Last week I spent three days from Friday, August 14th to Sunday, August 16th at D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. It’s a convention celebrating everything and anything Disney, from their beloved animated movies to their other properties like Marvel and Star Wars. It’s a fairly new, bi-annual convention that was first held in 2009, making 2015 the fourth one. Besides spending one day at the relatively small Equestria LA, D23 Expo is the first non-anime convention I’ve been to. Despite having its flaws due to an overabundance of attendees, all in all I had a great time…
My boyfriend and I arrived bright and early in Anaheim around 8am. We stayed at a hotel just a few minutes walk from the convention center, so after leaving our car there, we walked over.
Unfortunately day 1 of D23 Expo did not start off well at all simply due to the fact that their crowd controlling that morning was terribly lacking as far as getting all the attendees checked in. How it was supposed to work was that Gold/Silver D23 members were allowed to go in at 9am while general attendees could go in at 10am. But there were already thousands of people in both groups lined up when we arrived around 8am and barely any staff members available to organize the crowds. The few staff members that were around couldn’t seem to coordinate, which resulted in many attendees being told to wait in the wrong line and having to walk back and forth before they figured out where they had to be. And when they finally did start letting the Gold/Silver members in, the line was moving at a snail’s pace because they only had a couple of people scanning everybody’s tickets. At that rate it would have taken hours before they finished the Gold/Silver members and could finally start on the general attendees, who were waiting in the hot sun. My boyfriend and I decided to wait out the chaos and just stay in the air-conditioned Hilton food court nearby until the lines started lessening. We were kinda bummed because we thought we’d end up missing a half-day’s worth of convention time at that rate. But luckily the lines really started to pick up around 11-11:30 – they got a bunch more staff members to help with getting people checked in – and we were finally able to get inside the convention center!
Pictured above is the free stuff that every attendee got – a nice reusable bag with backpack straps, a pamphlet guide to all the events and panels going on each day, and a 100-page, full-color booklet describing everything about the expo.
Every attendee also got a pack of D23 exclusive trading cards, like the ones pictured above. They ran this event throughout the con for people interested in collecting all 30 where there’d be certain places and times when they’d be giving out certain cards, as well as a trade station where people could trade for the ones they need. I didn’t care too much for this…I only wanted the Olaf card, which I did finally trade for on the last day XD
Thankfully there weren’t any morning events I was particularly interested in (though I wonder why they even have events at 9-9:30am when most people are still waiting in line outside at that time). The only event of the day I wanted to go to was “Pixar and Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films” at 3pm. For some events, you’re able to get Stage Passes which will guarantee you a seat, but unfortunately events like that one that are held in the big Hall D23 don’t have Stage Passes. So I decided to just shop around the Show Floor (basically D23’s version of Anime Expo’s Exhibit Hall) and head over to Hall D23 around 1:30pm.
They actually had a real version of Fix-It Felix that people could play =D
The Show Floor was huge and absolutely amazing! There were all kinds of things going on: live stage performances, artists and voice actors offering autographs, tons of vendors selling all sorts of merchandise from original Disney paintings to the newest limited edition merchandise at The Disney Store, previewing events for new video games and movies, animators doing live demonstrations, lots of areas set up for photo ops…there was always something to do!
Heading into the Show Floor
This one booth had what I believe to be every single Disneyland park guide on its walls!
Disney pins galore!
Gorgeous (and expensive) paintings!
Frozen Fever display at the animation booth
Inside Out animation demonstration
Display for Disney’s upcoming film, Zootopia
A TV display celebrating Walt Disney’s love for nature
Wall space for people to post their own drawings
People waiting in line for…something
At the Robot Corner there was a real Wall E that moved via remote control!
Elsa cosplayer at a booth advertising Frozen cake XD
Photo area where people could take pictures in front of old-day Disneyland backgrounds
The famous Pixar Pizza Planet truck, complete with Toy Story toys inside
At first I wanted to check out The Disney Store to see if there was any new/exclusive merchandise I wanted, but unfortunately it was one of the busiest stores at the con – so busy that they even offer Store Passes for it so you can get to shop during a certain time and not have to wait in line. When I arrived around 12-ish, the line to get in was a good 2-3 hours long. I started waiting for a little while before saying “Screw it, I don’t want to waste all this time, I’ll just come back later.” So I spent the next hour or so exploring the sites of the Show Floor and thinking about things I may want to purchase. Then by a stroke of luck, as I was passing one of the booths with a crowd of people waiting in line, I saw a familiar name on the display – Markiplier!
