Mr. DisNerd Goes To Anaheim: A Fan’s Experience at the D23 Expo

Hello, dear readers! As many of you know, especially if you’ve been following Confessions on Facebook, I recently experienced my first D23 Expo. When I initially purchased my 3 day ticket last year, I had grand hopes in covering the Expo in detail. However, as time grew nearer, I changed my plans a bit. Having never experienced the Expo and having the opportunity to go with friends, I decided I wanted to experience everything as the fan that I am. This meant seeing panels and presentations I wanted to see, but maybe missing out on a few things that might be happening at the same time. After all, I do pride myself on being a fan first and foremost! So with this decision made, I made the journey to Anaheim to experience, have fun, and hopefully not be overwhelmed. (Note: My friends over at Disney Darlings did a great job of covering the Expo. Where I was able, I’ve provided links to their news coverage for those looking for more detailed reports.) With that being said, here’s this nerd’s report and opinions from the 2015 D23 Expo.

Welcome to the 2015 D23 Expo!

The signs certainly looked welcoming enough! However, the lines were daunting that first morning. There was definitely miscommunication between Disney, Expo staff, and Anaheim Convention Center Staff. Many were told one line was for the Disney Legends ceremony as well as gold and silver D23 members (who were allowed entry to the show floor an hour before general admission), while a second line was for general admission entry. However, many found out there was actually a separate line for the Legends; it depends on who you asked. Although I am a gold-level D23 member, I chose to stand in the general admission with a friend who was not. The first morning’s entry line was, in all honesty, a mess. Gold and silver members kept piling into that line, well past 10 AM, with a line wrapping around the convention center.

Don’t be fooled by the line. It’s much longer.

Any frustrations that may have come from that line, however, dissipated as I entered the show floor to encounter a world of Disney wonder. With no real game plan for the first morning, we wandered the floor, visiting vendors, and checking out a few displays, such as John Lassetter’s studio shirts, the famed Pizza Planet Truck, and much more!

John Lassetter’s Hawaiian Shirt Collection!

 

Unlike in some Pixar movies, the Pizza Planet truck was pretty easy to find at the Expo!

Production maquettes from Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” bring about so many feelings!

 

From the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts area: “Voyage to the Crystal Grotto” at Shanghai Disney Resort looks amazingly beautiful! Read Disney Darlings’ coverage of the Shanghai Disney and Pandora Exhibit here!

As one learns quickly when attending the Expo, decisions must be made as to which panels are “must sees,” and which may have to be skipped over, as one simply cannot do everything the Expo has to offer. Thus, my friends and I made the decision to attend the “Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland” panel hosted by documentarian Leslie Iwerks, leaving no room to attend the Disney/Pixar Animation presentation (For Disney Darlings’ coverage of the animation presentation, click here). The Imagineering panel was a great choice for me, as I got to hear former and current Imagineers such as Charita Carter, Kevin Rafferty, Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Marty Sklar, and one of my personal heroes, Richard Sherman discuss the world of Imagineering, driven by Walt and his ideals, even long after he had passed. It was also a great look at Iwerks’ upcoming 2016  documentary, “The Imagineering Story.”

Disney Legend Richard Sherman reflects on Walt Disney’s influence during the “Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland” panel.

Day two of the Expo presented more tough decisions and more lines, but on a more organized level, I felt. However, to attend the “Worlds, Galaxies and Universes: Life Action at The Walt Disney Studios” presentation, an early lineup was necessary. My cohorts and I joined the line at 5:30 am (for a 10:30 am presentation), and were some of the last to receive wristbands for entry, while others who arrived later waited in the standby line. (Side note: Many waiting in the standby line received entry to the presentation: Hall D23 held 7500 people.)

The queue for the “Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios” presentation. The crowd to the right is the standby queue.

 

Of course, it was a magnificent presentation, complete with movie trailers, sizzle reels and celebrity appearances. I will admit, the ten year old in me leapt out of my seat when Harrison Ford took the stage with the freshman cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, cameras were sealed in plastic bags as photography and video were prohibited. Of course, there was also a tiny announcement about a Star Wars land coming to Disney Parks in the future that shook things up quite a bit. All of these elements made this a highly entertaining presentation to be at – well worth camping out for! (Disney Darlings once again, has provided more information on the Star Wars land coverage here.)

Perhaps the biggest show floor highlight for me was “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit.” Given the geekery of many Disney fans, I’m surprised they weren’t handing out bibs at the exhibit entrance to catch the collective drool as we all walked past various pieces of history from Disneyland’s first 60 years. Below are just a few highlights from the amazing exhibit:

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit:” Disneyland ticket #000001, purchased by Roy O. Disney.

