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September 15, 2017

D23 Expo: All The Rest (Day 3)

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Expo time has come and gone--that once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I covered some of the major presentations earlier (Animation, Live-Action Studios, Video Games, Day 1, and Day 2) so we're now down to a summation of the rest of what the 2017 D23 Expo had to offer, and some quick thoughts on each.

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[Unattributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

So the last day of D23 Expo started off with another run through on the floor checking out some of the many smaller displays and exhibits.

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The first panel of the day for me was "Celebration of an Animated Classic: 'The Lion King,'" hosted by producer Don Hahn, and co-director Rob Minkoff.

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This was a great discussion of the history of "The Lion King" production, which included cast members Ernie Sabella, Jim Cummings, and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as animators Mark Henn and Tony Bancroft.

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In one segment, Minkoff, Hahn (ably playing an empty 3-gallon water bottle,) and Sabella hilariously recreate Timon's seminal "Hula Song."

The end of the panel included a surprise appearance by the unannounced Goldberg, as well as a huge choral performance of "Circle of Life" which was one of the highlights of the weekend.

While dashing back across the convention center to the next event, I had a chance to stop by the Disney Store booth which was perennially packed with people trying to stock up on limited edition merchandise. I never was able to get in there for shopping purposes, but they did let me take a quick jog around to get a glimpse of stuff I couldn't buy.

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Meanwhile, over at the Disney Music Emporium booth, composer Michael Giacchino was signing any of a number of the soundtracks he's done for a myriad of Disney projects.

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The booth also had out a new Disneyland Records t-shirt, changing it up from the old one they've been selling at conventions since the last Expo.

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At this point, it was time for the big performance of the weekend, "A Whole New World of Alan Menken." This was basically the same as his one-man show he brought to The Segerstrom Center for the Arts last year, slightly condensed and introduced by Zachary (Eugene Fitzherbert from "Tangled") Levi.

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Menken's a great performer and the musical catalog speaks for itself. It was wonderful.

Afterwards, if you sprinted fast enough, you were able to catch the tail end of the also wonderful "Susan Egan: The Belle of Broadway"

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For the First Time in Forever, I finally made it upstairs and into the Stage 28 venue to see "Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai."

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This presentation explored the terrific book "Maps of Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai" with host Jeff Kurtti, Imagineer/Curator Vanessa Hunt, Disney Legend Marty Sklar, and Imagineer Matt McKim--son of Disney theme park cartographer/Legend Sam McKim.

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It was a great look at the many maps created for all the Disney parks, and their value as not only pieces of art, but historical records of the parks' evolution.

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The takeaway was a huge appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistry that went into all the maps through the years, and a regret that they haven't continued doing more of them.

Running down to the last panel of the weekend, I took a quick run by the Marvel Studios booth that had been gradually uncovering different figures as they made announcements about their highly anticipated "Infinity War."

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Finally, the Expo wrapped up with "Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering," hosted by John Stamos and featuring Disney Legends Tony Baxter, Wayne Jackson, and Marty Sklar.

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The group reminisced about the many phenomenally talented men and women who pooled their talents together for so many amazing creations, and even compared their respective action figures.

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Towards the end of the presentation, Imagineering President Bob Weis came out to present Jackson with a miniature replica of Tokyo Disneyland's castle as a gift from the Oriental Land Company.

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While there may not have been any new Imagineering revelations from any of the participants, it was a nice chance to get to hear them speak with obvious respect and affection for all their fellow Imagineers and revisit times gone by.

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It's a cruel thing that we rarely get to know how long a window of opportunity is going to stay open. This ended up being the last photo I ever took of Marty Sklar. I had many opportunities to hear him speak and exchange greetings with him over the years, and if they had been doubled, it wouldn't have been long enough.

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SO, for anyone who's hung in here for this long, here are some parting thoughts on this year's Expo.

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Top Five Things I Thought Went Well:

1) I thought the StagePass set up worked better this time around. Even though the lines were still enormous, I felt like I waited less time for the ones I needed to pick up--whether this was a factor of having more people distributing them or not, I don't know.

2) A lot of quality programming, as usual. Even though it seems as though the number of rooms running panels diminishes every two years, there were still far more presentations I would have liked to see than I could have ever fit in.

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3) Offering two different times to see the Alan Menken concert. Clearly, from past Expos, this was going to be a huge draw, and putting him in the largest venue while giving people two chances to get in to see him was a generous move and a good way to avoid the queue horror of the Dick Van Dyke concert in 2011.

4) Using the official app. This time I thought the app was much more functional and incorporated more information than in previous years, and as someone who's suffered the back pain of lugging around thick convention programs in the past, this is a huge asset. What would be nice for future years would be a way to synchronize your schedule across your phone, iPad, laptop, etc.

5) Having larger venues. Although there were still long, chaotic lines for the big presentations, a lot of the smaller/mid-size ones I attended weren't packed sardine-style as they have been some years which makes for a nicer experience.

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Top Five Things That Could Have Gone Better:

1) Lines are still an issue. While I didn't personally experience waiting in the Hall D23 queue downstairs which periodically sounded like "The Return of the Archons" festival time, I did get to see the lines around the Show Floor which varied wildly from orderly to Hunger Games. I think there needs to be more cast members manning the lines with more consistent information on how to proactively organize all the guests trying to get into something.

2) The Show Floor. This was kind of a surprise to me because usually the floor is so outstanding at Expo. The lack of an Imagineering booth was a big hurt as far as official content, and the Parks and Resorts booth was kind of sparse outside of the one big model. Aside from that, just leaving a big empty space next to the Arena entrance (where the line for it had been previously) meant that no one really had much of a reason to head over to that part of the convention center, so it was easy to miss all the booths in the D23 Emporium section altogether.

3) Hall D23. It's great that they created a huge room so more guests could be in there with the big presentations, but I felt that it was at the expense of actually letting you see the presentations. I'm sure if you were up close it was a great view, but I was generally far enough away that I couldn't make out much looking directly at the stage. For the most part, I was usually between two screens and would try to position myself so I could see at least one of them without having to look through the phone screen of the guy in front of me...and then discover that they were broadcasting the stage feed to the other screen, while the one I was looking at would have a stationary image. The room is just too big for that many chairs to be on a flat level for anyone further back than the first section to see well--a situation that was pointed up every time I watched something in the Arena, which was actually constructed to have decent sight lines. Much like my beef with the Hollywood Bowl, I feel like if you're watching the whole thing on screens anyway, there isn't much difference between seeing it from an overflow room, or in fact, at home on YouTube. Maybe what would work better would be to go back to holding the big presentations in the Arena, and then using Hall D23 for overflow with more screens set up around the room.

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4) Counter-programming. There were so many presentations that it really hurt me to miss: "Marc Davis Goes to WED" with Pete Docter; Don Hahn's "Yesterday's Tomorrow: Disney's Magical Mid-Century;" "Park Stars: Original Characters of the Disney Parks;" "The Power of the Princess" with four original princess voice artists; and so many more. I get that we can't all go to everything but it's still painful.

5) Timing is everything. With so many people and so much good content, it's a shame that everything has to feel so rushed. The first Expo was four days long and programming started around 9 am and sometimes didn't end until 1am the next day. This year had most of the panels starting around 10am all three days, and everything wound up by around 7pm. I feel like adding back that fourth day would be a big improvement, even if only the show floor was open, because at least then people would have a better shot at getting their shopping done, viewing the exhibits, etc.

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For another thing, having Expo right in front of San Diego Comic-Con is just grueling. I understand why it might be easier to coordinate celebrity schedules if they can appear at both conventions the same week, but holy moly it makes for an exhausting and expensive couple of weeks. I hope they space it out in the future, for the preservation of both my life force and my wallet.

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All in all however, as fatiguing and occasionally frustrating as it is, D23 Expo is still the main game in town for the Disney conventioneer. I'm ready for the next one now...right after a short nap.

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September 6, 2017

D23 Expo: All The Rest (Day 2)

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Expo time! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I covered some of the major presentations earlier (Animation, Live-Action Studios, Video Games, and Day 1) so we're now down to a summation of the rest of what the 2017 D23 Expo had to offer, and some quick thoughts on each.

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[Unattributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

So Saturday was a day filled with a lot of the aforementioned panels for me but I did manage to take a quick run around the floor again, trying to pick up some of the booths and exhibits I hadn't seen on day 1.

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Costco exclusive!

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Forward my mail to Tsum Tsum City.

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If you missed the Combine Car at Expo, you can see it at Walt's Barn in Griffith Park, which is a very good trip for any reason.

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For all your Muppet wardrobe needs.

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A coffee bar with Disney latte art. Seems like a good concept for the parks, if they didn't already have Starbucks.

The big D23 Archive pavilion this year was "Walt Disney Archives Presents--A Pirate's Life For Me: Disney's Rascals, Scoundrels And Really Bad Eggs."

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The extensive pavilion displayed pirate-y artifacts from the animated films...

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Live action films...

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Television...

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And park attractions.

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This afternoon was also the day of the announcement-filled Parks and Resorts panel, which Deb Wills ably recapped here:

At the same time, because D23 always tries to hurt me with counterprogramming, the "Once Upon A Time" panel was held in the Arena. Although you couldn't go to both, co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and star Colin O'Donoghue could be seen afterwards over in Talent Central providing autographs and photos for lucky guests.

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The final panel of the day was "'A Kiss Goodnight' with Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Floyd Norman." This had the two legends discussing the development and creation of their new book "A Kiss Goodnight" with Wendy Lefkon, editorial director of Disney Editions, and some of the contributing artists and writers. There was even a short Richard Sherman performance at the end, with singer Juliana Hansen!





August 7, 2017

D23 Expo: All The Rest (Day 1)

jeaninebanner.jpg

Expo time has arrived! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I covered some of the major presentations earlier (Animation, Live-Action Studios, and Video Games) so we're now down to a summation of the rest of what the 2017 D23 Expo had to offer, and some quick thoughts on each.

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[Unattributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

So the first panel I saw on Friday, the start of Expo, was the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony. Receiving awards this year were Carrie Fisher, actress/author; Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi, animator/supervising director; Manuel Gonzales, cartoonist; Garry Marshall, TV producer/movie director;

Mark Hamill, actor;
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Wayne Jackson, Walt Disney Imagineer;
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Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, co-creators of myriad Marvel characters;
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Julie Taymor, filmmaker and musical theater director;
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Oprah Winfrey, producer/actress/talk show host/philanthropist;
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and Whoopi Goldberg, actress/comedienne/producer/talk show host.
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The ceremony was a nice acknowledgement of all the contributions the various Legends have made to the Walt Disney Company. In between awards, there were a number of performances including the Cadaver Dans, and what appeared to be an interpretive dance number of all the recipients.

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The Good: It's always nice to see people finally get recognized for a career-worth of hard work, especially Jackson and Geronimi who have really put time into the Disney Company.
The Bad: Since these ceremonies became public, it seems like there's been some tendency for them to pick some recipients because they're celebrities and will make a good showing, rather than because of any long Disney history. I'd rather see fewer Legends recognized each Expo, if that would allow them to choose people who have been a significant part of Disney.
The Meh: While all the interstitial acts were the usual Disney quality (most of them courtesy of ABC's "Dancing With The Stars") the concepts behind them were often puzzling. The long interpretive dance number was particularly confusing, as initially it seemed like they were just going to dance versions of all the Marvel super heroes, but then became evident they were going to dance interpretations of most of the award winners' oeuvres. It's a difficult thing, as the Legends awards are given out to performance and non-performance fields and someone may have done significant work in, say, accounting, but have nothing showy with which to excite a crowd.

In between panels I was able to take a quick run-around the show floor and took a quick peek at the Parks and Resorts booth with its impressive Star Wars Land model.

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Also taking in (and showing off) the sights was Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter.

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Thoughts: I only got a quick gawk at this booth, but my impression was that the model was great...but that's almost all there was. Compared to the much more elaborate booth they had for Shanghai and Pandora in the past, this seemed like a small version of something you'd see in Launch Bay. I believe they occasionally had someone wander around doing a spiel, but they weren't doing it when I was by and no one working the booth had much of a capacity to answer questions, either because the information was restricted or just absent. It was also a little disappointing that Imagineering didn't have a booth at all this year, when theirs has traditionally been the highlight of the whole floor.

Right next door was the terminally adorable joint Pixar and Walt Disney Animation booth.

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Within, they had a number of photo-ops...

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Displays of exclusive film crew t-shirts (I want them)...

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And a variety of what sounded like great presentations in their small stage that, unfortunately I was never able to make.

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"Animating Moana," with Hyrum Osmond and Amy Smeed

There were also a number of animator signings that were held throughout the weekend, the only one of which I was able to catch was Brad Bird and Nicole Paradis Grindle, Director and Producer respectively of the in-production "Incredibles 2."

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Thoughts: I love this booth, even though the facade and stage set up is basically identical to last time, and a lot of the art on exhibition has been shown at different events throughout the last two years. I always wish I had more time to go to the presentations and signings they have here because historically I only ever manage to stumble my way into one signing per Expo.

While the programming here was great, the logistics of getting into the programming were often pretty rough. There were a lot of instances where a random line would form way in advance of an event, and if you asked the CMs, they would hedge on whether they were planning on acknowledging the line or not. Ultimately, they would just start handing out tickets at an opening of the roped-off queue and whoever happened to be standing around there in a crowd at that time got one until they ran out. There really needs to be a more formal organization in advance, I think, because getting crushed forward by a mob of people towards the Brad Bird ticketguy (who was constantly yelling "NO PUSHING! I'LL CANCEL THE WHOLE THING IF THERE'S PUSHING!") was a little nerve wracking.

What I do love however is the way they give you artwork for the artists to sign. At one of the last conventions I attended, they provided exactly nothing for people to sign, which means that people got to bring their own items, which then leads to people showing up with wheelbarrows of items probably headed straight to eBay for signatures. On the other hand, if you are perennially unprepared like me, you never have anything--even paper--on hand for people to sign, so that's fun too. The way Disney does it keeps it much more organized and the line moving much more fluidly.

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The last panel of the day I saw was "Melodies in Walt's Time: The Music of Disney Live-Action Films." This was a celebration of Walt Disney's live-action musicals of the 1960s, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and accompanied by a 20-voice chorus.

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After going through a selection of songs from a number of films such as "Mary Poppins," Summer Magic," and "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band," with guests Leonard Maltin and Karen Dotrice, the last half of the program went in depth with "The Happiest Millionaire" as Lesley Ann Warren and Joyce Bulifant talked about the filmmaking process.

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At the end, Richard Sherman came out as well, to enjoy the audience's accolades for so many film scores of fabulous music.

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Thoughts: This was kind of a peculiar panel, and not quite what I had expected. The first 45 minutes or so went about how I had thought, with Leonard Maltin and Whoopi and various celebrities discussing different films and the chorus singing songs from them. The last half, however, was almost completely just conversation about "Happiest Millionaire," that was moore or less identical to the Disneyana event held back in February. With all the Sherman songs performed throughout the night, it seemed like an obvious choice to have Richard Sherman (who has done whole concerts by himself at past Expos) come out and perform or at least join in the discussion, but he was saved for basically a curtain call at the end. The chorus was great and the soloists did a nice job, but both were underused in the last half as well. On the whole, a good panel if you didn't attend the Disneyana event, but I think the topic really has greater potential than what was done here.





August 2, 2017

D23 Expo: "Level Up! The Walt Disney Company's Video Game Showcase"

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Expo time has arrived! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I attended all Expo weekend and will be reporting back on the highlights.

So Saturday was an exceptionally busy day as far as panels went, and made for good aerobic exercise as all the panels I had scheduled alternated one after the other in venues on diametric opposite ends of the convention center. Wedged in between the live-action Studios presentation and the eagerly anticipated Parks and Resorts announcements was the Video Game Showcase.

[All unattributed photos and video provided by Disney.]

The presentation began with Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Jimmy Pitaro introducing the major games of the day: "Star Wars Battlefront II," "Marvel's Spider-Man," and "Kingdom Hearts III."

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Subsequently, YouTube personalities JackSepticEye and Strawburry17 took over as hosts and introduced Battlefront II's lead actress Janina Gavankar and Steve Blank, from Lucasfilm Story Group.

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For the most part, there wasn't a whole lot of information new from their recent presentations at both Star Wars Celebration and E3, which I recapped here, but they did give us a new summary video showing some behind-the-scenes footage and a look at some new characters in the game.

