I meant to get this up sooner, but travel, jury duty (ugh) and life in general delayed me a few days. In any event, the D23 Expo came and went last weekend, as the Disney “fan fair”/big marketing experience in Anaheim showcased everything from company's movie and television slate to upcoming changes to its theme parks.
1. Overall, this was an extremely well-run event. Not surprisingly, Disney knows something about hosting thousands of people in a fairly confined area, and doing it in a way that those people leave worn out but with smiles on their faces. That doesn’t mean there weren’t issues – I’m still waiting for someone to give me back the hour or so I spent waiting for the Princess and the Frog presentation to start – but looking at the entire weekend, Disney handled the crowds really well. This was a combination of pre-planning (most of the employees who were handling the crowds seemed to have come over from Disneyland, where I’m sure they’re used to moving large masses of people around) and on-the-spot learning (getting out of Sunday's big arena presentation on the animation slate was much easier than leaving Friday's live-action film presentation, and I'm pretty sure Sunday's crowd was bigger).
2. Overall, this was a very controlled event. As I mentioned in a previous post, entering some of the presentations (and note I call them presentations and not panels – I’ll get to that in a moment) required you to give up your cell phone, cameras and other devices before entering.
I can understand why a company like Disney, which puts countless hours and dollars into developing movies and the like, would want to also control how they're disseminated onto the Internet, but it still felt very old school in this age of social media and online video, when many companies know they don’t have as much control over their “message” as they once had. Plus, from a logistical standpoint, it added more time onto the end of the presentation that could have been spent doing something else.
Beyond that, though, I think the bigger presentations on the movies, theme parks and animation segments could have used some interaction. That’s one of the strengths of something like Comic-Con, I think – having the opportunity, as a fan, to ask questions of the actors and writers and creators who attend. Also, while the appearances by Johnny Depp, John Travolta, etc. were appreciated, each of them spent maybe two or three minutes on stage. It would have been nice if there had been a little more fan interaction or, at the very least, maybe some longer panels after the big movie presentation where they could talk about their careers or projects or whatever. I think it would provide a little more spontaneity and fun to what otherwise was, essentially, a very well-done marketing presentation.
That doesn’t mean that everything was one way. For instance, Disney had a great exhibit set up on its parks and resorts where you could talk to Imagineers about upcoming rides and additions to their parks, which was one of the highlights of the whole event.
3. This was a well-attended event … on the weekend. I’m guessing this probably won’t be as much of an issue when/if Disney decides to do future events, but the crowds on Thursday and Friday were much lighter than the weekend traffic. That suggests the event probably drew in a lot of locals, but maybe not as many out-of-towners who saw it as a big-draw vacation opportunity.
But I’d also guess a lot of people heard about the Depp/Travolta/Cage appearances on Friday, and if Disney can continue to bring in that kind of star power (and can use it to market the event) I doubt that’ll be an issue.
4. I thought I would get bored as the weekend went on, but I didn’t. As I mentioned before, my wife’s a huge Disney fan, and I imagine the D23 Expo being created specifically with her in mind. But after attending Comic-Con for so many years, where panels and content and the dealer floor provide enough entertainment for multiple days (and then some), I wondered whether Disney would have enough stuff for me to do.
However, I left feeling as if I had seen a lot, but had also missed a lot of stuff, too, such as the Muppets panel and the Flash Forward screening and, well, everything on Thursday.
5. This event will be so much cooler once the Marvel deal closes. For comic fans, anyway, I’m sure that goes without saying. That doesn’t mean comics weren’t represented, as BOOM! was there to promote their licensed Disney books, but once the Marvel room is added to the House of Mouse, they’ll have the opportunity to showcase everything Marvel on the showroom floor. That will be fun to see.
6. Fans are fans, y’know? I may not have an opinion about the subtle differences between the Pirates of the Caribbean rides at Disney World and Disneyland, but I can respect the fan who can spend an hour talking about them, as one fan did behind us while we were waiting in a line. If only she read comics, we would have had a lot to talk about.