For those who don’t know him, Markiplier is an extremely popular YouTuber with one of the most subscribed channels for indie game let’s plays. I’ve watched almost all of his horror and funny game videos and find him very entertaining. I had absolutely no idea he would be at D23 Expo since he has nothing to do with Disney (I should follow him on Twitter since he probably announced it there XD) Once I saw that he was really there greeting fans and giving out autographs, I decided to get in line. The sign said he would be there until 3pm, so I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t get to meet him, but waiting there would lessen my chance of being able to get into the Pixar and Disney Upcoming Films panel I was planning to go to later on. I was okay with that though since I wasn’t dying to go to that panel – I could just find out all the announcements online later – and I don’t know if I’d ever get another chance to meet Markiplier! I only got to talk to him briefly, but I complimented him on his videos, took a few pictures, and got a little autograph card. I’m really glad I decided to walk by that area at that time =D
Yours truly with Markiplier
Unfortunately I didn’t get done at Markiplier’s booth until around 2pm, so I hurried over to the Hall D23 line queue…but I had to stop briefly to get an autograph from Livvy Stubenrauch, the voice of young Anna from Frozen.
When I got to the line queue for the Upcoming Films panel a little passed 2pm, it was already packed. I had to get in the standby line and even though the staff tried to get us all in, after the panel started they had to announce that it was full and they couldn’t let anyone else in. So I wasted an hour there, but I didn’t mind too much…I sort of knew that would happen since I spent so long in Markiplier’s line. After getting some food, I returned to the Show Floor and browsed around a bit more. I finally got into The Disney Store since the line was much shorter now that it was the end of the day. There wasn’t anything I wanted there besides the limited edition Frozen Fever dolls that don’t go up for preorder until November (the ones I saw in the store were display only) and a gorgeous Frozen painting for $400+…I really liked it but I couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on one thing =P I called it a day after that and returned to the hotel to catch up on the sleep I didn’t get the night before.
I didn’t have many plans for the second day besides a couple of panels in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, unlike Anime Expo, people have to get their tickets scanned each day at D23 Expo, so much to our dismay when we arrived that morning, it looked like a repeat of the morning before with thousands of people already lined up with not enough crowd control. Once again we decided to just wait in the food court nearby until the general attendee line started moving, which happened around 10:30-11. At least they seemed a bit more organized than Friday morning XD
We were gonna try to get Stage Passes for either the Toy Story 20th Anniversary panel or the Aladdin panel, both in the late afternoon. Each person is only allowed one Stage Pass at a time (if you want to get another one, you have to wait in line again) so we decided to go for the Toy Story one first with Aladdin as a back up in case they run out. The distribution for the afternoon Stage Passes didn’t open until 12:30, so we shopped around until about 11:45 when we realized that people were already lining up for the Stage Passes. By 12pm the line was already really long, but we got there early enough to get a decent spot.
Line to get Stage Passes
Also got a photo of this amazing cloth picture nearby. Can you find all the characters? :3
None of the Stage Passes ran out by the time it was our turn, so we got ours for the Toy Story panel at 4:30. I spent the next few hours wandering around the Show Floor, browsing a bit more and finding another random celebrity I wasn’t expecting to meet there…Rob Paulsen!
Me and Rob Paulsen
Rob Paulsen did a lot of voices in cartoons from the 90s, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Goof Troop, The Tick, and the most important one for me being Animaniacs. Animaniacs was a big part of my childhood and I still enjoy watching it even today. So it was awesome finally getting to meet one of the main voice actors! =D
Since this was the day I took the most cosplay photos, I’ll just share all the ones I took at the con here =)
The crossover is real with Maleficent at the Tangled photo area XD
Around 3:45 I headed to Stage 23 where the Toy Story panel was going to be held and met my boyfriend in the Stage Pass line. It was already pretty packed, but we got good spots. Unfortunately no photos were allowed at that panel, so I’ll just say that it was really interesting. It was hosted by John Lasseter and other Pixar staff that worked on the original Toy Story film. They shared all kinds of interesting stories about how Toy Story first came about and even showed exclusive images and videos of the movie’s very early stages of development. We got to see a rare clip from very early on when Woody was a large ventriloquist doll and Buzz was a much smaller space ranger toy (I believe it was the clip that Pixar showed Disney when they were trying to get them to produce the movie). We also got to see the very first Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys that were ever made, and John shared a cool story about how large companies like Mattel and Wal-Mart passed on producing toys for Toy Story, thinking it wouldn’t be a hit (remember, this was the very first fully CG animated movie). They finally got a toy company from Canada to make toys for the movie, with the owner even going so far as to follow John’s insistence on making the Woody and Buzz toys their correct sizes seen in the movie even though action figure toys at that time were supposed to be much smaller. In the end, they sold out of all their toys before the movie even hit the theaters…and we know that Toy Story continued to be beloved even years after that XD
I did get a photo at one of the booths showing the original designs for ventriloquist dummy Woody and small Buzz
After the panel, I decided to walk to Downtown Disney (the big shopping area right outside Disneyland) to shop around and grab a bite to eat. It turned out to be a much longer walk than I remember and I ended up not buying anything besides food and drinks. I didn’t mind though since it was good exercise and I liked looking in the stores anyway XD During all of my trips to Disneyland, I’ve never gone on a Saturday, and seeing how crowded Downtown Disney was that evening made me glad I never did!
