Disney D23 Launches All New Website and Free Memberships

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Features

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Published on June 17, 2013 at 10:00 am with 20 Comments

There are hundreds of fan sites dedicated to covering Disney and the Disney Universe that are run and operated by Disney fans. In 2009, Disney themselves jumped into the online fan space with D23, the official Disney fan club. Since then, there have been two major conventions held at the Anaheim Convention center, several one day presentations in both Florida and California, and countless events around the country. All of this in an attempt to solidify Disney’s official presence online, to better control the Disney message, and reach out to the company’s biggest fans.

The launch of D23 came at an uncertain time.  The economy was shaky. Fans the world over were tightening their purse strings.  Despite all of that, the new venture was launched, but with a relatively hefty price tag.  In 2009 there was only one level of membership, set at $74.99 per person. It offered the following (in their words):

  • Disney ”twenty-three” Quarterly Publication: A one-year subscription (four issues) to D23′s exclusive collectible magazine, filled with stunning photography, dazzling illustrations and the ultimate Disney insider perspective. It’s your all-access pass to discovering the magic of Disney’s past, present and future!
  • Membership Card and Certificate: Your membership card and personalized, suitable-for-framing charter member certificate feature many of Disney’s most beloved characters drawn by Disney Master Artist David Pacheco.
  • Surprise Collectible Gift: A collectible just for D23 members. You’ll receive a gift you’ll cherish from the new Walt Disney Archives Collection.
  • Exclusive Special Events and Merchandise: D23 offers its members unique special-event opportunities throughout the year, as well as access to exclusive, limited-edition merchandise and collectibles.
  • D23 Expo: It’s the ultimate Disney fan experience, taking place in Anaheim, California from September 10-13, 2009. This can’t-miss event will feature guest speakers, celebrity appearances, breathtaking exhibitions, sneak peeks, film screenings, one-of-a-kind merchandise, and so much more! Admission will be discounted for D23 members.
  • Subscription to bi-weekly D23 FanFare e-newsletter with breaking news and special offers. (You may opt out of receiving FanFare after your first e-newsletter arrives.)

Many avid fans, including most of us here on staff at MiceChat, hopped on board to see what Disney would do with their official online fan club. The initial response was mixed. Some loved the mostly Los Angeles based events and opportunities to tour the Walt Disney Studios and Archives. However, many scoffed at the fact that the exquisitely produced D23 magazine, which was a major feature of membership, was readily available to non-members at their local bookstores. Others complained that the discounts offered, including $7 off tickets to the D23Expo, did not justify the cost of membership. Those outside of Los Angeles and Orlando complained that there were no local events that they could attend.

Consequently, many found no real value in renewing. Even though D23 did attempt to address some fan concerns regarding the program, and made many changes including adding events nationwide, it just did not seem to be enough to change perceptions.

Fast forward to today, June 17th, 2013. D23 has essentially relaunched itself this morning. It has become leaner, more nimble, and a far more savvy operation with a whole new website and a three-tiered membership structure.

While there will still be the Gold Membership at $74.99 (which still includes all of the benefits) and the Silver Memberships at $34.99 (which includes everything but the magazine), Disney is now offering a base level, FREE membership to the official Disney Fan Club.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You can now become a D23 member for FREE.

But what does a free membership give you?

D23′s website is going behind a registration wall. If you want to read the exclusive content, you’ll need to be a member.  As a registered member of D23, you will have access to all of the official news, information and D23 produced content on the D23 website. Free members will have access to that content, plus they will be allowed some of the same discounts that the higher level members get, too (about 25% of them).

MiceChat was invited up to D23 headquarters in Burbank to get a sneak peek at what the new site would look like, what it would offer, and, in effect, what the new free memberships are all about.  We were truly impressed by the openness of the D23 team and their commitment to making changes that their fans have been asking for. You can’t get much better than free, and at that level, there is really no risk to joining.

Our Favorite Disney Geek, Jeffrey Epstein, addressed the assembled media and welcomed all to the hour-long demonstration.  ”Fans around the world wanted access to the community even if they weren’t able to purchase a membership.” Jeffrey explained.  ”This is something that we have been wanting to do for a long time.”  While limited, the free membership will offer access to select events, include the fanfare newsletter and even give a few discounts. Jeffrey closed by saying, ” A lot of man hours went into this and we are very excited to share this with you.”  He then turned the meeting over to developer Billy Stanek, who shared the features of the newly redesigned D23 website and what all of the new free memberships would have access to.

WELCOME TO THE NEW D23 WEB SITE

Entering the new site, we see that it is more open and much cleaner.  Billy mentioned, “While we wanted to make the site similar to the original, we didn’t want it to be jarring. We wanted to build something that could evolve.”

