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D23 Expo Recap: Parks & Resorts, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Legends, Archives +MORE

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by , 08-23-2011 at 05:33 AM
The D23 Expo made its mark on Anaheim over the weekend, bringing thousands of Disney fans to the Anaheim Convention Center for three days of all things Disney. This year's Expo, the second of its kind, made some notable changes from its 2009 format. This year, Disney cashed in with several additional retail locations for Expo-attendees, reduced the number of days the event ran from four to three, and reduced the number of daily presentations and panels offered. The result was fewer concurrent panels, but a schedule that ended up having a hard time evenly distributing attendees. Nevertheless, what was offered tended to be the high-quality offerings fans hoped for and those who got into the high-demand events were treated to excellent sneak peeks and insider discussions. Disney has already announced plans for the next D23 Expo in the spring of 2013. We here at Dateline Disneyland look forward to the next event and hope that Disney continues to listen to the feedback and refine and enhance the event.

Today, as promised, we're taking you inside several of this year's D23 Expo offerings with photo and video. We aren't covering everything here, but we think what we are featuring in today's column will give those of you unable to attend a good sampling of what was offered. Let's get started!

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Lines to get in every morning were long, but moved briskly once the convention center doors opened.

On the show floor, the MiceAge/MiceChat booth played host to Disney Legends and special visitors like Jack Lindquist and Tony Baxter.

One of the biggest events of the weekend was the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts arena presentation by Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs. Interest was high as fans hoped for a big announcement for Disney parks.

Talking Mickey opened the presentation on the drums.

Despite rumors and high expectations, no big announcements were made at the presentation, but fans did have the opportunity to get a taste of Tom's sense of humor and warm personality.

After the dry presentation from an obviously uninterested Jay Rasulo in 2009, Tom offered a breath of fresh air with a great, humorous video of him performing Cast Member duties in various roles at theme parks, resorts and Disney Cruise Line.

Tom didn't mind poking fun at himself and the end result made him feel more relatable and genuinely interested in Disney's parks and resorts.

An update on Walt Disney World's Fantasyland project was in order:

A look at the a 3D computer model of the Lumiere Audio Animatronics figure that will debut as part of the Be Our Guest Restaurant.

A look at the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

A video sneak peek at the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train:

Up next, Imagineer Joe Rhode gave sneak peek at the new Aulani Resort in Hawai'i via video.

Next, Imagineer Bob Weis joined Tom on stage for a preview of Shanghai Disneyland.

The Shanghai Disneyland construction site

Concept art gives a sneak peek at the three-level Storybook Castle:

The Shanghai castle will feature a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a walk-through attraction, a dining location and newly-announced at D23 Expo an immersive boat ride. This is the first time ever that a Disney castle has featured a ride-through attraction.

One of the show scenes on the new boat ride:

A video sneak peek at the Shanghai castle:

Next, Bob Weis continued with a look at the progress being made at Disney California Adventure.

The DCA segment included a look at Buena Vista Street, including a fly-through of the new area as it will appear in 2012.

Following Buena Vista Street, Cars Land show producer Kathy Mangum joined Tom Staggs for an update on Radiator Springs construction.

Kathy noted that Cars Land Cast Member costumes will feature custom-designed Hawaiian shirts, inspired by Pixar's John Lasseter

A look at a portion of the Radiator Springs Racers queue:

Finally, Tom welcomed Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis on stage for a sneak peek at what's next for Disneyland. George announced two new offerings, including the new Fantasy Faire that we discussed in yesterday's Dateline Disneyland column...

The second announcement was decidedly vague, with hints at new high-end special events for guests wanting Club 33-style exclusive access and events. George asked the audience if they'd like to dine in the Haunted Mansion with Disney Imagineers, or once again experience classic attractions like America the Beautiful in Circarama or dine at the Tahitian Terrace.

On Saturday, the D23 Arena played host to a cavalcade of movie stars as Disney, Pixar and Marvel gave an inside look at their latest projects. Studio chief Rich Ross hosted the event.

The sneak peeks kicked off with John Lasseter introducing the world of "Planes" to the audience. It was a strange way to kick off the big two-and-a-half hour Studio presentation, with the audience seeming only lukewarm to the film.

Pixar later brought out comedian and actor Billy Crystal during the sneak peek for the upcoming "Monsters, Inc." prequel, "Monsters University."

