There are a number of conventions that take place everywhere, centering on all sorts of random topics. We've got cons based off of video games, My Little Pony, you name it. So it came as quite the surprise that there was no such thing as a monstrous Disney convention until recent years. Why did it take so long? It doesn't matter. Now Disney freaks such as myself are finally able to soak ourselves in all things dealing with the House of Mouse for three days straight. The biennial D23 Expo is a fairly new event that's made its home at the Anaheim Convention Center, which makes perfect sense since it's just a hop and a skip away from the Disneyland and the California Adventure theme parks. Finally there's a place that Disney fans can go to where even adults can dress up as their favorite characters. That's great for them because now they can cosplay when it isn't the annual Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland. The rest of the year they won't let you walk into the park dressed up as a Disney character. Believe me, I've tried.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand, which is the D23 Expo. I got the chance to run around the convention center on behalf of Topless Robot (and hijack the site's Twitter feed) to revel in all things relating to this past weekend's D23 Expo. People forget that the convention does not center around the big live action and animation presentations that Disney has to offer, though those are really fun to attend. In reality, the here's a lot more to the event than that. So now let's run down the list of what makes this particular convention so special.
8. Easier Access To Disney Stars
Some of the showcases, performances and autograph booths give Disney fans from around the world better access to those people who help make their favorite television shows or movies possible. This is not any sort of Comic-Con scenario where there's automatically a 50/50 chance you'll get to see your favorite animator, or for the younger ones in the crowd their favorite Disney star. Since this event is a bit more low-key compared to bigger conventions, there's a greater chance that you too will be able to shake hands with animation greats, or that your son/daughter/niece/nephew will be able to squeal with delight standing a couple feet away from a Disney channel star. That and they're easy to spot because they're dressed so shiny and bright. Did I mention that N'Sync's Joey Fatone was found learning to cook? He was, and it was just great seeing him there because he's Joey Fatone and I have a soft spot in my heart for 'N Sync.
7. Expanding The Expo
After a couple of years Disney finally realized that the Anaheim convention center has a lot of room, far more than what they've been using in order to showcase their Expo for the past couple of years. Thanks to that realization (which was staring them in the face) they created sections like Collector's Corner, taking advantage of the massive amounts of floor space. In one room there were two massive sound stages set up where several performances took place showing off some of the Disney channel's best and brightest teenage stars. Perhaps one of the reasons this may be happening is because more Disney vendors are aware of the D23 Expo's existence and how beneficial it can be to them. Then again I'm just happy that there's more vendors around because that means there's a better chance of grabbing some really cool trinkets from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.
6. Auctions and Treasures
When you think about Disney and what kind of products/projects/theme parks branded with its name, that's decades worth of history right there. Every Disney fan loves that sparkly, magical feeling that they get whenever they go to a Disney theme park or movie, so what better way to retain than than by purchasing something official from one of their rides or movies? The D23 Expo has it's fair share of exclusive, unique Disney items that some of the most hardcore of fans would adore. There's even a Disney silent auction that takes place throughout the convention, which was great to see because a male version of Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast almost ran into another auction-goer in order to make his final bid. Even on the convention center floor there's a number of other places that are giving away valuable trinkets from Disney films and past rides that many people in the convention still love to this very day. If you wanted to, you could even purchase the old Matterhorn cart and relive the days where you felt like you were going to fly off the ride when it made a sharp turn.
5. Sing/Draw And Be Merry
There's only so many booths or panels that you can go to before you find yourself a little bit bored. When you hit that point, you may be tempted to run out of the convention center and explore elsewhere, but you don't have to do that at the D23 Expo. Within the convention center there's a couple of interactive booths where Disney fans can get their creativity on. On one corner there's a massive chalk board where a bunch of happy folks encourage you to draw your favorite Muppet. Nearby is a set-up for a small art class where trained Disney artists teach how to draw some of your favorite characters--from Mickey Mouse to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. There was even an area where you could go and sing some of your favorite songs from The Little Mermaid. That movie is my favorite out of all the Disney princess films, so you can imagine my excitement. (Although it was a little sad that the only songs people wanted to sing was "Part of Your World.") Lazy town, population those people. They should have tried singing the French chef's song "Les Poissons," like I tried to. Okay, it's a little hard to keep up the fake French accent throughout the song, but I digress.
4. Fast Passes For Panels? Yes Please
If you've been to any Disney theme park then you're well-aware of the concept of Fast Passes. For those of you who don't, let me explain it quickly. Fast Passes are open to the public where they can swipe their pass and automatically get a special card that will grant them access to a shorter line for a popular ride later in the day. Disney made a genius move in expanding that to their own convention with what they call StagePass. It's the same idea, but used for panels. You bet your pretty little butt that folks got in line to get their passes for some of the bigger presentations the minute the convention floor opened. Disney's own convention version of Fast Passes can be easily implemented into other big conventions across the nation. Can you imagine what would happen if the StagePasses were used for some of the big Hall H panels at Comic-Con? It would definitely work too. Even though the D23 Expo is a bit small (believe me, it is) at least they know what they're doing when it comes to handling the panel lines. Good work Disney.
3. An Inside Look At Making All Things Disney
The panels that are shown throughout the convention that display how much effort and imagination goes inside all things Disney, whether it's one of their upcoming movies or the voices for a theme park ride. What makes it better is that there's an eager audience ready to listen to their stories. Speaking of which, it was really cool seeing the panel on the voices behind some of the most popular Disney rides. The crowd treated them like absolute rock stars. I would have shared a couple of cool pictures with you but the D23 Expo is still holding onto their strict no-phones in panels rule. Why they continue to do that is unknown, though it could be because they want the audience to have their undivided attention, which makes total sense. Disney has always contained a bit of magic within my eyes, so seeing how these creative minds get to work and make the shows or rides that we all love is fascinating to see.
2. Cosplay Right Or Go Home
Disney cosplayers aren't the type to sloppily piece together an outfit. This small group tend to go all out with their costumes, no matter what, and they look fantastic. If their traditional or variation of a Disney princess costume isn't top notch, you bet that they won't be dressing up as said character at the D23 Expo. There's plenty of fantastic people in full costume as your favorite Disney, Marvel and Star Wars characters. Okay, so the urge to recycle those Comic-Con outfits and dress up as a Marvel character is growing, but there's still plenty of Disney fans who will show up as one of the portraits from the Haunted Mansion or a biker babe version of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. In 2015 that Belle needs a long bearded badass version of Beast to accompany her with matching rose arm tattoos.
1. Having A Magical Weekend
Everyone at the D23 Expo is having an absolute blast, and their happiness is contagious. Each one of the attendees is at the D23 Expo because they absolutely adore the House of Mouse and everything it stands for; happiness, imagination and that wonderful family feeling that their movies and TV show gives you. There are no frowns within this convention center, though there are a couple of tuckered out little princesses that you will find slumped in their strollers or on their parent's shoulders. Out of all the conventions that I've attended throughout the years, this one is probably the happiest one of them all. Just thinking about it is making me all warm and fuzzy inside.