1-D23-Home-General

The homepage of D23.com before you have logged in. From D23.com.

Notice the little golden mickey keys next to the articles?  Those are bits of content that are viewable by members only.  But even visitors can look at a few things here and there.

Once logged in, members have an unprecedented amount of information at their disposal.

Once you have logged in have logged in to the website, the background changes to gold and you can access all the articles noted with the gold title and the golden key next to them. Members Only content on D23.com.

Once you have logged in to the website, the background changes to gold and you have full access to all the articles noted with the gold title and the golden key next to them. Members Only content on D23.com.

Disney-A-to-Z

“One of the things that we are most excited about is making everything from the Disney archives available,” said Staneck.  At launch, there will be a brand new section called Disney A-Z, which is a virtual encyclopedia of everything Disney or Disney related.

This complete and newly updated electronic version of Disney A to Z, the definitive Disney encyclopedia, has more than 7,000 entries written by Dave Smith, founder and Chief Archivist Emeritus of the Walt Disney Archives—and Dave will be updating this monthly. Members Only content on D23.com.

This complete and newly updated electronic version of Disney A to Z, the definitive Disney encyclopedia, has more than 7,000 entries written by Dave Smith, founder and Chief Archivist Emeritus of the Walt Disney Archives—and Dave will be updating this monthly. Members Only content on D23.com.

At launch, the Disney A-Z archive will have over 7,000 entries written by Dave Smith himself.  All of the entries will be interlinked, for easy cross referencing, and most will have visual media to reference as well. Becky Cline, Walt Disney Archives Director, mentioned to us that while the archives, for the most part, are now fully organized, they have yet to go through the organized boxes with a fine-tooth comb.  Essentially, there is still plenty to find and to be added to this fascinating feature of the new site.

Characters

There will also be a special listing and archive of all Disney Characters. How many times have you wanted to know the name of a character in a Disney movie you loved as a child, or have wondered about some obscure character from film you saw long ago? Well, D23 has thought of that. This promises to be the most complete listing of Disney characters ever. And, where possible, linked to other information about those characters and the films they were in.

From Tangled and Monsters University to the Silly Symphonies, Wuzzles, and Gummi Bears, the D23.com “Characters” section is a constantly growing guide to Disney’s animated characters. It helps you discover fun facts and trivia about your favorite pals throughout the worlds of Disney animation, film, and television. Members Only content on D23.com.

From Tangled and Monsters University to the Silly Symphonies, Wuzzles, and Gummi Bears, the D23.com “Characters” section is a constantly growing guide to Disney’s animated characters. It helps you discover fun facts and trivia about your favorite pals throughout the worlds of Disney animation, film, and television. Members Only content on D23.com.

 

Expo-Home

“While we were at it,” Billy quipped, “we decided to redesign all of the other related websites too.”  They have redesigned the sites for the D23 Expo and for the Disney Legends as well.  We’ll all be able to view all these new sites beginning today.

The D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings the entire world of Disney under one roof, providing attendees with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, and theme parks in Anaheim, California from August 9–11, 2013.

The D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings the entire world of Disney under one roof, providing attendees with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, and theme parks in Anaheim, California from August 9–11, 2013.

 Walt-Disney-Archives-Home

Similar to the Expo site redesign, the new archives pages are flanked with a plum color and filled with some pretty interesting stuff.

The Walt Disney Archives brings the collections and exhibits from across The Walt Disney Company together. From WaltDisneyArchives.com.

The Walt Disney Archives brings the collections and exhibits from across The Walt Disney Company together. From WaltDisneyArchives.com.

Disney-Legends-Home

Here we see the new landing page for the Disney Legends site.  As with the others, rotating content dominates the top of the page and below are the listing of stories.

The Disney Legends program was established in 1987 to acknowledge and honor the many individuals whose imagination, talents, and dreams have created the Disney magic. From DisneyLegends.com.

The Disney Legends program was established in 1987 to acknowledge and honor the many individuals whose imagination, talents, and dreams have created the Disney magic. From DisneyLegends.com.

 

In Summary

In the early days, it seemed like D23 was more concerned with trying to be a Disney fan site than they were with being a primary resource for fans. At $75, the price for entry excluded many of their younger fans who just couldn’t afford the fee. Events were great, but you had to be a member, and a local to either California or Florida, to attend. D23 was well intentioned, but had created barriers that prevented lots of folks from participating, and didn’t create a way for everyone to be an official “Disney fan.”

