As the sun started to rise over Anaheim on Friday, August 9, the first thing that was visible was not crowds of guests rushing to get into Disneyland – not when the D23 Expo was kicking off right next door. The third D23 Expo opened its doors to D23 members at 9:00am followed by general admission guests at 10:00am. One thing worth mentioning: earlier this year D23 opened up the option of a free membership meaning that anyone who took the time to sign up for a free membership not only received the discounted admission prices, but also the priority entrance.
The first real event of the day and weekend, Art and Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios started at 10:00 and went way over the scheduled time and lasted around 3 and a half hours. Bob Iger was on hand to introduce John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, who led the ceremony which included a ton of celebrities and surprises and costume changes (Lasseter started off by wearing a Monsters University Hawaiian Shirt). The first topic of discussion/celebrity appearance was Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader’s character “Slug” from Monsters University, which was so popular that Pixar debuted a short based on him, Party Central, that will be released along with The Good Dinosaur.
Moving on, the next film discussed was in fact The Good Dinosaur which will be released next summer. The plot of the film revolves around the idea of what would’ve happened if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs actually missed the Earth and they continued to live. According to the film, the dinosaurs over time will become farmers and the hero of the story will discover a new bug (the first human being) and they will continue on an adventure together. Bill Hader is also set to voice a character in The Good Dinosaur.
Sticking with Pixar, two years ago a film without a title was announced and today, Pete Docter, the director of the film, was on stage to further discuss the film Inside Out. Inside Out introduces Riley, a young girl who we will get to know through all of her different emotions that guide her throughout her life. Based on the clips shown, there is a lot of positive buzz for this film for its comedy and emotion. Bill Hader will also be voicing a character for Inside Out.
More details came out about the plot of Finding Dory. Finding Dory will focus on Dory going off to look for her family. Marlin and Nemo will set out on their own adventure to find Dory after she leaves. Bill Hader, whose voice will not be featured in Finding Dory, had the crowd in stitches when he came on stage as a sea cucumber trying to get a fourth part in a Pixar film claiming that he was set to be the next Pixar good luck charm, a position currently held by John Ratzenberger. The curtains of the stage flew open and out popped John Ratzenberger escorted by the Disneyland Band so Ratzenberger could give Hader a lesson on being the good luck charm for Pixar (you have to be in 14 films and you don’t blow your own horn).
Rounding out the Pixar parade was Toy Story of Terror. The first ten minutes of this TV special, airing October 16, were shown in which the Toy Story characters get lost at a creepy motel while on a road trip.
After a wardrobe change into a Disney’s Planes shirt by Lasseter, the Disney Toon Studios became the next topic of discussion. The first announcement was the Disney’s Planes sequel Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue in which Dusty has a career change to firefighting after he can no longer race. Dane Cook, the voice of Dusty Crophopper, was on hand for the announcement. Two new Tinker Bell films were announced and one of the films is set to bridge the gap between Pixie Hollow and Neverland. Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor, The Avengers) came on stage to massive cheers to discuss his part of the film and sing ‘The Bare Necessities’ from his favorite Disney film The Jungle Book.
A final wardrobe change into a Wreck-It Ralph shirt by Lasseter meant that the Walt Disney Animation Studios was up. The audience got to witness the premiere of ‘Mickey Gets A Horse’ which is a Mickey cartoon from 1928 that was thought to be lost, but it has been restored in a unique way and still features the voice of Walt Disney as Mickey. Disney asked not to divulge details on the cartoon, but it will be available to see before the film Frozen this November. A clip was shown from Big Hero Six, the first full-length animated feature from Disney featuring characters from Marvel.
The 2016 Disney buddy-action film Zootopia was discussed in more detail. It will be about a fox and a rabbit who work together, despite their antagonistic relationship, and eventually come together and become best friends. The final film to be featured in this event was Frozen. Frozen is about two sisters, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) who discovers she has the power to make ice and snow and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) who discovers she also possesses the ability to perform magic. In the film, Elsa has an accident in which she almost kills Anna and then accidentally turns their world into a perpetual winter. Anna attempts to reconnect with her sister and save their realm, while meeting characters along the way like Olaf the snowman (voiced by Josh Gad). Idina Menzel closed out the presentation by singing the main song from Frozen, “Let It Go”.
