Monday, September 12, 2011

My D23 Expo 2011

For me the Expo began on Friday morning.  The line to enter the event was crazy - but you'd expect nothing less.  It wound around the area; a giant snake.  In fact, by the next morning there was tape on the ground to have attendees line up in a more traditional Disney queue line, the kind where you can't tell how many more switch backs you have left to go.
Once you made it past the line, the entrance was easy - most people had their badges in hand and it was just a scan, and you were in. 
I tried to get into the Disneyland Hotel discussion, no such luck, it was full (I got in line around 8:30).  Instead, I went shopping at the Archives Treasure Trove (and boy I'm glad I did, lines got very long for that later). 
The shopping at the expo was different this year because there was several stores: the Dream Store, the Archives Treasure Trove, the pop up Disney Store, and Mickey's of Glendale.  The Archives Treasure Trove was my favorite, lots of D23 merchandise, left over event merch, left over gifts that came with the magazine, and some Expo logo.  Mickey's of Glendale was fun to shop in too.  The pop up Disney store always had a long line, but all you could buy was merchandise that wasn't available in the stores yet (some of it is now in the Disney Stores).  And finally, the Dream Store.  I wasn't impressed.  They had some product for the movies celebrating an anniversary (Dumbo, Alice, and 101 Dalmatians) and the Noah art merchadise.  Otherwise it felt like Company D to me (you know, the store where they sell stuff that isn't moving to cast members at a discount - only no discount).
On Friday I made it to the Legends Ceremony (in line by 10:30).  Highlights for me were the princesses singing and Kermit the Frog.  We walked the show floor some but were in line again by 2:00 for the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  Highlights were - well, none.  There were no huge announcements like last time.  Everything announced was already known - well, except for the part about making a princess meet and greet out of the caration plaza at Disneyland - and really?  That's not exciting to this kind of crowd.  Put a group of seven year old girls in the room, then they'll get a reaction.  The most interesting thing for me was about the 7 dwarfs mine train, but all of that could be seen in the Carousel of Projects.  They also mentioned some experiences like dinner in the Haunted Mansion, or lost things (Tahitian Terrace and America the Beautiful) - but the announcement didn't have any details at all, and frankly, not even sure what it meant.   
By the time that was done I had to decide if I was going to wait in any of the lines that still had room or if I was going to explore more.  Most of the panels I wanted were full, so off to Carousel of Projects and Mickey's of Glendale.  I love what WDI does.  Real people who can talk to you about their work and all shown in a interesting way.  Only complaint: nothing new!  It was about Cars Land and the the new Fantasyland.  With a little cruise and Aulani thrown in.  I felt the display in 2009 showed more about how things work - not just plans.
So, by the end of day 1 I had already decided that there was not as much to do as in 2009 and much more crowded.  There was less free stuff.  I was hoping for another volunteers ears.  There was less food locations, no character meet and greets, the venue was not a decorated, and I loved the Archives Store.
Saturday I was in line by 7:30.  Disney got much more efficient and had the line queue up to fit the HUGE amount of people (the event sold out).  From the entrance line we moved before 9 right into the convention center.  That helped a lot as people then separated to get into separate lines: Dream Store, Show Floor, and the giant line for the Studios.  After going through security we then sat in the queue line for the arena.
The studios presentation was good, especially if you love celebrities.  I enjoyed the previews of Brave, Wreck it Ralph, and Monsters University.  Pixar announced two new unnamed projects: Dinosaurs and inside the mind.  Then we got cupcakes - AWESOME!  Espcieally considreing I was hungry!  This was long!  The animation was followed by the live action talk.  Here is the celebrity list, can't promise I got all the names correct: John Crier (Planes); Jack McBrayer and Sarah Silverman (Wreck it Ralph); Kelly McDonald and Kevin McKidd (Brave); Billy Crystal (Monsters University); Taylor Kitch, Lynn Collins, and Willam Defoe (John Carter); Frankeweenie (Frankenwwenie); Jennifer Garder (Odd Life of Timothy Green); Kermit, Jason Segal, and Piggy (Muppets); Tom Hillson, Scarlet Johnassen, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Jeremy Renner, and Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers).
By Saturday afternoon, lines for any of the events were so long, they were filling up hours before hand.  The Archives line was four hours long when I checked around 2.  I did mange to get in line for the Monsters University session at 4:16 (not my first, second, or even third choice of things I wanted to see - more like something I could actually get into).  It was interesting though - to hear from the team and the detail and attention paid to making characters younger.  That night I didn't get into the imagineering panel (both of them filled up early), so I went to the auction instead - well sort of, it started half an hour late, and by the time the pre-show act ended I was so tired, I left.
By Sunday, crowds were down and Disney had figured out how to move the entrance lines - I was in the line inside the convention center for the Disney Cruise Line by 8:30.  I had to leave to check out of the hotel so I missed the some of the things (Art of Brave) I would have liked to see but I came back and got in line for the Archives (only an hour wait).  By 2:45 I was in line for the Vintage Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  I was getting tired of getting shut out of things, and just tired, so I was lined up outside in the hall to get into the queue line room - to wait.  I enjoyed that session - Tony Baxter is always interesting to listen to.  And he is pretty Frank too.  I appreciated that.
Overall I liked: that I didn't have to wear a wristband, there was more departments represented on show floor from Disney, collectors forum was much busier (I was happy for them), animation studios gave away all kinds of free stuff, enjoyed the panels I did get into (well, most), the Dream Store gave annual passholders a discount, and I got to use the charter member lounge (cookies!).
On the other hand: lines were long and filled up at least and hour ahead, food was awful - line lines and poor quality, on the first day, panel started at nine, but you couldn't get in, so much less to choose from, and the Dream Store wasn't exciting.
One thing I've appreciated about D23 is they listen to fans and make adjustments - can't wait to see what they do in 2013.

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