Pixar also announced two new untitled projects. The first film, due in 2013, will be based on dinosaurs under the premise that the meteor the drove them to extinction missed the Earth. The second film will take you inside the human mind and will hit theaters in 2014. Following the announcements, Pixar celebrated their 25th anniversary by giving everyone in the audience a birthday cupcake.

Up next, actor Jason Segal hit the stage with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to give audiences a sneak peek at this winter's highly-anticipated "The Muppets."

Guests at the Disney Studios presentation were also treated to sneak peeks of the upcoming "John Carter" with appearances by the film's stars.... inside look at Disney Animation Studios' upcoming 8-bit video game-inspired "Wreck-It Ralph"...

...and Marvel's upcoming "The Avengers," which included an appearance from several cast members including Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson.

Friday's 2011 Disney Legends Awards Ceremony welcomed several new additions to the Legends roster.

Several Disney princess voice actresses and singers, including Lea Salonga (singing voices of Princess Jasmine and Mulan), Linda Larkin (speaking voice of Princess Jasmine), Anika Noni Rose (Princess Tiana), Jodi Benson (Ariel), and Paige O'Hara (Belle) were honored with awards and performed a medley of songs from their respective films

The family of Guy Williams, the man behind Zorro, accepted an award on his behalf

The children of Jim Henson accepted his award.

And Regis Philbin was present for his award.

The E-Ticket of the show floor was once again the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion. While their "Carousel of Projects" may not have been as impressive as its 2009 counterpart, the Imagineering designed-and-staffed pavilion offered a great look at models and art of some of the team's current projects, including Walt Disney World's Fantasyland, Disney California Adventure and Shanghai Disneyland.

The Carousel of Projects preshow consisted of an excellent video montage of Disney theme park history.

Take a look with the video below:

Once inside, guests were greeted with the hull of the Disney Dream from Disney Cruise Line

A wall of concept art showcases current and recent projects from Imagineering

One of the pavilion's big draws was the model for Walt Disney World's Fantasyland expansion.

Take a video fly-through of this model below:

Mine Train ride vehicle:

Also on display was a full-size animatronic of Red the Fire Engine from Disney California Adventure's upcoming Radiator Springs Racers attraction

Red's eyes come to life with gorgeous rear-projected computer animation. Take a look:

Fans of construction views could step into the Cars Land construction area for 180-degree panoramic views of the new land.

Check out the incredible views of the Radiator Springs construction in our video below:

Nearby, visitors could take a look at an early model of the new Buena Vista Street area, currently under construction in DCA's main entrance area.

Adjacent to the Buena Vista Street model, a study model of the new Carthay Circle Theater was on display.

Also featured in the Carousel of Projects was a new Shanghai Disneyland model. The model was the talk of the floor, not because it gave an exciting preview of the new park, but because the model was so tiny that the only recognizable feature in the park is the centerpiece Storybook Castle.

Why even bother putting this on display?

One of the weekend's best panels was the sneak peek at Disney California Adventure's Buena Vista Street. The discussion with Imagineers Lisa Girolami, Ray Spencer and Coulter Winn gave an in-depth look at the incredibly detailed remodel of the park's main entrance.

A look at the DCA entrance plaza. The elements of the former Sunshine Plaza are overlaid in red.

The new Buena Vista Street

Inspiration for buildings and facades.

Elevation rendering for Los Feliz Five & Dime

The Elias and Co. Department Store, DCA's new flagship retail location

Buena Vista Street elevation renderings

The shop interiors will be as richly-themed as their exteriors.

The Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe

Clairabelle's Ice Cream

New facades for the lockers and restroom facilities

A look at the detailed facade ornamentation coming to Buena Vista Street

Big Rock Candy Mountain will be the centerpiece display in the new Trolley Treats candy store. The model is based on an early, never-built Disneyland attraction and will feature working trolleys passing through and around the model.

A big goal for the California Adventure remodel is to add a lot more shade for the comfort of park guests. Buena Vista Street will be getting plenty of new shade trees, including the biggest oak tree Imagineer Ray Spencer claimed to have ever seen.

The new Carthay Circle fountain takes inspiration from the fountain at Pasadena's Department of Water and Power.

Current fountain construction

The big reveal of this excellent panel was a look at the new "Storytellers" statue coming to Buena Vista Street in 2012. The statue features Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse as new arrivals in California, with their suitcases in hand.

