Monday, September 14, 2009

Highlights From #D23...

Okay, okay, I know what y'all are expecting: since I mainly write about television, you inevitably searched onto this piece looking for coverage of Miley Cyrus' "surprise" concert on opening day, Thursday September 10, or tidbits from the cast of The Wizards of Waverly Place on style for the new school year from closing day, Sunday, September 13. You might even hope for a review of some of ABC's new fall shows-- like Flash Forward, Modern Family, or The Middle-- all which screened periodically throughout the four days of events. However, the one thing I have kept pretty underwraps at this site is that I am a HUGE DISNEY NERD. I got way more excited over John Lasseter and Roy P. Disney than Johnny Depp or any cast member from LOST (though I did wait in line to meet Sterling Beaumon)! Well, mum's the word no more!

D23 has come and gone, and though I attended as a member of the media, always playing the "too cool to wait on lines" card, secretly, inside I was wigging out at all of the great insider seminars and presentations in which I was privy to sit. Although I could only attend the final two days of the convention this year, I more than made up for lost time by jam-packing my days. Here was my schedule, along with some highlighted bullet-points from each:

Saturday, September 12 2009:
- Checked in as a member of the press, received my expo guide and media badge, and set off to explore the convention floor.
- Met the real stars of this event: Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto!!!
- Attended a screening of Modern Family for ABC (premieres September 23 2009)
- Got a glimpse at the future of the theme parks both through a display of miniature and interactive creatures (Lucky the Dinosaur, Wall-E, and the newly improved Abe Lincoln from the Hall of Presidents), as well as an in-depth seminar complete with video.
- Learned Star Tours will be closing in October 2010 to undergo a 3-D transformation, but Darth Vader ensured us it would reopen in 2011.
- Heard all about how Disneyland was only built at 5/8 scale, which is why it feels more "intimate" (Walt was afraid no one would come otherwise), but Disney World is full scale, so they can expand. And they will: Fantasyland will undergo a complete renovation to carve out special villages for each princess to make it feel like you're really in "her" world. All will be interactive, too: Sleeping Beauty, for example, will have a Sweet 16 thrown for her, and you can be the ones to make the birthday cards and join in on the balloons, gift-giving, and hopefully cake!
- Previewed the auction items (including original live action versions of princess dresses, custom and thematic Mickey ears, one of a kind art pieces, autographed memorabilia from High School Musical and Hannah Montana, and an actual ship from the Peter Pan ride).
- Saw a slideshow of unique family photos from Roy P. Disney, who also spoke about his family's deep devotion to the Disney company and read a letter that Walt wrote to Roy on his birthday after they went for two years without speaking to each other while still working in the same building.
- Wandered through the Disney Treasures, which featured one of Walt's Oscars, Emmy's, and Mousekers (Disney version of an Oscar), as well as costumes from Pirates..., Enchanted, Mary Poppins, The Mickey Mouse Club, Camp Rock, and of course Captain E.O!
- Sat in on the most technologically challenged seminar: "The Making of the U.S. Presidents" to learn all about how Obama was "built" and what is being changed to the Lincoln exhibit in Anaheim.

Sunday, September 13 2009
Bid (and then lost out) on one of the Boys & Girls Club of America Christmas trees; entered just about every give-a-way possible; shopped during the exclusive D23 members only time and managed to snag one of the special commemorative pins.
- Attended "The Making of Toy Story Mania" to learn all about how the ride came to life both in Anaheim and in Orlando-- from concept sketches to early technology and builds.
- Went to John Lasseter's presentation on the future of Pixar films, in which we got to see THE BEST clip ever: Groovin' With Ken, which will make more sense when Toy Story 3 finally comes out.
- Learned some of the new celeb voices in Toy Story 3 will include Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Garland, and Timothy Dalton.
- Also saw clips from The Princess & The Frog (which will screen in LA ON the Disney lot!! followed by a special tour and fan experience event on a soundstage with animators from the film), Toy Story 2 in 3-D, the new Toy Story 3 trailer, and two brand new Cars Toons.
- Winnie The Pooh will have a new animated feature coming soon; it will be a combo of all 5 A.A. Milne classic tales rolled into one and keeping the original watercolor art direction and "dreamy, magical" but overall simple storytelling vibe.
- Went to a Muppets presentation that felt like a brand overhaul: they are taking over TV, the internet, the literary world, and all things retail! Steiff exclusive plush Kermits and Miss Piggys, new Myzos bracelets, official Halloween costumes, and of course, my personal favorite: Build Your Own Whatnots coming to Disneyland "sometime in the near future!"
- The Muppets will also have new iTunes Apps hitting Apple shortly, including one of Waldorf and Statler designed to use in noisy/crowded movie theaters.
- A new Muppets film is in the works, but their "stage manager" joked that it's the cheapest movie ever made. However, money and marketing is being put into updating the "Muppets in 4-D" attraction at DCA, such as new spoof movie posters in the queue area (parodies of Pirates... and Wall-E).
- Met Fonzie, Gonzo, Pepe, and Sterling Beaumon (Young Ben from LOST).
- Learned that Disney is trying to completely ignore Britney Spears as ever being a success story of theirs in "From Annette To Miley: How Disney Pop Changed The World."
- Watched a presentation worthy of a thesis about how Annette Funicello virtually led the way for Miley Cyrus and the "triple threat" effect of Disney talent.

Thank you to the Disney Family, Dick Cook, John Singh, the Anaheim Convention Center staff, and everyone who came out (employees, talent, and fans) to make this event so much fun and so successful! See you in 2010!

To see more of my photos from this year's convention, please visit my Facebook page.

Please also visit IBG Inc's official eBay page for auction items (all proceeds go to charity) from D23!

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