After a short chat about the game, they panel took a call from the livestream which turned out to be John Boyega (fresh from the Live-Action presentation just before.)

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Next up was Mike Goslin, VP of Advanced Development, to talk about the new Star Wars Augmented Reality Experience. The audience was treated to a first look at an AR headset Disney developed in conjunction with Lenovo and Lucasfilm to combine computer-generated images with reality and allow players to experience moments from Star Wars in completely new ways. The headset works off of your smartphone, which, with a downloadable app, is structurally integrated into it.

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More information will be provided as it becomes available at http://jedichallenges.com/

For Marvel Entertainment, Bill Rosemann, Executive Creative Director, Marvel Games, and Bryan Intihar, Creative Director, Insomniac Games, took the stage to talk about "Marvel's Spider-Man" and show a development video.

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--Spider-Man in the game is 23 years old and has been Spider-Man for eight years.
--Although Spider-Man is more experienced, his combatants are similarly more familiar with how he works, forcing him to vary his combat techniques.
--The villain of the game is Mr. Negative, whose duality as Martin Li, philanthropist, mirrors the duality between Spider-Man and his alias Peter Parker.
--New scenes for D23 Expo: Peter Parker's room and Spider-Man fighting Kingpin.

Rosemann then mentioned the various games that Marvel had available at their floor booth, particularly focusing on the reveal of a new character in "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2."

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An entirely new game was also revealed in "Marvel Powers United VR," a first-person multiplayer virtual reality cooperative fight game.

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--Characters people can play currently include Rocket Raccoon, Hulk, and Captain Marvel.
--The game is exclusive to the Oculus Rift + Touch.

Finally, for the most awaited property, "Kingdom Hearts III," the Hercules trailer Square Enix debuted during E3 was played, and game director Tetsuya Nomura introduced.

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Nomura announced a new world for "Kingdom Hearts III"--the first appearance of Pixar in the franchise: Toy Story.

Story Supervisor Jason Katz and Associate Creative Director Tasha Sounart from Pixar spoke briefly about the process of joining the world of Pixar to the world of Kingdom Hearts.

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In an arguably bigger announcement (which garnered more screaming than any other panel I saw,) III was finally given a projected release date of 2018. The presentation ended with the entrance of Woody and Buzz and a slew of dancing green army men.

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July 29, 2017

D23 Expo: "Disney, Marvel Studios & Lucasfilm--Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios"

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Expo time has arrived! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I attended all Expo weekend and will be reporting back on the highlights.

One of the major events of the second day was the Walt Disney Studios panel "Disney, Marvel Studios & Lucasfilm--Live action at The Walt Disney Studios," in which Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and his special guests presented some of the many live-action projects currently in the works for all the affiliated Disney studios.

Back from the Animation panel the day before, Alan Horn introduced the Disney studio trifecta of Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm, and noted that as diverse as they all are, they are bound together by common qualities of integrity and decency. They are apparently also bound together by phenomenal popularity, as five of the top grossing films of 2016 were all Disney: "Finding Dory," "Captain America: Civil War," "Zootopia," "Rogue One," and "Jungle Book."

[All photos and video provided by Disney.]

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Starting off with the Walt Disney Studios, Horn introduced Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, to talk about their upcoming slate of movies.

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First up was "Wrinkle in Time," an adaptation of the classic Madeleine L’Engle book. Director Ava DuVernay, as well as stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, and Storm Reid took the stage to introduce the teaser trailer.

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Meg Murray, a young daughter of two renowned physicists, must embark on a fabulous journey aided by three celestial guides, her classmate, and her younger brother to locate and rescue her missing father and battle a powerful evil. “A Wrinkle in Time” opens nationwide March 9, 2018.

Next was “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mackenzie Foy as Clara, Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger, Morgan Freeman as godfather Drosselmeyer, and famed ballet dancer Misty Copeland, it is a fanciful retelling of the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale. With an as-yet-unreleased trailer that seemed reminiscent of Tim Burton's hugely popular "Alice in Wonderland," "Nutcracker" sees protagonist Clara venturing through the lands of Snowflakes, Flowers, Sweets, and the less-benign-sounding Fourth Realm, where she must face the tyrannical Mother Ginger and a gang of mice. The CGI Mouse King movements are based on that of dancer Lil Buck, who gave a live performance of "jooking," his style of street dancing.

"Nutcracker" will open in U.S. theaters on November 2, 2018.

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Director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt then took the stage to talk about "Mary Poppins Returns."

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A musical sequel to the original movie, "Returns" sees Blunt's Poppins revisit a grown Jane and Michael Banks with her friend Jack, a street lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in order to restore childhood joy and wonder to their lives. Also joining her is Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks, Julie Walters as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen, Colin Firth as Fidelity Fiduciary’s William Weatherall Wilkins, Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady, and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character.

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--Blunt noted that her take on Mary Poppins is a little closer to the character from the book than Julie Andrews' and is more "acerbic and weird."
--Julie Andrews is not in the film, in part because she felt she would detract too much from what should be Blunt's movie.
--One of the tables from the original movie was lent to the production from Club 33, where it is usually in residence.
--Marshall stated that Dick Van Dyke felt the production and the set had the same sense of joy as the original.

The audience was treated to a first look at the film, accompanied by a live orchestra performing original new music from the score conducted by composer Marc Shaiman

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The clips we saw looked very good--I have been a little wary of how the remake of such a classic will turn out, but the iconic Mary Poppins imagery/shots were done well and continue to be markedly evocative. The fact that we were watching it with live orchestration didn't hurt it any, either.

“Mary Poppins Returns” will be released in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, 2018.

Afterwards, Bailey confirmed three more live-action remakes: "Aladdin," directed by Guy Ritchie with Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie; "Mulan," directed by Niki Caro; and "Jungle Cruise," starring Dwayne Johnson.

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Tim Burton, still in London working on the live-action "Dumbo," sent a video greeting.

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The film stars Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, and Colette Marchant. “Dumbo” is slated for release on March 29, 2019.

Finally, Jon Favreau gave the audience a first glimpse at the opening Pride Rock sequence in his live-action/CGI remake of "The Lion King."

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With Donald Glover as Simba, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa, “The Lion King” is slated for theaters on July 19, 2019.

Horn then came back on to introduce the Lucasfilm segment by introducing "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" writer/director Rian Johnson, and giving spoilers for anyone who hadn't seen the end of "Rogue One" yet.

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Johnson started off proving his Disney cred by reminding everyone he used to direct the "You're Watching Disney Channel" commercials.

"This wasn't 'High School Musical' Disney Channel--this was 'Halloweentown' Disney Channel. But we're not here to talk about Halloweentown..."
[Huge audience reaction]
"This might be the only crowd where it's a let down to not talk about Halloweentown."

Subsequently, cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro joined Johnson on stage to talk about "Last Jedi."

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[Main takeaway here was that Christie is an Amazon. The next tallest person there came up to about her chin.]

The final member of the cast then entered, which was of course, Mark Hamill.

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"Thank you for not making me stand next to Gwendolyn. You think I'm already a little short for a stormtrooper?"

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Lucasfilm finished off their segment with a behind-the-scenes video in which the late Carrie Fisher figured prominently. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" picks up where "Force Awakens" ends, and will open in U.S. theaters on Dec. 15, 2017.

Finally, Marvel Studios was up at bat, with President/producer Kevin Feige announcing their first ten year anniversary celebration.

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The cornerstone of the celebration will be "Avengers: Infinity War," which will have virtually every Marvel Cinematic Universe character in it. At this point, Josh Brolin (Thanos) appeared to help usher in an enormous amount of cast members on stage, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff.

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Co-director Joe Russo closed out the presentation by introducing a video with appearances by every character in "Infinity War." While largely old footage, there were some new clips towards the end, mostly depicting the entry of the Guardians of the Galaxy into the larger MCU story-line. It was a LOT of characters.


[This is not that video, which has yet to be released, but an earlier one talking about the start of production on "Infinity War."

Clearly, it is going to be quite a showdown. “Avengers: Infinity War” releases in U.S. theaters on May 4, 2018.

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July 18, 2017

D23 Expo: "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films"

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Expo time is here! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I'm attending this weekend and will try to report back on the highlights.

One of the highlights of the first day was the Animation panel "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films," in which John Lasseter and his special guests presented some of the many animation projects currently in the works for both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Pixar.

Introducing the panel was Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn who showed a brief montage of a lot of the upcoming films, animated and live-action. After the crowd went berserk over a quick view of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the remake of "Mary Poppins," he joked that the demand was such that they would bring back a version of "Mary Poppins" every fifty years.

[All photos and video provided by Disney.]

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He then introduced John Lasseter who came out with a t-shirt cannon and merrily shot shirts into the crowds. (I did not get a shirt.)

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After he finished lobbing projectiles into the audience, he began by introducing a clip called "Speed Test" from a Disneytoon Studio featurette as yet unnamed, which showed some fighter jets (with the trademark sentient vehicle eyes) and which will take a look at the future of Aviation. It will open April 12, 2019.

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Next Lasseter turned his attention to Walt Disney Animation Studios and their next visit back to Arendelle, "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," which will open with Pixar's "Coco."

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To help introduce the story of Olaf's quest to find some holiday traditions for the previously-estranged royal siblings Anna and Elsa, Kristen Bell took the stage.

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Unfortunately, as they began to play a clip from the short, the audio mysteriously cut out and who but Josh Gad should come to the rescue, singing one of the songs, “That Time of Year,” written by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, live with the animation track running behind him.

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Subsequently, Josh Gad noted that he was glad Olaf finally got a film where he was the star. Bell pointed out that it was really an ensemble effort, to which Gad replied "really? it's not called 'ENSEMBLE's Frozen Adventure!'"

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Moving on to "Frozen 2," not a whole lot of information was given, except that the original cast would be back, and it wouldn't be titled "Thawed." The original production team of Co-directors Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Producer Peter del Vecchio are all returning, and have already gone on a research trip around Scandinavia to prepare for it. It will open November 27, 2019.

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The next film up was the sequel to "Wreck-It Ralph," "Ralph Breaks the Internet." Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, who returns as the voice of Vanellope von Schweetz, showed clips of BFFs Ralph and Vanellope escaping their arcade into the Internet. A new character, Yesss, was introduced, with actress Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) doing voice duty for her.

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They then showed a rough animation sequence where Vanellope and Ralph go to the Oh My Disney website and meet up with all manners of Disney consumers (I am reasonably certain the Tsum Tsum obsessed girl was not modeled after me.) Later, Vanellope has an encounter with a huge number of Disney princesses that is as hilarious as it is audacious for a company usually so careful with its property usage. It's not as coarse as, say, Shrek, but comes close to the same sensibility. All the original voice actresses came back: Auli‘i Cravalho (“Moana”), Kristen Bell (Anna in “Frozen”), Kelly MacDonald (Merida in “Brave”), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in “Tangled”), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog”), Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in “Aladdin”), Paige O’Hara (Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and Jodi Benson (Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,”) and in fact came out on stage for the largest grouping of Disney Princesses ever. "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2" is opening November 21, 2018.

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Moving on to "Incredibles 2," they began with a video clip showing various models and designers giving tribute to one of the great design minds of our time, Edna Mode.

Subsequently Director Brad Bird did Edna Mode as a voice over where she finally agreed to come onstage "but only in the form of a disillusioned middle-aged man."

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In their new, mid-century modern design house, the Parrs resume life as a family that just happens to have super powers. Mrs. Incredible fights crime while Mr. Incredible does a stint as a stay-at-home Dad to baby Jack Jack. For the story, Bird promises new allies and enemies, with appearances from old friends as well.

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Bird was joined onstage with the cast of "Incredibles 2" which included all the original voices (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible--Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter, Violet--Sarah Vowell, and Frozone--Samuel L. Jackson) with the exception of Dash, now played by Huck Milner.

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After all the actors took turns giving newcomer Milner some helpful career advice (Jackson: "Never read the comments.") they showed a short clip from the film, depicting Jack Jack still manifesting his powers while putting the smackdown on a raccoon. "Incredibles 2" is scheduled for release on June 15, 2018.

Lasseter then made the announcement that on "Toy Story 4," he would no longer be co-directing, but that Pixar veteran Josh Cooley would be the full director. While they had no footage ready at this early date, they did show a short docu/mocumentary on a typical day in the life of a Pixar director. "Toy Story 4" has an opening date of June 21, 2019.

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"Monster's University" director Dan Scanlon then presented the concept behind "Untitled Dan Scanlon Movie." It will be set in a magical suburb, in a world where magic exists, but at a level of difficulty that most utilize contemporary technology instead. There are no humans--just elves, trolls, and sprites, and unicorns are rodents. The story is based on Scanlon's personal history of having lost his father at a young age, and revolves around two teenage elves in a similar situation, who embark on a journey to spend one last magical day with their father.

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Finally, director Lee Unkrich, co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson presented "Coco," in which Miguel, a young boy from a music-hating family, dreams of a career as a musician. His desperation to follow in his deceased idol's footsteps causes him to defy his family's wishes and earns him a trip to the Land of the Dead.

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Michael Giacchino is in charge of the score, while the main song "Remember Me," is penned by "Frozen's" Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. As a finale, guests at the presentation were treated to the first ever public performance of "Remember Me," with special guest Benjamin Bratt (voice of Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel's musical inspiration) singing it along with 160 performers including the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles.

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"Coco" will be in theaters Nov. 22, 2017.

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July 9, 2017

Helpful Hints for the Infrequent Conventioneer

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In case you are one of the vast majority of Mankind who does not regularly read my missives here, I regularly attend a lot of events--particularly conventions--of a variety of subjects and emphases. As we are once again approaching Disney's arguably largest event, D23 Expo, I thought it might be useful to share some general observations that might help people organize their thoughts for enjoyable con-going.

Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail:
Yes, this is a trite saying, and it also is a true one--painfully so, as many attendees of many conventions can attest. Unless a convention is a reasonably small affair where guests are pretty much guaranteed to be able to see every offering, there will be far more going on than you could possibly see or do, and far more people wanting to see or do each thing than could possible fit in the event's capacity. Consequently, it's a crucial thing to try to figure out your goals in advance. Do you love shopping and merchandise? Are you an autograph hound? Is your passion checking out exhibits? If you don't go over the schedules and lists of what's available, you'll run a good chance of missing out on the things you really want to see.

Personally, I mainly enjoy watching as many presentations on different topics as I can, which offers its own unique challenges. As a general rule, programming schedules are often set up to force choices between popular panels in order to break up crowds and lines. You need to prioritize the things you want to see vs the things you don't care about so much, vs the things you would sell your mother to see.

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Some things you might want to consider:
--Make a list of the panels you want to see. Then make a "plan B" and sometimes a "plan C" in case you don't get into the panels you want to see.
--Be realistic about your "plan B" and don't make it the same time as "plan A," because by the time you find out "plan A" isn't going to work, you'll have already missed your opportunity for "plan B."
--Look at a map and see how far apart the rooms are. If you want to see two panels twenty minutes apart and one is on the third floor of the convention center and the next one is in the ballroom of a hotel three blocks away, you are probably not going to make it.
--Have a sense of how popular the panels are going to be. Looking at the Expo schedule, there will be one panel on Disney Studios' Live Action films. Given the popularity of the MCU, and that they've already announced that "Star Wars" won't be making an appearance at SDCC this year, there will probably be a huge amount of interest in this, and likely a lineup that will start the night before. On the other hand, the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media are doing Pancake Art demonstrations several times a day each day, so expect an easier time seeing that.
--Go all in, or not at all. If you know you have to see a thing, then get there hours (sometimes a day) ahead to scope out how bad the line is. If you blow that opportunity, then my best advice is to just show up 10-30 minutes beforehand and hope for the best. At least then, if you don't get in, you didn't invest that much time in finding out and were available to do something else in the meantime. What you don't want to do is start waiting an hour or two ahead of time in a line where everyone who is going to get in lined up three to four hours ago. I once spoke to a mother and daughter behind me in line who said they had spent their entire Expo day going from one line to the next, waiting a couple hours, and then not getting in. Don't Be Those People.

