Every two years all the Disney fans gather to celebrate the past and learn about the future at D23 Expo. This is not a major panel hopping event as the panels fill up fast, but in exchange for that the exhibit hall is on a whole different level from other conventions. This is a very different type of convention as it feels somewhat like an industry event, but it is also clearly a fan event. This is a very unique experience that really sets the event apart and makes it an event like no other.
The location is the great Anaheim Convention Center, which has more than enough room for all the attendees. Most of the construction has ended and there is plenty of room for parking. The main floor was used for the exhibit hall, the upper floors were used for most panels, and the arena was used for some of the biggest events. There was also room for food trucks for a quick bite between panels, but it really does pay to bring a lunch and not worry about the food lines.
The Exhibit Hall was almost overwhelming with plenty of booths, displays, and stages. The show floor had a main stage where they featured discussions about various programs like Disney’s wildlife conservation efforts as well as interviews with actors. The stage was also used to host a dance party to celebrate the anniversary of Disco Disney, an album that covered popular Disney songs with a disco-dance style. The speakers were loud enough to hear the stage in the general area. The stage provided a nice break from the rush of the exhibit hall. One of the most moving events on stage was when several of the voice actors gathered to sing the goodbye song from the Mickey Mouse Club when the event was wrapping up.
The Exhibit Hall had so much to do that it wouldn’t be surprising if someone attended D23 and spent all their time in the hall. There were displays designed as photo ops such as Buzz and Woody from Toy Story with a CarsLand redesign, old props from A Bug’s Land, and posters from popular Disney properties. These locations were popular stops for cosplayers, bounders, and the occasional wine mom. They functioned as a fun distraction, especially the older ride vehicles and land props. More than that, there were booths dedicated to the various franchise owned by Disney each with their own props and displays for photo ops. One of the most popular of these was Forky from Toy Story 4. However, no matter how popular a photo op zone was it never left like things were out of control.
There were plenty of booths for shopping at D23. There were booths run by various small businesses as well as the gigantic Disney shops. The line to get into the main store was very long and rarely less than a half hour wait. That shop offered unique dolls, toys, and clothing. The biggest issue that came up with that booth was the merchandise selling out. They had a D23 related merchandise booth as well, which wasn’t nearly as popular as the Disney shop. However, it was the smaller booths that really stood out with unique foods, candles, books, and so much more. Even if shopping is not your priority there are still some great booths to check out as they often have great displays as well.
For those who are more interested in the parks there were plenty of displays celebrating the history of the parks and show off future projects. There were displays for the upcoming Tron ride, the developments of EPCOT, the upcoming Marvel Campus, and the new cruise liner. It was a great way to see things up close and get hyped for the upcoming attractions. While many of these attractions are years away it was still amazing to see what the imagineers are developing. However, there was only a limited amount of information on the upcoming rides and the parks panel didn’t clarify or add information about the projects.
There were several panels dedicated to various aspects of the Disney gestalt. There were panels based on the imagineers behind the newest park developments, upcoming park attractions, the anniversary of the Haunted Mansion, and Marvel. This is not the kind of event that has fan panels, nor is there a reason for panels like that at D23. Having the opportunity to learn from the imagineers that helped design some of the most popular attractions at any theme park feels like a once in a life time thing that won’t be replicated at almost any convention. The audience packed the panels to learn more about the history of the parks and to hear actors talk about their work. While there is plenty of content to be seen at the panel rooms, they do fill up fast and waiting in line feels like waiting time when there is so much to do at the exhibit hall. It is good to plan ahead and choose the most important panels to attend in order to maximize your time at D23 Expo.
As this is a Disney themed convention the vibe is very family friendly. There were plenty of people, and families, at the convention in cosplay or Disneybounding from various Disney franchises. Most of the cosplayers were friendly and tried not to disrupt crowds while getting photos. There were many families at the convention and there wasn’t any noticeable problems caused by rowdy children or overly pushy parents. The event was crowded, but lines were mostly controlled and people did seem to be aware of other people around them. Despite the fact that things can get crowded the event doesn’t feel as overwhelming as other crowded events.
D23 Expo is an amazing event, but it will tire you out. There is so much ground to cover and it can be exhausting to run around and see everything at the convention. Between the displays, panels, and shopping thee is almost too much at the convention. It is good that this convention skips a year because even if there is plenty to do, building a theme park is a slow process and the news wouldn’t be nearly as exciting each year as big announcements don’t come up too often. I really enjoying going to D23 and I look forward to the 2021 edition as it will be a great experience. If you are a fan of Disney or any of their franchises then pick up tickets as this event tends to sell out. It is an experience like no other, I assure yo and that’s what makes it one of the best events I went to this year. I highly recommend D23 Expo and I hope I see you at the next one.