D23 Expo 2013: Top 10 Highlights

The curtain has been drawn on the third D23 Expo and I feel safe in saying that this was their best one yet. With an expanded footprint in the Anaheim Convention Center, stronger organizational efforts, better crowd control, topped off with unforgettable experiences for every type of Disney fan, this year’s event was a huge success. So much so that the fourth D23 Expo has already been announced for 2015 (exact dates will soon be announced on the D23 website). Continue reading for my top 10 list of this year’s highlights, based on what I was able to attend/experience:

1)      More efficient organization: Lines were clearly identified, space was used within the convention center more efficiently, and there was clear signage for lines.  Also, the new StagePass feature, which works similarly to a Disney theme park FastPass, allowed guests to get a ticket for a guaranteed seat in one panel of their choice (just for the smaller stages).  This was a great addition to the Expo this year, and was very easy to use.

StagePass queue area


2)      The Journey into Imagineering pavilion: Marking 60 years of innovation, creativity, and design, felt as if you were walking through an interactive museum.  Included here were historical gems, ideas for future plans, and a peek behind the curtain, such as: artwork by Harper Goff, Herb Ryman, and Peter Ellenshaw, early concept models of attractions, a look into the future with the re-imagined Hatbox Ghost, a sneak peek of concept designs for Avatar’s Pandora, and a peek behind the curtain into the inner workings of Imagineering. The area was staffed by Imagineers, giving guests a unique opportunity to have 1:1 interactions.  Find more information and several photos of the pavilion here.

Journey Into Imagineering Pavilion teases Star Wars Orange Harvest


3)      Disney Animation: Friday’s presentation showed that there is an abundance of exciting things coming out of the three animation houses (Pixar, Disney Toon Studios, and Walt Disney Animation Studios).  The celebrity appearances were just the cherry on top, topped only by the finale of Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go” from the upcoming FROZEN.  See a full recap of the presentation here.


Idina Menzel performs a song from "Frozen" at the D23 Expo. Photo courtesy of D23 EXPO by Richard Harbaugh


4)      The Richard Sherman & Alan Menken Songbook.  This concert, held on Saturday night, was absolutely incredible.  While I’ve seen each of them perform at previous D23 events, there was something even more magical about them performing in the same venue together.  They both seem to genuinely love what they do, and they speak so fondly of each other.  For an example, read this recap of a recent conference call with the two.

I’d also like to give an honorable mention here to Broadway & Beyond and the Disney Legends Ceremony.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend either of these myself, but I’ve heard nothing but raves from those that were in attendance.

Richard Sherman & Alan Menken perform together at the D23 Expo


5)      Disney Studios: With the promise of STAR WARS EPISODE VII, several action-packed Marvel films lined up, MALEFICENT, MUPPETS MOST WANTED, the intriguing TOMORROWLAND, and the highly anticipated (by fans, anyway), SAVING MR. BANKS, there is also much to be excited about here.  While it was a little disappointing that no announcements were made here, we were given sneak peeks into these projects that are already under way.  Also, the celebrity appearances are always a nice touch, albeit they seemed a bit stiff this year.  Not at all like the first Expo with the grand spectacle of the Muppets on the Steamboat, and Captain Jack appearing atop a pirate ship.


Angelina Jolie and Sean Baily (President, Disney Live-Action Productions) present "Maleficent" at the D23 Expo. Photo courtesy of D23 EXPO by Richard Harbaugh


6)      Stage 23 & 28 – The capacity for both of these areas were expanded this year, and while it was naturally impossible to be able to see everything, it was nice that panels were held in here around the same time as the big arena presentations, giving folks a choice in what they wanted to see.

Leave 'em Laughing WDI panel in Stage 23, including Imagineers (L to R) Dave Fisher, Kevin Rafferty, George Scribner, Joe Lanzisero, and Jason Surrell


7)      D23 Arena Overflow Queue.  While most people wouldn’t want to end up in here as their first choice, it was a great opportunity that allowed guests to still take part in the action, even once the arena was full.

D23 Arena Overflow Room


8)      Interactivity – There was a big presence this year for Disney Infinity, and several other games, giving guests the chance to play live before the games are released to the public.

9)      The shopping! There were several pop-up shops, including the Imagineering exclusive Mickey’s of Glendale, the Disney Store, the Expo Dream Store, tons of different vendors in the Collectors Forum, along with a peek into Disney Consumer Products, and Sephora’s Ariel collection.  There were also Expo exclusives around every corner, including: luggage, bicycles, costumes, soaps, vinylmations, pins, shirts, Dooney & Bourke and Harvey’s handbags, art work with plenty of artists on hand for signings, and lots, lots more.

A peek inside The Disney Store pop-up shop on the showroom floor


10)      Kid-friendly experiences: Following the idea that Disney is for everyone, especially families, the Expo offers quite a bit of kid-friendly entertainment.  In addition to the gaming and consumer products, there is a stage dedicated to Disney Channel celebrity meet & greets – after spending 3 days walking past this stage, not once did it ever seem to slow down. There was always something happening here.

The cast of Gravity Falls greeting guests


BONUS ROUND)     Possibly the most important take away from the Expo, or any D23 event is the memories you make with friends.  Through the various D23 events, I’ve made so many wonderful friends.  Without them, these experiences wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, or as wonderful.  It brings it to another level when you’re able to share that connection with so many others. 

Did you attend this year’s Expo? What are your thoughts of the event?  Are you already planning to attend in 2015?

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About Chrysty Summers

Growing up in southern California, Disneyland has always been a staple for my family. Today, my husband and I spend most of our free time at the parks, where you can usually find us soaking up the atmosphere of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. We also love traveling to Walt Disney World as often as we can, especially during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in the Fall! Find me on Twitter @PenelopePeach for live updates from around the parks.