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Know How To Get What You Want If What You Want Is To Collect Things:
Check in advance whether your favorite companies or product lines have booths, and whether they are offering any limited edition items you want. If you know you will die coming home without that specific one-day-only-special-edition thing, you also need to look at a map of the floor and find out where that booth is, because you will likely only get one shot to safely hustle your way over there first thing at opening to get in line for it. Check official twitter accounts and webpages that are live reporting such things to see what the lines are like in advance--at SDCC, people regularly sleep out overnight to be the first ones into the Mattel or Hasbro booths, so this can be serious business. Know also that booth lines are not necessarily at the booths: In order to free up the passageways that can get clogged with huge lines, people are frequently lined up against the walls of the exhibitor's floor and then walked over in groups as people leave the booth. If you rush over to a booth for a popular item, and then realize the line is actually halfway across the room, it's probably going to be capped by the time you get over there and find it.

Also try to do the bulk of your shopping as early as possible, hopefully before the convention actually starts, if you can. Recently, I've been seeing a marked increase (even at Disney events) in sellers bringing merchandise in woefully insufficient amounts, often selling out by the end of preview night. While some booths will only sell a certain amount each day and then restock each night, some, either by design or accident, will just blow out all their goods immediately and then, I guess, just take a nap for the next couple days. Check sizing as well, if you're looking at t-shirts: Mickey's of Glendale and PIXAR are notorious for selling women's shirts in styles that run considerably smaller than most.

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...But Maybe You Shouldn't:
There are a lot of booths, and most of them will be giving away something: Art lithographs, posters, brochures, shirts, books...sometimes even chairs. In every case, as soon as people see there's something being passed out, huge mobs will form to try to get it. If you're desperate, you can usually tough it out in line, or haunt a given booth to try to time when they start distributing. Unfortunately, after a certain amount of time, it can be hard to know if you are desperate because you actually want something, or just because the crowd mentality has driven you insane and made you believe that it's reasonable to stand in line for 45 minutes for a paper tube (PSA: I've done this.) Sometimes you should step back and really consider whether it's worth spending your time and effort to get something that's just going to sit untouched in the free convention-provided tote bag in the corner of your room for the next five years.

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DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO

Security Might Not Make You Safer, But It Will Make You Late:
With the increased anxiety everyone has nowadays about security, measures to get into different panels and the convention itself have gotten increasingly elaborate and time-consuming. Unless you have some sort of priority access to entering in the morning, you may want to consider showing up hours early in case the given event decides it needs to search your bags, make you go through metal detectors, etc. As you remember from the airport, this takes forever with just your every-day people, but at a con where every third cosplayer has multiple bags with food, electronics, and prop weaponry, this can stretch into an eternity. I just finished attending one event where some people waited over five hours to get in the first day, and the lines stretched over blocks, snarling traffic so bad it took me 90 minutes just to circle the building to find parking. Few hate mornings more than I, but this is one time where you have to bite the bullet if you want to maximize your time.

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Everybody Has To Eat:
Eventually, you are probably going to expect to eat during the day, but where? And when? If the eating options in the convention center are limited, expect long lines that may cut into the event you wanted to see afterwards. It also goes without saying that the prices will be higher than normal, and the quality somewhat lower. You can bring your own food, assuming you have the energy and time to do it when you stagger back home exhausted each day, but then know that a lot of meeting rooms won't allow food or drinks. There may be only a comparative handful of tables and chairs in any convention center, and by and large you can't even sit on the ground most places, or people will come and yell at you to leave before the Fire Marshal declares you a hazard. I'm particularly bad at meal planning and have spent more than one con week subsiding on a diet of M&Ms and kettle corn.

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...But Maybe You Shouldn't:
Look, there's no doubt that the healthiest thing for you is to eat regular meals, but just be aware that any time not spent getting in line can make or break you for the next thing. I remember being in one panel and discussing with the woman next to me that we both wanted to go to the book-signing right afterwards. She went to the restroom and I didn't, and that's why we ended up meeting again, this time on opposite sides of the line cut-off rope.

On Q&A:
I have seen a lot of Q&A in my time, and some of it has been very insightful, and some of it has been at least interesting, and a WHOLE LOT of it has been reeeaaally bad. People are entitled to say whatever they want, of course, but for all that is Holy, I beg you to reflect on this.

Your question might be a bad question if:
--You start off saying "well, I guess this isn't really a question..."
--The topic can really only be of any interest to you and your immediate family.
--You are requesting one of the panelists touch you in a sexual or even non-sexual manner.
--You have been talking for over five minutes and have still not gotten to anything remotely close to a question.
--What you are saying is insulting/hostile/demanding/racist/sexist/terrible.
--The moderator tries to stop you by saying "we're not answering questions on that today."
--The moderator tries to stop you by saying "NO, DON'T COME UP HERE."
--You want someone on the panel to take a selfie with you or autograph an item.
--You are rapping.

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As Long As You've Got Your Health:
Con crud is a real thing. You're going to be stuck in a number of rooms and corridors with literally thousands of other people, some of whom are going to be Patient Zero for some horrific disease. You're going to be jammed into crowds where you can barely move because the cast of "Agents of SHIELD" are out on a table signing autographs and everyone wants a photo and the guy next to you is coughing non-stop into your face. Pity the poor celebrities, who are constantly assaulted with pleas for hugs/kisses/handshakes from everyone--no wonder they all charge >$100 for a picture nowadays. I actually found it fascinating that at Anime Expo (a convention I'll talk about in another blog soon) most of the predominantly Asian celebrities specified for autograph sessions "NO HIGH FIVES."

To a certain point there's nothing you can do. If you crap out and it's your turn to get some debilitating cold, you're going to get it. The best you can do for your immune system is to get as much sleep as you can, eat appropriately, and use hand sanitizer liberally. I'm also a huge believer in just holding your breath as long as you can in ultra crowded conditions--I've also considered using masks as they do in Japan, although those are more effective if the sick people use them.

As always, nothing is universal, and for many people none of these suggestions will be applicable. Some people don't have any goals or expectations going into these things, and are content to just wander around taking in the sights and then going home when the crowds become oppressive. Other people purchase priority access memberships ("Sorcerer's Package" for D23 Expo and "Master Jedi VIP" for Star Wars Celebration) which enable them to bypass the worst of the lines at a sizeable cost. That even at $2,250 the Sorcerer's Packages sold out in seconds is a measure of how valuable people find that advantage. Here, as is often the case, "money talks" and the rest of us...wait in line.

See you at the Expo!

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September 9, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: "Frozen," Mouseketeers, and Expo's End

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So when we last spoke, the Disney Interactive panel had just finished, and we had battled our way to receive our Expo exclusive power disc that smarter minds than mine sold on ebay for around $200 before we were even out of the room.

[Photos and video not otherwise attributed were provided by Disney.]

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The next presentation I saw was "'An Animator's Gallery': Presented by Dave A. Bossert and Eric Goldberg." A film director and long-time Disney animator, Goldberg has done work on a number of animated classics such as "Aladdin," "Fantasia/2000," and most recently, the short "Get a Horse!"

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As part of the decor for a projected "Sardi's"-esque restaurant for Shanghai Disneyland, Goldberg drew over 200 caricatures of Disney characters in a style inspired by Al Hirschfeld. The collection of images were on display at the Roy E. Disney Animation building in Burbank, and are now viewable in his new book, "An Animator's Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters."

http://www.amazon.com/Animators-Gallery-Goldberg-Characters-Editions/dp/1484723929/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441372029&sr=8-1&keywords=eric+goldberg+animator%27s+gallery

The book was available for purchase at Expo, in advance of general release, and Goldberg did several signings of both the book and some special images he drew particularly for Expo, including one of his characters, Aladdin's Genie, to celebrate the late Robin Williams.

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Next up was one of the big concerts for the weekend, "Frozen FANdemonium: A Musical Celebration!"

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Hosted by Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, the hit songwriting team/couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez took us through their journey in creating the music and songs from the blockbuster "Frozen."

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Not only singing the familiar songs from the movie, they also performed some songs that did not make the cut such as "Take Off All Your Clothes and Rub Yourself With Snow," and "Someone Else's Shoes" (featuring such masterful lyrics as "his feet smell like reindeer poop/your feet smell like tomato soup.")

[Fun Fact: All the male trolls are sung by cast members of "Book of Mormon," and all the female ones are sung by cast members of "Kinky Boots."]

Then the original cast of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" assembled, with Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez joined by Kristen Bell!

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After Bell sang a couple of numbers, including the cut song "More Than Just the Spare," our second surprise guest, Josh Gad, took the stage for "In Summer."

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At this point, Montan noted that there was one other song to the score, and as they all feigned pondering what it was, Lopez played a few bars of "Frozen Heart," which Anderson-Lopez termed "everyone's favorite song about ice cutting."

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A rousing singalong to "Let It Go" ensued, as the panel's entire cast was joined onstage by "Frozen" filmmakers Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Executive Producer Peter Del Vecho, and John Lasseter.

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As all good Disney finales do, it ended with a burst of confetti and thunderous applause from the audience, which also included "Once Upon A Time" stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, and Lana Parilla.


Video by MouseInfo.

Finally, we come to my very last presentation for D23 Expo 2015: "Celebrating Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club - 60 Magical yEARS."

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Author Lorraine Santoli moderated a panel of some of the original Mousketeers: Sherry Alberoni, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Tommy Cole, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O'Brien, and Doreen Tracey. Together they reminisced about the process of filming the classic series, and the people involved with it.

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Prior to the start, I think I was unsure whether I was really going to connect with the presentation, given that (as old as I am,) I wasn't around to see the original series when it first aired. Ultimately, however, it was utterly charming. All the cast members were so full of enthusiasm for being together and going over old times, and so ready to perform at the drop of a hat, as they must have been back in the day, and had such fond memories of their time on the show, that it was impossible not to see how they mesmerized people with their good-hearted joie de vivre on the 1955 show.

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Each of them in turn got up and did a number with their old selves on screen which was simply swell. I encourage everyone to watch the full video of the panel because it's amazing that 60 years later they can match the energy, if not always the movements, of their original performance.

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Afterwards, they spoke a bit on some of the various serials that were introduced on the show; they eventually got to the popular "Spin and Marty," at which time Tim Considine and David Stollery took the stage to share their memories.

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As part of a tribute to some of the old cast no longer with us, Tommy Cole sang Jimmy Dodd's song "Annette."

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After the traditional ending of the Mickey Mouse Club, Director of the Walt Disney Archives Becky Cline surprised all the original Mouseketeers with a special presentation by Leonard Maltin. Original "Mousecars" that Walt had made up for special intra-company awards and never given away had been found and were presented to each person on the panel.

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In return, the Mouseketeers surprised Leonard Maltin for all his work in keeping alive the memory of The Mickey Mouse Club by making him an Honorary Mouseketeer.

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In a time where every child star seems to have about three good years before they burn out in some horrific and publicly reprehensible fashion, it is such a relief to feel that this group was exactly as they seemed on camera or off--happy kids working hard and having a blast in an environment that had been tailored to keep them that way, who continue to have nothing but fond memories of one of the greatest periods of their lives.

"Till we're old and grey, we won't forget the day of the Mouseketeer Matinée!"


Video by Laughing Place

Thoughts on the Expo:
The Good:
--I felt like this year's Expo had more programming and more interesting booths than the last one. Although none of the individual booths matched the breadth and scope of the 2013 Imagineering/Parks and Resorts booth, the addition of Pixar to the Studios/Animation area really punched them up as far as talks/demos/signings.
--The Archives Exhibit benefited greatly by being on the floor this year, instead of relegated to upstairs in one of the ballrooms. Not only did it make it stand out a lot more, but the openness of it made it possible for people to get at least a look at the contents if they weren't able to stand the hours-long line that it typically had.
--The Charter Lounge which, in the past, has been pretty anemic, had much improved offerings this year, including complementary coffee and popcorn. It may not seem like much, but when you haven't had time to break for food all day, free popcorn that you don't have to line up for can make all the mood difference in the world.
--The mobile app was terrific. If you go to a bunch of conventions, you've noticed a growing trend towards using mobile apps for schedules and maps, etc. versus having to cart around a large, heavy booklet that is often outdated by the time the convention actually takes place. Previously, most of the apps were pretty unhelpful, with a non-intuitive interface, but this year everyone seems to have finally figured them out--both SDCC and Expo's apps were incredibly effective, to the point that I never needed a physical schedule for either one at all. Listings were updated when StagePasses were out for a given panel, and alerts were sounded when something timely was happening, like trading card releases. It was a huge asset.
--The cosplay was really impressive this time around. Out of all the conventions I've attended this year, the Expo cosplay in general looked way more detailed and elaborate than any of the others.

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The Bad:
--Lines still are and probably always will be the bane of convention-going. While I think everyone realizes and accepts that there will be some line-waiting, I dislike the growing movement towards making it impossible to see popular panels if you're not either willing to pony up a huge amount of dough, or wait out on the sidewalks with the roaches and the hobos the whole night before.
--In the Blair Witch-esque basement housing the big Hall D23 lines, there were a lot of monitors showing promotional videos for people waiting down there for hours. Why couldn't they simulcast the Hall panels in there, for the people in overflow who couldn't make it in?
--Similarly, everyone also understands that there is so much programming no one person can see it all...but it was disappointing that so much of the major content was programmed against each other (likely to make people choose and cut down on lines.) It often seemed as though there would be around three or four different panels that sounded fantastic at the same time, and then a couple of hours where there was relatively little happening--in particular, Friday and Saturday seemed overflowing with presentations, and in comparison, Sunday seemed kind of lean.
--Time also feels particularly crunched since Expo cut back from four days to three days. Adding back that fourth day would really help on spacing out talks so people could see more of them. Alternately, Disneyana structures their convention so that talks happen on the first few days, and then the last day is solely for the sales floor. If they can't extend the panel schedule to a fourth day, maybe they could run an extra day just for the floor, so that people could have more time to see the offerings down there without worrying about leaving to go stand in lines elsewhere.
--There's still a lot of miscommunication on things like where and when lines are supposed to form, passes are to be given out, etc. On the first day, it's fairly understandable, but after that there really should be a structure of how volunteers and convention workers can find out the answers to questions in place.
--Lack of evening content. The first Expo, they ran movies with filmmaker intros way into the night. The second one, they had the big Richard Sherman/Alan Menken concert in the evening. This year there really wasn't anything past about 7pm. That, and the lack of a big finale event, gave it a little bit of an unfinished feeling which might have been ameliorated by putting either the "FANdemonium" or "The Originals" in the Saturday night slot.

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The Ugly:
--Shopping was probably the number one least pleasant experience I had at Expo. The lines were amazingly long--often hours long--and I personally did not find the StorePass useful at all. In the first place, you had to be in line for StorePass right around 9am, because the line was usually cut before 9:30am (making it virtually unobtainable for general admission ticket holders, who couldn't enter until 10am.) The one time I did get in line around 9am, we were marched over to the pass desk and then...nothing. I finally asked when they were going to hand out the passes, and they said they weren't going to start until 10am, which meant that you were looking at an hour's wait for the pass on top of whatever wait you were going to find when you returned.
--[Side Note: This was the first Expo I attended with a Media pass, and while there's no denying it allowed me to see more than I would have seen without it, the shopping restrictions were pretty impressive. We were initially told we (holders of "non-revenue passes") could not enter the stores during convention hours, but could come in for an hour after the floor closed. When I returned to Mickey's of Glendale, they said they had changed their minds and were only letting cast members purchase things then, but I could come back during the next day. When I came back the next day, they said again, that we could only enter that evening. When I pointed out that I had and was denied, they replied that they had seen media inside the store. When I said that could very well be true, but it wasn't me, they shrugged and started to leave. When I asked if there was someone I could ask who might know definitively, they said "no. Sorry, we're busy."
To their credit, they were always very polite, and a different store worker did let me in at the very end of the Expo, but they clearly neither needed nor were particularly concerned about getting your money if you did not have a paid ticket.]
--Trading Cards. I didn't really participate in this, but I understand a lot of people enjoyed collecting them, which is great. On occasion, however, they would issue alerts through the app that a special card was being handed out at a certain time, and then you saw a mob scene like people were trying to get on the last copter out of 'Nam. I guess it's to their credit that they developed something that people embraced with such enthusiasm, but wow, they maybe need to put some more people out there regulating it because it was just luck it didn't all end in bloodshed.
--Size of Archive Stage. While I thought they did a much better job this year getting larger capacity rooms for the popular panels, the Archive Stage, in my eyes, was way too small. Expo is a celebration of the Disney Company in all its myriad facets, and one of the most important is its history. To relegate some of the fantastic presentations they had to such a tiny area is to really limit their exposure in a completely unnecessary manner. I saw almost none of them, partially because it didn't seem worth the time investment to go all the way over there for such a small chance of getting in. For a club with a fanbase so interested in every aspect of Walt Disney and his company, D23 probably should be able to have faith that they can execute this level of historical programming and have a good sized crowd show up.

