D23 2009: What’s Going On At Disney’s First Ever D23 Convention?
For better or worse, the brand of Disney has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon, all stemming from the mind and vision of Walt E. Disney who created the character of Mickey Mouse in the 1920’s. Bob Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, decided to organize this first ever fan convention for the Disney fan, dubbed D23, the “D” for Disney of course and “23” for 1923, when “the magic first began,” or rather the year the company was originally founded.
The event was appropriately held at the Anaheim Convention Center, located adjacent to the original Disneyland theme park. Outside the convention center, Disney hotel employees exercised their First Amendment rights by protesting Disney and changes to their health benefits.
The convention floor was surprisingly sparse. Much of the space was taken up by seating areas. Some space was even set up for the post office, not something you would usually find on the floor of this type of convention. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing after having been through a summer braving the show floors of E3 and the San Diego Comic-Con. Spending five days on the convention floor in San Diego can make you go veritably insane. Since this is the first D23 though, the overall lightness of what was shown is somewhat understandable, and being able to traverse the whole floor rather quickly without being trampled was a nice change of pace. There can be definite advantages to attending a more “low-key” fan convention.
The floor area was extremely family friendly with numerous family and child activities, such as the Radio Disney booth where attendees could pretend jam, take photos, and meet Radio Disney DJ’s. The Walt Disney Corporate Responsibility booth let fans make potted plants and help do their part for the green movement.
The booth for the hit ABC series, Lost, featured autograph signings as well as a dorm room set up for “Lost University,” a Blu-ray live feature for the Lost Blu-ray discs. Fans were able to register and sign up for updates.
The Disney Interactive Media Group had demos of the new Nintendo Wii game set up for Toy Story Mania, an upcoming video game of mini-games, some of which will be in 3-D. (Video games in 3-D now? Whoa.)
The most impressive exhibit on the entire floor was the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts area. Fans were treated to an impressive video introduction on a projected screen talking about the history of Disney theme parks. The screen then opened allowing attendees to enter a whole area where you could explore and view upcoming attractions, rides, and resorts in the works from Disney.
The most exciting new attraction is a ride based on the hit Pixar movie Cars which will be dubbed Cars Land. Models, concept art, and the actual Cars themselves were on display for fans. The model featured a scale mock-up of Radiator Springs, which will put fans in the seat of a race car. They’ll travel on a track that will put them at speeds of 60MPH and take them around the tight bank from the movie. Cars director John Lasseter himself assisted in the design of the ride and making it sure it would be both accurate and authentic. The ride will open for Disney’s California Adventure theme park in 2012.
The ride will also feature two types of car animatronics. One will be similar to characters from the movie, with animated mouths and eyes over their bumpers and windshields. The other will be fully mechanical cars, built to scale.
Another attraction in this exhibit was Lucky the Dinosaur. A seemingly full scale and fully automated animatronic dinosaur that was led out by his handler to greet children and attendees. Lucky’s handler demonstrated how Lucky had to rid himself of the hiccups. You could also see the new automatronics in development from Disney. A presentation by two of the automatronics showed the workings of the robots programmed to interact with audiences and react to what they see. One of the robots uses its camera to spot a person in the audience, and can see if they are smiling or not. (Robots, if you take over the world, please make me a slave and don’t vaporize me. )
The Storytellers’ Sandbox featured a new interactive attraction for Disney cruise lines. The Storytellers’ Sandbox used actual sandboxes and featured 3D projected animation which attendees gathered around. The animated segments of the attraction have encourage participants to dig holes in the sand to lay turtle eggs. Once the eggs are hatched, one can also see how they are led around by a hand-held lantern before seeing them travel to the ocean to eat seaweed and grow. The narrator was also able to pick up a pile of the sand with the projected animated turtle in it. Quite impressive.
On the second floor of the convention center, the featured exhibit was “The Treasures of the Disney Archives,” featuring costumes, props, models, and much more from Disney’s 85+ year history. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos from this exhibit, but I was overjoyed to see the Nautilus from the original 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The costume from the titular hero of The Rocketeer, one of my beloved favorites, was also on display.
Also upstairs were numerous displays for upcoming Disney releases including A Christmas Carol from Robert Zemeckis and Alice In Wonderland from Tim Burton. The Christmas Carol display featured photos of the cast members in the animated form of their characters as well as some stills of scenes and locations from the movie. The Alice In Wonderland display featured some prop-ups as well as full-scale stand-ins of The White Rabbit and The March Hare. A Christmas Carol is due in November 2009, with Alice set for a March 2010 release.
Fans might also be interested to know that a Chinese dragon prop was on display from the new movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a new live-action fantasy movie starring Nicholas Cage that’s based on the animated segment of the same name from the animated Disney classic Fantasia. The display for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie display featured poster and still shots from the movie as well as the costumes worn by the movie’s leads played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton. Fans that wandered over to the display area for The Princess And The Frog, the hand-drawn animated release, could see the movie’s actual animators demonstrate some live pencil drawing sessions of the characters they helped bring to life for the movie.
Return to D23 Expo 2009: Complete On-Site Coverage.