and legion. 2015, arguably one of the most exciting years in Star Wars fandom, was no exception. While there were a wide range of different presentations on virtually every aspect of the Star Wars universe, here are a representative few.

Lucasfilm made a grand showing with two panels from just their Star Wars Publishing branch alone on Friday morning. In the first one, NYT bestselling authors Alexandra (The Darkest Minds) Bracken, Adam (A Tale Dark and Grim) Gidwitz, and Tom (Origami Yoda) Angleberger spoke on how each of them approached retelling a different movie of the second trilogy for a younger audience.

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Bracken approached A New Hope as "The Star Wars Breakfast Club," splitting the narrative in three parts, each from the perspective of Leia, Han, and Luke. Gidwitz wrote much of Empire in second person, so the readers will feel that they, personally, are training with Yoda or facing Darth Vader.

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The second half of the panel starred a variety of writers who occupy wildly different genres within the Star Wars universe.

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The Wangs create the Star Wars Epic Yarns books, in which each film is retold in twelve images and twelve words, using yarn figures made from needle felting.

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Ultimate Star Wars, by Adam Bray, is a comprehensive and chronological encyclopedia that covers the entire Star Wars canon.

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Jen Heddle, Senior Editor for Lucasbooks, presented the adult canonical Star Wars novels. A New Dawn takes place before the start of "Star Wars Rebels," and shows Kanan's backstory--how he meets up with Hera and joins the Rebellion. Tarkin tells the origin story of the infamous Grand Moff, and Lords of the Sith is "our Vader-Emperor road trip," as the two crash on Ryloth and leave a swath of destruction in their wake trying to get out.

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Christie Golden spoke about her new book, Dark Disciple, which is a novelization of eight unaired episodes of "The Clone Wars," and focuses on Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos.

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Star Wars: Aftermath , an upcoming novel by Chuck Wendig, is part of the large panel of "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" books designed to lead the way up to the film's opening. Set after "Return of the Jedi," it features Wedge Antilles and was announced to be the start of a trilogy.

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Finally, Marvel's Star Wars comics were discussed, the majority of which take place between "A New Hope," and "Empire Strikes Back."

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As a new announcement from the panel, Chewbacca will be getting his own series (but he still won't talk.)

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Later that day was the big Hall H Lucasfilm presentation. Given that JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy had already presented at Star Wars Celebration not too long ago, and that they had announced there would be no new trailer, I'm not sure what anyone was expecting--certainly not what they got...

Initially, the panel started off with Abrams, Kennedy, and screenwriter Lawrence ("Empire Strikes Back") Kasdan, who spoke briefly about their fondness for the project and the two years they spent developing the script for "The Force Awakens."

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After noting that they tried to utilize practical effects versus CGI, an actual animatronic creature shambled out onto stage and marched back and forth to demonstrate some of the intricate builds.

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"Bobbajo"

At moderator Chris Hardwick's urging, Abrams admitted to having brought some footage, which showed behind-the-scenes shots, and revealed Simon Pegg as one of the cast members.

After that, the three cast members that were present at the Star Wars Celebration panel joined the table: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac.

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Some brief questions later, Hardwick announced that since we'd seen the Light Side, it was time to be introduced to the Dark Side, and brought out Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie as Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Captain Phasma.

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A short discussion ensued, on the differences between, "evil" and "morally justified" and "right," and then Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were introduced!

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They had also been at Star Wars Celebrations and who knows how many other gatherings recently, so they had an easy and familiar banter. Anticipation in the room was rising for the one original cast member who had not been present for much of the publicity appearances to date, however, and to the crowd's delight, Hardwick next presented Harrison Ford!

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While Ford has always in the past seemed a little dismissive of Star Wars and his role in it, he appeared genuinely moved by the entire experience and appreciative of everyone's continued enthusiasm in a way that was both surprising and touching.

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(Or, he could have just been acting. He's a pretty good actor.)

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So at this point, the audience was already excited to the point of spontaneous combustion, when the panel suddenly turned into the preshow for "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster." Abrams announced that he had arranged a Star Wars concert for us (remember, Hall H holds around 6,400 people, and it was at capacity) complete with fake counting before he admitted everyone could go. We were then walked out to the back of the Convention Center, and then over to the Marina, where everyone was given a credential and a lightsaber.

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It took about 90 minutes for everyone to walk over (at one point, vans with the stars drove by and Mark Hamill high-fived people out of the window as they passed.)

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Eventually Abrams and Kennedy once more took the stage, and thanked the fans for their years of support and for making their way over to the concert without killing anyone.

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They then brought the "Force Awakens" stars back to the stage, most of whom bounded out, crossing lightsabers with anyone within reach.

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(Ford, the last one out, used his as a cane.)

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After the cast finally left the stage, a taped message from Composer John Williams played, in which he said he was busy working on his score for the next movie, and introduced the San Diego Symphony.

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...And then the concert started, and if you don't think it was a surreal experience, to be standing out in the San Diego Marina, while a live symphony orchestra played the score to "Star Wars," among around 6.5k hyped up fans with lightsabers, I am here to tell you otherwise.

Then, when we got to the end of the evening, there was one more surprise left:

It was certainly a night not soon forgotten.

If you would like to see the whole panel, "Flicks and the City" has it on YouTube:

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