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit:” A collection of souvenir merchandise from Disneyland. I have a couple of these items, but I wouldn’t mind owning it all!

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit:” Definitely makes me want to fly to Never Land!

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit.” Why, hello, Harold! One of the original Abominable Snowmen from the Matterhorn.

 

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit.” From the “I Want” File: A collection of souvenir guides, maps and tickets from Disneyland.

 

From “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit.” A Nightmare Fantasmic!

 

I realize I’m leaving out a lot of other things that I happened to see at the Expo. From time with friends, to meeting some amazing people, to other panels and presentations, there is just so much to talk about from this amazing weekend! However, for space constraints (I know, I’ve already kept you reading this long!), I wanted to take the last portion of this post to address a bit of what you may have been reading on the internet from other blogs and sites.

First off, you will find many complaining the Expo was horribly disorganized. Now, as I stated at the outset, the lines on opening day were confusing and frustrating. I’ll agree to that. But that was really my only issue with organization all weekend long. I camped out for major presentations, attended a panel with stage pass, and a few Walt Disney Archive panels with no pass required. In fact, those panels were surprisingly not full, and contained some of the best history lessons of the weekend. If I have one regret from the Expo (besides not being able to see The Originals: Disney on Broadway concert), it would be not attending more of these Archive panels and presentations. “Sounds Delightful! An Illustrated Audio Adventure with Stacia Martin” was a true highlight for this Disney Vinyl collecting nut, as Stacia played us some great vinyl tracks while leading us through Disneyland and the 60th anniversary of the Mickey Mouse Club (Another panel I regretfully missed!).

 

From the Walt Disney Archives Stage: “Sounds Delightful! An Illustrated Audio Adventure with Stacia Martin.” Truly a DisNerd’s dream presentation!

 

I do believe many of the complaints of organization stemmed from the shopping experiences on the Expo show floor. While I did manage to get into the Dream Store with relative ease, most of the the items I wanted to purchase were sold out by Friday afternoon. As for the Disney Store line, I didn’t hear of anyone spending less than three hours in line for limited edition merchandise, so I didn’t even bother.

Which brings me to my second point. I believe for some, the Expo was pretty much a shopping event. And if that was the case, that was absolutely fine for them, but the long lines and agitation that came with them could make for a pretty crazy show floor at times, not to mention hordes of collectors and re-sellers camping out for the Expo floor every morning. The mood among many seemed to stem from these lines and lack of availability of merchandise. I don’t know what can really be done about this other than perhaps a separate building for the major retail stores (not individual vendors), but it made me a little sad. See, for me, what made the Expo so enjoyable was the celebration of Disney: like-minded fans, Disney celebrities, amazing exhibits and shows. Sure, there was some merchandise I would have liked to get – the Expo themed Mickey ears come to mind – but, overall, that’s not why I was there. My weekend was made by spending time with my friends, seeing all I could see, and having amazing experiences that will last a lifetime.

And would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I might do a couple things different, but overall, I would say it’s a great experience I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Bright Like a Diamond, Or… Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

A friend of mine posed the following question last night, on the eve of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary:

“Can you imagine what might’ve and must’ve been going through Walt’s mind 60 years ago, the evening before his Disneyland park would open?”

While many would probably answer that he was nervous, perhaps questioning what he had gotten himself into, I can’t help but think a bit differently.

I think Walt had complete confidence in his park. He was a man used to taking new risks, building on new experiences. So this new idea of a theme park? I’m sure in his mind there was little to no doubt. Sure, there were nerves at play – I mean who wouldn’t have butterflies on the eve of such a grand unveiling? However, I liken him to being more like the boy (or husband, for that matter) in this classic Disney commercial:

 

 

I can’t help but think he was giddy with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to show his park to the public. To prove the doubters wrong (mind you, after headlines declared a disastrous opening day, this one would take a while longer!). To tell everyone who came to that happy place, “Welcome.”

 

He certainly looks excited to show off his park!

He certainly looks excited to show off his park!

 

Disneyland was a dream, yes. But it was a product of hard work and determination. It came from the mind of a man who knew the public in ways other analysts and business insiders today can only dream of. It was built by people who believed in this man’s vision and insight. It was visited by throngs of tourists, locals, and dignitaries, who all wanted to see what Walt had built.

60 years later, Disneyland is still going strong. People are still traveling from all over the globe to visit Walt’s original park. Attractions and events come and go, but Walt’s vision still remains, as does his presence. I see it as I exit Fantasyland at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, as the “Partners” look out over the guests pouring in down Main Street USA. I feel it as I ride “It’s a Small World,” Walt’s anthem to the world and our likenesses. I sense it as I’m leaving the park at night, turning to see the light in his old apartment over the Fire Station, still shining brightly, knowing he’s still there in many different ways.

