EXCLUSIVE Behind The Scenes Interview With D23 and Disney Parks And Resorts About The Upcoming Expo

Written by Dusty Sage. Posted in Features

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Published on June 28, 2013 at 6:00 am with 38 Comments

The D23 Expo is a massive event which reaches into all corners of the Disney empire. Just think about all the things that Disney is involved with: Movies, television, radio, books, consumer products, theme parks, cruise ships, destination travel, and much more. It’s ambitious for the company to attempt to present all of those business units in one place, and try to make it all entertaining, but every two years they do just that. There’s a lot of information floating around out there about the upcoming 2013 D23 Expo and many questions left unanswered. The latest press release about the massive event just went out this morning (Disney Parks and Resorts D23 Expo Press Release HERE), and it left us with some questions that only Disney could answer. They were kind enough to send us their candid responses.

The questions below were answered by Jeffrey Epstein, Spokesperson for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, and by Imagineer Dave Fisher, Producer for the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts D23 Expo Pavilion.

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Announcements about what we’ll find at the 2013 D23 Expo have been dribbling out for months. How much is left to be announced before a final schedule can be shared with attendees?

Jeffrey Epstein: There are still a LOT of exciting announcements to be made. While we can’t wait to reveal the honorees for the Disney Legends ceremony and The Walt Disney Studios will bring in some big guns, which we are excited for guests to hear about, we still have many exciting announcements on the horizon from ABC, Disney Interactive, Disney Consumer Products and more! The final schedule will not be announced until about a week before the Expo. But we will continue to update to the official schedule, available at D23Expo.com, as announcements are made. Plus, the D23 Expo 2013 app will soon be available, for both iPhone and Android devices, and will be an incredibly useful tool for guests in navigating their way through the event this year.

 

The latest press release from Disney Parks and Resorts is perhaps one of the (if not THE) most anticipated information about the upcoming D23 Expo. It appears that instead of one presentation in the giant arena, Parks related topics have been expanded to three days of presentations in the 2,000-seat Stage 23 and 850-seat Stage 28 venues. What was the thinking behind increasing the number of presentations and changing the space from the Arena to the stages?

Jeffrey: Based on feedback from previous Expos, we received the most positive response from guests about the outstanding, behind-the-scenes panels and presentations hosted by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Stages 23 and 28. This year, they have expanded the number of presentations to a dozen — more than they have ever done before — allowing them to expand the scope of content that can be presented as well as the amount of time that can be spent on each topic. Plus, there’s an entire day dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Walt Disney Imagineering, which we feel Parks fans are going to love.

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Does this mean we should temper our expectations about big new ride announcements during this year’s Expo?

DAVE FISHER, Walt Disney Imagineering: We’ll be using the Expo as an opportunity to really give fans a look into the inner workings of Walt Disney Imagineering — especially in our “Imagineering Open House” pavilion on the D23 Expo show floor. Fans with a keen eye might spot clues about work currently in development, but we will not be making any new product announcements at the Expo this year. However, we have a few surprises in store…

It’s hard to believe that Imagineering is 60 years old. We are excited to hear more about Disney’s greatest accomplishments and challenges over those six decades. Who are some of the folks we’ll be hearing from in the presentations and what are some of the topics they’ll be presenting?

DAVE: The panels on Sunday, August 11, are can’t-miss for any fan of Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney parks and resorts. We are bringing in some of our Disney Legends and the creative minds of today and tomorrow to celebrate this momentous occasion. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but some of the panel titles will probably offer clues into the types of people who will be on them: “Working with Walt”, “Leading a Legacy,” “The Craft of Creativity,” “The DNA of Innovation,” and my personal favorite “Leave ‘Em Laughing”! We’ll share more later, and fans will definitely want to check out D23Expo.com for more information. And by the way, it’s not just the panels – we are thrilled that we’ll have Imagineers on the show floor in our pavilion every day interacting with guests.

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The Parks and Resorts pavilion will also be dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Imagineering. Give us a sense of how the pavilion will differ from Expos past when the focus was on current and upcoming projects?

DAVE: Our “Imagineering Open House,” was designed with the Disney fan in mind. Much of the feedback we’ve received from past D23 Expos is that guests want more insight into the creative process at Walt Disney Imagineering, from how we design to how we deliver amazing guest experiences. So we’ll have Imagineers on hand, demonstrations of some of our core disciplines, the technologies and techniques we use in our work… It’s going to be amazing. Plus we will be showcasing several pieces from our Art Library, many of them rarely seen outside the walls of Walt Disney Imagineering — like Herb Ryman’s original drawing of Disneyland and models of some projects that were never built!