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All in all, however, it was a grand Expo--probably the best since the first one. Although some might find the emphasis on Disney's recent acquisitions Star Wars and Marvel a dilution of the Disney content, I think there's no denying the increase in energy and star power the two properties bring to occasions like this. They haven't formally announced the next one, which I find a little worrisome, given that they usually say something about it at the end of the current one, but here's hoping we all reconvene in two years time, to continue celebrating the fantastical company Walt built, along with all its wondrous creations.

"Fun and wonder are the important elements, in addition to quality in production and performance, which are most responsible for the success of Disney productions.” -Walt Disney

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September 5, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: Disney Store and Disney Interactive

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Last day of the Expo! One more turn around the floor before the crowds hit.

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

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Over in the Disney Consumer Products Pavilion, new merchandise, some of which I've only seen at the Disney Stores in Japan, was displayed with a heavy Tsum Tsum emphasis.

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The Pixar section of the Walt Disney Studios booth had an exhibit of concept art and sculpts from their latest film "Inside Out."

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Also in the WDS booth was a small area set up for animators to give talks and demos throughout the day. It was a huge disappointment that I never was able to get over there while they were going on, because their schedule sounded fantastic.

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Photo ops abounded, from the spacepod in "Guardians of the Galaxy"

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...to Baymax, in San Fransokyo.

At this point, I had wanted to try to get into the Disney Store booth, because I have a minor Tsum Tsum problem (I can stop anytime I want! You don't know me! You're not my real Mom!) Bearing in mind that this was the only booth I wasn't able to ever get into last Expo, I headed over just as the floor opened to Gold/Silver members. What I found was this line--which didn't look that bad.
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...Except those were actually the people with the Sorcerer's package, some of whom had been waiting something like an hour or so for the store to open. On the other side of the walkway, there was a corral probably 2-3x larger, that had another hour or two worth of line already in it, waiting to go in after the Sorcerers.

So it didn't happen. I did eventually get to walk in and look around, but I had to promise not to buy anything.

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The tree in the center was designed to show the dualism of the limited edition Hero/Villain Disney Fairytale Designer doll pairs, with Happily Ever After on top, and Happily Evil on the bottom.
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There were Star Wars action figures, of which the C3P0 and R2D2 were exclusive to Expo shoppers.

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At least the Peter Pan and Captain Hook dolls looked like they were fighting. The girls all just looked like they were pretty much snuggling up to their villains, which was particularly disturbing for Elsa and Hans.

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So close, and yet so far. The cast member I spoke with thought that the goat was Expo exclusive.

At this point, by the time I stopped sobbing, it was time to go up and try to see some panels. By and large, the morning panels were almost always partially empty, likely due to the fact that a lot of people were still outside waiting to get let in.

There were actually a ton of panels I wanted to see at the same time, and yet I also was going to have to leave early to get checked in to the Hall D23 panel right after, so I basically ran along the second floor, popping in and out of each panel that was going on in the time I had.

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Disney Artist and Historian Stacia Martin did her usual charming job with "Sounds Delightful: Disneyland Edition," in which she played seldom heard vinyl recordings associated with Disneyland to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

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Down the hallway, "Disney Kingdoms" was doing an expanded version of their panel from SDCC (which I wrote about here) with writer Jim Zub, Josh Shipley and Thomas Morris from Disney, and Bill Rosemann and David Gabriel from Marvel.

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Next up was "It's Game Time: Disney Interactive Takes the Stage."

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Jimmy Pitaro, Co-Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media and President of Disney Interactive, started off the presentation with "Kingdom Hearts III."

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Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto (Kingdom Hearts Executive Producer) took the stage to make some special announcements, the first of which was that "Kingdom Hearts III" will have a world based on "Big Hero 6."


Video by Kingdom Hearts

Projected plotline involves the Powers of Darkness taking control of the original Baymax left in the portal.

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The presentation ended, with the appearance onstage of Baymax!

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Mobile gaming was up next, with the announcement of a new game, "Disney Magic Kingdoms."

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Disney Interactive's Scott Humphries and Executive Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering Tom Morris introduced the game, which will allow players to create their own version of Disneyland, complete with castle and iconic attractions, while overcoming evil plots carried out by Disney's classic villains.


Video by theroarbots.

The "Playmation" system was presented by Afsoun Yazdian, director of product management for Playmation.

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Billed as "physical play for a digital generation," the system includes wearable gear that can interact with a toy base, other player's gear, and a mobile app to send you on missions with the Avengers as Iron Man or the Hulk.


Video by Playmation

Bandai's Denny Chiu showed off "Star Wars Battle Pod," a new arcade game with a 180 degree dome screen that puts you into some of the most iconic battles of the Star Wars films.

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[I was actually able to play this at the Disney Interactive booth--it was an impressive action simulator, and the wrap around experience looked and sounded great. I'm pretty sure I failed the mission however, so the Force may actually be not that strong with me.]


Video by Bandai

On to "Star Wars: Battlefront" with EA Star Wars GM Justin McCully.

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[I previously blogged about this game here]

Special limited edition PS4 bundles inspired by Darth Vader will be available for both "Battlefront" and "Disney Infinity" November 17.

To finish off the panel, John Blackburn, SVP/GM for Disney Infinity, and John Vignocchi, VP of Production, took the stage to present "Disney Infinity 3.0."

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Among other things, they debuted the new trailer for the "Twilight of the Republic" playset that comes with the 3.0 Starter Pack.

The next in the Star Wars trilogy of playsets will be "Rise Against the Empire," featuring the cast of Episodes IV-VI, which will release September 29, 2015 (PS3 and PS4 owners can get it now.)

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The new Marvel playset in the works is "Marvel Battlegrounds," and will be the first to have four-person simultaneous play. Any Marvel characters will be playable with it, including the newly-introduced Hulkbuster and Ultron, and it will have an original story and unique gameplay.

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New characters to "Disney Infinity" are Peter Pan, Olaf, Mulan, Mickey, Minnie, Sam and Quorra from "Tron Legacy," Spot from "The Good Dinosaur," and Judy and Nick from "Zootopia."

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Sora's keyblade will be the Ultimate Unlock for 3.0, joining Luke's lightsaber and landspeeder as a playable object earned when the player owns and levels up every Disney Infinity character. Everyone in the audience also received an Expo-exclusive power disc that gave Mickey the King Mickey outfit from Kingdom Hearts.

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Finally, to end the panel, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega took the stage to introduce their figurines (which they voiced) for the third of the Star Wars playsets, "The Force Awakens."

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...And that was just the morning! Next time we'll revisit the last afternoon, and sum up.


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 19, 2013

D23 Expo 2013: Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends

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So the other week, Disney had its third biennial Expo. Perhaps you've heard of it by now? Oh...

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Well I had a great time anyway. The first day I started off checking out the various pavilions on the Exhibitor's Floor. The big hit for this year, as for all the other years, was the Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion.

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To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Imagineering, the booth was made up to suggest the actual building that houses Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale.

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Inside, the pavilion was separated into various "cubicles," each of which spotlighted a specific area of Imagineering and housed Imagineers ready to discuss their work...mostly. There were displays up front representing work being done on both the Avatar and Star Wars franchises, but no news was particularly forthcoming about either.

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Some of the most amazing sights were not available for photographs, particularly the Art Library section which housed the original Herb Ryman sketch of Disneyland, and the Peter Ellenshaw painting of Disneyland, publicly shown under black light for the first time.

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Another exceptional feature was the handful of original concept models for attractions that were never built. Attractions such as the fabled Western River Expedition for WDW's Magic Kingdom...

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...and the abandoned original Land pavilion from when it was still to have been sponsored by a lumber company.

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There was one booth playtesting an interactive adventure called "Adventure Trading Company."

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The idea was that you would complete various quests/adventures ($5 each,) and on completion would receive a "juju." The first one was free, and involved you having to make up a name for yourself and tell your story to the Adventurer in the booth.

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Subsequently, some days after the Expo, I received a survey asking a lot of questions about the playtest, so presumably they are actually considering implementing this in the parks.

In one office labeled "Dimensional Design," you might have found items as old as the Carrara marble Snow White and Seven Dwarves statues from Disneyland's wishing well...

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...and then turned around outside of it to find something as new as one of Disney's latest additions to its costumed fold.

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Over in Show Animation, they had an impressively gesticulating Hatbox Ghost, along with a variety of other retired animatronics, such as the smoldering Iago and Tiki Goddess Uh-Oah, from Under New Management.

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Set Decoration had an abundance of decor samples from Hong Kong Disneyland's new Mystic Manor attraction...

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...and there were a jillion more areas with fascinating tidbits everywhere, if you didn't want to see anything else at the Expo. "Had we but world enough, and time..." Ah well.

Just outside the pavilion Mickey's of Glendale had their shop set up with enormous lines, just like every time I've visited the actual Mickey's of Glendale! The truth is in the details.

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Speaking of shopping, the one booth that I was never able to get into because of the long lines, was, oddly enough, the Disney Store booth.

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Disney Interactive was out in force, promoting the newly release Disney Infinity with many of the same photo-ops and giveaway machines they featured at E3.

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Disney Consumer Products had a large number of displays showing off all the different branches of merchandise they develop. Some new friends...

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...And some old ones.

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Walking/working the floor were a number of Disney notables, such as Chief Archivist Becky Cline...

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...Head of D23, Steven Clark...

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...And Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and CEO.

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(Side note: I was trying to be all cool and unobtrusive taking this photo, and one of the security guys basically laughed at me. I would make a bad spy.)

Again, there were a boatload of other pavilions, both by Disney and by outside vendors, but there just wasn't time enough to see everything in the detail you'd like as well as see the talks and panels. Each booth also usually had schedules of celebrity/artist/writer signings and giveaways if you didn't already have enough events to coordinate for the weekend.

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By the way, does this booth look familiar to you? It should if you were following The Optimist--a alternate reality game Disney implemented in the weeks leading up to Expo (http://optimist.disney.com/) It was very fun and well implemented, with an elaborate climax over in Disneyland.

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But on to the panels! The first day, I spent the bulk of the day in the entertaining but very long Art and Imagination: Animation at the Walt Disney Studios. Here, they went over most of the new movies in production from Pixar, Disneytoon, and Walt Disney Animation. While a lot of familiar players were featured here, such as Finding Dory and Planes, a standout surprise for me was Big Hero 6--a story of a robotics prodigy who, with his robot pal, joins forces with other crime-fighters to combat a threat to their town of San Fransokyo.

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Their powerhouse however, was Frozen--they showed several clips from it, including a song from Olaf the snowman, and ended the presentation with Idina Menzel singing the movie's showstopper "Let It Go." Sadly, no photos or video were allowed.

Hosted by John Lasseter, it was an amusing presentation but it ran over by almost two hours, insuring that anyone staying to the end missed Tony Baxter's Undiscovered Disneyland talk (Gah!) in which it was announced that he would be awarded his own window on Main Street this Fall. Congratulations Mr. Baxter!

The next talk I made it to was Disney Imagineering Legend Marty Sklar Presents...Dream it! Do it!

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Honestly? I've heard Sklar speak on a number of occasions, and this, quite frankly, wasn't his best. He started off saying that they had asked him to speak and he had responded that everything was in his new book. It seemed like a joke at the time, but the rest of his talk was such an amalgamation of material from talks he's given before, that perhaps it wasn't. The bulk of his presentation was video clips that either have been presented multiple times in the past, or are readily available on DVD, and a retelling of Walt's Four C's, and Mickey's Ten Commandments. It seemed like a talk more suited for company training programs than Disney enthusiasts.

The last event I saw for the first day was Broadway & Beyond...Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway.

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Hosted by Thomas Schumacher, President/Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, this was a rousing romp through the musical catalogs of all the many productions Disney has had on Broadway. The cast was made up of Heidi Blickenstaff (The Little Mermaid,) Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast,) Merle Dandridge (Tarzan and Aida,) Josh Strickland (Tarzan,) and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King.)

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This was a great concert, with really strong performers doing both lesser-known songs, and songs they themselves performed in the shows. Josh Strickland in particular showed off his versatility, singing parts as varied as Tarzan, Quasimodo, and one of Ariel's sisters.

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And that was only the first day! Phew!

The second day started off for me with Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios. Again, no cameras were allowed.

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Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the session that went over the lengthy docket of films currently in production. As expected, no big news on Star Wars VII was released, but then Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, got the party started with his presentations including clips and star appearances from Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

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President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey then introduced footage and stars (both in person and by remote,) of a variety of films such as Muppets Most Wanted, Into the Woods, Cinderella, and Maleficent.

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He finished with the two films that have arguably been getting the most attention in the fan circuits the last few months: Tomorrowland, and Saving Mr. Banks. For Tomorrowland, filmmakers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof came out and displayed the enigmatic "dusty old box" they brought in lieu of the film's star George Clooney, and showed some curious animation they claimed to have discovered, promoting the mysterious organization hinted at in The Optimist (remember when I spoke of that game earlier? CALL BACK, friends.)

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They also announced that a booth dedicated to the mysteries of the box would be unveiled out on the Exhibitor's floor later that day, and that limited edition Tomorrowland t-shirts (worn by Brad Bird in the photo) would be on sale at the Dream Store.

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Saving Mr. Banks showed us additional footage which added a few minutes onto the trailers already online, and brought out Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak who play Richard and Robert Sherman in the film.

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The whole thing ended in a grand finale as Richard Sherman came out and sang "Let's Go Fly A Kite" with them, while confetti and kites whirled about the audience.

After that was over, I sprinted upstairs to catch ABC's Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale panel with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Laura already wrote about that in a much more timelier fashion than I, so I'll just say while the footage from Wonderland didn't impress me quite as much as Once Upon A Time, I'll certainly be watching as well.

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After that, it was a mad sprint back to the Arena, where the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony was already in progress. Fortunately I got there in time to see the first award recipient, Tony Baxter.

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All the acceptance speeches were very nice, particularly Glen Keane who looked back fondly on his start at Disney Animation, where he was met with the creative incense of "pencil shavings, cigarettes, and scotch."

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After that, it was a pretty short walk out the door of the Arena to the line to get back in again, a mere 2 1/2 hours in advance of the big Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook concert. In case you want to know how I spent that time, I'll just leave this here: http://storify.com/JustJeanine/d23-expo-in-line-for-the-sherman-menken-concert

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Anyway, it was a great concert, although not exactly as they had represented it in the phone interview (transcribed, in part, by me here: http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2013/08/menken_and_sherman_q_a_togethe.html) While it was supposed to be 1/3 Sherman, 1/3 Menken, and 1/3 both of them, they each played the bulk of the individual concerts they've given in the past, causing the show to run overtime.

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(As a surprise to Richard Sherman, Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak returned to the stage to sing a number with him.)

Consequently, the part where they were together was whittled down to one song from each of them while they were both on stage as a curtain call. Ah well--more for next time.

Finally, we arrived at the third and final day, which was largely going to be taken up by a series of panels celebrating Imagineering's 60th anniversary.

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The first discussion, called WDI 60th: Working With Walt, celebrated the early days of Imagineering, with Marty Sklar, X Atencio, Alice Davis, and Bob Gurr.

Subsequently, I saw WDW 60th: Craft of Creativity with Chris Montan, Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, Daniel Jue, Joe Lanzisero, Kathy Mangum, and Joe Rohde. This was an interesting discussion that largely revolved around how they all became Imagineers, and how what they do compares to the popular conceptions of Imagineering.

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Next up was WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy, with WDI Chief Creative Executive Bruce Vaughn, and former WDI Executive Marty Sklar.

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The two spoke on and answered questions about the challenges and satisfactions inherent in leading a team of creatives.

Finally, the last panel of the weekend for me was WDI 60th: Leave 'em Laughing. This was a discussion on humor in the parks with Imagineers Dave Fisher, Joe Lanzisero, Kevin Rafferty, Jason Surrell, and George Scribner.

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It was a nice way to wrap up the weekend, with some good humor to soften the post-Expo dejection.

In between the panels I finally got around to seeing the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives--an exhibit I totally missed last Expo, not knowing that it closes early on the last day.

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The objects on display were all impressive and attractive, although I would have liked to see more historical items in lieu of the artifacts from Disney's more contemporary franchises. Loved the Once Upon A Time stuff, nonetheless.

