August 14, 2013

My D23 Expo Experience

D23 Expo came to the Anaheim Convention Center last weekend, and there was no way I was missing it. I didn't attend in 2011, and I remember being bummed since so much Marvel news came from that Expo. I don't think Marvel showcased anything at Comic-Con that year; they saved it all for D23. Given the pattern and that Disney acquired Lucasfilm in the past year, I was hoping for Star Wars news. Not much, maybe a casting confirmation for Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford and maybe some news about Star Wars plans for the theme parks. None of that happened, but I'm still glad I experienced the Expo because at the end of the day it's Disney. That's enough.

It was... different.
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.
With my freshly painted and bright blue nails, I took on the rest of the hall and it didn't take long. It definitely left me with a "that's it?" feeling. Don't get me wrong, what they put in the hall was awesome (details in a minute) but I think I'm so used to the giant scales of exhibits at Comic-Con and the winding and endless rows of vendors and artists at almost every other convention that I was underwhelmed and confused. You could easily see the exhibit hall in 2-3 hours (except for the shops).

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.

You could purchase official Disney merchandise in a few places, but the main three shops where the Dream Store, Mickey's of Glendale (the Imagineering store), and the shop in Consumer Products. There were constant lines for all of them. Sometimes as long as three hours. The stores had some exclusives and signings which made the lines a little longer, and you could catch breaks but man. I'm used to lines of all kinds at Comic-Con, but these waits were a new experience for me. I was able to get into Mickey of Glendale's and the Dream Store with less than half an hour in line, but the Disney store in the Consumer Products area? Forget about it. Plenty of people were more dedicated than me to get in the often hour plus line. It's just not my cuppa.
The panels were varied, but since they were only happening in three rooms (as opposed to several like at comic conventions or Celebration) they pretty much filled up. The Stage Pass offered a fast pass system for events, and I used it to get seating for two of them. Except for the ridiculous winding pen that led to the tables where the passes were distributed, it was useful and easy. They didn't do it for the Arena - just the smaller panel rooms. I actually like that they clear panels between rooms and that when they bring you in for a panel they direct you to your seat. I think that fills up the room faster than just letting people wander in to sit wherever they want.

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.

The cosplayers also made me happy. Plenty were in attendance on both Friday and Saturday with just slightly more on Friday because of the costume contest. They were dressed in original designs like a good and evil theme park themed dress with a castle tiara and in faithful replicas from the films like a Giselle and Prince Edward from Enchanted who looked like they just walked off set. And oh the costumes based on rides! I love that. Plus, everyone seemed excited about his or her costume and excited about Disney in general.

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.


  1. I agree with your post! I went for the first time and only on Saturday. We couldn't check out the Disney store, the Sephora manicure station, or anything else really. I had a 9 year old with me and to subject her to stand a in 3 hour lines was just evil.

    I wish I had seen the lady in your last photo. That dress and crown looks amazing!!

    1. The lines were definitely a turn off for me.

  2. Personally, three days was hardly enough to do everything. I guess it really comes down to what you're there to see. For me, the panels and expo floor (minus the collectors area) was why I was there again this year. Toss the Sherman/Menken concert on top of that and I was in Disney heaven.

    1. I definitely think that if you're going to all the panels you can keep incredibly busy!
      The concert sounded amazing.

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