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The Parks and Resorts pavilion has been the epicenter of excitement for the Expo for the last two shows. Who can forget the magically appearing door from the first expo and the super wide screen video pre-show from the 2nd Expo. There was an amazing fortune telling robot, a preview of Mystic Manor, a Radiator Springs Racers car on display and many opportunities to meet the Imagineers one-on-one. Those are two really hard acts to follow. Has the team been hard at work on some whizz-bang Disney magic for this year’s show? Can we pry a bit of a preview from you???

DAVE: On the first question: YES! On the second question: See you August 9-11 at the D23 Expo!

There are a few of the presentations that I’m certain are going to be extremely popular. The available seating is likely to be smaller than the demand on these sessions. What methods are being planned to either let folks know if they’ll make it in or to provide over-flow accommodations?

Jeffrey: Great question, and hopefully a good example of how the D23 team really pays attention to the feedback our fans provide on our social media platforms, send to our guest services, include in surveys and post on fan sites—yes, of course we read MiceChat! First off, I hope everyone has had a chance to see the announcement we put out early this year stating that the 4,000-seat D23 Expo Arena will have a 2,000-seat overflow theater so those guests who may not make it into the Arena will still have the opportunity to enjoy these exclusive presentations with a live video stream. We also increased the capacities of Stages 23 and 28 – more than doubling the size of Stage 23 to 2,000 seats to accommodate more guests for our popular panels.

We are also instituting a new StagePass system where guests will be able to obtain a tickets which will guarantee them a seat in many of the presentations in Stages 23 and 28. These will be distributed on the show floor at select times. Like a FASTPASS, guests will only be able to hold one StagePass for one presentation at a time, so attendees will need to pick and choose which presentations they most would like to attend. We are also working to be able to more effectively communicate — through monitors in the StagePass area, the D23 Expo app and social media — which presentations are booked up, so guests don’t stand in line for something they won’t be able to attend. That said, we will, of course, have stand-by lines if a guest wants to take the chance.

Will there be StagePass for the D23 Expo Arena presentations?

Jeffrey: No, because of the Arena’s tremendous capacity, we are not issuing StagePasses for the Arena. But we will be working to ensure guests know if they are guaranteed to make it into the arena, if they are “stand by” for the Arena, if they’re going to go into the overflow theater, or if everything is booked up. We really want the experience to be as seamless as possible — even though it’s the biggest Disney event in the world!!

Do you have any tips on how early folks should plan to get in line for a presentation that they don’t want to miss—and maybe some tips for the Expo in general?

Jeffrey: How about I list a few key tips for you? In advance:

  • Get your tickets! And don’t forget D23 Members get a discount on tickets. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention fans can join D23 for FREE now and receive that discount.
  • Check out D23Expo.com regularly – we’re making announcements several times a week now. So there’s always news!
  • Download the D23 Expo app, which will be available later in July.
  • Check out the schedule and plan your day. I always tell my friends to think of it like they are planning a first trip to Disneyland for friends. Figure out the key attractions, what FASTPASS tickets to get, where and when to eat, what are second choices… As I mentioned, the schedule will be posted before the event, so attendees will have a chance to see which panels, presentations, screenings, pavilions, etcetera are the most appealing.

At the Expo

  • Get there early – how much you need to sleep is entirely up to you!
  • Get in line for whatever you want to experience first. If you must have the limited-edition pins from the D23 Expo Dream Store, head there. If the D23 Expo Arena’s first presentation is must-see, park it there.
  • If it’s most important to just be in the room, grab a StagePass, and just make sure you get to the venue 15 minutes ahead of time to be guaranteed a seat. If a guest wants to be as close to the stage as possible, how long they choose to wait is up to them.
  • If you download the D23 Expo app, make sure it’s set to push notifications. We’ll be letting guests know when presentations fill up. Plus the app is loaded with fun content including trivia, talent bios, and much more.
  • Have a second choice ready if the StagePass for the presentation you were hoping to attend is full. And yes, as long as they have your D23 Expo tickets, a friend can get the StagePass tickets for your entire group. Just please don’t saddle your friend with 100 Expo tickets!
  • Make sure you eat — and drink plenty of water.
  • Take a deep breath. There’s a lot more magic to come!