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Perhaps in expectation of Saving Mr. Banks coming out soon, there was a heavy emphasis on Mary Poppins in the form of costumes, storyboards, art and props.

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In the last hour or so, I was able to take one more turn around the Exhibitor's floor to see anything I might have missed before, such as the pirate ship from Once Upon A Time that was last seen at Comic-Con.

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Finally, I was also able to check out the Tomorrowland booth which had an enormous line, complete with FastPass. As it turned out, the line was to borrow an iPad for the audio tour so I was able to skip it as I had already downloaded the app to my own.

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Although they prohibited any photography in the booth, most of the papers and arcane items on display from the "mystery box" can be seen with descriptions in the Tomorrowland app from iTunes. It was a very professionally put-together exhibit that alluded to mysterious activities and futuristic discoveries made by a secret society whose members included Jules Verne, Nicholas Testa, and perhaps...Walt Disney? We'll have to wait for the movie to find out.

SO, that was the D23 2013 Expo. My thoughts, in summary:

The Good: I felt the content this year was really stepped up from last year. Year One Expo still feels like it had the most material of the three, but as that was prior to the start of the Destination D series, probably understandable. The increase in room size was a huge improvement over all past years--I had initially had no expectations of getting into even 50% of the Imagineering panels on Sunday, and yet I don't think anyone was turned away from any of them. The Parks and Resorts booth was remarkable in all the detail and gawk-worthy items and the concerts both nights were exceptional experiences that would be worth a trip even as stand-alone events.

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The Legends ceremony and the panels with the original Imagineers were really the main reasons to attend this Expo, however--with the emphasis on looking back over the history of the company, the opportunity to see and hear from the people instrumental in building and continuing the Disney Legacy is something you can't get from many other venues.

The Bad: While the lines have improved, they continue to be something of an issue, primarily in the morning. I heard frequent complaints that there were insufficient people available to scan badges and that morning talks were going half-full because people couldn't get inside the hall fast enough to get to them. Lines for shopping were much longer than I remembered from past years, despite the fairly limited amount of Expo-specific merchandise that I saw.

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I also think the topics of some of the talks could be beefed up. The speakers were great, but sometimes they either spoke really generally, or reiterated already widely-known anecdotes. Speaking just for me, I'm not so much interested in the streamlining of business communication, but in the specific history of Walt Disney and his company. I don't want to hear that you shouldn't crush your co-workers ideas, as much as I want to know, say, about the time you had lunch in the commissary the day before Disneyland opened. What did everyone say? What did they feel? Were they funny? Did they have nerves? What did they think were going to happen? These are things only the people who were there will know, and everything they don't tell us will be lost to time.

My main complaint would be one of time. The first Expo was four days and I think going back to that would really help alleviate some of the hysteria involved in trying to crush seeing everything in between overlapping panels. Unfortunately, the response to feedback like this usually tends to involve cutting the amount of presented material--NO. Less content is NOT desirable. Too much is better than too little, but more time to see everything would be best.

The Hmm...: The highlighted issue of this year seemed to be the "no new announcements" one. Prior to Expo, it was generally announced that there would be nothing new/exciting announced for the parks this year. During Expo, it became clear that there would, in fact, be no new announcements. Subsequent to Expo, there was loud hue and cry from some areas that the whole thing was a waste of time, because there were no new announcements.

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Putting aside the question of why you would enter into an event expecting something you had explicitly been told not to expect, it's hard for me to imagine a Disney fan that couldn't find something of interest here. If you like the contemporary stuff, Disney Channel and Disney Interactive, along with ABC and the Studios all exhibited current projects and programs. Stars? Billy Crystal, Angelina Jolie, Chris Evans, Anthony Hopkins and more were in attendance. If you're a fan of the history of the company, Tony Baxter, Alice Davis and a plethora of other Legends had you covered. If you just like the music, there were concerts and panels by Randy Thornton and Stacia Martin. If you primarily follow the parks, there were exhibits and Imagineers available to answer questions on almost every facet of attraction development. If your entire interest in the Disney company boils down to only caring about new developments for the parks and resorts...well, that is some impressive specialization, and no, this probably wasn't for you.

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Having said that, I guess the next question would be, "well, why aren't they announcing anything?" The pat answer would be that they simply didn't have anything to announce, however we've seen in the past that that is often not the case. The company has had huge releases in the past, sometimes in the next few weeks after the Expo, and it just seems as though they might be able to schedule it a little better. Just this last weekend saw Disney Infinity appear in stores and online for purchase--doesn't it seem as though making this available during Expo would have generated some sales? Obviously there must be creative and legal reasons for why a given thing might not be ready for announcement but on the other hand, you do have two years to make your arrangements. While I certainly don't think the presence or absence of startling news at each Expo is a make-or-break issue, the times when it looks like the news is passing the Expo by, makes it look like more of an after-thought to the company when it really should be a vital way for it to celebrate its past and display its vision for the future.

Quibbles aside, I thought this was a fantastic event, particularly for fans of the history of the Disney Company, that was a vast improvement over the last Expo--I look forward with expectations of an even better one in 2015!

August 18, 2013

D23 Expo 2013 - Cosplay

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The D23 Expo encourages guests to come in costume and one of the fun things to do is wander around and see all the people who dress up. There is a lot of creativity and artistry involved in those costume - you don't see people dressed in costumes they bought at a costume shop!

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By the way - thank you to everyone who allowed us to take their photo!

This year for the first time the D23 Expo held a costume contest: Heroes and Villains a la Mode. Guests were competing for one of five Edna Mode (The Incredibles' costume designer) trophies. There were five categories: Best Craftsmanship, Best Re-creation, Original Design, Best Young Fan, and Best in Show.

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On Friday morning contestants could sign up for the costume, and there was some pre-judging done, because only 40 entries made it to the final costume contest on Friday afternoon. (This was held in Stage 23, and there was PLENTY of room - lots of empty seats.) A number of people who didn't make the final cut were in the audience...and there were some pretty incredible costumes that were left out!

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The judges were Mona May, costumer designer for "Enchanted", Jai Rodriguez, from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", and Devon Odessa, from "My So-Called Life". The contestants came out from backstage where they posed behind this shadow screen, then came out and took a turn on the runway before going over to let the judges have a better look.

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Mona May is a costumer designer, so she was especially interested in seeing the costumes up close. She asked lots of questions about the costumes and made some very complimentary remarks. One of the best moments was seeing the two people who came out dressed as Giselle and Prince Edward - costumes that Mona had originally designed. They didn't know that Mona would be one of the judges, and she seemed impressed by their re-creation of her design. (They eventually won the Best Craftsmanship award.)

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After all the contestants had come out the judges had to leave to deliberate, and that left the host with time to fill, and apparently no one had considered what to do with that. Some of the other costumed people came up on stage and that helped fill in some of the time.

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When the judges came back all of the contestants came out and we got a final look at them. There were some really great costumes - I was very impressed by the Hat Box Ghost (and amazed that it didn't win anything).

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Lee has put together a video of the Costume Contest, below I have some additional still photos that Lee or I took.

I was surprised this didn't win for Original Design:

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And this one was really well-done:

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Very clever:

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Three generations in this group!

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All of the winners:

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Best Re-Creation (this was really gorgeous):

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See elsewhere at the Expo:

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Great use of a wheelchair!

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They have a few kinks to work out of the costume contest, but I hope it will be back - it was fun to watch. Congratulations to all of the participants - there was really some incredible creativity and craftsmanship in all of the costumes.


August 13, 2013

D23 Expo 2013 - Day 3

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You can see some additional photos and info by reading my tweets: @allearslaura

In a comment on Saturday's blog, Ilene reminded me of something I should clarify (thank you, Ilene).

I attended the D23 Expo on a regular 3-day ticket - I had the same access and privileges as any other D23 member. I was not credentialed Media for the D23 Expo - the one exception was that I attended the Sherman & Menken concert as the photographer for AllEars. For all other events and experiences I either obtained a Stage Pass or stood in line like everyone else.

Upon entering the exhibit hall on Sunday I got my Stage Pass for the Imagineering session on the DNA of Innovation - which I ended up not needing because it was only half full.

Sunday was a much less busy day than Friday and Saturday had been, at least in the various sessions. I don't think any of them filled up - I know for a fact that the two Arena presentations and all of the Imagineering sessions still had room for people to walk in. The exhibit floor was busy, but not as crowded as Saturday. I had a chance to go through the new Tomorrowland exhibit, which had opened the previous afternoon. It contains "artifacts" from the supposed "1952" box. Bizarre, and since I didn't see the Disney Studios presentation I didn't really get it.

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For some reason the first sessions started earlier on Sunday than they did the other two days - 9:30 and 10:00 instead of 10:30. If you weren't a D23 member and couldn't enter until 10:00 that made it difficult to attend them that day.

My first session of the day was Secrets of the Lost Chords. (The room was less than 1/3 full.) "Lost Chords" are songs that were written for Disney movies, but were then dropped for one reason or another - sometimes the movie was too long, or the song no longer fit the story, or wasn't right for the actor cast to play the role. Many of them had demos recorded which the archivists have also found. I had attended a Lost Chords session four years ago at the first D23 Expo and found it very enjoyable - i wanted to see what they did this time. Last time they had a live chorus singing the songs. Since then they have taken some of the music and have re-recorded it in a recording studio with an orchestra and professional singers. There was no chorus this time, instead, presenter Randy Thornton told us something about the pieces that he had selected, and played some of the original demo and then the new recording. We heard songs from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, The Aristocats, Peter Pan, and The Rescuers.

One of the most interesting to me was a song that was originally written for Alice in Wonderland, called "Beyond the Laughing Sky". It wasn't used in that movie, but it still had a very familiar melody - because it was re-written as "Second Star to the Right" for Peter Pan. :-)

The next set of "Lost Chords" they are working on are songs that were written for Mary Poppins. We heard the "North Pole Polka".

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The Lost Chords, both the original versions and the new, are available as digital downloads on iTunes and amazon.com - just search for "Lost Chords".

Lost Chords ended at 11:00, and I went up to the Imagineering session that started at 11:15. Walked right in - it was half full, maybe. This one was called The DNA of Innovation, and featured a panel of six Imagineers, including Disney Legend Bob Gurr, who provided some insight into "then" versus "now". Though the tools are quite different than they were 60 years ago, the creative process is largely the same. Some of the "rules" of Imagineering:

Don't hire anyone who needs to be managed.

Don't write down the rules.

Innovation is messy.

Be fearless

Be curious

Feed creativity

Encourage everyone

Celebrate spectacular failures that enable magnificent success.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in this one - it was more like a corporate leadership presentation than something of interest to Disney fans. I think they should have let Bob Gurr tell more stories. :-)

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Lee attended the day's big arena presentation by Disney Interactive that focused on video games: Fantasia: Music Evolved and Disney Infinity, the new Disney Animated application for iOS and new on-line only digital content: Blank: A Love Story and Small World. He said there was lots of enthusiasm for the presentation and he will be writing a blog post on the topic soon. (The cynic in me says that the reason most people attended was to get the Disney Infinity Sorcerer Mickey figure that will not otherwise be available until January.)

Lee, DebK and I attended the screening of the pilot for the upcoming Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think we all enjoyed it. It won't feature any of the Avengers, but is definitely a follow-on to that and makes references to the movies. Looks like there are some interesting characters. It'll air on Tuesday nights at 8:00 on ABC.

That was our final D23 event. When we left the Arena we could see one of the staff members taking up the masking tape that had been used to define the queue lines. That's a huge ball of tape, and he still had a long way to go...

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As we headed out we saw this chalk artwork on the walkway outside.

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All in all it was a pretty good weekend. I'll have another blog with more of a review and, of course, some recommendations for the NEXT Expo. :-)

Lee has posted some videos and is working on others - check out the AllEars Youtube Channel.


August 11, 2013

D23 Expo 2013 - Day 2

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Another pretty good day at D23 for me. Today was sold out, and it was a LOT busier - the show floor was quite crowded after 11:00 or so. The biggest frustration I heard was how long it took just to get into the building, though - 60-90 minutes for those who arrived in the 8:30-9:30 range (doors opened at 9:00 for D23 members).

You can see some additional photos and info by reading my tweets: @allearslaura

I had time to visit the show floor this morning just after opening when it was relatively quiet, so I could take a lot of photos. And yes, I have photos with today's blog!!!

Seems to me like there are a few more third-party exhibitors this year, like Party City, Ridemakerz, Honda, and Hallmark. I liked this jelly bean collage that the Jelly Belly people are making. :-)

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There's quite a large kid's area, with sample merchandise and photo ops from Frozen, Marvel, and Tinker Bell and the pixies, as well as Disney Jr. characters like Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sofia the First, and Doc McStuffins.

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You can even sing Ariel karaoke. :-)

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You can become a Disney Voluntear, also.

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I was intrigued by this model of Capt. Hook's pirate ship from Once Upon a Time.

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They take people inside in groups of about 10-12, where we were joined by some of the characters - like Prince Charming, Emma Swan, and Regina. We saw clips of the show from season 2 and there's a surprise gift at the end. The wait was pretty long, but I'm a big fan of the show so I enjoyed it. When I walked by later, Captain Hook was standing outside.

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I finally made it over into the Collector's Forum, where there's lots of booths of people selling Disney memorabilia and collectibles.

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There was no line for the Disney Dream store, and I took a look inside. I didn't buy anything, but this "4D" Disneyland puzzle caught my eye.

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The first sessions of the day in Stages 23 and 28 have not been full - I went to the first session in Stage 28 (the smaller room), which was called Broadcasts from Buena Vista Street. It started off with six actors performing a scripted 1920s radio broadcast, somewhat reminiscent of War of the Worlds. Turns out that this broadcast actually can be heard in Oswald's on Buena Vista Street.

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The actors were all very talented voice actors who have worked as voices of a huge variety of characters, both Disney and non-Disney. It was really interesting to hear them change voices in mid-stream, and suddenly sound like someone completely different! One of them said that it's really fun to become so many different people.

Stage 23 was just down the hall from the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit. It had no line, so I popped in. This time we were allowed to take photos as long as we didn't use a flash.

They had costumes and props from Once Upon a Time (today was my Once Upon a Time day, can't you tell?).

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Also costumes and props from Return to Oz.

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And the recent Oz the Great and Powerful.

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I liked the little China Doll.

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The next room was dedicated to Mary Poppins, with storyboards, props, and costumes. Here's the St. Paul's Cathedral snow globe featured in the song "Feed the Birds".

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Mary's Jolly Holiday costume.

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They had a few costumes from the upcoming movie "Saving Mr. Banks", which will tell the story of Walt Disney and P.L. Travers.

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I mentioned that this was my "Once Upon a Time" day - well, today that was the topic of one of the sessions I had been looking forward to. I had gotten a Stage Pass for this one, so I only had to arrive about 20 minutes before to get a pretty good seat. It wasn't completely full, but had a good-sized crowd.

At the D23 Expo two years ago I was in the audience when the creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, showed us the pilot for a new show called Once Upon a Time. It was mesmerizing and I really enjoyed it, though at the time I questioned how long they could keep the show going when the goal was to break a curse. Happily that wasn't all there was too it, and even though they resolved that they have introduced other characters and twists and turns to keep it intriguing and entertaining.

This time they showed us a 19-minute mini-pilot for the upcoming "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland". This time they're going to put their twists on the Wonderland universe (as if it isn't already twisted enough!). I didn't find this one quite as gripping, but I'll still give it a try this fall. As they told us: "Nothing is impossible in Wonderland."

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They also spoke about what we might be seeing on Once Upon a Time this season. We'll meet familiar characters like Ariel, Tinker Bell, Ursula and Eric, and we'll find out more about Peter Pan and how Hook became a pirate. We'll see flashbacks, and episode 2 will feature an old-fashioned Charming and Snow vs. the Evil Queen show.

They said that they would love to see Rapuzel and Tiana in the show, but that they won't introduce characters until they can use them correctly.

In one of their closing comments they told us how in our cynical world, this is a show for believers. You can believe that I will be watching! :-)

The session concluded at 2:00, which was when the Disney Legends ceremony was starting in the Arena. I went down to the show floor to check out the overflow viewing area. As it turned out I still could've gotten a seat in the Arena, but I decided to watch it from the overflow anyway. I was expecting this to be a standing area, but it was full of chairs, with five large video screens at the front, though only two were showing a live feed. There was hardly anyone in there...I don't know how well it worked for other more popular sessions, like the Disney Studios presentation earlier that day.

