Disney: Day One of the D23 Expo

The D23 Expo press conference set-up

The D23 Expo press conference set-up, sans guests

Much has already been written about Day 1 of the inaugural D23 Expo, but I’ll weigh in with a little personal perspective, since I spent a good deal of the day hosting and moderating multiple press conferences, which were not open to the general public.

Fortunately, I’d already checked out many of the exhibits and displays during set-up on Wednesday evening (including the wonderful “Treasures of the Disney Archives” exhibit), and let me say this…if you are a Disney fan, and haven’t come to the D23 Expo, you are really missing out on some unique stuff.

Disney's Steven Clark and Bob Iger at the first D23 Expo press conference

Disney executives Steven Clark and Bob Iger at the first D23 Expo press conference. Taken with my official "host-cam."

My personal adventure began shortly before the first press conference. It was scheduled to start at 1:30, and was to feature Steven Clark, Vice President of Corporate Communications and the man behind D23 and the Expo. But at 1:25, we all received a surprise: Disney CEO Bob Iger, who hadn’t been scheduled to do a press conference, would join Steven. Suddenly, press and video cameras came out of the woodwork. It was as if the Beatles had reunited and landed to announce their recently remastered CD box set.

Bob fielded questions regarding the creation of D23 and the Expo, future theme park plans, and the recent acquisition of Marvel. Regarding the latter topic, he talked at length of the similarities of the two businesses, and shared how–after some initial meetings–he had put current Disney Feature Animation head John Lassiter in direct contact with Marvel executives, since John and his PIXAR team had recently gone through a Disney acquisition experience of their own. Bob’s enthusiasm for the future of all things Disney was contageous, as it was during his speech to open the Expo earlier in the day. He not only said the right things, but had a genuine passion for what he was saying.

The second conference featured Imagineer Tony Baxter and Media Preservationist Ed Hobelman, who discussed the rare footage the pair had shared during their “Wonderful World of Vintage Disneyland” presentation (one so popular with the Expo crowd that more than 100 people had to be turned away). Building on the bonus footage currently available on the “Secrets, Stories & Magic” Walt Disney Treasures DVD set, Tony and Ed told of discovery after discovery in a warehouse full of un- or mis-marked film cans, many scheduled to be destroyed. Several hundred hours of footage remains, and the pair are hoping for just the right projects to come along so they can share more of it.

Legendary Imagineers at D23 Expo

Imagineer Emeritus Bob Gurr answers a question while the Legendary panel looks on. From Left: Don Iwerks, Bob Gurr, Marty Sklar, X Atencio and Alice Davis

The final Thursday conference featured a group of Imagineers with more than 300 combined years of creative service to the world of Disney: Bob Gurr, Marty Sklar, Don Iwerks, X Atencio, and Alice Davis. The five, along with sculptor Blaine Gibson (who had to return home prior to the press conference), were fresh from their “An Afternoon with Imagineering Legends” presentation, which Marty had moderated.

It was a treat for me to see them all of these Legends again, but especially Alice, since I had hosted several events with her and her late husband, Marc.

One of the more interesting questions was how being an Imagineer today differed from those in the past. Marty was quick to point out that most of the original Imagineers had come with a good deal of experience from other creative disciplines from within the Disney studios (since there was no way to be trained specifically to work for WED, as WDI was then known).

When asked if any of the panel had worked on any favorite shows or attractions that were never built, Bob Gurr pointed out that no good idea ever died. If an idea or method of executing a good story wasn’t used in one show, it would probably resurface in a future attraction. Marty added that some great stories and ideas simply had to wait until the technology to best communicate them had been developed.

Other highlights of the day:

  • A special screening of the documentary “The Boys,” along with a special guest appearance of songwriter Richard Sherman.
  • The Treasure of The Disney Archives” exhibit (don’t miss it!)
  • A walk-thru of several future theme park attractions, including some for the Hong Kong Disneyland and a sneak preview of Cars Land, set to open in Disney’s California Adventure in 2012
  • The 2009 Disney Legends ceremony, the first to be held off Disney property. Those recognized include: actor/comedian Robin Williams, Imagineer Don Iwerks, character voice talents Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck) and Bill Farmer (Goofy), and TV’s Golden Girls Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White.
  • A lengthy preview of the upcoming animated feature “The Princess and the Frog.”
  • and a whole lot more…

All in all, a great first day! I’ll be back with more tomorrow…

craig hodgkins

For links to posts about past Disney events, click HERE.


~ by Craig Hodgkins on September 11, 2009.

One Response to “Disney: Day One of the D23 Expo”

  1. Great recap for those of us unable to attend. Thanks, Craig!

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