The statue will be located on ground level, signifying that at this time in Walt's story, he's just one of us: an everyman with big California dreams.

The Imagineers revealed the final maquette of the new statue at the end of their presentation, it was later moved downstairs to the Parks and Resorts pavilion.

On Sunday, Pixar's John Lasseter and several Imagineers gave Expo attendees at Stage 28 an inside-look at the creation of Cars Land.

Imagineer Kevin Rafferty shared details of his early concepts for "Carland," a new land for California Adventure celebrating Route 66 the California's famous car culture.

Early attraction ideas, including this one for "Road Trip USA" took guests on a cross-country trip

You'd even go through a car wash!

As plans to revive California Adventure progressed, John Lasseter called on the Imagineers to integrate more Disney characters into their plans, such as this Goofy take on the road trip attraction.

Once Pixar's "Cars" hit theaters, the plans changed to include characters from the new film. Still, the land offered a mixture of character-driven offerings and original concepts

This early rendering of Carland shows a mix between the "Cars" world and a character-free Route 66.

Eventually the plans changed and John Lasseter called for a more focused experience. He felt California Adventure was trying to do "too many things at once" and felt the land should have one focus, and that would turn out to be "Cars." The challenge now was to adapt the world of Pixar's "Cars" for the theme park setting.

Concept art for Luigi's Flying Tires

Radiator Springs Racers inspiration

The "Cars" world has been changed for the theme park setting to incorporate more trees. Over 500 specimens of trees, plants and cacti were considered for Cars Land landscaping. The plant life surrounding each building in Cars Land was chosen to reflect character personality.

Flat-top trees at Sarge's Surplus Hut

Trendy Palm Springs-inspired landscaping surrounds Flo's V8 Cafe

A look at Flo's

Construction continues in Cars Land. A look down the main street:

Luigi's Flying Tires ride platform

Flying Tires ride vehicle

A stand-out panel offered at the Expo was "Voices of the Park," featuring the voice talents of Disney theme park attractions. The panel consisted of Bill Rogers (the current voice of Disneyland), Brad Abrell, Dee Bradley Baker, Julianne Buescher, Corey Burton, Chris Edgerly, Bob Joles, Stephen Stanton and Audrey Wasilewski. It was moderated by Walt Disney Imagineering's senior casting administrator Brian Nefsky.

The clip below features Imagineer Brian Nefsky asks the panelists to read some lines from attractions they've worked on. It's a lot of fun to see them perform live for the audience.

Another great panel was the Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering, moderated by Imagineering legend Marty Sklar. The panel was made up of Alice Davis, Orlando Ferrante, Bob Gurr, Don Iwerks and special guest Kim Irvine. All of these former (and current) Imagineers have great stories to tell of their time with the company. The stories from the olld timers are especially exciting as they worked on Disneyland with Walt, helped create the groundbreaking 1964 New York World's Fair shows, and were instrumental in the creation of Walt Disney World.

Bob Gurr talks about the Monorails that he designed.

Imagineer Alice Davis is known for her work on costume design for "it's a small world," Pirates of the Caribbean and more.

Kim Irvine and Orlando Ferrante

We'll wrap up our visit to the D23 Expo today with a look at the incredible Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit.

For Disney history fans, this year's Archives exhibit was the ultimate E-Ticket at the D23 Expo. Costumes and memorabilia from Zorro:

The beautiful book cover and pages from Sleeping Beauty's opening sequence

Props from Hocus Pocus.

The Rocketeer:

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


Pirates of the Caribbean:


The original Mickey Mouse cartoons title card

On the show floor, pieces too big to get upstairs were on display including this scale replica of the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean, used in the films.

The DHARMA van from LOST

And finally, Walt Disney's limousine

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Alright, that wraps up our look at the 2011 D23 Expo. If you're looking for even more D23 Expo coverage, don't forget to visit our D23 forum on MiceChat where you'll find discussions, photos and more covering the entire Expo weekend click here for more.

Did you attend? Tell us what you thought of this year's convention in the comments section below!

We're only here because of your support. If you enjoyed this special edition of Dateline Disneyland please show your support by helping us out with a PayPal donation click here!

Don't forget that MiceChat has lots of new content throughout the week! For even more Disneyland news, photos and information check out the In the Parks column on Fridays. And MiceChat's Weekend Update, tours the world of Disney theme parks and other worldly sights and landmarks!