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The Legends ceremony is always very touching. This year there were 8 recipients: Tony Baxter, Colin Campbell, Ed Wynn, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Dick Clark, Glen Keane, and Steve Jobs.

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John Lasseter accepted for Steve Jobs, and got rather emotional as he spoke about him and his vision for Pixar. (Lee is working on the video of the Legends ceremony which we will be posting to AllEars' youtube channel.)

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At the end of Legends Bob Iger announced that there were would a 4th D23 Expo in 2015. That's also the year of Disneyland's 60th anniversary, so it will be interesting to see what they might bring out for that.

Tonight DebK and I saw the Evening with Richard B. Sherman and Alan Menken. They held this one in the Arena, and it was pretty close to full. They both came out together at the beginning, but then they each played a separate concert - Sherman then Menken, though they both came out together and each played one last song at the end. They have an amazing body of work...so talented! Richard Sherman told a lot of interesting stories, since he had actually worked with Walt Disney. Menken didn't talk quite as much - it seemed like he felt a little rushed.

It was a good show, but unfortunately a little bit anti-climactic because we heard a lot of the songs we heard last night at Broadway & Beyond. And, no offense to Mr. Sherman and Mr. Menken, but they aren't really singers, and the songs are much more powerful when performed by people who can sing. :-)

Not too much going on tomorrow session-wise, just a couple of things I want to see. I expect it to be a fairly quiet day.

August 10, 2013

D23 Expo 2013 - Day 1

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It's the end of day 1 of the 2013 D23 Expo, and I am very happy to report that overall it was a pretty good day. I can honestly say that I had a good time, and am far less frazzled than I have ever been after an Expo day. Not that everything is perfect, but those of you who have read my blogs on previous D23 Expos know how frustrating I've found them in the past. D23 seems to have finally learned a few things this time around and made some improvements to reduce the frustration level.

So here are a few of my observations from Day 1. Sorry that there are no photos - just no time to go through them, though I posted some to my twitter account: @allearslaura

1. There are still only three event venues: the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28, but the latter two are much larger this time - 2000 seats in Stage 23 and 850 in Stage 28. In addition there is an overflow area for the Arena that holds 2,000. (I didn't get a chance to see how that works yet.) Most of the Stage 23 sessions were not full.

2. This year they have implemented a "Stage Pass" feature. Expo guests can get a "Fastpass" type of ticket for sessions in Stage 23 and 28. This was one of my suggestions after the last Expo so I was eager to try it today, and I thought it worked quite well. Pending availability, guests can get two Stage Passes per day: one for a morning/early afternoon session and one for a late afternoon/evening session. Passes for the early sessions are available when the exhibit floor opens, passes for the later sessions become available at 12:30. There's a huge sign that tells you what passes are available, so you don't wait in line only to find that what you want is gone. At the venues, those with Stage Passes queue in a separate room and are allowed into the room first, about 15 minutes prior to the start. There can be a very long line to get the passes, though - I waited about 25 minutes to obtain my second pass of the day for the Broadway & Beyond evening session, which was quite popular (all passes were gone less than an hour after they started distributing them). But I'd much rather wait in a 25 minute line when I know I'll be able to see something, than waste time waiting in a two hour line just to get in to a room!

3. The Imagineering pavilion on the show floor seems bigger to me, and there were lots of things to see and do. There's a walk-through of some really wonderful Disney art which includes copies of the original drawings of Harper Goff's designs for a Disneyland near the Disney Studios in Burbank. And then, what I found most special, is the original pencil drawing of Disneyland by Herb Ryman. He drew it with Walt Disney looking over his shoulder - they worked on it for 42 hours. That was amazing to see. (No photos allowed in that exhibit.). There's also El Fortuno, an incredibly sophisticated audio animatronic fortune teller - but we'll have video of him. He was in the R&D section, where they had a lot of other neat "toys", too. It's also fun to talk to the Imagineers about what they do.

4. I thought that there was more to do on the exhibit floor. Most of it I didn't have a chance to get to (yet), but there's sections featuring Frozen, Planes, and Once Upon a Time, and a big Disney Interactive area. Lee and I saw a little bit of a demo of Honda's ASIMO robot. There's a lot of celebrities and special presentations at the Talent Round-Up and the Disney Channel Pavilion. Also live entertainment on the stage in the exhibit hall.

5. For the most part they have the the queue areas set up in areas that are away from the main traffic areas, which makes getting around somewhat easier. Things seem much more organized and planned this year.

6. There were a lot of guests wandering around in costume - there was a Costume Contest this afternoon which Lee and I attended. Really some amazing costumes - we'll have more photos and video coming.

7. Tonight DebK, Lee, Jason and I all attended the Broadway & Beyond event. (This was definitely a "Thank goodness for StagePass!" occasion.) It featured five very talented singers who have all performed in various Disney musicals on Broadway, singing songs from ten different Disney musicals. It was an amazing evening. As Lee said, THIS is the kind of event that makes coming to the D23 Expo worth it all - even if this was the only event we attended.

I know I've forgotten things, but I hope that gives you an idea of how it's going. It's not perfect, but it's better.

And now we'll see what Day 2 brings!

August 8, 2013

Menken and Sherman Q & A: Together Again for the First Time

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On August 6th, D23 hosted a conference call with two of Disney's preeminent songwriters, Alan Menken and Richard Sherman. During the course of the call, they answered a variety of questions concerning their music, their mutual admiration, and their upcoming joint concert "Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook" taking place on Saturday, day 2 of the D23 Expo. Here are some samples of the topics discussed.

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The first third of the call was Alan Menken, answering questions by himself.

Question: What is it about Disney music that touches people?

Menken: "For me, it's because they're tied to specific movies...they're not just songs that are slotted in randomly. (In) the Disney Songbook, each song encapsulates the experience of a different movie, a different era, a different character, and a different time in the listener's life, so I think there's something really special about them. Also, there's no cynicism in the Disney Songbook. It really is a very heartfelt, genuine storytelling that's in these songs, and I think people love that about them."

Question: What's it like to perform before rabid fans?

Menken: "It's fun, it really is fun. It's a really powerful shared experience. I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't part of a pleasant ego trip because everything I'm doing they're reacting to so exuberantly to. It's kind of great! It's great fun, really."

Question: Any fanboy nervousness, performing with Richard Sherman?

Menken: "No, not really. Dick is such a nice man. He's been an extraordinary supportive presence in my life since I first came over to Disney. It's a relationship that he could have felt insecure, competitive but he didn't. He just was welcoming and generous and warm so I consider Richard Sherman to be a dear friend and I (am) really looking forward to the two of us entertaining people, and then we're going to sit down together and get interviewed together...I have no idea what it will be like, but I presume we're going to have a lot of fun."

In the second third of the call, Richard Sherman joined in and answered questions with Menken.

Question: Was it difficult to pinpoint songs for the concert? What will you be doing?

Sherman: "Do you want to take that first, Alan?"

Menken: "It's always a challenge to pick out just the right material for an audience, and we did have some requests from our hosts (at least I did,) and the way the structure...made it somewhat easy to decide on songs. Maybe the biggest challenge was which of the unknown songs or cut songs do I want to put in, and how do I want to contextualize so it becomes interesting for the audience."

Sherman: "Well the same thing for me, I think. You know, we have so many to choose from, you try to select and we try to do a potpourri, not a complete run-down of every single thing from a film, but just sort of a sampling of various things over the years that I did. So it was kind of a fun thing like looking at all my children and seeing which one I'll take on an outing."

Menken: "Exactly. I could not agree more...We're just going to be at the piano playing and turning and talking to the audience and just..."

Sherman: "We'll be our own accompaniment, so to speak. I'll take a turn, and Alan will take a turn, and then we're going to do a kind of special thing, we're going to get together and compare a little bit of our histories, and favorite pieces, our most endearing pieces to us personally, and it'll be kind of a fun thing, you know."

Menken: "And a little peek at some of our non-Disney things too."

Sherman: "Exactly. We'll touch on a couple of things that put us in the position to work at Disney."

Question: What is your favorite song of each others?

Sherman: "Oh, that's interesting. Alan has written so many gorgeous, gorgeous songs...He's a great melody writer, a wonderful harmony...there's so many..."

Menken: "There's so many. I mean, you have Jungle Book coming up and there are some songs in there that are just amazing. Let me think..."

Sherman: "I don't want to pick just one. There's so many..."

Menken: "You know, you look at Supercalifragilistic, and that's so known--so well known, but that's really...there couldn't be an Under the Sea without.Supercalifragilistic. And it's the combination of the exuberance, the rhythm, the cleverness of the lyric, and the catchyness of it...It just gets into your system."

Sherman: "An explosion of emotion."

Menken: "And it set the standard, it set the bar for what Howard and I did."

Sherman: "Thank you so much. I mean, you and Howard particularly wrote so many incredibly gorgeous songs...But one of the songs gets to me more than...I like so many, but I fell in love with Suddenly Seymour, which you wrote for a show way way back before I knew you and everything. It's such a passionate song, a wonderful explosion of emotion. And then I think Part of Your World--gets to me. It really just does. I just love that song. So there's really so many that he's written, if you try to pick one, it's impossible."

Menken: "It's a 'pick one out of a hat' kind of thing."

Sherman: "You know something? We're both fans of each other and it makes it kind of fun."

Menken: "Yeah, as songwriters, we're fans of the fact that we each have a...Richard has a unique voice that's in common with his work, and he comes through in his work, and I think I come through in my work, and I think that really--each song is just a manifestation of that voice."

Sherman: "Yeah, the feel we have about life, about people, and about music and about what we're trying to say with our gifts. Because you don't take too many big deep bows for a gift. You're just gifted with that, and it's what you do with it, that's important."

Menken: "Absolutely."

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The third and last segment of the call was Richard Sherman by himself.

Question: How do you do that, over and over, making songs that can stick in people's heads?

Sherman: "Well you know, it's a funny thing, but I come from a musical family and my father was a very successful songwriter back in the 30's and 20's and 40's. His name was Al Sherman, and my Dad wrote very catchy tunes. And I used to listen to all his songs--I loved the way he wrote melodies, that they really grabbed hold of you and they were very definitely something you could take with you. And that was one of the things that I...Fortunately I had musical talent, so I could pick that up, and so I always tried to write something that's fresh and original, and yet very catchy and something that's easily accessible. And so basically, I'm not trying to be 'look how brilliant I am,' I'm trying to be 'look how much fun I am.' There's a difference. And I write fun songs that are kind of as original as they can possibly be, with catchphrases and little stuff. And the lyrics are very much a part of the song...If you have a very catchy idea. And so Bob and I both worked very hard to get the right lyric and the right words, so the melodies can soar."

Question: I applaud your longevity...

Sherman: "There's not much of an alternative, you know."

Question: What's your secret?

Sherman: "I have a good time. I never feel like I'm working...I was blessed...From early on, when I could finally say I made a living as a songwriter, I was always blessed with doing my hobby! My hobby was writing songs! I mean, I would have been happy to do it without getting any money for it...I love writing songs, and I love the challenge of writing different kinds of things, so it was always kind of a fun thing for me, and I guess I owe it to the fact that I have a good time at it. I mean, if I didn't, I would have retired years ago. But people want my stuff and want my opinions, and my feelings about how something's going to happen, and occasionally they want a song from me, so I'm happy to do it! Sure! And it keeps me going, I'm 85 years old, but I don't feel it--I have my health, Thank God, and I have my enthusiasm. I've always been that way."

Question: What is the main message you would like to get across to Disney fans, through this D23 Expo concert?

Sherman: "Well I think the message the Disney fans already know, but I'll just say it. There's a wonderful thing called being positive in your life, as opposed to being negative, let's say 'the upside of the coin.' Both Alan and myself have been blessed with the chore of writing things for very upbeat ideas--they're not depressing, they're not cynical--they're positive, there are strong feelings of goodwill in them. We were both blessed with that, and I think that makes a big difference. I think all the Disney fans will recognize that immediately. There's nothing cynical about our work--none of us.

"Somebody once asked me what was my biggest feeling, and the biggest, most wonderful gratification I get, is the fact that people get joy out of my work. And if that's the case, that's great. They feel good about it, they have a good time and they feel happy about it, and that is...truly my reward."

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken will be performing the Disney Songbook together on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the D23 Expo. For more information: https://d23.com/d23-expo/

September 18, 2011

Comic-Con versus Expo: You Pays Your Money and You Takes Your Choice.

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If you had a mind to attend conventions concerning Disney matters this summer, you had a plethora of choices, the two largest of which were the Big Daddy San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC,) and the Little Sister D23 Expo. Both offered a number of panels, star showings, and generous helpings of merchandise, but which one should earn a place on your calendar for next year? Well, both, if you can swing it, but barring that, here are some comparisons I noted.

Crowd management: Let's get the elephant out of the room: Both conventions involved a lot of people. A LOT of people. There is actually both good and bad to this--on the one hand, people are good when they're holding your place in line so you can make a run to the restroom, or happily cosplaying...

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...but not so good when they're knifing you in the eye with a pen (http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Comic-99180289.html) over a seat.

At the Expo, people were made to wait in pretty long lines--some people reported waiting something like two hours just to get inside the venue. Upstairs, for the panel discussions, there was usually an entire room filled with a line of people waiting to get into a room, another line of people waiting on standby to get in, and sometimes more people lined up in the hallway in hopes of something miraculously opening up after the standby line had closed. Usually you were looking at a two+ hour wait if you wanted to be reasonably sure of getting in.

This is a lot of people, certainly, but that's just peanuts compared to SDCC. In the first place, all of the tickets for all of the days at SDCC sold out about half a year earlier, compared to the Expo's one. In the second, SDCC presold parking, and most of the parking lots immediately around the San Diego Convention Center sold out pretty early, at prices over twice as much as the Anaheim Convention Center was charging. For the third, as I was walking over the first morning from the parking shuttle, a large grassy area outside the convention center was completely covered with tents providing shade for a huge line that filled the whole area. It turned out to be a line of people waiting for a presentation in the main ballroom that wasn't going to take place for around four hours later.

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You can say the Expo lines were long, because they were, but only at SDCC have I ever waited in lines so long, they extended outside the building, to the point where I was no longer even on the same side of the block as the room I was trying to enter.

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The advantage SDCC had however, was that, as a much larger event, it had way more people working to register people and many more rooms of programming available as alternate programming.

Programming: For the Disney enthusiast, it was kind of slim pickings at the SDCC this year, as Disney more or less pulled a lot of its content to save for its own convention. Don Hahn was supposed to give a talk on creativity (the same talk he later gave at Expo,) but that was cancelled. Their main representation at the Con was on the main floor, in the booths.

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Most of what they displayed was from their TV and Marvel branches, with the heaviest pushes going for the Avengers franchise and their upcoming ABC series, Pan Am.

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While there weren't a ton of Disney celebrities present, there were a few familiar faces present--such as former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Dick Cook...

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Disney Legend (and voice of Goofy,) Bill Farmer...

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And one I didn't know, Chuck McCann, the original voice of Dreamfinder.

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Meanwhile, at the Expo, all the panels were of course, Disney-related...assuming you could get in to them. Some of the highlights for me included:

Muppets, Princesses and Regis at the Legend's ceremony...

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The inestimable Alice Davis in the It's a Small World panel,

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Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix,

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Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson in The Wonderful Words of Disney...

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and 25 Years of Pixar, with Mark Andrews giving an amazing slow-motion demo of a grenade tossing action scene.

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What the Expo somewhat obviously lacked this year was significant booth presence of Marvel or the TV division (which last Expo had one room all to themselves continuously running TV pilots and doing giveaways.) Possibly they had decided they had run their media blitz earlier at Comic-Con, just as the Archives might have felt that much of their historical contents had already been done at Destination D. This may change for the next Expo, which rumor has scheduled for March, 2013, which would be at a longer interval from both Destination D and SDCC, and might allow for more duplication of content.

Cost: SDCC is typically more expensive on a baseline level--2012 badge prices are running around $150-175 for a four-day pass, and $40 for a single day. Expo, by comparison, was $85-$136 for all three days, depending on when you bought in and what your D23 status was, and $30-$47 for a single day.

