I'd heard mixed things about D23 Expo. People told me lines were crazy (accurate), that there wasn't a lot of cosplay (inaccurate), the panels were scripted and not super exciting (depended), and that the exhibit hall layout was weird (true). After exploring the convention for two of the three days, I have mixed feelings about it too.
I perused the panel schedule and knew I was only interested in fighting lines for a couple of them so I headed straight for the exhibit hall on Friday. It was a whole new world from the start as there was actually room to move in the aisles. Not a normal thing at comic conventions. My systemic plan for going through the hall was interrupted when I came to the Sephora booth; they were doing free and fast manicures and beauty treatments and giving away starfish hair clips with them to promote the new Ariel collection. The line was short so I jumped on it while I had the chance. It's silly, but my Ariel nail polish and starfish made me ridiculously happy.
The exhibit area was split into a few main sections: Consumer Products for places like Sephora, Junk Food, the Evolution of a Villain for Darth Vader products, etc; Pop Up Shops for licensees like Jelly Belly and Party City; the Parks and Pavilion Area with the Tomorrowland display and the fascinating Journey Into Imagineering; ABC's corner with the pirate ship from Once Upon a Time; and the Collector's Forum where dealers set up tables with Disney memorabilia and art. I have never seen so many Disney pins in my life.
Lines for the Arena were crazy but not when you compare them to Hall H at Comic-Con. Dedicated fans were in line for hours and hours, and I decided it wasn't for me. No complaints from me on that front.
A couple of things made the Expo experience special for me. I got a kick out of attending the Journey Into Imagineering exhibit. They teased a Star Wars attraction with some Orange Harvest crates. The name is of course a nod to the code name for Return of the Jedi, Blue Harvest. You could also enter several rooms to see how different aspects of Imagineering come to life in the park. Everything from animatronics to models to faux exteriors and on and on. All the eye candy a Dis-nerd could want.
I said I was glad I went and I am, but if I attend again I'll probably just go for a single day and I wouldn't necessarily make a special trip for it. As is, I'd planned to go for three days this year and only went for two. They'd really have to expand the show floor to give me more to explore and figure out a way to make shopping a more enjoyable, less lined filled experience. And unless you're all about the panels or shopping the exclusives in the shop, I'd recommend just a day for you too.
You can check out all of my photos from the event over at Flickr.