Suitcase contents are strewn around the room, stacks of Vinylmation are piled on tables, and I spent most of my afternoon clearing space on my computer to fit all of the pictures I need to upload… all signs point to the end of vacation, and if those weren’t enough, the post-Disney blues have set in fiercely.  That being said, its time to reflect on the 2011 D23 Expo… there were great things, and frustrating things, and amazing things, and disappointing things.  But, let’s start with the highlights, shall we, and as Kermit would say, “it’s time to get things going, it’s time to light the lights…”

Disney Store Wishalittle#5 Shopping: Often my demise, likely my addiction, Disney shopping might just be my favorite past-time… and there were more than a few opportunities at the Expo.  Not to mention that everything was SO cool!  I mean, could you really pass up a replica of Walt’s original #1 Disneyland name badge?  Or exclusive, limited edition Vinylmation in every shape, size, and description?  Or exclusive pins direct from Walt Disney Imagineering?  Or even that pristine Shellie Mae Disney Bear, straight from Tokyo DisneySea, and priced just right?  Okay, well maybe you could, but I definitely couldn’t! 😀  The 2009 Expo definitely had more items represented in the Expo Dream Store, but this year there were “pop-up shops” throughout the Expo from every corner of the Walt Disney company.  In all, I bought special souvenirs at six different locations, including the Dream Store, the pop-up Disney Store, the pop-up Nordstrom/Small World store, the Collector’s Forum, the pop-up Mickey’s of Glendale, and the Archives’ Treasure Trove.  While I may have come home with a significant dent in my credit card and pocketbook, each and every item is a special reminder of a special time.

Ridley and Me#4 Meet and Greet with Ridley Pearson: Although I never know what to say to people who really inspire me, meeting Ridley Pearson was a real treat.  I attended his session at the last Expo and loved it but I didn’t get to meet him then.  I adore both the Kingdom Keepers and the Peter and the Starcatchers books, and Ridley really inspires my own writing.  He was extremely nice at the Meet and Greet and seemed genuinely appreciative that people came out to see him.  His autograph in the newest Starcatchers book is one of my favorite “souvenirs” from the Expo!

Archives Walt#3 Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives: At the 2009 Expo, the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit was really amazing, but Disney definitely upped the ante with this year’s exhibit.  There were more items, across four different rooms, and each item was fascinating.  Walking into the exhibit, I actually started crying (total Disney Geek moment), as they had the plush Mickey on display from the famous picture of Walt hanging out of the engine of the Disneyland Railroad.  They had a large version of the picture hanging up for comparison, and there were more of Walt’s personal items on display here as well, including his #1 Disneyland name tag.

Archives Annie Banks

However, in an even geek-ier moment, my mom and I both squealed with delight when we saw Annie Banks’ dress from Father of the Bride on display.  Growing up, this was one of my favorite movies, and we still have a Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II marathon every so often.  Seeing this dress was a real treat.  There were also awesome items on display from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the original Mickey Mouse Club, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and so much more.  In 2009, we were in the Expo exhibit looking at one of the cases and Richard Sherman came up right beside us to join his wife, who had been looking at the case with us.  It was a very surreal moment.  This year, we didn’t have quite the same experience, but we were in the exhibit when a throng of people came in surrounding John Lasseter, to take his picture looking at Walt’s personal items.  It was kind of funny, really, because security was very nervous that we were in there and started politely shoo-ing us out, but we had been sitting just one table over from Lasseter at the Storyteller’s Cafe earlier that morning!

Legends Princesses#2 The Disney Legends Ceremony: The Legends ceremony was absolutely phenomenal this year.  At the last Expo it was really cool to see Robin Williams and Betty White, but this year was really special.  Disney inducted Paige O’Hara (speaking and singing voice of Belle), Lea Salonga (singing voice of Jasmine and Mulan), Jodi Benson (speaking and singing voice of Ariel), Anika Noni Rose (speaking and singing voice of Tiana), Linda Larkin (speaking voice of Jasmine), and even Regis Philbin, among others.

Legends Muppets

But it was the princesses that really stole the show for me.  Each of the princesses sang songs from their respective movies and was joined on stage by their respective princes.  It was such a touching moment seeing these women that I have grown up admiring, singing the songs that I love, in-person.  I have to admit that I cried when Paige O’Hara took the stage to sing a medley of songs from Beauty and the Beast.  This movie has always touched my heart and it was so surreal seeing the real Belle and hearing her sing.  Jim Henson was also inducted, posthumously, and his children gave a touching Muppet performance to honor their dad.  After they performed, Kermit and Rowlf, the two original Muppets Henson voiced, came on stage and sang Rainbow Connection… cue my waterworks here as well. 🙂  The ceremony was just beautiful and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to witness it in person.

Dick VanDyke#1 Drum roll please… my absolute favorite moment of the Disney D23 Expo 2011 was… seeing Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix perform live on the first night of the convention!  This was the kind of thing that I wouldn’t even think to put on a Disney Bucket List because it wouldn’t ever occur to me that I might have the chance to experience it.  Even though I ate not-so-fabulous convention center soft pretzels, on the floor, in a cold room, while we waited in line for four hours… it was worth it.  Mr. Van Dyke was every bit as charming and debonair as I imagined him to be.  He was funny and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be performing for us.  The Vantastix sing acapella and all the members are incredibly talented.  Their remarkable story started in a Starbucks, when one of the members struck up a conversation with Mr. Van Dyke about acapella music, as he was working for a music company at the time and had heard that Mr. Van Dyke was interested in acapella music.  On the spot, Mr. Van Dyke asked him if he knew anyone that would want to be in an acapella group with him, needless to say, he said yes, and so did his two friends, and they’ve been singing in the Vantastix ever since.  It was the kind of story that really warms your heart… ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations and living out their dreams.  The group sang a variety of both Disney and non-Disney songs, including some from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  They introduced both Richard Sherman and Mr. VanDyke’s Dick Van Dyke Show co-star, Rose Marie, who were both in the audience.  It was such an amazing night, I really can’t even believe I was able to be a part of it.

So, while I had lots of fun experiences at the Expo, these are my top five.  But stay tuned for some of the less enjoyable moments, when I explore my top five lowlights from the convention tomorrow.

© 2011, Rays of Disneyland. All rights reserved.

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