Everything changes as of today. Anyone can now register for D23 for free. Exclusive new content and research materials have gone behind registration walls, but you can access them with your free membership. If you’d like to attend events, you can upgrade to the Silver membership. The magazine will no longer be available in bookstores. If you’d like a copy, you’ll need to upgrade your membership to the Gold level, as it’s now a D23 exclusive.

Most importantly, the D23 team is intently listening. Within the confines of budget and business priorities, they are doing everything they can to reshape D23 into something that every Disney fan can participate in at some level. The new web site is simple and lovely. New content and information are fantastic. Videos and resources will be very popular. And the events coming this year are exactly the sort of thing you’ll drool at the opportunity to participate in. But it’s really the wonderful people behind D23 itself who will ultimately make this gamble pay off. We get a great vibe from the D23 crew. We want them to succeed. And we hope you’ll give the new, free D23 a chance.

However, there’s no time for the D23 team to pause and reflect on their ambitious relaunch. All of them are busy getting ready for their next huge thing, the D23 Expo in August. It’s an undertaking that boggles the mind with it’s massive scale and complexity. They’ve been ambitious this year on making their web site, services and signature event all more accessible to Disney fans. We wish them our best, as these are really the things which enrich the Disney fan community as a whole and bring us all together.

If you aren’t already a D23 member, you can sign up for free today: http://D23.com

Will you be signing up for the new free or one of the paid memberships?

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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20 Comments

Comments for Disney D23 Launches All New Website and Free Memberships are now closed.

  1. Congratulations to the D23 crew. The new site looks great. We wish you well on all the changes. I have a feeling that the Free membership is going to swamp your servers. EVERYONE is going to want to sign up now. That’s a very good problem to have. :-)

  2. They certainly seem to be trying hard enough. The vast content that they are opening up to the general public alone is astounding.

  3. Great news!!! I don’t mind receiving Disney ads (e-newsletters and website stories steering me to things to buy) but paying for them is another thing altogether. Discounts to things people aren’t buying was another silly thing to charge for. Signing up today!!

  4. Looks like the price of movie tickets went up. I remember paying $5 to see a movie at the studio. Now it looks like $10!

    • You are correct. That looks to be a change in the way the 50 and Fabulous movie events are run. They were “Free” with a $5 service fee. They are no longer billed as “Free” but rather as $10.

  5. Well they certainly gained my attention. ;)

  6. Never was there an article I was so eager to NOT read — to just zoom to the bottom and say “Thanks!”. I’ll be back but now I’m off to join the Lost Boys in Neverland…er, D23. Think I mentioned that I accidentally fell into the first convention, where I earned my Volunt-Ears. The following year Disney had a program where one could volunteer at a local agency and get a free one-day pass. I tried to make that work for months before I gave up. But maybe now we can engage in Regional Chapters of Volunt-Earing! Zoom, faster than a chihuahua!

  7. FYI – the pages of the new site are still propagating. Some of you may be seeing the old site still, though I was finally JUST able to view the new pages: https://d23.com/

  8. i’m a charter member of D23, and i’ve been trying unsuccessfully all morning to register with the new site. it keeps claiming that my membership number and name do not match despite the fact that i’ve got my membership card right in front of me. emailed support; let’s see what they come back with.

  9. I’m looking forward t this change.

    I would love to have seen Disney go through with their original plan to designate some fan-based sites as D23 approved. It would have been interesting to see how that would have turned out.

    In the best situation, I would love to see a lot more people join D23 and have a really good experience with it.

  10. Hmm. I knew at the launch that d23 was not for me… But seeing the beautiful resources here for RESEARCH, especially content from Dave Smith and the Archives, is having me cheering on this new structure! I attended one or two days of the Expo last time and had fun, but was disappointed by not being able to get into almost any panels. I hope that the reorganization of this relaunch bodes well for the reorganization of the Expo this year!

  11. Free is the magic word! I just signed up for D23 right now and look forward to going online and checking out all the content that they provide.

  12. Too bad they discontinued the magazine sales in bookstores. Living outside of the States magazine subscriptions are ‘iffy’ as to even arriving, so I looked forward to picking up a copy whenever traveling back to the States. It would be nice if they still made the magazine available for sale in the parks.

    • as far as i know, the magazine is still available for sale in the parks, at least at disneyland resort.

  13. I had bought a membership for the sole reason of being able to get to tour the studios. That was a great experience, but would I buy the membership again? Probably not, they should include the membership as part of being an annual passholder. Heck we pay enough for those.

    • That really wouldn’t make sense. A lot of D23 members (so I’m told [OK, I'm really guessing]) don’t live close to any of the Disney parks.

  14. Signed up, lets see what happens.

  15. I live in Canada and it’s not letting me check out with the free D23 memberships without a valid US shipping address. Is D23 for the US only?