Today, we wish Disneyland a happy birthday. You’re shining bright like a diamond, and continue to be a source of happiness for many generations. We thank not only Walt Disney, but countless Imagineers, construction workers, and Cast Members, who have worked tirelessly both behind the scenes and onstage to bring us Walt’s vision. Here’s to many more anniversaries to come!

 

Walt, We Are Forever Grateful.

Walt, We Are Forever Grateful.

 

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday – A Silly Symphony

On the heels of yesterday’s Disney in Concert: A Silly Symphony Celebration at the D23 Expo, I thought I’d use today’s (Nearly) Wordless Wednesday to share one of my favorite Silly Symphonies – and a wordless one at that!

 

 

Any other fellow DisNerds love this short? Are you planning on attending this year’s D23 Expo?

 

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday – One Moon, One Golden Sun

As the sun sets and the sky darkens, the lights come up on It’s a Small World… making for a beautiful gold and white backdrop. Inside, you’re introduced to a catchy tune, vibrant colors and settings, and an optimistic message that maybe we all have more in common than we think. I personally list this as one of my top attractions in Disneyland. A day at the park isn’t complete without the Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed.

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Small World… you’re a sight for sore eyes.

Why Tomorrowland Matters, Part 3: Does It Matter?

 

Tomorrowland fan-art poster courtesy of Joseph Marsh. Check out more of his amazing artwork on Behance!

Tomorrowland fan-art poster courtesy of Joseph Marsh. Check out more of his amazing artwork on Behance!

In Part One of the Why Tomorrowland Matters series, I spoke of my speculation of the upcoming movie, and my hopes of what it really was. In Part Two, I spoke of why the idea of Tomorrowland was so important, especially in a hardened and cynical world. Now, upon seeing the movie this past weekend, it’s time to ask the big question: did the movie live up to it’s expectations? Does Tomorrowland matter?

Short answer: Yes, it really does.

Of course, I have a longer reply as well, but it really comes down to the above statement. I’m reluctant to go too far into the movie plot, as many have not seen the movie yet, and I have no intentions to spoil it for those who intend to. What I will say it that, after viewing it, I definitely walked out of the theater with a feeling of optimism, which is exactly what the filmmakers intended. After seeing many mixed reviews, part of me truly believes how this movie is received depends on how much the viewer is willing to buy into this message. I, for one, am enamored with the idea of a place where people work together, toward a better and brighter future. Away from the distractions and discouragements that this world tends to offer, who knows what can happen? And that, my friends, is what Tomorrowland (The place within the movie) was meant to be. But is it? Can a brighter tomorrow be accomplished? These are the questions that linger as Casey (Britt Robertson), an intelligent and optimistic teenager who receives the mysterious Tomorrowland pin, and Frank (George Clooney), a cynical ex-resident banished from Tomorrowland, attempt to find this alternate-dimension locale.

While this movie is more about the journey than the destination, the destination itself is pretty phenomenal. To explain the real reason behind the journey aside from Casey’s curiosity would be, once again, giving too much away. Let’s just say there is a problem that needs to be solved, urgently, and the answer lies in Tomorrowland, along with the overseer of Tomorrowland, Governor Nix.

Why it all really matters, what it ultimately comes down to is this: Tomorrowland is a movie with a positive message. Are we as a people really doomed, or can we fix it? That’s what it really asks, and dares us to imagine it’s the latter over the former. I realize to many, it may come across as preachy, but for me, it was a message that needs to be heard. I’ve also heard from many there are too many plot holes. I would dare to say, there are some lingering questions that I’d love to see answered (perhaps in the form of an extended cut Blu-ray release), but to me personally, it didn’t take away from the fun or tone of the movie. And believe me, it is a very fun movie if you allow it to be – great humor and surprisingly intense action, especially for a PG rated movie!

 

I would like to register a complaint, however. I wore this on Small World... and nothing happened!

I would like to register a complaint, however. I wore this on Small World… and nothing happened!

 

As far as performances go, as the leads, George Clooney and Britt Robertson are great in their parts and do the roles justice. Robertson exudes an optimism, even in the darkest moments, while Clooney portrays Frank as jaded, but still shows a possible (deeply buried) spark of hope when the time comes to do so. Hugh Laurie was wonderful as David, and gives a great speech – about what, you’ll just have to go see and find out. (I realize there’s a lot of ambiguity in this review, but it’s best to remain spoiler free, and see and decide for oneself.) The biggest surprise though, is the performance by young Raffey Cassidy, who plays Athena, the mysterious young visitor/messenger from Tomorrowland. Her performance is quite memorable, and a character that definitely stuck with me well after we left the theater.

