As you can hopefully tell from yesterday’s D23 Expo Highlights post, I had lots of fun at this year’s event, and there were a lot of wonderful memories to be made.  However, the Expo wasn’t without incident, and, unfortunately, I had a few major disappointments this year.  I don’t, by any means, want to be “that guy” with a myriad of complaints, but I do want to portray both sides of my Expo experience.  So, let’s take a look at a few of my least favorite moments from D23…


Lightning McQueen Animatronic '09 & Ride Vehicle '11

#3 Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion: Okay, so to be fair, if I had nothing to compare this year’s Parks and Resorts Pavilion with, it probably would have been great.  However, Disney completely overwhelmed me with the awesomeness of the 2009 Pavilion, and this year’s just didn’t compare.  I did love seeing the maquette of the new Walt and Mickey statue for Buena Vista Street, and an actual ride vehicle from the Radiator Springs Racers.  The only problem is that we saw a prototype of the Lightning McQueen Animatronic in 2009, as well as an enormous model of Cars Land, including a very detailed Radiator Springs Racers attraction.  Overall, much like the Parks and Resorts Presentation itself, it seemed like a lot of the “sneak peeks” in the Pavilion were recycled, “old news” from 2009.


Storyteller's Sandbox '09 & Storytellers Maquette '11

One of my favorite experiences in 2009 was the interactive, Storyteller’s Sandbox exhibit, which allowed guests to actually tell a story by making shapes in a giant sandbox, onto which animation was projected to create the story.  It’s a little tough to explain, but the concept was so phenomenal, and represented unique experiences available outside the actual Parks.  This year, entities like DVC and Adventures by Disney were nothing more than an information kiosk, with Cast Members there to answer questions and hand out brochures.  Also, much like the Wall-E and Lucky the Dinosaur meet and greets in 2009, Disney offered the opportunity to meet the new “Talking Mickey” in the Parks Pavilion.  However, when we were in the pavilion, Mickey was experiencing some technical difficulties and it was unknown whether or not he would return to the Expo.  Mickey did end up making it back later in the day, but like lots of others elements of the Expo, we only had one opportunity to make it into the pavilion.  Disney did offer the, likely, once-in-a-lifetime experience to shop in a pop-up store version of the Cast Member exclusive Mickey’s of Glendale store at Imagineering… however, the lack of real content in the rest of the pavilion left me with the feeling that a little too much of the emphasis here was on how to get guests to spend more money, which I admittedly did, instead of sharing insider, sneak peeks with the biggest of Disney fans.

#2. Walt Disney Studios Presentation: Two words… Johnny Depp.  I’m not sure this section would require anymore explanation than that! 😀  The resounding question going into the Expo weekend this year seemed to be, “How will Disney top the surprise-filled Studios Presentation from 2009?”  Well, I’m not sure they even tried.  Captain Jack sailing out on his replica Black Pearl to close the 2009 presentation aside, this session failed to even touch the greatness achieved two years ago.  There were very few actual surprises, and, perhaps most frustrating was for each film many, if not all, of the stars, “wished they could be there but couldn’t make it.”  Movie after movie, this was the company line, and the celebs that did come had time to say little more than “Hi” and “Thank you” before heading backstage.  Instead of nearly the entire cast of Muppets singing on the deck of a replica Mark Twain Riverboat, we got Kermit and Miss Piggy.  Instead of John Goodman and Billy Crystal coming to talk about the upcoming Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University, we got only Crystal.  Instead of the first 45-minutes of The Princess and the Frog, we got the first four-minutes of Wreck-it Ralph.  I will say that I am not a Marvel fan whatsoever, I don’t dislike the franchise, I just haven’t ever been into it, but the Marvel fans in the crowd did go crazy for the select cast of Avengers that came to talk about the much-anticipated blockbuster culmination of superheroes.  I, however, just kept waiting for Johnny. 🙂

Dick VanDyke View

My eye-level view of Dick Van Dyke & the Vantastix

#1. What did we learn from 2009? At the end of the 2009 Expo, D23 offered an on-line survey where guests could vent their frustrations, offer their suggestions, and let Disney know what they did right at the event.  The word from D23 was that this feedback would actually be used to improve the experience at future Expos and events.  The overwhelming feedback from everyone I spoke with was that the presentations needed to be offered in larger rooms, repeated when possible, with more time in between sessions, and a possible FastPass system to alleviate time spent in line if you would ultimately be turned away when the room was full.  So, I was baffled when the schedule came out and showed that sessions were still either back to back or overlapping, being offered only once, and in fewer rooms, with no more seating.  I was even more baffled when we arrived at the Expo and found that the lines were poorly managed, the crowds were heavier than ever, and some sessions were nearly impossible to get into.  As I mentioned yesterday, in order to see Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix perform, we had to wait in line for three hours until the presentation was scheduled to begin and then another hour before we were actually allowed to enter the venue.  Not to mention that once we were seated it became even more evident that this crowd would have been much better accommodated in the Arena, as the guests who did make it in were stuck in regular seating, with no “stadium” seating effect to allow everyone a view of the stage.  Being a bit vertically challenged myself, I could barely see the large screens set up to help enlarge what was going on.  Also, although Disney was promoting their special Twitter account, set-up just to answer Expo questions, communication was almost non-existent, until near mutinous crowds demanded to be informed when queues were at their capacity.  Unfortunately, the chaotic approach to crowd “control” took a lot of the Magic away from the weekend.

So, there you have it… my balanced meal of Expo coverage, the highs and the lows, the great, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  In the coming weeks, I will explore more individual details from D23 that I feel deserve a deeper look.  But, what did you guys think?  Did you love the Expo?  Hate it?  Proclaim that you would never attend another D23 event as long as you live?  Sing its praises from your hotel rooftop?  Let us know in the comments what your Expo highs and lows were… and come back Monday for the official start of Mapping the Magic Monday.

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