My experience at D23 Expo 2019 had a rough start, but it doesn’t mean that the whole Expo was a total failure. In fact, I want to say that my overall experience was a great one, and I would love to do it all again!
Off To A Rough Start
“I’m sorry but your chairs are not allowed inside,” said the guard to my entire party. “Since when?” we asked. My sister proceeded to ask for a supervisor who then explained D23 Expo organizers made the change on the evening before the actual start of the convention. Okay, no biggie, my sister decided to bring our chairs back up to the hotel room and come back to meet back up with the group. Oh boy, this was the beginning of a rough morning for us.
Once we all got in past security (sans chairs), we were directed to Hall A to get into line for our Stage Pass reservations which we had for the Legends Ceremony inducting twelve new Disney Legends (including Robert Downey Jr). This would have been a great idea had there been better organization. No one in the hall knew which line went where, and no one knew how to organize the lines to be mobilized to eventually be moved to Hall E, clear across the convention center where the actual ceremony took place. But that’s enough about our rough start. Let’s get into the actual meat of our Day 1!
The Disney Legends Ceremony
We had a few setbacks in the morning, but once seated at the Legends Ceremony, that’s when the Disney Magic was truly felt. I was totally overwhelmed right at the moment when Bob Iger walked onstage and opened with “Let’s start out with the first of many surprises”. What was the surprise? Well, none other than new Legend Christina Aguilera performing her rendition of the song “Reflection” from the hit movie Mulan. Then the stars started getting inducted starting with Robert Downey Jr. and ending with Bette Midler, whose daughter gave the speech on her behalf since she could not be in Anaheim with inclement weather in New York. Having seen so many stars and Disney Legends in one place, I quickly forgot all about my earlier troubles in the day, and was truly joyful for having seen that ceremony.
Walking the Show Floor
We had some time right after the Disney Legends Ceremony to walk the show floor and explore the various booths and displays that D23 Expo had to offer. One of the things that we really got to take a look at was the Avengers Campus models in the Marvel Area of the show floor where we got a glimpse of what is to come at Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Disneyland Shanghai. Right next door to that area was the Disney Parks area where various updates to Disney World were showcased. This is where they had the different Epcot banners hanging including the “revealing Sunday” banners that were teased by D23 on day 1. I loved walking the show floor and this parks area was probably my favorite area to explore. Now let me get into Disney+.
The whole D23 Expo was like a giant Disney+ advertisement, and while this may seem like a bad thing to some, to me it was amazing. The Disney+ booth at D23 Expo gave crowds the chance to get a look at a demonstration of the platform with someone from the Disney+ team explaining what the platform has to offer as well as answering questions that Expo attendees may have had. Right outside of the demonstration area were kiosks that had iPads allowing for attendees to sign up for Disney+ in advance of the November 12, 2019 release at a discounted rate. This was what was known as the “Founder’s Circle” and if you signed up for a 3-year contract you also received a Disney+ “Founder’s Circle” pin. One thing we did as The Disney Time Podcast was lock in that 3-year lower rate and we are definitely excited for the many offerings Disney+ will bring to the table. One of the offerings Disney+ will be bringing is a show called “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (I know, it’s a long name). We attended a panel for this and it was our last panel of the day, so let me talk about it.
The Start of Something New?
The final panel of our Day 1 at D23 Expo 2019 was for “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”. At first I was pretty skeptical of the show because not much was said about it, whether it was going to be a series, a movie, or even what the plot would be. Well, let me tell you, after going to that panel I’m definitely excited for this Disney+ original series to come to my screen and I’m going to watch all 10 episodes when they’re released. At this panel, they showed us the entire first episode of the series and then brought out the cast of the show Without getting into any spoilers, let me just say that this is shot much like “The Office”, complete with satire and dry humor. They poke fun at the original cast, but there is still some singing and dancing involved which makes it fun. The big surprise for most of us in the audience was the host of the whole panel, Corbin Bleu! I don’t think anyone was expecting him to make an appearance, but he did, and he fully supported this show as well.
Day 2: Starting Behind The Scenes
If you recall the first day didn’t start off well, but the second day was a different story. We had stage passes to the first panel of the day at Hall D23 and instead of being brought to Hall A to queue up, we were brought directly to Hall E, where the panel was going to take place. This was probably the most anticipated panel for my group because it was “Behind the Scenes” and it was a new panel that no one really knew what was coming. We were waiting for what seemed like three hours before we received an announcement that staff would be passing out special sealing bags for us to put all electronic recording devices into before we were to be seated in the hall.