So does Tomorrowland matter? Yes. As a movie, very much so, and even more as an idea and a place many of us long for. I encourage anyone on the fence about seeing this movie to not listen to the critics. Instead, buy a ticket, see it in theaters while you can (I saw it on a large screen with great sound, but have heard the IMAX version is amazing!), and decide for yourself. At the same time, as a side note, you’ll be supporting original, non sequel or rebooted movies, which is something we don’t get much of right now!

I’d love to hear from you, fellow DisNerds – have you seen the movie? What are your feelings on it? Please keep spoilers to a minimum, if not non-existent. If you would like to discuss plot details, I’d be happy to do so. Just message me through the Confessions Facebook page!

Are you ready to go to Tomorrowland? I know I am!

 

 

A Running DisNerd, Part 3: Finishing in Never Land

Note: This is the third (and last… for now…) part of a series about my experience being a first time runner attending my first RunDisney event. I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if you have yet to read them, click to read part one and part two.

3:00 AM came early on race day. Sure, we had gone to bed relatively early the night before. Disneyland had closed at 7:30, and we headed back to the hotel shortly after that. Nonetheless, when the alarm went off, all I could think was, “What kind of crazy people get up at 3 in the morning to run? ”

Apparently, the answer was us. We were that kind of crazy people, along with roughly 4500 other crazies.

However, any feeling of being tired was forgotten as we walked through Disneyland’s front gates with race bibs securely fastened to the front of our shirts. 4:30 AM, and Main Street was alive with music and lights as runners made their way to the starting corrals.

20150508_043821Even after arriving half an hour early, we were moved into Corral B, the second starting position for runners. We were entertained by emcees, a DJ,  and a visit from Wendy Darling. Suffice to say, it was not an uneventful wait. Surrounded by other runners, both experienced and novice like me, I felt a genuine excitement to get moving. Instead of being insecure about being able to finish, I felt inspired by all of the people ready to take their shot at the race as well! After an early morning National Anthem and a visit from Tinker Bell…

20150508_050209…. We were off! At least, kind of… You see, with over 4,000 people taking off from the starting line, even one corral at a time, it definitely takes a few minutes to get moving. However, once we were moving, I knew there would be no stopping – at least not until we saw characters on the run trail or other photo ops!

I have to say, the folks at RunDisney really know how to make a run, even a simple 5k, a fun and inspiring event. As we began the run, The path was lined with cast members clapping and cheering us all on as we set out on our journey. They continued to cheer us on wherever they happened to be stationed that morning. Mechanics working on ride vehicles backstage, people from their office windows in the TDA building, security guards working the Cast member entrance… they were all enthusiastic and friendly!

We were also told to keep an eye out for Peter Pan’s shadow, and to give our best Peter “crow” whenever we saw it. This led to some quite enthusiastic yelling and screaming in the hour before dawn.

Crow with me!

Crow with me!

I’d also like to add, the running crowd was quite fun as well. Lots of green tutus and wings, costumes (The DisNerd Family ran as peter, Tink and Wendy), and themed teams as well. I wish I had more pictures to share of some of the runners, but being that we were involved in a run, we had to keep going! This included when the rain started coming down somewhere around Mile 1. Fortunately, although it was a steady, constant rain, it was not a torrential downfall either – just enough to get us wet and make many of us cold!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter's shadow could still be found!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter’s shadow could still be found!

I’ll be honest and say, as much as I worried about the amount of running I could actually pull off, I found myself wanting to run more! There were points where the path narrowed, and you could only move as fast as those in front of you. Also, with mile markers and characters out, stops were sure to happen. I mean, who could resist stopping to take advantage of this picture opportunity with a little running Wendy?

"I have the strangest feeling I've seen that ship somewhere before..."

“I have the strangest feeling I’ve seen that ship somewhere before…”

I did keep my promise to myself though. I started running (Once I was in a clear enough space to do so), and I finished running. Do I plan on doing more running in the future? You bet. I may never make it to a half marathon, or even 10k, but this event has inspired me to even start looking at local 5k events here in Arizona to see what else there may be to do! Speaking of 10k and half marathons, my hat goes off to all runners in any running event, RunDisney or otherwise! You have my repsect.

As do you, dear readers. I appreciate all of your encouragement and well wishes. I felt your support as I ran, and was even encouraged by a couple readers (and old high school friends who happened to be running other events that weekend) who happened to be there and cheered me on as I passed! It was truly a memorable event, and one I would recommend to anyone, especially fans of Disney, regardless of whether it’s your first or 51st running event. Disney magic, and getting in shape? What can be better?!?

 

You bet I look like a bit of a dork... but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It's something I'll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!

You bet I look like a bit of a dork… but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It’s something I’ll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!