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  1. #1

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    Thumbs up Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    A review of Destination D - Disneyland ’55 at The Disneyland Hotel - September 24th and 25th, 2010. Since others have already posted pictures, my review is more in story and comment format.

    ---

    I just got back from my trip to attend the first Destination D event. Since I was not able to attend the 1st Expo last year, this was my first “big D23 event”. I had attended the DVC Hawaii and Final Star Tours D23 events in Orlando where I live - both of which I enjoyed, but was looking forward to a more large scale event. As more was released about the program, I became more interested in going. I was debating, because I had just attended the 5th Anniversary Half-Marathon and was unsure about justifying the cost for a return trip so soon. The hook for me was when I learned Richard Sherman would be there - it sounded like a unique opportunity so I decided to make the trip.

    While our previous trip was using DVC points at the Grand California, this sudden plan led us to find accommodations at the Best Western Stovall, at the corner of Katella and Disneyland Drive - just a short walk from the Disney Hotels. I can recommend the resort - the rooms were done in a nice modern style decor, and the landscaping was well maintained. The lobby was a little retro. Although I did not have time to use it, during my morning jog I discovered that their pool is home to a couple dozen animal topiaries in the back - very cute.

    We arrived late Thursday, so did not have the opportunity to do the early registration and merchandise day - but as far as I can tell I didn’t miss anything - except for whatever items sold out early. They actually had two stores, one hosted by D23 castmembers, and one by the “park merchandise” group. I was excited to be able to get the entire set of Epcot patches! I’m 39, and the opening of Epcot was for me the first time I got to witness (via newspaper in Philadelphia) a new Disney park in my life experience. The merch selection was very nice - a variety of event logo pins and shirts, a grouping of retro Mickey Mouse club stuff, and some framed wall pin sets.

    People were of course lined up waiting for the doors to open - which was fairly well civilized and maintained outside - but even though we chose to spend time that morning first looking at the merch, we still managed to get decent seats - but I would say the whole “waiting in line thing” was odd - more on that later.

    Generally, I thought the variety of sessions was a good mix, and the 2 hour lunch and dinner breaks were definitely the right length of time. Like other seminars I’ve attended, the most difficult thing about events like this is sitting in the same room all day for 2 days. Although some of lighting effects on the walls were changed from “day” to “night” - I wondered if there couldn’t have been something more done to break up the monotony visually.

    The event highlights for me were - first and foremost, the concert. Seeing Richard Sherman in person was the best part. John Tartaglia and the stars from Ugly Betty were also great - and it looked like they had a lot of fun performing fun songs like Pirates Life and Grim Grinning Ghosts. My second favorite was seeing the Mouseketeers, although since I did not personally grow up with them, my emotional association was limited. I enjoyed seeing the Imagineers and hearing them speak - especially the one’s old enough to have worked with Walt Disney himself. Hearing people who knew Walt was a distinction for me in who I enjoyed listening to the most.

    The various video clips, merchandise finds and so on were a mixed bag - some were funny, others not. I would have preferred the speakers not be on stage more than once each. The historical construction photos and video clips were another highlight.

    I also enjoyed hearing from George Kalogridis. It was nice to see another leader who was also a former hourly castmember - I think they make the best and most sympathetic leaders. He was both proud of his company and humble in his position. Although “media trained” he seemed well aware of his audience’s passion for Disney - and responded well to the audience questions - even the tough one’s for which there really is no answer.

    Probably the most odd moment for me was hearing Tim O’Day “dis” one my favorite television specials. His presentation was called “The Happiest Place in Pop Culture” and he started out by showing various TV spots and clips from the 70’s. And then he hurt my feelings. He did not speak favorably about the opening number from “Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary” tv special. The opening number from that show in 1985, done to the Pointer Sisters song “I’m So Excited” has to be one of my favorite “music videos” - or at least one of my personally most watched. The song was re-recorded by other vocalists, and then video of all the various audio-anamatronic figures throughout the park are edited together so it looks like they are singing the words to this pop song - even Abe Lincoln is included! I think I watched that on my VCR over a 100 times during the afternoons after school. I really enjoyed getting to watch it on a large screen in clear condition - I still have that video tape and it was recorded in SLP so its not looking so good anymore. Tim O’Day continued on to slam David Hasselhoff’s performance, as well as the actual Pointer Sisters singing “Neutron Dance” with the Tron and Electrical Parade Characters providing the choreography. Clearly, Tim and I have different musical tastes. Ahh, the 80’s. As he continued to share his disillusionment I was sitting in my seat thinking - “nooo!! - it was great - how can you say that!”