Where the Expo prices took off, however, was in the additional status passes, Premiere and Sorcerer, which were $500 and $1,000 respectively. In retrospect, the additional status offerings were probably a smart move for Disney, considering the D23 audience is likely to have more disposable income than the younger SDCC audience, with less of an inclination/physical tolerance for waiting in line for hours. The question becomes: How large a percentage of the Expo population will end up having these priority passes next year? Lines this year were long with fewer obvious attempts at ameliorating them than last time, when they went to a fast-pass system by the end of the weekend--how much worse will it get next year, when arguably more people will buy into the higher tiers, having experienced life in the stand-by queue this year? At what point will they become a necessity to the Expo experience versus a nice (albeit pricey) perk? Only time will tell.

Additional costs have to include hotels as well, if you come from out of the area. While Expo seems a little new to have a huge influence on local hotel prices, beyond the ones like the Hilton Anaheim which is directly adjacent to the convention center, SDCC is a monster that consumes all the housing anywhere around it, at typically inflated rates.

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So what should a body choose? Well, if you have an interest in other areas of pop culture besides Disney, there's little like SDCC for the sheer volume of activities and groups represented. If you're only concerned with the different aspects of what's current with the different branches of the Disney company, then Expo might be for you. Only in it for the history of the Disney company? Consider the Destination D events that alternate years with the Expo.

Of course, there are always other options, including Disney fan-based gatherings, such as the Disneyana Convention...but that's for next time.

August 28, 2011

2011 D23 Expo: Lee's Thoughts on the "Headliner" Events

I had a more positive D23 experience than Laura, probably because I was only there for two days and because I attended the 'headliner' events in the Arena both days I was there. Those were the only events that had designated Press seating, so I didn't have to wait in line for hours and hours to get in. All of the events in the Arena Stage are very well-produced with a nice stage, excellent lighting and sound system and three very large projection screens. Those events also tend to be longer - the Disney Studios event was the longest at almost three hours.

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The Studios event started almost on time at 10:30, in spite of the required camera check. This was the only event at D23 this year that required this and it is understandable why Disney doesn't want images of all of the pre-release and work-in-progress footage they show put out on the Internet.

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This event was similar in format to the one they did at the first D23 Expo in 2009. The event started with a super trailer reel that highlighted the films released in the last year (or so). Then the master of ceremonies, Rich Ross, Chairman Walt Disney Studios, welcomed everyone. He then introduced, in turn, the representative for each of the studios that make up the combined Walt Disney Studios (Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Marvel) to highlight their upcoming movies.

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Typically each of the individual studio presentations started with a teaser/trailer reel. Then the studio spokesman like John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer Walt Disney and Pixar or Kevin Feige, Producer and President, Production, Marvel Studios introduced a couple key people from each of their movies (typically the Director and the Producer). These folks talked about their movie, showed never-before-seen clips from the movie and brought out a couple of stars to talk about working on the movie. If a movie is far enough in the future that they haven't started filming it yet, you may see concept art, animated storyboards or computer graphics tests.

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With that overview of the event, here are a few highlights and observations:
- John Lasseter continues to be one of the most interesting celebrities ever - he's personable, unassuming, funny, and passionate about what he does. He is also legendary for always wearing Hawaiian shirts, so early in his talk he said "I know you all want to know what shirt I have on today, it's the official Cars 2 shirt."
- It is Pixar's 25th anniversary, so Buzz and Woody rolled out a big cake. John Lasseter said that he learned in grade school to share, so he announced "cupcakes for all" and 50 staff members walked in carrying cupcakes that were passed out to everyone in attendance.
- I am not very "star struck", so the guest stars are entertaining but not the thrill for me that they are for some people (based on the amount of screaming). I do like to hear the actors talk to get some idea of what they might be like in real life. Marvel definitely won the star power competition when they brought nearly the entire cast for The Avengers out on stage.
- The Marvel films received a surprisingly strong reaction from a Disney fanatic audience - especially Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers.

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Movies that I thought looked good:
- Brave - an original fairytale by Pixar, this is also their first "period piece" (they said this is hard to do in computer graphics), and the first with a female hero.
- Planes - think Cars, but with airplanes.
- The Avengers - major superhero action.
- Wreck-It Ralph - an animated story of a video game villain who escapes his game and goes on a quest through other video games in an attempt to become a hero, done in "8-bit" animation like an old computer game.
- Monsters University - a Monsters Inc. prequel.
- Chimpanzee - this year's Earth Day Disneynature release - the story of a baby chimp that gets left behind and is adopted by an older chimpanzee.
- John Carter - based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs science fiction series. They spent quite a bit of time on this film that could be the foundation for many sequels.
- The Muppets - the Muppets reunite to save the Muppet Theater.


The Marvel Presentation

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Living in San Diego and being a frequent attendee at the San Diego ComicCon, I was momentarily confused when Marvel started their presentation with a highlight reel showing this year's Marvel panel discussions and the Marvel booth at ComicCon. However, it was a good way to get the crowd amped up and that was followed by a video taped welcome from the one-and-only Stan Lee, greeting us from the secret command post where he was busy defending us from the bad guys.

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The remainder of the session was hosted by Marvel's Creative Lead, Joe Quesada. Joe explained that he has been doing talks called "A Cup of Joe" at comic conventions since 2000. Typically those are focused on upcoming products and long Q&A sessions. Joe said that Disney recognized that many of the people in attendance at D23 aren't familiar with the history of Marvel, so he changed the format for this event. I remember when it was announced that Disney was buying Marvel that there was serious concern from comic fans that Disney would ruin Marvel. I got the impression that part of Joe's mission was to explain how Disney and Marvel fit together, as well as to try and bring some of the Disney faithful into the Marvel comics fold.

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Joe explained that, like Disney, Marvel is about storytelling. Marvel now has over 8000 characters to tell stories with and that is Disney's interest - expanding the base of characters and stories they have to work with. Joe also said that Disney gives Marvel freedom for independent operations but adds financial resources and marketing muscle. Marvel is almost 75 years old. It was founded in 1939, but really took off with Captain America in 1941. Stan Lee started as production assistant at Marvel, but he wanted to be a "serious" writer and expected to do that somewhere else. Instead, Stan created the Fantastic Four in 1961 and Spiderman in 1962 which were the first of a new breed of superheroes who were normal people with the same problems we all have to face. Prior to this, superhero comics focused on the superhero identity rather than the real person behind the mask.

Marvel comics went on to be a huge pop culture phenomenon in the 70's and 80's with sophisticated stories. Marvel experienced unprecedented growth in the 1990's, but along with the rest of the comic industry became too focused on artwork and collectible values instead of stories. When the bottom fell out of the comic speculator market Marvel went into bankruptcy. Marvel had to rediscover their DNA - the character-driven stories. Joe drew a parallel to what happened with Disney animation in the years prior to the release of Beauty and the Beast. Joe also made a point that, as a casual comic fan I hadn't recognized, all of the Marvel stories take place in the same time period and in the same universe so the characters can interact with each other allowing Marvel to do really big stories. The Avengers comics and upcoming movie are an example of this, as all those characters started out in their own comic books.

Marvel has been successful licensing content to other movie studios - Sony does Spiderman, Paramount does Iron Man - but they started Marvel Studios because they lose too much control when they license out content. For example, a Spiderman/Iron Man cross-over is unlikely because the rights belong to two different studios. Marvel also has a TV studio that produces "Saturday morning" cartoons. The TV studio is experimenting with using computer animation to take original 2D comic books and turn them into animated comics with depth and motion. If that approach is commercially successful, they have literally tons of content to build on.

Towards the end of the presentation, Joe showed all of the teasers from the previous Marvel universe superhero movies (both Iron Man movies, Hulk, Thor, Captain America) that set up next year's Avengers movie. He then took questions for about 15 minutes. Of interest to AllEars fans, during the Q&A he did say the Marvel attractions will remain at Universal Studios but that "there have been talks" about bringing Marvel characters to the Disney theme parks.

August 26, 2011

How I Would Fix the D23 Expo

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If you've been reading my blogs I'm sure you know that I was not very happy with this year's D23 Expo. It was a very frustrating experience for me, and I talked to others who had much worse experiences than I did. There were a lot of "lowlights" and very few "highlights" for me this year.

The first D23 Expo two years ago also had its share of problems - and you would have thought they would have learned something from that, but unfortunately that apparently was not the case. I'd have to say, at least as far as the sessions go, that things were much worse this time. (Not with the content - the sessions themselves were first-rate.)

Two years ago there were more sessions scattered across more rooms, some of them occurring simultaneously. The rooms were too small for most of them, but at least there were more choices. This year, sessions were only held in three venues - the Arena, Stage 28, and Stage 23. These rooms were larger than they were two years ago - but there weren't very many sessions scheduled in them. In fact there was NOTHING scheduled in Stage 28 on Sunday. They did use some of the smaller rooms - but as queues for all of the people who were lining up for sessions 2-4 hours early!!! With very few exceptions, if you didn't queue up for a session at least 2 hours in advance then you didn't get in. So you had lots of (unhappy) people who were standing in line rather than being on the show floor or buying food and merchandise.

Enough of that...here are some of my ideas to try to fix it:

1. This first one is really an either/or...either limit ticket sales OR schedule more seminars so that people have more options.

I personally think that they should go with limited access, and sell one type of ticket that allows access to the exhibit floor and the Archives ONLY, and another more limited ticket that also allows access to the seminars and arena presentations. That would cap the number of people trying to attend the sessions and give them a better chance of getting in without wasting time in line. What they did this year with the Sorcerer and Premiere tickets was a good start but I think they need to expand it and offer an option that isn't quite that expensive to those like me who just want to be in the room and don't care about sitting close. (Destination D at Disneyland was like that last year - I could walk in any time and always find a seat. Though it might be way over on the side I could always hear the presentation and they had big video screens so I could see what was going on.)

If they aren't going to limit ticket sales then they need to add more content - this year there just wasn't enough to do. Something like Comic-Con has 10-20 sessions going on simultaneously, so people can always find something to do, even if their first or second choice is full. We just didn't have anywhere near those kinds of options this year. The sessions don't all have to be panel discussions - they could just show us Disney TV shows or movies! This year there were a couple of screenings that were packed - they could have re-shown those at later times without the panel discussion that went with them. Guy Williams was inducted as a Disney Legend - how about showing us some episodes of Zorro? Or showing the movies featuring all of the Disney Legend princesses?

2. (Thanks to Michelle B. for this idea) Implement some kind of Fastpass system.

Only one per day per person - but it gets you into whatever session it is valid for without waiting in line for 2+ hours. If I'd known each day that there was ONE session I was going to be able to attend without having to wait for two hours, I would have been a lot happier.

3. More efficient room-loading.

You'd think that Disney, which moves thousands of people around every day in the theme parks, would know how to efficiently get people into a room. Nope, didn't work that way. It did get better as as the weekend went on, but on Friday most sessions started at least 20-30 minutes late (I think the Dick Van Dkye show was 45 minutes late!) since they were still seating people right up to the time the show started. It was especially bad in the Arena since it held a lot more people.

4. Better training for the convention staff.

The red-shirted convention staff really didn't know what was going on - if you asked the same question to three different people you got three different answers.

5. Satellite rooms.

If they are going to have rooms that are too small, then offer a satellite viewing location where people can stand and watch on a big screen. I didn't have to be in the room for any of these events - I just needed to be able to see and hear what they were saying.

6. Better entry procedures.

People were waiting in line for over an hour just to get into the Convention Center in the mornings. Starting the day off with a negative experience is just wrong.

For those of us who filled out a yellow card at the Expo, Disney sent out an email with a link to an on-line survey on the D23 Expo - I received mine on Tuesday and have completed it. It was fairly lengthy. They asked questions about the experience and provided a place for me to explain my answers. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that - or even if there will be another D23 Expo. At this point, unless they implement some changes, I have very little interest in attending another Expo - but I will definitely go to another Destination D!



August 23, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

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The Radiator Springs Reality session was a panel discussion on Cars Land, featuring John Lasseter, Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty, Jennifer Mok, and Roger Gould. They are putting a lot of thought and effort into the details of this all-new land, and really want guests to feel like they are in Radiator Springs.

John Lasseter, shown here with his Cars 2 namesake, John Lassetire, spoke about the re-imagining of Disney California Adventure, and one of his goals in bringing Disney characters into the park - something the original park was lacking. (He had to stop himself a couple of times from saying some uncomplimentary things.)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

He also showed off his custom Cars Land hardhat, painted by Chip Foose.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

One of the early concepts for a new land in DCA was Car Land - going along with the car-based culture of California.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

I think all along John Lasseter wanted to bring back his favorite ride from Disneyland, the Flying Saucers. And that has become Luigi's Flying Tires in Cars Land.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree has 22 baby tractors pulling a car that whips around behind them. They built a car and pulled it behind a real tractor in the figure-eight pattern that the attraction will have. The attraction will also feature a jukebox made out of old car parts, new music and dialog for Mater, and lots of Mater's tall-tale memorabilia in the queue.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

The head honchos are all smiles after a test ride last summer. (Ride testing begins next week.) Of Cars Land's 12 acres, Radiator Springs Racers is 6 acres. There are two different body styles for the cars and each comes in four different colors.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Kathy Mangum showed this time-lapse video of the construction of Cars Land, from ground-breaking pretty much up to the present time. The sun shines a lot in Anaheim!

Some of the turntables for Mater's (some of them are already covered up).

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

A look down the main street of Radiator Springs through a very wide-angle lens. The framework for the Court House is visible in the middle - it's the last to go up because of the need to move construction equipment through that area.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Lizzie's Curio Shop:

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Examples of some of the car-inspired design details that are going into the Curio Shop and wherever else they can put them.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

A Fettuccini brand Flying Tire. The silver handles on the left and right of the seat are air valves which will allow riders to spin the tire.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Ramone's House of Body Art

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Here you can see the dual slots on a steeply banked curve of Radiator Springs Racers. They promise g-forces, 40 mph top speed, and you never know which car is going to win.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

The final scene in the ride is Taillight Caverns.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Jennifer Mok talked about the landscaping and plants and trees they are bringing in to simulate the desert environment of Radiator Springs - while still providing some shade for the guests!

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

There's going to be lots of different kinds of strange-looking cactus.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Roger Gould talked about some of the story details. Radiator Springs Racers is set during Cars 1.5, and the rest of Radiator Springs takes place post Cars 2. Flo's V8 Cafe, pictured here, has been expanded due to the new-found fame of Radiator Springs. (They joked that Flo's is going to be so popular they might need to put in a Fastpass system for the restaurant!)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Ramone's custom paint system has a familiar name.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Luigi has a framed blessing from the Pope-mobile!

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Radiator Springs was founded by Stanley (Stanley Steamer), who offered free water and replacement radiator caps to cars that overheated at his Stanley's Oasis establishment. If I remember correctly, this will be part of the queue for Radiator Springs Racers.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

They had to build various audio-animatronics of the cars - this is Mack. (Does that make them auto-animatronics?)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

They still aren't saying when Cars Land will open - just summer 2012.


August 22, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

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Sunday - the final day of the D23 Expo.

There were noticeably fewer people today - not that it made a great deal of difference in the lines. The sessions that started before noon were not packed (the Marvel session in the Arena was only 1/2 to 2/3 full), but the afternoon sessions were again filled up 1.5-2.5 hours in advance. I never did get in to see the Archives - the line was always huge, and they closed the line at about 3:30 today.

Most everyone I talked to was very frustrated about the Expo - quite a number of people left early yesterday and went over to the parks instead, and I talked to people today who had friends/family that were in the parks instead of at the Expo.

But back to today's events...

I was able to get into the 9:00 Imagineering the Dream and the Fantasy session. Imagineers Joe Lanzisero and Bob Zalk talked about some of the challenges and different ways of thinking they had to take into consideration when designing for a cruise ship instead of a theme park.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

Here's a few things they talked about:

-- Cruise ships tell stories, too.

-- Guests are going to spend days aboard a ship rather than minutes on board an attraction.

-- The need to balance Disney whimsy with elegance.

They showed some examples of what guests see on the virtual portholes. On the Fantasy there will be some new characters.

They also talked a little about the new "show" in Animator's Palate aboard the Disney Fantasy. Before dinner guests will have the opportunity to create their own drawing of a character:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

The drawings will be collected, and some of them will be animated and included in an animation sequence that will be shown later. There will be different animation sequences in different parts of the room - so a guest's drawing, if it it chosen, will be displayed on the screen that they can see.