 

We are always blown away by the demand for the special merchandise and the huge lines which develop almost immediately. What might be done to shorten the line or control access to the various stores?

Jeffrey: We are thrilled that so many guests enjoyed the collectible offerings from the past, and of course we are doing everything possible to make sure that guests are moved through queues in these locations as efficiently as possible. We want to make sure guests are able to experience as much of the Expo as they can. That said, that also includes waiting in some lines, so we do want to set reasonable expectations.

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Speaking of stores, fill us in on some of the exciting merchandise being worked on for the Expo! There has been some really creative stuff in past shows.

Jeffrey: Well, our friends at Theme Park Merchandise have already announced just a few of the unique collectibles guests will have the opportunity to pick up inside the D23 Expo Dream Store including a unique “seatbelt bag” from HARVEY’S featuring Sorcerer Mickey, a selection of D23 Expo pins, and pieces from some of their most popular artists including Robert Olszewski and Noah. Mickey’s of Glendale — the employee store on the Walt Disney Imagineering campus — is creating a line exclusively for the D23 Expo. And Disney Store will release new and unique items every day in their pop-up shop on the Expo show floor. Plus there’s the expanded Collector’s Forum—where I know you will be setting up shop, which is going to be bigger than ever before and will include the worlds of Marvel and Lucasfilm. And of course there’s the D23 Expo Silent Auction. And all I have to say is, I have my eye on that Matterhorn attraction vehicle!

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I see that you’ll be holding a costume contest this year. Do you encourage folks to come to the Expo in costume? Are there any rules or information folks should know about what sort of costumes are allowed?

Jeffrey: One of the amazing things we saw in previous Expos were people creating elaborate costumes to wear just around the Expo floor. Yes, we allow costumes and yes there are rules — so check them out at D23Expo.com. We saw the À La Mode Costume Contest as a way to harness that creative energy and give guests the opportunity to show off their designs in a more public forum. And based on what we’ve seen in past years, it’s going to be quite a show!

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That’s a trophy worth dressing up for!

If you had to pick five things not to miss at the D23 Expo, what would they be?

Jeffrey: That’s like asking me to choose my favorite Disney character! OK, I’m going to cheat a little but here you go.

1)   Walt Disney Imagineering’s 60th Anniversary — It’s a cheat because we’re talking about five not-to-miss panels and an entire pavilion. But the opportunity to interact with Imagineers and celebrate 60 years of unparalleled creativity is not to be missed. We are so excited that Parks and Resorts came to us with this terrific idea.

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Alan Menken will perform at this year’s Expo

2)   Concerts! The musical events this year are above and beyond. Literally because on Friday night we have “Broadway and Beyond” from Disney Theatrical productions featuring music from their past, present and possibly even future Broadway shows, with stars like Ashley Brown, who was the original Mary Poppins, and Josh Strickland, who originated the role of Tarzan on Broadway. And of course on Saturday night we have “Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook.” The opportunity to see two Disney Legends perform on stage together for the first time is going to be a can’t-miss event.

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3)   Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives: In the past the Archives has brought out a trove of Disney’s crown jewels from myriad projects. This year, they are focusing on three: Mary Poppins — which has it’s 50th anniversary coming up next year; ABC’s hit Once Upon A Time, which has been hugely popular with the D23 community; and Disney’s longstanding connection to L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, which goes back decades and decades. It’s fantastic that the Archives has the opportunity to do a deeper dive this year.

4)   Fun for Families – One of the wonderful things about the Expo is that it’s for every Disney fan. As I have said before, today’s Disney Junior watcher is tomorrow’s Disney Geek! Disney Channel is really rolling out the red carpet in terms of the star power they are bringing to the Expo—talent from virtually every show they have on the air, plus performances by Bridgit Mender and Ross Lynch and his group R5. Radio Disney will be on the floor keeping the energy high. Disney Interactive will be ready for gamers. Once again guests will have the opportunity to become honorary Disney VoluntEARS by participating in projects that benefit the community. And there will be much more for parents and kids to do together.

5)   The Studios. We can’t tell you exactly what. But let’s just say they will be previewing Frozen, The Good Dinosaur, Tomorrowland, Saving Mr. Banks, and other films they have in the world from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. And the stars? Well, you’ll have to be there to see for yourself!

Let’s wrap up this interview on a high note. Tease us with something really exciting about this year’s show that no one has heard about yet.