Other major events happening in the morning included ‘Behind the Scenes of Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins’ and ‘Mayhem, Mischief, and Monkeys: The Magic of Mystic Manor’. The Mary Poppins presentation was led by Disney Legend and Archivist Dave Smith. Smith led the audience through the history of Mary Poppins from Walt’s desire to adapt the book for his daughters, to the struggle to acquire the rights from author P.L. Travers, to the premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Dave Smith’s storytelling was accompanied with archived audio from script reading sessions with Travers as well as archived dailies that have not been shown publicly before. Smith concluded by showing the trailer of Saving Mr. Banks, in theaters this Christmas. The ‘Mystic Manor’ presentation gave guests an exclusive look at Imagineering’s new take on the Haunted Mansion that debuted in Hong Kong Disneyland earlier this summer. Imagineers Joe Lanzisero and Mark Schirmer were on hand to visually show how the ride was formed from concept art to creation.
While the Animation presentation was still happening in the D23 arena, a very special event took place in Stage 23 – ‘Undiscovered Disneyland’ with soon-to-be Disney Legend Tony Baxter and Imagineer Josh Shipley. Originally branded ‘Undiscovered Disneyland’, the pair quickly changed paths and turned it into ‘Rediscovered Disneyland’. Baxter and Shipley provided a hilarious commentary track to video clips of Disneyland in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s featuring Holidayland, Nature’s Wonderland, The Golden Horseshoe, and America Sings. As if that portion wasn’t good enough, Baxter and Shipley went on to show the recreation of Journey Into Imagination using old video clips, still images, and concept artwork. Following the re-creation, the audience was surprised with a bonus clip of one of the interactive experiences available inside ImageWorks, which was the post show to Journey Into Imagination, that featured Joe Rhode as the Dreamfinder and a very young Tony Baxter. Just when the audience thought it was over, Tom Staggs took the stage and surprised everyone by officially announcing Baxter is to receive a window on Main Street USA at Disneyland. Three lucky audience members were also chosen randomly to attend the ceremony when it takes place.
Also in the afternoon, Dave Bossert along with special guest Roy P. Disney came together in Stage 28 to remember and discuss the life and legacy of Roy E. Disney. Bossert worked closely alongside Roy E. Disney over his 30-year career with Disney and was lucky enough to form a very close relationship with him which in turn led to him writing his new book, Remembering Roy E. Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life. As stated, Roy P. Disney was up on stage also sharing photos and great stories including an amazing picture showing him posing right in front of a mound of dirt where Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World would one day stand.
Another highlight of the afternoon was ‘Disney Imagineering Legend Marty Sklar Presents… Dream It! Do It!‘ Sklar took the stage for an hour to show video clips from his career with Disney as well as promote and share how he got the inspiration and material to write his book Dream It! Do It! Marty made sure to mix in his great sense of humor along the way with funny moments like pointing out where he was hiding in the background of a lot of pictures involving politicians making him a “Hidden Marty”. One thing missing from the presentation was a picture of Sklar and Walt Disney together, but Sklar explained this was because he was always the one setting up the perfect shot for Walt. Marty Sklar had a ton of support during this session from his friend and fellow Disney Legend, Bob Gurr, who sat front row and center.
Other major presentations to happen throughout the day included an exclusive viewing of Disney’s Planes, The Official D23 Expo Costume Contest, ‘Ridley Pearson and the Kingdom Keepers Quest’, ‘The Art and Artistry of Aulani’, and ‘Pixar: Doing Our Homework’.
The final, show-stopping event of the night was ‘Broadway & Beyond… Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway’. Thomas Schumacher, president and producer for Disney Theatrical Productions, hosted the concert that brought together Disney Broadway stars to sing the greatest hits from every Disney stage production (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aida, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins). Like most of the presentations throughout the day, there were some surprises such as Josh Strickland singing a song from the German production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame while stealing the show with his renditions from Tarzan and other musicals. Not to be outdone, Ashley Brown got the crowd emotional with her performance of ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins all while Richard Sherman, co-writer of the song, was in the audience along with Alan Menken. Other performers included Heidi Blickenstaff, Merle Dandridge, and Alton Fitzgerald White.
As soon as the doors opened in the morning it was also possible to explore the D23 Expo Floor which included experiences such as Journey Into Imagineering, The Dream Store, and The Collector’s Forum. Disney specific booths dealing with Disney Consumer Products, Disney Interactive, and Disney Channel were also on the first floor, and there will be more in-depth coverage on these areas in the next two days.
If it seems like a lot happened on the first day of the D23 Expo, then you’d be correct and it only gets busier on Day 2 with the Disney Studios Live Action Film presentation, followed by the Disney Legends ceremony, and Richard Sherman and Alan Menken in concert together throughout the day in the D23 Arena. The DIS Team will be there all day bringing you coverage and ending the night with a recap broadcast at 9:00 PM PST/12:00 AM EST.
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