The bi-yearly D23 Expo returned to the Anaheim Convention Center this past weekend, and made a huge splash with the plethora of movie announcements that soon followed. While I've been attending and covering comic, anime, and even cat conventions for several years now, this was my first time experiencing the Disney magic that is D23 Expo. My girlfriend Amanda is the biggest Disney nerd I know, so I basically tagged along with her as my guide for all things Disney. Marvel and Star Wars are my specialty, so I did feel the familiar comforts of those properties throughout the convention.
One of the first things that I noticed upon arrival was the crowds, or lack thereof in comparison to WonderCon that I attended at the beginning of the year. In fact, tickets for Friday and Sunday were still available at the start of the convention.
The panels were also very minimal in comparison to the hundreds of different panels that one can usually find at a normal comic convention, and had only three different rooms for hosting: Hall D23 (the equivalent to Comic-Con's Hall H), Stage 23, and Stage 28—the latter two were for smaller panels. The big announcements were saved for Hal 23, and the major one for Friday was the Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Studios panel, hosted by John Lasseter.
Walking the floor was a bit surreal at first, because everything was just so open and the only lines/crowds that could be seen were for the official Disney stores with the exclusive D23 Expo merchandise. In my opinion, they needed more locations to purchase the exclusives at, and not have them virtually right next to each other. The lines were reminiscent of those you would see at Disneyland itself, and all that was missing were bawling children.
The Center Stage was a neat addition, for it was right smack-dab in front of you as you made your way inside, playing live music from the latest Disney pop stars as well as hosting events such as the Mousequerade costume contest. The winner was Chewbacca as Beast (from Beauty and the Beast), and it was incredibly clever. However, if the band playing wasn't your cup of tea, then you had to walk pretty far in any direction to escape it.Video games were available to demo (Infinity 3.0), the latest toys and fashions were on display in the Consumer Products Pavilion, and they even had an entire portion of the floor dedicated to a preview of their new Shanghai Disney Resort set to open in the spring of 2016. Beautiful Chinese lanterns hung overhead, beckoning attendees to wander inside and explore what the Shanghai location will have to offer.
Even the cosplay on display was more family friendly, with no scantily clad or sexy costumes to be seen. There was the occasional Slave Leia take on a Disney Princess, but classic Disney costumes definitely reigned supreme, along with the occasional Star Wars and Marvel characters. Amanda went as Briar Rose on Friday (and made the outfit herself with a little help from a friend), then a Hipster Mermaid Aurora on Saturday. She even agreed that it was refreshing seeing only Disney themed cosplay, rather than the melting pot of fandoms always seen at every other convention.
The big event Saturday was the Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios panel, which showed exclusive clips and footage from the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, and more. Hall D23 was absolutely packed, with some people waiting in line overnight just to ensure a spot. Everyone left with an exclusive Star Wars, Jungle Book, and Alice: Through the Looking Glass posters, which are going for more than $100 on ebay at the moment. After the panel let out, the floor immediately became a sea of people, and that was the only time it felt like WonderCon crowds.
Even when checking out the different vendors, it felt weirdly relaxing. I wasn't being shoved out of the way or crowded when looking at different toys, paintings, and pins—and pins were all the rage—and the atmosphere was incredibly friendly. The only time I encountered an unpleasant person was when I pointed out to Amanda that there was a rare Golden Book of the Little Man of Disneyland, and a woman who was purchasing it immediately informed us that it was hers, and then continued to be ferociously protective of it, even though we tried to convince her we got the message that it was hers and we weren't going to outbid her at the last second. She acted as if we were going to mug her for it.
Overall, Amanda and I had fun attending and seeing all the exclusive clips, ingenious cosplaying, and getting caught up in the Disney magic. While we didn't attend Disneyland (literally right across the street) afterwards, we'll definitely have to attend sometime soon to really keep an eye out for all the major changes that have happened over the decades that we learned about in the Disneyland: The Exhibit exhibit on the floor.
Cameron Hatheway, signing off for Bleeding Cool.