See you at Disneyland!
- Andy

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  1. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    Awesome recap! Great coverage!
  2. Fishbulb's Avatar
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    That was the perfect summation of the weekend. Great job.

    But one of my personal favorites was when both Tony Baxter and Jack Lindquist were hanging at the MiceChat booth. Surreal and just cool.
    Updated 08-23-2011 at 02:25 PM by Dateline Disneyland
  3. BC_DisneyGeek's Avatar
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    Fantastically thouough recap! Nicely done.
  4. pinkertonfloyd's Avatar
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    Great job... since most of us couldn't get into more than 1-2 of these, this made my day. (I was only able to get into Parks and Resort's presentation).
  5. xalesa's Avatar
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    Very well done! I've been following the expo sporadically all weekend long through Micechat, and this summation seals the deal for me to begin planning to attend the next one in 2013!
  6. jedited's Avatar
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    The one panel I was REALLY hoping to get into and couldn't was the Pixar 25 years panel. Does anyone have a recap or (better yet) video of that panel?
  7. toonaspie's Avatar
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    I think it's kinda ironically nifty how a Car-themed land was already being considered for DCA before the original "Cars" movie even came out. Chances were that even if "Carland" had been added to DCA before then it would've turned into "Carsland" overnight following the film's success.
  8. Notsolittlemermaid's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the details of the sessions, Andy. I was at the Expo all three days but as others have said, got into very few. What were the convention planners thinking, putting these excellent speakers/panels in rooms that held a few hundred when there were thousands attending? Why were there no video feeds into overflow rooms, or even the arena? I was told by a D23 staffer that all the sessions were recorded; why weren't they replayed at other times in some of the empty rooms? I voiced my concerns to several D23 staffers; some seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, and some brushed me off by saying that it was all about having to make "choices" (shades of Ursula?). This infuriated me. My so-called "choice" was to pay $1000 to guarantee a seat, spend at least 3 hours sitting on the convention center floor, doing and seeing nothing while waiting for a session to start, or forego the sessions. I felt very disrespected by the expo planners. Having said all that, there was lots to enjoy at the Expo, especially the parks and resots pavillion, the archives, and the show floor and collectors forum.
  9. Sue Kruse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jedited
    The one panel I was REALLY hoping to get into and couldn't was the Pixar 25 years panel. Does anyone have a recap or (better yet) video of that panel?
    That panel was so fantastic, I'll be devoting an entire column to it.
  10. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Great coverage. Anyone have more pics of the Micechat booth? Want to see how we were represented.
  11. bayouguy's Avatar
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    I'd better begin saving up money to attend the next convention. I'm really missing out on some great stuff. And a terrific update. Thank you.
  12. Tinkbelle's Avatar
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  13. SpectroMan's Avatar
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    "Voices of the Parks" was awesome! LOVE that they had Peoplemover Lady there!
  14. fireball's Avatar
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    So awesome; amazing update. Really wished I could have been there! The bit about classic attractions like Circarama got me salivating! What could it be??????

    I cannot thank websites like this enough; from our Save Toad campaign in the late-'90s -- great memories ... my "foray" into the Disney activist movement -- to the ousting of Eisner, Pressler and Harriss to Disneyland finally getting the attention it deserves and DCA actually becoming a place worthy of the Disney family name, it is sites such as these that make people aware; remind others of why we care so much; and ultimately make an awesome positive difference.

    Uncle Walt would be proud. And each visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum is that much more enjoyable.

    More and more people seem to care...
  15. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    The Disney gallery is Great, but I hope they build an even bigger attraction within the Disneyland/DCA property like the Autry Museum, to show off the whole collection of Disney Treasures in Archives if this was just a small sampling. As it was at D23, it's sure to be a big hit and draw. PD
    Ps I miss the old One Of A Kind Shop when they were buying real treasures. The people who "pressed" to get it removed are gone so maybe it can return now.
    Updated 08-25-2011 at 09:04 PM by DisWedWay
  16. RSoxNo1's Avatar
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    Here's the full audio/slideshow from the Carsland presentation:
    D23 Expo – Imagineering Cars Land Full Panel Discussion | WDW Fan Boys

    Here's the full audio from the Imagineering Legends presentation:
    WDW Fan Boys Podcast Episode #090 08/28/2011 – Listener Questions | WDW Fan Boys