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D23 Expo 2015 Review: We had a blast!

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We’re back from the 2015 D23 Expo which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend and let me just say I had an awesome time! Being a first time attendee, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard so much about the event from previous years, and I must say it did not disappoint. With celebrities, panels, presentations, exhibits, previews, exclusive content, concerts, cos-play, signings, merchandise, giveaways, contests and much more, this event is larger than anything I have ever experienced. Almost to the point of being overwhelming.

We wanted to experience as much as possible at the event with an open mind, and we definitely accomplished that. Throughout the two days there (we skipped the third day as we didn’t see much we wanted to do), we overheard a lot of positive and negative feedback, and being in the events industry had my own two cents to add in as well. Looking across social media and message boards, you can find a giant range of comments saying it was terrible to it was amazing. It boils down to what the expectations of the attendee was and what actually happened. Sadly it’s the people who are negative that have the loudest voices and will be first to share an opinion, versus the people who had a great time who won’t voice it as loudly or at all.

Our goal is to give our unbiased, unfiltered views based on notes made during the event. Going in with no expectations other than having a good time gave a good starting point to review the event. Here is our review of the event, starting with the good, then the bad, and finally a wrap-up. Enjoy!

The Good

Badge Pickup: We didn’t get our badges mailed to use as we live outside the US, so we headed to the convention centre the day ahead to pick up our badges. It was quick, efficient and had no lines.

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StagePass Distribution: Thanks to this pass, we were guaranteed admission into the “A Goofy Movie” 20th Anniversary Reunion without waiting in line outside the theatre. We did wait in a long line to get the pass, but it saved us as the animation panel ran long so we sprinted to the panel and got there just in time to see it. Whew!

Presentations: Most sessions we attended were awesome, with one exception which we’ll get to later. We got into the Disney/Pixar Animation presentation as well as the “A Goofy Movie” presentation and both were filled with amazing surprise guests. Animation was hosted by John Lasseter and has guest appearances by: Dwayne Johnson, Ellen Degeneres, Ty Burrell, and Ed O’Neill to name a few. Goofy had Jason Marsden & Jenna Von Oy, Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy), plus videos from Pauly Shore, Wallace Shawn and a surprise Powerline concert with Tevin Campbell. Disney sure knows how to put on a show!

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Disneyland: The Exhibit: An amazing collection of past and present artifacts, props, videos and models from the park that started it all. So well put together and when we visited the line wasn’t too long which meant we could take our time looking at everything.

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Shanghai Disneyland Preview: This was a comprehensive overview of the amazing new resort currently being built-in China. With many unique attractions and Asian flair, this looks to become one of the most incredible Disney Parks on the planet!

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The World of Avatar Preview: Many folks have been critics of this concept for a while, but after seeing the model in person and hearing Joe Rhode speak so passionately about the details, we’re sold on this being a perfect addition to Animal Kingdom in Florida.

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Star Wars Land Announcement: Finally the cat is out of the bag, and it looks to become a giant hit! Taking a cue from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal and Cars Land at Disney California Adventures, the theme park wars continue to go full force. A full 14 acres of Star Wars sensory overload, look for this to become the most incredibly themed land in any theme park to date.

The Bad

Insane lineups and mass confusion as to which lineups people were supposed to be in: In order to get into the halls, there were three separate lines outside: D23 Gold/ Silver Members, General Admission and Ticket Sales. Problem was, the lines were not clearly marked so it became a treasure hunt to find which line was the correct one. The crowd control people seemed untrained, which is shocking as right across the street at Disneyland Resort they are masters at moving people.

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Badge scanning/ entry: Slowest staff ever. They need to get RFID badges to expedite the lines into the hall. There is no reason a venue of this size can’t have multiple entrances and quicker scanning to get in. Once in the expo hall, there were virtually no crowds for the first couple of hours, with the exception of lines for the panels & shopping. Meanwhile the lines of people outside were dying in the heat wave.

StagePass Distribution: There were 12 kiosks available but only four open for the most popular sessions (ie. A Goofy Movie), resulting in it taking over an hour to get the pass! We’re glad we got it, but there was no reason they couldn’t have used all the kiosks the distribute each option available to expedite the line.

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Food and drink: Simply not enough places to eat or get a drink. Lineups were insane (45 minute waits) and with no vending machines available, you had to line up for everything including beverages. We settled for Mickey Pretzels for lunch! Day 2 we brought our own Lunchables, snacks and drinks so we wouldn’t spend half the day in line for food!

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Shopping: Three separate locations with every long lines (reportedly 4-6 hours at some points). If you didn’t sleep overnight in line, it almost felt like there was no point in trying. Waiting hours to possibly buy something is not how we wanted to spend our Expo. In addition to the three separate stores, you would need to know which store the items you wanted would be located in and then wait in line hoping the item wasn’t sold out.We did get into the Dream Store with minimal line, only to find out what we wanted was in another store! Nowhere was a list of items available so you could make an educated decision. In addition, many people were clearly there solely to buy merchandise to sell for 5x the price on eBay, which is totally unfair to actual fans that just wanted the damn John Lasseter Rayne Spooner shirt (me, me, me!).

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Too many people: With the acquisition of Marvel & Lucasfilm, this event is quickly heading towards San Diego Comic-Con territory without the experience to do so. We wouldn’t be surprised if they announce this as an annual event soon as it’s such a cash cow.

Late Sessions: The Disney/Pixar Animation session started late for no apparent reason, and took over 45 minutes to load in. When you’re running a tight schedule to see as much as possible, timing can become a setback. Other sessions ran late as well.

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Star Wars Land Announcement: This happened right at the end of the Live Action presentation, not during the Parks & Resorts presentation as was expected. As all the parks fans were waiting for that presentation, the internet blew up with the announcement making everyone in line question what exactly we were waiting for now that the cat was out of the bag. Yes we got more details, however the WOW moment was lost.

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Ok, we’ve gone on long enough. To wrap up, events of this magnitude are difficult to pull off flawlessly, and they did a great job. This is a living, breathing event and sometimes things don’t go off as planned. There are typically hundreds of temporary staff that receive little to no training as to what their job will be and how to best make quick decisions without someone in charge being around. In addition, you have three crazy popular brands (Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm) with massive fan bases, all congregating in one place. Sometimes people don’t play well together and that can’t be controlled. As I said before, it’s all about setting the right expectations for  yourself.

 

Overall this was an amazing event that we had the greatest time attending. We got to see so many things we would never see anywhere else, and got to be the first to preview some amazing upcoming movies and attractions. In addition to the star power, being around so many fans brought such a positive energy that you can only really experience there. We had a blast and would definitely go back, thank goodness we have two years to rest up!

Did you attend D23 Expo…tell us about your experience! Would you go back, what would you improve/change? Leave a comment below!

 

 

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Theme Park Canuck

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