Here's a look at the Disney Fantasy, still under construction in Germany.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

After that session, I almost immediately got in line for the Radiator Springs Reality panel, which wasn't scheduled for another three hours (and it was full two hours before it started). I had friends to wait with, so the time went faster.

I don't have time to write about this panel right now, but I'll talk about the contest they announced at the end. John Lasseter, as most Disney fans know, was a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland (in 1977-1978). Unfortunately he has no photos of himself in that role, so he's looking for someone who has a photo of him. The prize is a trip to the grand opening of Cars Land as a VIP guest of John Lasseter. For more details, visit http://johnofthejungle.com And he warned us that Pixar developed digital compositing, so they will know a fake if they see one! (In this photo he was a Jungle Cruise skipper for a day during Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration.)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

We'll have more on the Marvel session that Lee attended, and on the Radiator Springs session, coming soon.


Costumes at D23 Expo

Laura's husband, Lee, spent part of the afternoon Sunday on the Expo show floor taking pictures of some of the folks in attendance who dressed up in costumes. While not as prevalent as at an event like Comic-Con, there were a surprising number of costumed attendees.

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August 21, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Tour of the Show Floor

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Lee and I spent some time wandering the Show Floor at the D23 Expo on Saturday, and he put together this video which will show you some of the things that we saw.



2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

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Day 2 of the Expo...

The Expo is sold out today, so there's even more people. So far I can't tell if things are going a little better today or if I just don't care as much.

People started lining up OUTSIDE the convention center I don't even
know how early to get into the Walt Disney Studios presentation,
which was scheduled to begin at 10:30. When I arrived in the
convention center around 9:00 the line inside already stretched most
of the way across the lobby (plus whatever was in the normal queue
that I couldn't see), and they were telling people that both the
primary and standby queues were full, and they wouldn't get in. And
at that point the General Admission folks weren't even allowed in
the building yet.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I hadn't planned to go to the Studios presentation anyway so I
decided to wander the exhibit floor instead, since I hadn't a chance
to see much of that yet. There were still plenty of other people
around who weren't going to the Studios presentation, either. I
started at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Carousel of Projects.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

There's a model of the Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World - it's too big to get all in one photo. This is the Dumbo/Casey Jr. section:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Snow White's Cottage and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with the Beast's Castle and Ariel's Underwater Adventure in the background:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a full-size model of a car on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

They had the Madamoiselle Minnie figure that will go in the
Atrium on the Disney Fantasy.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Lots of things from Cars Land...

One of the mini tractors from Mater's Junkyard Jamboree:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And the car that it pulls:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a ride vehicle from Radiator Springs Racers:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I asked the Imagineer there about the attraction and its similarity
to Test Track - he said in the end they probably only kept 20% of
the Test Track components, and everything else was new/different.

There were several car hoods painted by Chip Foose which will
hang in Ramone's House of Body Art. This one has hidden mickeys on
it somewhere. Or so the Imagineer told me.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Here's a model of Buena Vista Street:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a larger model just of the Carthay Circle Theater.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

There's not much about Shanghai Disneyland - just this model.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

The most fun thing is The Amazing Destini. This is an
artificially intelligent audio-animatronic fortune teller. There's
no "man behind the curtain" - it interacts with guests based on
what it detects from facial expressions, height, proximity, etc.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

On this screen off to the side you can see its "brain" and what it
is sensing. In the middle panel are all the faces that it is
tracking, and what it was sensing for things like age, eyes
open/shut, mouth open, happy, sad, angry, surprised, impatient, head
angle, talking, etc. (If you click on the photo you can see the
full-size version where you can read it a little better.)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I ran into fellow AllEars Team Member Erin Blackwell, and we chatted
for a while - it's been a very frustrating experience for her, too.

I wandered around the Disney Living area a little bit. This is some
cute Prep & Landing merchandise from Hallmark.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And an interesting facade here.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

A huge cupcake display at the Celebrations booth, where they were doing
some cake decorating demos.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I liked these big balloon decorations!

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Quite a large booth dedicated to Pirates of the Caribbean: On
Stranger Tides
(coming soon on DVD and Blu-Ray) which included
some props from the movie.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And how can you not smile at a Lightning McQueen constructed
out of Legos? :-)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

The line to get into the Archives exhibit was long, so I went to the
queue area for the Once Upon a Time screening. Which was
still an hour and a half away, but it gave me time to write a lot of
this blog.

I really enjoyed Once Upon a Time. And thank goodness, it
only started 5 minutes late!

The show was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who were
the executive producers of Lost. In it, the storybook fairy tale
world of Snow White and Prince Charming and Rumpelstiltskin and
Little Red Riding Hood collides with our modern world of traffic and
email and credit cards and cell phones. It was really fascinating and
I think we were all drawn into it - I didn't hear ANYONE talking
during the show! It's really a very rich world with a lot of detail.
I'm not sure about it being a weekly series, though - I think it
would work better as a movie or a mini-series than as an on-going
serial. At some point it will need a resolution or I think people
will get tired of watching it.

There was a short Q&A period with the producers and Disney Geek
Jeffrey Epstein at the end, in which they 'fessed up that there are
a lot of references to Lost in the show (since I never watched that
one, they were "lost" on me.) We'll see a lot more fairy tale
characters introduced in future episodes. The show premieres on
ABC on Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 p.m. At this point ABC has
ordered 12 episodes, and then we'll all see. I'll be watching!

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I hoped to get into the "Good Look at Buena Vista Street" presentation -but it filled up more than an hour before it started while I was still in the screening. I found out later that they unveiled this maquette of a new statue of Walt and Mickey that will stand on Buena Vista Street - a "bookend" to the Partners statue in Disneyland.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I met up with Lee and DebK and we went down to the exhibit hall to shoot some video of the show floor and some of the exhibits, so we hope Lee will have that edited and posted soon.

Around 4:00 they announced that the regular queue for the 6:30 "Imagineering's Guide to Creativity and Innovation" session was full, and at 4:30 they announced that the standby for it was ALSO full. Ridiculous. We thought we'd go to the Archives but that had a long line (probably 30-45 minutes), so we called it a day.

So let's see...in my almost 8 hours at the Expo today I toured the show floor twice, waited for a session for over 90 minutes, saw a one hour session and, um...well, that was all. Yeah, just another typical day at the D23 Expo...



August 20, 2011

2011 D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

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Here's some more photos from the Legends ceremony on Friday.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Bob Iger spoke in a recorded message:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Tom Bergeron was the host:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

There was a "Disney Legends In Memoriam" segment, recognizing those no longer living:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Anika Noni Rose was honored for her role as Tiana.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And Linda Larkin was Jasmine's speaking voice:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

While Lea Salonga was Jasmine's singing voice, as well as the voice of Mulan (and she commented how grateful she was that Linda Larkin doesn't sing!):

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Paige O'Hara said that she is still recognized as the voice of Belle - even though Belle never ages and she does. :-)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jodi Benson proudly showed off her Disney Cast Member id card:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Here are Paige O'Hara and Lea Salonga performing some of the signature songs for their characters.

And Anika Noni Rose and Jodi Benson:

Ray Watson was Disney's Chairman of the Board in 1983, and during his career was recognized as a real estate development visionary.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Barton "Bo" Boyd was THE merchandising guy, eventually named Chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Two of his daughters accepted on his behalf and shared some wonderful stories about their dad.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

I already shared this photo of Guy Williams' family accepting his award. I was very happy to be in attendance for this one, since I've always loved Zorro.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jack and Bonita (Granville) Wrather were both recognized for their contributions in building the Disneyland Hotel (apparently Jack thought the chances for something in "Anaheim...ANAHEIM???" to succeed were not very good.)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Kelly Ripa, in a recorded video, shared some of her favorite memories of Regis Philbin.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And Regis? Well, I think he was honored for just being Regis. :-)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jim Henson was the final honoree this year, and two of his kids, including son Brian, who has taken over as Kermit the Frog, accepted and shared some great stories about growing up with Jim Henson as their father.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And then Brian performed that wonderful Rainbow Connection number that I have already shared here: http://youtu.be/IUUNumejg4w

But he also performed this funny little classic that his parents developed in 1956:

It was a warm, wonderful, and heartfelt ceremony - I'm very glad to have seen it.



2011 D23 Expo - Day 1

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Well, Day 1 of the 2011 D23 Expo is history. While it's had some
special moments, for the most part it was a very frustrating day.

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The Expo opened to D23 members at 9:00 and to the general public at
10:00. Or I should say that was the *announced* opening times.
The lines were HUGE by 8:30, and they did let D23 members in earlier
than 9:00, but it still took a ridiculously long time to go in. I
got in line at about 9:10 and it took me almost 50 minutes to get
inside. And there were still lots of people behind me. And they
hadn't even started to let those in the General Admission line in!

There are fewer sessions this year, and they are holding them in
just three rooms this year - the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28. The
good news is that the rooms are larger than they were two years ago,
but even so none of them are large enough for the number of people
who want to attend. People are lining up sometimes 3 and 4 hours
before a session starts - I heard people ask this afternoon if it
was possible to start lining up TODAY for the Walt Disney Studios
session that's in the Arena TOMORROW.

There are fewer food locations this year and the lines there are
ridiculously long, too - and we won't even talk about the prices.
$8.00 for a hamburger with NO fries or chips, just a slice of
tomato and pickle.

I wasn't able to attend very many sessions today, and they all
started at least 15 minutes late - which makes it even less possible
to try to attend other sessions.

So what did I do today?

Once I finally got inside the building I started by finding the
Arena and figuring out where I needed to go to get into the
Disney Legends ceremony.

That was pretty special - they inducted 12 new Disney Legends,
including Regis Philbin, Guy Williams, and the women who were the
voices of the more modern Disney Princesses: Jodi Benson (Ariel),
Paige O'Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine speaking), Lea Salonga
(Jasmine singing, Mulan), and Anika Noni Rose (Tiana). The four
ladies sang some of their signature songs, and at the end they all
performed together, as you'll see in this clip.

Guy Williams died in 1989, but his family accepted on his behalf - his son even brought along his "Zorro" sword!

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All of the award winners were escorted by a Disney character, with the exception of Regis Philbin who enjoyed the company of three lovely Disney princesses!

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Also inducted was Jim Henson. Kermit the Frog and Rowlf performed
"Rainbow Connection". You know how some songs just "get you right
here"? That one does it for me...and there weren't too many dry eyes
in the house.

That started late, so it ran late, and I wasn't able to get into
the next session I had hoped to. I wandered around the Show Floor a
little bit, but didn't have time to really see anything before
eating the almond butter and jelly sandwich that I had brought with
me, while sitting on the floor because all of the tables were packed
(at least the floor was carpeted!).

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Then it was time for another line - this one for the Walt Disney
Parks and Resorts presentation. (As members of the press, we did
have a special line for presentations in the Arena, but still had to
get there 30-45 minutes early.)

There were no real surprises in this one. It was hosted by Tom
Staggs who brought out other guests like Bruce Vaughn, Joe Rohde
(recorded), Bob Weiss, Kathy Mangum, and George Kalogridis to talk
about things like the Fantasyland Expansion, Aulani, Shanghai
Disneyland, Cars Land, and Disneyland. I have lots of video that I
haven't had a chance to process - while there were no surprising
announcements, there were some nice computer simulations of Shanghai
Disneyland and recent photos of the Cars Land area.

That also started late and ran late, so I had about 45 minutes until
the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament was going to start at 6:00
(which didn't start until almost 6:20). There was a queue for
that, though fortunately it didn't fill up that quickly. (They had
a separate queue for the Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix program,
which was going to be held in the same room - it was at 8:15 and at
5:15 there was already a lot of people queued up for it.)

There were 20 people who were semi-finalists for the Trivia
Tournament, and wow, they really knew a lot of trivia! They asked
them some very hard questions - like the number and street of the
house Walt Disney was born in (and the person knew the answer!!!).
And they asked someone to spell "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
They even brought out some costumes and props from the Disney
Archives and asked questions about them. There were multiple rounds
with different formats to make it even more interesting. John, the
guy who won, was head and shoulders above everyone else - during
the "Lightning" round where they buzzed in, sometimes he buzzed in
before the host (Daniel Roebuck from Lost) had finished asking the
question - and he still got them right.

Here's what they were playing for - John gets his name on this
trophy, and he gets a cruise on the Disney Fantasy next year.

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I enjoyed that, but of course it also ran late, and the queue for
the Dick Van Dyke show, which I would've like to have seen, had been
full for a long time. Since the Archives and Expo Floor were closed
by then I called it a day.

I hope the entry procedure tomorrow will be better...but they've
already announced that tickets are sold out for Saturday, so I'm
sure the crowds will be even worse.




August 14, 2011

Expo Fever: Catch It!

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Has it been two years already? Expo time has rolled around again for the Disney Faithful over at the Anaheim Convention Center this upcoming weekend. With the recent release of the final schedule of the three-day event (http://d23.disney.go.com/expo/D23Expo11_GuideBook.pdf,) it may be time for attendees to start analyzing a plan of attack. Here are some of my thoughts as I peruse this year's program.

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One difference as far as how the layout of the convention stands this year, is a consolidation of the rooms used for the various presentations. Last Expo, there were a handful of large Arena/Theater rooms, and then a variety of smaller conference rooms; this year, there are basically three different rooms--the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28--with different activities and meet and greets taking place at different pavilions out on the floor.

On the one hand, this should eliminate some of the confusion of finding the correct room for the correct panel, and on the other hand, this means the flow of humanity trying to get into a given room at a given time will be that much heavier. I haven't seen any numbers as to how many people fit into each room, but it is to be hoped that the organizers have learned from last time, when some of the rooms' maximum occupancy proved to be woefully inadequate to the demand.

Another thing I'm hoping they've streamlined is the whole process of security while entering the big Arena presentations. Last year, entrants had to undergo a multi-step process which involved getting searched for electronics, bagging and handing in any phones, cameras, or recording equipment, and then getting wanded on the way in. The whole thing took an incredibly long time to the point where some of the presentations looked like they closed a lot of people out with still-empty seats because they just ran out of time to let people in. Unfortunately, even after you got in, the nightmare wasn't over because you had to go through a huge chaotic mess to reclaim your contraband when everyone was let out. I'm not necessarily advocating people show up to these events buck naked, mind you, but it might facilitate the whole ordeal for the rest of us.

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With the elimination of last year's fourth day, it appears there's a heavier integration of the Disney Channel programming throughout the whole weekend, with an emphasis on Sunday, where they seem to drop Stage 28 entirely. It seems odd that after cutting a day they would actually end up having fewer panels, and would choose to have the lighter schedule on one of the weekend days, which one would assume would be more heavily attended. Friday, by contrast, has a plethora of presentations, often scheduled simultaneously, presumably as counter programming to break up the crowds. A lot of the historical content is absent, partitioned off, no doubt, for the Destination D events, as are the large ABC pavilion/presentations. Maybe they got tired after the huge Pan Am publicity blitz they just had at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Putting aside the merchandising events and meet-and-greets, the number of presentations per day breaks down like this: Friday--13, including the popular Legends Ceremony, Parks and Resorts talk, and Dick Van Dyke performance; Saturday--11, including the Studios presentation, Pixar, and Legends panel; Sunday--8, with the big presentations being Marvel and Disney Channel, and the other offerings including the DCL announcements and three panels at least partially presented at other events. For the traditionalist Disney fan, unless they add more events between now and then, it appears that Sunday's going to be a fairly light day.

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The other thing of note is that they look to have eliminated most of the late-evening programming. Last Expo, each night they showed vintage films or new documentaries until around 11pm, with appearances by such celebrities as Richard Sherman and Mary Costa. This year, you're pretty much free to head out to Electronica after about 8:30pm.

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Ultimately, the key to surviving Expo with your sanity intact is going to be prioritizing what's important, and taking into account the amount of time each factor is worth to you. Would you rather meet Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry? Or see the Studios presentation? Don Hahn's "Why We Create," or the Parks and Resorts show? If you want to see Parks and Resorts, is it worth missing the four other panels that'll be going on while you wait in line to get in?

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The lighter schedule is likely to win approval from people who found last year draining and stressful from so much going on. Personally, my tendency is to want to go full-bore and just forego food and sleep for the whole weekend...then check into a hospital after it's over, but your mileage should probably vary.

In any case, it looks to be a great weekend filled with all the Disney information, minutiae, and magic we've come to expect from D23. See you at the Expo!

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About D23 Expo

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the D23 Expo category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

D23 is the previous category.

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