    Thankfully I was not the only one in disagreement with a few of the opinions expressed from the stage. Dave Smith called “The Fantasyland Motor Boat Cruise” the “most boring ride” and I could hear the lady on the end of my row indignantly responding “it was fun.”

    For sure, the best part of the experience was being in a room with 1300 fellow Disney fans - and getting to react to the speaker in unison whether in laugher, excitement or nostalgia. Ever time someone mentioned the Peoplemover the audience applauded as though clapping might somehow bring it back to life like clapping to restore Tinkerbell to good health after she drank the poison.

    Another “feel good” part of the event was the trivia competition. If Disney is learning anything about changing culture and social media - it should be realizing people want to be involved and be the “stars.” Certainly, that’s a big part of a fan club. I recently went to Celebration V (Star Wars Convention) and its all about the fans and what they are doing, the costumes they’ve made, art they’ve painted, model’s they’ve built - and not just the professional work.

    My critique and suggestions for improvement focus primarily on the format. Firstly, that ballroom and stage have horrible sight-lines. The sunken seating area would have been the only place with a good view, and that was probably only about a fourth of the seats. (Ever remember going into a Disney attraction and hearing “our theater has been designed so that ever seat is a good seat, so move all the way across - clearly not the case here.) The stage is actually at the same level as the rest of the room, so when the speakers sat down in the “host” chairs, you really could not see them in person except between people’s heads if you were lucky, you had to rely on the video screens. The video was ok, but there should have been 2 cameras, not just one. The panning and scanning that occurs with only 1 camera looks really amateur. As well, when a speaker is giving a video presentation, they needed to do a split screen or dual screen where one screen shows the live camera on the speaker’s face and the other shows the slides. Otherwise, you miss all the facial expression of the presenter or panel - and that’s really a big part of seeing a presentation live. (Think Steve Jobs and Apple). The other thing I would give more thought to is the seating and queing. Obviously, there are people who wanted to be in the front for every segment, and they waited 2 hours in line every time. How about - “fastpass” or assigned seating - or even a premium seating option for a higher price? What about assigned seating based on when you bought your original tickets to the event? Or how about seating based on the number of correct trivia questions answered.

    And now my ideas for the next one.

    The least appealing thing I heard said when talking about the next Destination D for Florida was Steven Clark saying - I think we’ll focus on the same topics but just change them for Florida. Wrong Answer. Florida and California have totally different histories and different experiences, and on top of that, I don’t want to see the same thing again.

    The focus should really be on Walt’s Dream - Epcot, and how over time it evolved into a theme park, but was then later revived in a way as the Town of Celebration. As well, these relate to his ideas of a city for the future, including the Utilidors at the Magic Kingdom and some of those great “cross section” drawings for Epcot showing all the transportation beneath. Another great topic could be “From the Jungle Cruise to Disney’s Animal Kingdom” - and how the evolution from animatronics to live animals actually reverses Walt’s concerns that live animals wouldn’t always put on the same show.

    There are so many possible topics that would be different and here are a few more:
    1. The lost parks: Discovery Island, River Country and Pleasure Island. (I think if D23 included a nighttime special event that “revived” PI it would definitely up the attendance).

    2. The evolution from Walt Disney World Village to Downtown Disney.

    3. Hotel Design - from The Contemporary to Pop Century - and their architects including the influence of Wing Chow who we rarely hear about.

    4. History of the Disney Vacation Club resorts, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney. (artwork, design)

    5. Lost attractions - The Mickey Mouse Review, 20,000 Leagues, If You Had Wings, Mission to Mars, Alien Encounter, Mickey’s Birthday Land, the “25th Castle” make-over, Kitchen Kabaret, The Hydrolators and Original Living Seas, Horizons, World of Motion, the original Journey Into Imagination, original Universe of Energy, Wonders of Life and so many more.

