Over the weekend, Disney fans from all over the world attended the D23 Expo 2015. Three full days were jam-packed with panels, performances and surprise announcements. To make note of how many people were in attendance, Saturday was completely sold out.
Whether guests were there for the presentations, merchandise, meet and greets or cosplaying, the event was sure a fun one. Having attended all three days, there was a lot to keep one busy and entertained.
So with a full list of things in mind to do, I set off into the expo with high expectations and came out with everything greatly surpassing what I had in mind. In doing so, I would like to share my experience and highlights from the event.
DAY 1: Friday
Early Friday morning, 2 a.m. to be exact, I hopped in line. The queue line for guests waiting overnight was located in Hall E, which was right below Hall D23. Upon entering, our tickets were scanned and we were issued a free bag, souvenir guide and list of events. To make time pass quickly, there was a Disney movie marathon on the television screens. In total, we all watched five Disney films in a row. But hey, the wait seemed to go by pretty fast.
The reason for camping out? The Disney Legends Awards!
The ceremony was set to start at 10 a.m. on Friday. This special event would shine light on those in the Disney world that have exceeded their full potential and were honored for their work. As guests all filed into Hall D23, the 7,500 seat hall was packed and there was not an empty seat in the house.
The ceremony inducted the likes of George Bodenheimer, Andreas Deja, Eyvind Earle, Danny Elfman, George Lucas, Susan Lucci, Julie Reihm Casaletto and Carson Van Osten. Each inductee gave a thoughtful speech and some even left in tears. One of the big surprises of the morning was the inducting of Johnny Depp. The audience went nuts as he made his way on stage.
Also during the ceremony, there were several performances. Josh Stickland, the original Tarzan from Broadway, performed the heartfelt song “You’ll Be in My Heart.” Val Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd from Dancing with the Star waltzed to Sleeping Beauty’s “Once Upon a Dream.” Ne-Yo paid tribute to the late Robin Williams with a rendition of “Friend Like Me.” James Monroe Iglehart, known as Genie from Broadway’s Aladdin, gave us all chills as he sang “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even Richard Sherman and Broadway’s Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) came out to perform “A Kiss Goodnight.”
The ceremony was truly beautiful and left us all ready to take on the expo.
The next major panel attended celebrated 60 years of the world-famous Jungle Cruise. Safari So Good- 60 Years of the World Famous Jungle Cruise, brought forth a variety of Imagineers as well as skippers past and present. This presentation gave audiences a look at Disneyland’s very own Jungle Cruise and other Jungle Cruise attractions throughout the world. Though each of the attractions look similar, they all bring something different to the table.
The panel included discussions of all plant life at the Disneyland Resort’s version of the attraction. It was noted that the African Sausage Tree should not be consumed and all the skippers on stage laughed because apparently the tree looks appetizing?
Old footage from the attraction’s early years of construction showed a look at how the attraction was trenched out. One imagineer mentioned that the entire attraction was planned out and routed with a stick. Pretty much the track had been eye balled. Walt liked it, so it was approved and is what it is today.
Throughout the entire presentation, puns were being thrown left and right. It was a good time for everyone. The panel itself also talked about how the attraction has inspired so much more than just a cruise through the jungle. The likes of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel and Trader Sam’s Grotto Grog at the Polynesian Village Resort were all a concept from a Jungle Cruise Skipper, turned Imagineer. To hear that news, it was a shock because you know that so much thought was placed behind the concept.
Even more so, it was announced at that panel that the Magic Kingdom would get a brand new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant. The “Skipper Canteen” is set to open in later in the year.
The panel then closed out with a run though of the attraction and an adlib of lines. On screen, a video played a ride through of the attraction. Each skipper gave a line and took turns giving us all a virtual tour. It was not only hilarious but also so awesome knowing that these people can come up with these funny lines in seconds.
Last panel of the day I enjoyed was the 60 Years of Imagineering panel. The panel was split into two sections, imagineers from the early start of the Disneyland Resort and those that are closer to creating the newer attraction of the resort.
Each section had one hour to share and bring stories from their past. The likes of Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante and Richard Sherman were on the first panel. Each gave insight on how they started working at Disneyland Parks and what their thoughts were on the park itself. Marty noted that his first real job was working in the PR department at Disneyland. Richard laughed at the fact that Walt always asked him to create songs for attraction concepts that no one could ever understand. Orlando shared the times that the audio animatronics would glitch and would pretty much scare everyone. Each story gave us all a laugh and a look at the historic work.
The second section included the likes of Tony Baxter, Marty Sklar and many more. Each gave a look of their work and similar questions from the previous panel were asked. The moment that was pretty emotional was when the question was asked about Walt Disney Imagineering in 60 years. Most replied by saying that they will do whatever it take to make people feel young again and bring a smile to all. That panel was great and inspiring.
After having a jam-packed day of panels, I did not really have time to explore the show floor. A quick snack here and there, that was it. It was totally ok with me, because where else can you see so many big names in the Disney industry in one day? Totally worth the lining up early and waiting in line.
Stay tuned for tomorrow as I bring you an update on my experience from day 2 at the expo.
For a full list of Day One highlights, you can click here to see the lineup.