This past weekend thousands of Disney fans converged on the Anaheim Convention Center for the bi-annual D23 Expo. The expo is a celebration of all things Disney past, present and future and takes in name from the year 1923 when Walt Disney first came to California and changed entertainment history.
While D23 is the official fan club, the expo is open to all and in its third year, has established itself as a must attend convention for fans the world over. We met with people from Australia, Asia, and Europe all within the first 30 minutes we were on site.
The event is comprised of special screenings, previews, dealers, exhibitions, and panels where fans not only get the latest news but can also see stars from the world of Disney.
My favorite events are the upcoming movie panels and for this expo, the live action and animated panels were presented separately on two different days instead of all at once.
Fans lined up early to get into the live=action showcase on Saturday morning as the panel soon became packed to capacity and had a few thousand people seated in the overflow room where they could watch the events via video screens.
Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn followed an impressive montage of film footage and served as the host of the two hour event.
The format was an introduction of a film followed by footage and then special guests from the films would appear and talk about their films before showing a new clip which was often the first time this footage was shown to any audience. As a result, security was very tight and the audience was forced to show and then bag all electronics before the event started to ensure that no unauthorized images, sound, or news was released.
The “Star Wars” announcement was highly-anticipated but was sadly a letdown as there was no reveal of anything of note. No casting news, title, story details, images, etc. Only the confirmation of a 2015 release, stand alone movies would be done as well and that J.J. Abrams and the writer were working on the script and that it was going to be great and how much we all probably wish it was 2015 now.
Marvel followed next and Paul Feig of Marvel had some amazing stuff. Not only was their new footage and information from the pending “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, but we were treated by appearances from Natalie Portman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Chris Evans, and Tom Hiddleston amongst others.
The footage for both films was beyond expectations and added to the excitement level for the pending films.
We were also introduced to “The Guardians of the Galaxy” which is currently filming in London and not due until next August. Despite this, a scene showing the great action and humor of the film was presented to the great approval of the audience.
Other films followed such as “Muppets: Most Wanted” with special guests Ty Burrel of Modern Family in attendance and Tina Fey, Kermit and Ms. Piggy joining via video conference.
There was an announcement of a live version of “Cinderella” directed by Kenneth Branagh coming and a musical called “Into the Woods with Johnny Depp and a very talented cast.
“Maleficent” was next and this is the live-action telling of “Sleeping Beauty” as told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch. Angelina Jolie then appeared to thunderous applause and the first footage of her in character was shown and it has quickly become the most talked about film of the event amongst our readers all of whom want to know about her look and costuming.
Disney was just warming up and teased a secret film called “Tomorrowland” with George Clooney. Director Brad Bird and writer Damon Lindelof presented an odd mix of items from a box that was reported to be found in the archives with only 1952 listed on them. The “X-Files” like mystery of the objects as well as all sorts of hidden stuff contained in the box and within the objects is a big mystery and Disney has decided to make a film to try to unravel just what the objects were and were intended for.
The final film was “Saving Mr. Banks” which stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as the writer of the famed Marry Poppins books.
The story follows Walt’s 20 year pursuit of the rights to make the iconic film and how the highly-reserved author fought him and the film every step of the way including her displeasure with Julie Andrews and the musical nature of the film. This was a highly impressive film that will debut for the holidays.
On the floor following the expo there was a great look at the new games including a music game from Harmonix based on Fantasia and Disney Infinity as well as the always popular Dreams Shop where an impressive array of memorabilia was available.
There were numerous other panels as well as rumors of a new Star Wars attraction and a teased event called Orange Harvest which I believe may by connected to the parks upcoming Halloween events.
The fact that my report summarizes just a brief look at a couple of panels and the main floor shows you how vast the scope of this event was as I was constantly seeing stars from various television shows such as Joey Fatone on the floor doing presentations and demonstrations.
The next expo is set for 2015 and we are already looking forward to covering it.
You can get more information on D23 and the expo at www.D23.com