We got up around 6:30am the next morning to pack, check out of the hotel, and get breakfast at a nearby restaurant before heading to the con for the last day. I also wanted to get there early and secure myself a good spot in line for the Frozen Fandemonium event. It wasn’t until 3pm but I didn’t want to take any chances, especially with how crowded all the other big events in Hall D23 had been. What I didn’t realize though was that there was another panel in Hall D23 in the morning, so until that panel started they weren’t making a line queue for the Frozen one. So after we got checked in (we once again waited in the nearby food court for the line to start moving, which it did around 10-10:30…as expected, each day they got a little better with their crowd controlling XD) I hung out near the Hall D23 line up area to make sure I didn’t miss the beginning of the Frozen Fandemonium queue. At first the staff ushering people in for the morning panel didn’t seem to know when the queue would start, but soon enough, as soon as that panel’s line was finished, they immediately began to let people line up for the Frozen panel. I was one of the first people in line of course, and I passed the time by playing my DS, reading a Frozen book I had bought from a store in the Show Floor, watching the random Disney video clips they had playing on the TVs there, and eating a chicken wrap I had my boyfriend bring me. They started letting us in around 2:30 and we got pretty good seats in the middle near the front.
Pictured above is a limited edition D23 Expo-exclusive Frozen Fever lithograph, one of only 2000 made. Funny story…I didn’t even know about these until I saw that a guy sitting next to me had one. I asked him where he got it and he said they were giving them out for free at the animation booth to a select few lucky people who happened to be at the right at the right time. I of course would have liked one but since I missed my chance, I decided to get it from ebay later, which I did…though it would have been nice to get it for free XD If I hadn’t sat next to that guy I would have never known about it and would have saved myself some money! It’s fine though since I really didn’t end up buying that much merchandise at the con.
Anyway, Frozen Fandemonium was absolutely amazing! Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Bobby Lopez, the husband and wife duo who wrote all the songs for Frozen, hosted the event, along with Chris Montan, the president of Walt Disney Music.
They told us all about their work and planning behind each of the songs, and we got to see exclusive images and clips from deleted songs, including some that weren’t even on the deluxe edition of the soundtrack. They sang a few songs as well.
The very first image that inspired the story of Frozen
Singing “Love is an Open Door” (Bobby Lopez played the piano for the songs)
It wasn’t long before they brought in the highlight of the show – Kristen Bell, the voice of Anna! Everyone went crazy when she came on the stage since no one knew for sure she would be there. But it didn’t stop there when they brought in Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf, as well as Katie Lopez and Agatha Lee Monn, the singing voices of young Anna during “Do you want to build a snowman?” Each of them sang their respective songs and Kristen Bell even sang one of the deleted songs that no one’s ever heard her sing before.
Singing “Do you want to build a snowman?”
Josh Gad singing “In Summer” as he dances with Olaf!
And of course, we had to end the event with a big groups sing-along of “Let It Go.” John Lasseter, scriptwriter Jennifer Lee, and other staff members came on stage to join us – even the Disneyland face characters of Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf were there! As the song ended, showers of paper snowflakes fell from the ceiling and covered the floor…a perfect way to end the event! Since photos and video were allowed, you can find many clips on YouTube if you want to watch the panel for yourself =D
Everyone singing “Let It Go”
Taking a bow at the end
Glad I’m not the one who has to clean up all those snowflakes!
Overall, my only complaint about D23 Expo was the lack of adequate crowd control, especially for the non-Gold/Silver members trying to get into the con in the morning. It’s pretty much impossible for anyone but Gold/Silver members lining up at 5am or earlier to get into any morning events, and it shouldn’t be that way, especially for people who only had 1-day passes. I know it was probably more crowded this year than the last expo because this is the first one since Disney acquired Marvel and Star Wars, so now that whole crowd of fans is coming too. But still, they should have anticipated that. Once you actually get into the expo though, it’s great. The Show Floor was fantastic and pretty much guaranteed that you’d always have something to do or see. Even though I didn’t go to many panels, the ones I went to were great, and from what I’ve heard, all the others were great as well…no disaster stories like things starting way late or being cancelled. Sure, the constant lines and crowding are a bummer, but that’s just part of going to fan conventions, whether it’s Comic Con, Anime Expo, or D23 Expo. You just have to be prepared to spend many hours waiting in line and make sure to get to places early if it’s an event you really want to attend. So yeah, if they could implement some kind of quick ticket-scanning system like Anime Expo recently did that makes it much quicker to get people checked in, that would make things way better. I know a lot of people complained about the disorganization, especially on Friday morning, so it’s likely we’ll see them try to fix that next time. But again, besides that, I had an awesome time and am so far planning to go to the next one in 2017. It’s definitely a fun place to spend the weekend if you’re a fan of Disney movies, or any of their other properties =D