Jeffrey: I hear that MiceChat has a booth that every guest needs to stop by. But it’s only a rumor at this point, and I can not comment on rumor and innuendo.

We couldn’t agree more, Jeffrey!

A huge thanks to Jeffrey Epstein and Dave Fisher for shining some light on plans for the upcoming D23 Expo. We’re glad to see that so much effort has gone into polishing the show and fixing prior issues. The celebration of Imagineering’s 60th anniversary and opportunity to meet many past and present Imagineers is something Disney fans won’t want to miss.

What are you your plans for the D23 Expo? Have you started your must-see list? What will you be saving your StagePasses for? We’d love to hear your comments below. 

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Visit MiceChat at the D23 Expo August 9th-11th, 2013

For a full listing of MiceChat special guests and prizes, please visit our 2013 D23 Expo page HERE

About Dusty Sage

Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. He's long been a consumer advocate for theme park travelers and a consistent voice for high standards in the industry. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing and editing articles about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty is busy running a telecommunications company and speaking at various theme park and communications events. If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]

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38 Comments

Comments for EXCLUSIVE Behind The Scenes Interview With D23 and Disney Parks And Resorts About The Upcoming Expo are now closed.

  1. Don’t Miss Us At The Expo:

    MiceChat will be featuring Disney Legends, noted Disney authors, MiceChat columnists, travel experts, amazing podcasters and radio personalities at our D23 Expo Collector’s Forum booth. And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ll be giving away prizes such as hotel rooms, Disney collectibles and an iPad Mini. All you need to do is stop by our booth for full details. You’ll be glad you did.

  2. The small capacity rooms and lines described over the years have kept me away. But I think it’s a great event that I’d pay to see online at home like other conventions do these days. I could take a week or to to watch every session.

    • They’ve essentially doubled the capacity of the main rooms and added an overflow room for the Arena. I think this is the year to give it a try.

      A small amount of the Expo may be filmed and become available on the D23 website later, but the fact is that due to various rights issues, most of the Expo is something you’ll only be able to experience in person.

    • @eicarr A lot of the stuff they announce we be on the Disney blog just minutes after they announce them and even video features pop up there.

    • Maybe everything could be available online for people who bought a ticket…? Or video highlights section in the D23 Expo app…?

      It’s still a great idea to be able to see the things that I might miss, so I won’t feel so bad about pooping out. Like Jeffery said above, “Get there early – how much you need to sleep is entirely up to you!” In the past, I was there *crazy* early!!! It was a blast until I was falling asleep during the evening movies. :(

      And, some things I just couldn’t get into because of their popularity. So, I won’t be disappointed to see a presentation in an overflow room, as long as it means I didn’t need to wait in a line for hours! But any presentation with a live streaming feed to another room, could easily capture that feed for internet access. Even if it is only for attendees to access securely or two weeks later or something like that.

      So, to know that some of the presentations (maybe only the huge ones) will be online later, would let me focus more on the smaller experiences that wouldn’t be available. I don’t *need* to see everything in person, even though I *want* to!

  3. I’m going to try booking anything movie or animation related and then I’ll check out the pavilions while a popular event is going on.

  4. I can’t wait for this year’s expo!!! I need to get my tickets today!

  5. So, the headline here for me is, NO NEW ATTRACTION ANNOUNCEMENTS.
    Realy is the only interest I ever have in D23 and now it looks like they wont be doing than anymore. Its what creates all the buz. I don’t think the D23 conference will be around much longer.

    • I addressed that in the interview. There are things you’ll be able to figure out about some upcoming projects, but they aren’t at a place of being able to actually make the announcements. There are some surprises and announcements. Just not big official ride announcements. But they have expanded the exposure to the Imagineers in general and the number of Imaginerring presentations. You can count on all sorts of news Unofficially leaking out. ;-)

    • Agreed. This was Disney’s big opportunity to show that Universal isn’t taking over as the big dog on the block and they aren’t even going to try. That doesn’t bode well for the future of attractions. Makes you wonder if they don’t have anything big enough in the pipeline to stand up to what their competitors are doing, so they are afraid to even mention what they have to avoid coming across as being weak. It also sounds like they are going to try to cover with a big push on the “look at all of the great things we did in the past” front. Smoke and mirrors.

      I think this is a total misfire on their part and it’s just going to serve to boost their competition. Heads might roll if it fails like I’m afraid it will.

      • Look at what they announced the first D23:
        New Fantasy Land but the whole Tinkelbel stuff changed into the mini mine train thingy they are still working on. And hyperion wharf for the former Pleasure Island but that never ever happened.