We received the bags, and I personally didn’t seal my bag until we were about to walk into the hall. We found our seats and the anticipation was building. What would happen? What were we going to see? Well, it turns out, it was everything movie related from all the Disney studios pre-Fox acquisition. Alan Horn, Disney’s chief creative officer and co-COO of the Walt Disney Studios, was the host for this panel and he brought out some pretty big names to help him do presentations for the upcoming movies in the works.
What Was Shown At The BTS Panel?
To start it all off, Alan Horn showed a trailer that showcased a lot of the upcoming movies to tease us and get us ready for what was to come. He started off with Lucas Films and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Alan Horn brought Kathy Kennedy and JJ Abrams onto the stage to talk a bit about the project but what the two of them did right of the bat was bring out THE ENTIRE CAST OF THE MOVIE including the droids BB8, D-0, and R2D2. There were also a couple of surprises for the audience. First, they announced that everyone in the panel would receive a poster for the new movie. Second, they showed us a trailer which most people have seen by now which gave us all a shock with the scene of Dark Side Rey.
If that wasn’t enough for surprises, the next guest Alan Horn brought onto the stage was Kevin Feige, who came onto the stage wearing a Black Widow logo hat. He of course had to have plenty of surprises in store, and the first thing he surprised the audience with was Ryan Coogler came out and revealed the date of the next Black Panther film which is May 6, 2022. But of course, Feige wasn’t done there. The next thing he did was bring out the cast of the Eternals! And yes, that did include Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) had his character announced as a non-eternal ally of the Eternals. The last thing Feige left the audience with was a clip from the upcoming Black Widow movie and boy was it spectacular. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it at that!
The next studio up was Disney Live Action and out of four movies shown by this studio, only one was an original movie, not a live action remake. That movie was the first one talked about, and it was: Jungle Cruise. You can’t talk about Jungle Cruise without having Dwayne Johnson come out and introduce it. That’s right, the Rock came in, and he was on a boat! He introduced the movie, and even showed us a Jungle Cruise “trailer” that was from the perspective of his character. We thought it was over, but Emily Blunt had something to say about that. She came out and showed her “trailer” which was from the perspective of her character and everyone loved it. They announced it would be coming out July 2020 and it was onto the next movie. That movie was “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.
To introduce this movie, Angelina Jolie came back onstage, and this time she brought more of the cast with her including Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Elle Fanning. Of course they showed a clip from their upcoming movie and we were onto the next movie. The next movie they introduced was the live action Mulan, coming March 27, 2020. I know some people didn’t like the idea of no Mushu, no Shang, etc. Let me say, though, the story is trying to stay closer to legend of Mulan rather than being close to the cartoon version. They showed us a clip from the movie which was a scene from Mulan meeting the match maker, and I must say, it looks good. Finally, we got a glimpse of Emma Stone as Cruella De Vil. She wasn’t able to make it out because she’s in London filming, but she did have a message for the audience which was shown on the screens right before they showed us a picture of Emma Stone as “Cruella”. If that wasn’t overwhelming enough, there was still the Animation Studios and their upcoming movies.
First up was Pixar. Pixar has two new films slated for 2020 releases, and those two are: Onward and Soul. The first film introduced to us was “Soul” and this film was introduced to us by the creative team. They went through the ideas behind the story which follows a middle school band teacher named Joe Gardner who has a passion for Jazz piano and finally lands his dream gig only to get stuck at the “You Seminar” where souls are trained before they’re put into the body. The audience was shown a clip from the movie, and yes, the cast was brought out on stage!
That cast included Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. After “Soul” was introduced to us, the “Onward” producer and director were brought onstage to introduce their movie. They told us about Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two Elf brothers living in a magical world that didn’t use magic anymore. Of course, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt were brought onstage and everyone went nuts at that. They also brought Julia Louis-Dreyfous onstage because she plays the mom of the two brothers. After talking a little bit, we were shown an eight minute clip of the movie that pretty much set up the quest the brothers went on in the movie. Seems like a lot to take in, right? Well, there was still one more studio to go: Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Walt Disney Animation Studios had two movies to show us as well: Raya and the Last Dragon, and Frozen II. We got a glimpse into “Raya and the Last Dragon” as the creative team explained how the story took elements from South East Asian culture combining Hong Kong style action with classic Disney storytelling. The story takes place in a world called Kumandra where dragons are the key to keeping balance to the world, but there is only one dragon left in existence. Raya, a strong warrior and her band of mischievous friends go on an adventure to find the last dragon and bring balance to Kumandra. We were shown a short clip where Raya and one of her companions actually meets the dragon in dragon form. Two of the cast were brought out, Cassie Steele who plays Raya was brought onstage along with Awkwafina who plays the last dragon Sisu.