    6. The Original Epcot Songs (find the original vocalists and have them perform)

    7. The Story of Reedy Creek Improvement District.

    8. Backstage WDW - water treatment, recycling, laundry etc - maybe a special D23 Tour.

    9. A segment with Ridley Pearson and some dramatic readings from the Kingdom Keepers including slides of some of the “control rooms”.

    10. The brief history of actual animation and studio filming at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Clips from things actually filmed in the Florida facility.


    I like the trivia competition idea for next year’s Expo. But what about another - to “up” the fan participation, how about holding a fan competition for a new ride, parade or show, to be pre-weeded by the folks at D23, but then presented in front of Imagineers and the attending D23 member audience like a reality show "vote off" or the American Idol Experience? I think that would be fun to watch, it would fan based, and would definitely be unpredictable. (With appropriate legal waivers I’m sure).

    In conclusion, I had a good time, and I’m excited about the fact that the next one will be where I live in Orlando - I just hope it will be different enough that it doesn’t seem like the same thing again. To those that have not gone to either the Expo or Destination D, I’d recommend it - its a real sense of “belonging with your people.”

  2. #2

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    Good piece about the weekend...thanks!

    I will disagree heartily about one thing. I do NOT want any D23 events to be about 'me' or about any other member. I want it to be about Disney. If I want to see people's ideas or performances or costumes or anything else, the web is full of narcissistic sites for just that purpose. I want Disney. I don't want 'celebrities' from ABC shows. I want Disney. A trivia competition is great, it is based on the subject but allows people to interact and even grab attention in a non-annoying way

    Interesting ideas for the Florida event. All in all, a really good post.

  3. #3

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    I enjoyed the panels. Even the ones that I didn't expect to be interested in turned out to be very fascinating. I'm too young to have seen the original Mickey Mouse Club but hearing their stories about Walt and being on the studio was incredibly interesting.

    So overall, I really enjoyed the presentations and I can go on about what I liked but here's a few things that weren't TRUE negatives, but things that could be improved somehow.


    1. The ballroom's viewing was great for maybe 1/4th of the guests. Everyone else was stuck in front of a screen. Without a good view of the guests. This to me is not great because everyone paid the same money so everyone should have the same good decent view. I agree with the OP's suggestion for a premium payment for the better view. OR... find a larger ballroom to hold the event in.

    2. Due to the poor viewing conditions for the stage, meal breaks became "wait in line" breaks. Nobody wanted a bad view so as soon as we were "released" for meals, everyone poured right back in line for the next 2 hours.

    3. They really should have had some sort of Mixer on one of these nights. It would have been great for them to have everyone go into another ballroom (say on Friday) during dinner time to enjoy some food, meet other members, do trivia contests, and then put on the concert THERE.


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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    Maybe I am in the minority, but I thought the viewing was fine. Due to recent surgery, we were more concerned about finding a spot where my DH could stretch his legs whenever needed than getting a seat upfront. So we sat in the back of the room on purpose and enjoyed it immensely.

    To get better sitelines for more people (and still accomodate 1000+), it would have to have been held in a theater, not a ballroom. I personally enjoyed that it was at the DLR, but we spent our lunch and dinner breaks in the parks, the hotel and DTD, not in line.

    Even with premium packages, I think there will be some Disney fans that will still wait in line for 2 hours or more to make sure they have the best of the best. Too many hours logged in theme parks may have left an indelible mark. -- Suzanne

  5. #5

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    I enjoyed the event, it was a bit intense, may have been way to much content for me. I was really getting kind of tired at times. I would maybe liked something to walk around and interact and see as well. Great event, just a bit intense schedule wise for myself.

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    Another suggestion: Have President George Kalogridis talk on his own without Garth "doesn't really know disney parks too well" Kemp moderating. He was okay... but just not my cup of tea for this type of thing. Nice synergy though... I enjoyed seeing the video of them doing the canoe races.