        They could have announce Disney Springs what is a bit of a disappointment comparing it to Hyperion Wharf but it’s at least something. And you would think they have just a bit of an idea what that Avatar thing at Animal Kingdom is going to be, right? They announced that September 2011, what have they done sins then on that project?

      • Unfortunately, it appears that this year’s Expo hit Imagineering when it is in one of those “in between” points of their creative cycles. Too late for some of the projects they are working on (all Shanghai models have been shipped overseas), and too early for projects they aren’t ready to announce.

        That’s going to be a problem for the every-other-year Expo cycles.

  6. I have to agree with planodisney. I wade through all of these announcements looking for new attraction announcements.

    “Fans with a keen eye might spot clues about work currently in development, but we will not be making any new product announcements at the Expo this year”

    Unless they are bluffing, huge disappointment.

  7. They are teasing , they are not allowed to give out top secret info before the expo, the last expo was disappointing when it comes to announcing new projects as we already knew what they were , and this year looks to be the same but stay tuned!

    • If they WERE going to announce new projects, they would definitely provide more incentive than just “Fans with a keen eye might spot clues about work currently in development . . .”.

      That in no way gives the impression that people should expect any sort of announcement. However, the “. . . but we will not be making any new product announcements at the Expo this year” comment says it all.

  8. It isn’t giving out top secret info to say yes there will be or no there wont be attraction announcements at this years D23. If he had said yes, we still wouldn’t have ANY information. he said no, because the truth is no.

  9. That is a frustrating response, but I still can’t believe they won’t announce something about big new plans. They may not give all the details, but just coming out with hints or more dumb marketing campaigns is going to create an outcry from a lot of people. Fans may riot! In all seriousness, it would be disappointing to not get any major announcements.

  10. Thanks for all the great information….this is why MiceChat is the best! I loved the first Expo, liked the second one (but felt all I really did was sit inside blue taped lines), and hope for a great third experience. I hope they have figured out a better way to get the crowds inside in the morning…getting into the convention center was my biggest pet peeve, it just started the day out so horribly. I will definitely be using the app to try and keep up with what’s going on and if things are already filled up. My top three are the musical presentations, the parks and rec announcements (assuming there is something new!), and the upcoming films! See you all at the Expo!

  11. Great Interview Dusty!!!

    But I actually have to agree with what everybody said above. The biggest part of D23 is the Parks stuff (which Jeffrey alluded to in the interview). With Universal opening Transformers in less than a year in FL, The Springfield expansion, Harry Potter Phase 2 and Harry Potter at USH the time for Disney to announce some major attractions for ALL parks is NOW!!!!

    The Expo sounds great though and I’m hoping to be able to make it down there for at least one of the days.

  12. Uni also has a JP ride ready to go. Prob start work on it after the summer. And a big announcement is being made tonight through another website. Will be interesting to see what was just green lit for Uni.

  13. I’ve been a Disney fan all of my life. That said, I’ve attended both of the D23 expos. Crowd issues in the past? Definitely. I’m glad to see they are planning for that this year. Even if there are no huge announcements, it’s still a really fun way to spend time with fellow Disney fans. I can’t wait to go again in August. You never know who you are going to see!

  14. I have to say that the take away for me here is the fact that this event has a lot more finess in the planning. They expanded the more popular presentations and are doing the live feeds, the stage pass, the alerts about what shows are full or available. On top of that they are doing the cos play contest. It seems that D23 is attempting to perfect the experience.

    But let’s be honest. Why would Disney parks and resorts make an announcement before making any announcements at the convention? There may or may not be news coming. But still with Disney things are always up in the air until they actually happen.

    • I hope you are right. But saying there will be announcements wouldn’t be giving anything away IMO.

      I had a BLAST the days I attended the first and second Expo (1 day each) and I hope to be able to attend at least a day this year. Disney sure knows how to put on a show, no question there.

  15. Wow! Thanks for all the insider info!!!

    It’s sounding to me like the D23 Expo app is going to be the trick to scheduling for maximum time enjoying the expo, rather than sitting in lines for hours!

    That said, all the smartphones will need to access the internet. Whenever I find myself in a very crowded location, like Disneyland on a crowded day, or Dodgers Stadium after the 3rd inning, the 3G and 4G services get too overwhelmed. I lose access to the web and even text messages get delayed. Is there an internet solution?