After that was dropped on us, of course the whole presentation had to end with Frozen II. Frozen II was described as a continuation of the first movie but it tries to look at aspects like, why Elsa has powers and Anna does not. Where were the parents going in the first film? How does Arendelle’s past threaten the future of the kingdom? Well, we were introduced to a couple of new characters. Evan Rachel Wood plays the mom of Elsa and Anna and Sterling K Brown plays Lieutenant Mattias, and both were brought onstage to introduce clips of their characters. After their clips, a longer clip from the movie was shown that was titled “Into the Unknown” and it set up the beginning of the Frozen II movie.
The final thing that was a surprise for the audience was the main cast of the movie brought up onstage to perform a song from the movie called “Some things never change” and the people who performed it were Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad. The song ended with confetti showering all of us in the audience and that was the end of the whole panel. If that wasn’t enough, when we all walked out we were given the Star Wars posters along with a Frozen II poster and an Onward poster.
Overall, I believe this was probably the best panel I had gone to in the two days I went to D23 Expo. On the topic of panels, let me tell you about the final panel I went to for the day.
A Whole New World
My last panel of the day was also the last panel for my trip to D23 Expo since I only spent two days at the Expo. I had a stage pass for the Musical Journey of Aladdin panel and boy was that a crowded panel. Even with my stage pass, I was placed up in the bleachers but I was still able to see the stage and I’m glad I got to go to that because it was quite a good experience. Scott Weinger the speaking voice of Aladdin from the animated movie was the host of this panel, and I thought he did a great job driving the panel.
Other guests brought to the stage included Mena Massoud, the live action Aladdin, and Brad Kane, the singing voice for the animated Aladdin. Various clips were shown from behind the scenes of the animated and live action movies, and many songs were performed including “One Jump”, “Proud of your boy”, and the last song to end the panel was “A Whole New World” performed by Regina Belle, but no Peabo Bryson. Instead, Regina Belle performed with Norm Lewis, a Broadway actor known for originating the King Triton role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway. I thought this panel was a fitting way to end my D23 Expo experience, and I was impressed by all the panels I attended this year. What about the merch?
Shopping at D23 Expo
I would like to end this blog post by talking about the different shopping experiences that were available throughout the D23 Expo show floor, because not everyone was able to be lucky to get into panels like I was. Shopping opportunity was in abundance at D23 Expo as there were several stores set up by Disney and many other stores set up by independent vendors who sold everything you could have dreamed of that was Disney related. For the official Disney represented stores you had the Disney Dream Store, the Disney Store, MOG: Mickey’s of Glendale which had a line for general merchandise and a separate line just for Pins, and Disney Music Emporium.
Each of the official stores sold merchandise that had D23 Expo branded clothing and special items that you can only find at the Expo. Mickey’s of Glendale was a good way to get ahold of Imagineering merchandise only sold to cast members at the Mickey’s of Glendale store in Glendale, CA. The lines of course for all of these official stores were one to two hours long. If you weren’t about waiting in long lines for the official stores, there was also the D23 Expo Emporium where independent shops set up and sell various collectibles and merchandise. Fun fact: I was wandering around this area and saw Robin Lopez (NBA Player) walking around taking pictures with some other attendees.
Is D23 Expo Worth It?
To answer the question, I’d simply say yes. D23 Expo is worth it if you’re going for one day, or going for all three days. The introduction of online queues for Stage Pass, Talent Pass, and Store Pass made people ticked off, and not sending the badges out in a timely manner further made people a bid mad. Regardless of this, there is still something for everyone to enjoy, and just being on the show floor checking out the free entertainment and exploring what Disney has to offer is an experience that you won’t want to miss. When D23 Expo 2021 is announced, I’d say take the time to get everything in order and just go. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.