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  7. #7

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    I agree that the interview set up thing with George was a little odd..especially since the interviewer wasn't up to to Disney knowledge snuff for that crowd. I would have rather seen him just talk to us without an interviewer. I like the idea of a trivia contest, but would like to see something offered for shyer fans (like me, who, although I knew the answers would never raise my hand). I don't mind some fan stuff, but I agree that I am there to see DISNEY pros. I am not at all bothered by the offererings of other arms of the company, as I found alot of that interesting at the Expo..(not too thrilled about the Marvel stuff that will be there next year, but oh well, it will bring more people in and that's good..anyone want my Sorcerer seat for Marvel stuff? I will also be giving away the massage certificate..ack. ). Since I had been to the Expo, several of the presentations were basically re-runs, but still enjoyed for the most part. But I won't watch them a third time at the Expo so hope they change it up.
    I thought having the concert on Friday night was odd as it should be more of a finale thing (but maybe performers could only come on Friday), and the presentation chosen to end it with just fell flat as an ending. They could have just expanded the Follow Me Boys segment, with Tony Baxter's heartfelt comments and more clips playing along with the song and ended it that way. I also thought they might have a little parting gift for us...we do love our swag. I also thought time in those chairs got to be too long. They could have given some breaks and done away with a presentation or two that kinda was repetitive of others we had already seen..maybe set up a mill around/snack area with some archive stuff or something to stretch our legs. I also thought the lining up thing was ridiculous and we didn't do it until about 1/2 hour out of the doors opening. We did ok with seeing on the first side section most of the time. I thought it was nuts people would leave for a break and get right back in line., but to each his own.
    My biggest concern is that D23 is going to run out of things to discuss..but they really shouldn't...they just need to think outside the box going forward. Instead of having the same basic Imagineer panel (although I like that they are adding the younger ones) have just one or two go in more detail about a smaller subject. I could listen to Bob Gurr go on about just about anything for a whole hour easily.
    But..overall. Well done and I can't wait for the Expo!
    (I did think it was strange that they announced a Destination D next year when it was originally announced to be bi-yearly alternating with the Expo, but since they have had so many angry members and ex members not thinking WDW is getting enough play, I guess that pushed them to do it early)

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    They sent out surveys and I suggested that Destination D and Scavenger Hunt for Disneyland should be 2 days TOTAL. Have a mixer at the end of Destination D and have a party at the end of the scavenger hunt.


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  9. #9

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Coheteboy View Post
    They sent out surveys and I suggested that Destination D and Scavenger Hunt for Disneyland should be 2 days TOTAL. Have a mixer at the end of Destination D and have a party at the end of the scavenger hunt.
    Aw, poop. It looks like only the team leader's from the Scavenger Hunt get surveys. I wonder if there is any way for me to tell them my thoughts that would actually reach them.
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  10. #10

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    First, I love all things Disney & especially the history of Disneyland-I was looking forward to this event- However, I felt the two full days of meetings was a little too much, especially since some of the stories mentioned were repeated in some of the following seminars.

    There really should have been short breaks between each of the meetings- Yes, I know it would be hard to have a lot of people get up, leave and come back- but sitting for 3 or more hours at a time was a real pain in the butt.

    Even though I wanted to attend the meetings, I left early both days since I was getting a little stir crazy and there were still things I wanted to get done at Disneyland & unfortunately missed out on the concert and the seminar where the posters were given out.

    Either way, I still had a good time, but still think that the days could have been a bit shorter.

  11. #11

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    Re: Review of Destination D - thoughts, reactions and suggestions

    I LOVED the 2 days, but there were a few things that could have changed. I agree witht the seating. The stage was amazing to look at, but unless you stood in line for 2 hours you weren't able to get decent seats and ended up watching a screen. The concert Friday night was amzing, but a little off. It really felt like a finale kind of thing and then the actual "finale", just seemed like one of the regular sessions. Most of the people presenting were really great. Becky Kline was a great way to start with weird Disney, but the guy she was with was just plain obnoxious. When he came back later in a panel, we just left. I couldn't stand to listen to him at all. There also seemed to be a lot of Tim O'Day. It was interesting that some people you only saw once, and others were there many times. I guess it had to do with what you are an expert about.

    There were so many things that were amazing about the two days. Seeing Walt's last video, all the amazing pics and video of Disneyland being built and the early years, and the Mouseketeers were all awesome, but I think the highlight for me and something I will NEVER forget is getting to listen to Richard Sherman talk about and play his songs!

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