The 2013 D23 Expo is just a few days away, set to take over the Anaheim Convention Center from August 9-11 in celebration of all things Disney. A quick look over the full D23 Expo schedule makes deciding between its many exciting panels, presentations, demonstrations, and other sources of entertainment a daunting task. But we have answers to what will prove to be the ultimate must-see moments and tips on how not to miss them.
In an exclusive interview, D23 head Steven Clark reveals to us (and now to you) his take on what should not be missed at the upcoming event along with a few behind-the-scenes details on how to brave the crowds and why they made the programming decisions they did.
(All photos below are from the 2011 D23 Expo to offer an idea of the types of experiences coming next week.)
Must-Sees at the 2013 D23 Expo
Steven Clark is particularly excited about this year’s D23 Expo. “I think this is one of the best Expos we’ve pulled together yet,” Clark said, summarizing it simply as “three days of, dare I say, Disney magic.” The Expo will bring together every part of the company in one of the biggest Disney events ever assembled. “It is the only place you can go to see everything that is Disney under one roof,” he added.
But what makes it the ultimate event for Disney fans? Clark lists what he believes will be the highlights.
1. Walt Disney Studios
“There are the things that I think we all know are going to be big, bold, fantastic, and a lot of that happens in the Arena,” emphasized Clark, beginning with important changes to the big show-stoppers. It’s a guarantee that the Walt Disney Studios will bring some of the Expo’s most incredible surprises and entertainment, but in 2011 their 2.5-hour presentation left more than a few audience members squirming.
“The feedback we got last year was ‘The studio presentation was fantastic… but we had to go to the bathroom,’” joked Clark. “So we heard that feedback and separated them out.”
This time, Disney Animation head John Lasseter leads the show. “John is very excited about sharing as much as he possibly can.”
Clark emphasizes that Lasseter’s presentation is going to be one of those do-not-miss events, featuring talent surprises and a big musical performance. “It is just fantastic […] and I’m not going to tell you what it is. It’s really going to be something special. That’s definitely not to be missed.”
Then on the Expo’s second day, the Walt Disney Studios will offer what Clark calls a “star-studded affair” featuring all the biggest live-action names from “Thor: The Dark World,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Tomorrowland,” “Maleficent,” and more.
New to the D23 Expo this year are two nighttime concerts that Clark is sure will be highly entertaining for attendees. He calls Friday night’s Broadway and Beyond performance “a very special 90 minutes of the best of Disney on Broadway” featuring top talent from New York.
Then on Saturday night, Alan Menken and Richard Sherman will play the Arena together. “That performance is nothing short of historic,” said Clark. “Having these two guys – Disney Legends, people who have literally written the Disney songbook – on stage together is great [...] This is a concert that’s one for the ages.”
3. Show Floor
But not all of the most-talked about moments take place in the biggest of venues. While the presentations in the smaller Stage 23 and Stage 28 will surely be fascinating, it’s the show floor that Steven Clark says will make memories.
“People don’t always give enough thought to social aspect of it,” said Clark. “We have a fantastic place where we have 45,000 people from around the world coming to Anaheim all because they love Disney.” And one of the best places, he says, to meet and greet with other like-minded fans is in the Collector’s Forum, not just a place for buying and selling but also for making new friends.
For kids, teens and tweens, the Disney Junior and Disney Channel pavilions will also capture attention, particularly with special appearances like the newly-formed stars of the hit “Teen Beach Movie.”
4. Journey Into Imagineering
The biggest and most attention-grabbing of the pavilions on the show floor will arguably be the Journey Into Imagineering, hosted by Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Parks & Resorts. The pavilion will take attendees inside WDI headquarters at 1401 Flower Street in Glendale, as if literally walking in to their offices and creative spaces, littered with hints at ongoing and future projects.
Of course, when asked what those hints would be, Clark slyly responded, “Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. [...] Imagineers have surprises of their own.”
But Clark did explain the decision to emphasize this “open house” version of Imagineering in place of a big Disney Parks presentation in the Arena – a highlight of past Expos.
“The way you have to look at an Expo, or the announcements that come from an Expo, is you have to understand the Walt Disney Company is a living, breathing creative engine and timing for whether it’s when clips are ready, when announcements are ready, when talent deals are done, whatever the factors might be, they all impact what can or can’t be included in August of a given year,” stated Clark.
“That’s why I think there’s a little bit of ebb and flow and you look at Parks – we had a big, big year, over the last year or so, with the opening of Cars Land, the opening of New Fantasyland, the launching of two new cruise ships, the groundbreaking of Shanghai Disneyland. […] The new [projects] that are coming online are ones that have a long gestation period so if not this Expo then next Expo – but I know there will be hints to some exciting things for those who are paying attention.”
2013 D23 Expo Tips
So how are attendees expected to successfully navigate through the busy D23 Expo schedule, with so many promising panels overlapping? Plan ahead, says Clark. Use the schedule online and the free D23 mobile app to form a strategy of which presentations are most important for each individual person to attend. “”There’s no way you can do everything at the Expo,” noted Clark. “You do have to pick and choose.”
Fortunately, this time D23 is offering the new StagePass, allowing attendees to obtain free tickets guaranteeing them a spot in many panels ahead of time as long as they show up 20 minutes before the presentations begin.
This addition is a direct result of complaints voiced to D23 in the past. “We did want to mitigate the amount of time spent standing in line because that certainly was the feedback we heard loud and clear from last time,” said Clark. “You don’t have to be stuck standing in a queue for Stage 23 and Stage 28.” And those two venues are also bigger than ever, allowing more fans to see each presentation.
But for the Arena, waiting in line will be required, with no StagePass available. What’s the best strategy to guarantee admission there?
“We’re not allowing lines to form before 5 o’clock so that would be the earliest anyone can come,” said Clark. “I think it comes down to how much of a front row seat you need. We have a 4,000 seat availability and a 2,000 seat overflow. We feel that based on our experiences the last two years that will allow us to accommodate the crowd.”
And D23 has been frequently asked why they don’t reprise some of their panels to allow more people to see them. Simply, there’s no time. “Our business units all have so many great ideas for presentations they want to do – which is a good problem to have – that we are booked solid,” told Clark. “We had to turn people away.”
No matter how many or how few presentations are attended or celebrities spotted, all D23 Expo guests are almost guaranteed to have a good time. “Barring the opening of an actual, full-fledged Disney theme park, these are the largest events ever created by the Walt Disney Company and certainly the only ones that incorporate, to this scale, every part of the company,” added Clark. “Definitely historic events that are not to be missed.”
And even with this year’s D23 Expo just a week away, Clark and his team are already thinking ahead to 2015, discussing the possibilities for next time.
There’s much more to the 2013 D23 Expo than the little bit mentioned above. To find out more details about what to expect from the Disney Legends ceremony, show floor, exclusive merchandise, Star Wars, The Optimist, and other topics even including Dr. Doofenshmirtz’ Waffle-inator, tune in to Show 435 of our Inside the Magic podcast for more from D23 head Steven Clark.
And whether you’re attending the 2013 D23 Expo or not, you can count on Inside the Magic to bring the Disney excitement to you through videos, photos, and reports following it all, so continue to check back here throughout the event to stay connected.