What do Mickey Mouse, Black Panther, R2-D2, National Geographic, Hulu, and Jeff Goldblum have in common? Well, IoMGeek was at D23 Expo 2019 this year where all of that and more were represented! We have playlist of videos featuring our experiences, and some thoughts below!
The show floor of D23 Expo is a central hub that shows you truly how much Disney owns – Hulu, National Geographic, Star Wars, Marvel Studios, and more. All were represented with giant booths, most with some form of giant screen to show new and archival footage to the masses. As an official Disney Fan Club convention, most third party vendors were relegated to one section of the floor (near Talent Central and the D23 Center Stage), while, for the rest of the convention, official Disney stores (Dream Store, Music Emporium, Mickey’s of Glendale, Disney Store, etc) were the locations for all shopping, and it showed. As a result, long lines (anywhere from 30 mins to 3 hours) wrapped around queues leading into the stores from show opening to show closing. We were able to get into the Dream Store and Disney Store and found some fantastic exclusive goodies in both.
Outside of those rather large stores, most booths were meant to be experienced, with no real items to purchase. Costumes (including an amazing Disney costume display), props, and more made sure that there was plenty to see and do between panels. Kudos to the variety of food options available – show floor options, food truck court, and a variety of option in the open air areas of the convention center. We never had to wait long to get food due to the number of options available.
After attending Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019, and the reservation/lottery system that was created for that, I expected a similar experience for D23 Expo. The system worked fantastically (outside of some technical issues with the app) – you pretty much knew what you were getting into and what you weren’t ahead of time. In addition, overnight queueing wasn’t allowed, so outside of showing a few hours early, The stress of a normal large convention experience was alleviated.
D23 Expo adopted a reservation system – there were some technical issues at launch, but there were also added complexities that reduced the effectiveness of the system. Reservations were limited, but weren’t the only way of attending a panel. There were three buckets – reservations, D23 Gold Members, and Standby. As a result, many attendees camped out overnight to get a place in some of the larger panels. D23 Gold Member queues were also limited, so if you didn’t get there very early (or the night before), you were asked to go to standby, which was not a guarantee.
Two large stages, D23 Expo Arena, and Hall D23, held the larger panels, but only Hall D23 attendees were allowed into the building early to queue up (D23 Expo Arena’s entrance was through the show floor), which led to some heartburn waiting outside while attendees filtered in (which could take up to an hour in the morning) when you have a reservation for a panel in the morning.
While there was a plethora of signage, some additional signs would have gone a long way to help with confusion and crowd control every morning – there were quite a few tense moments with attendees, especially around the D23 Expo Arena, where large masses of people were turned away after D23 Gold member queues filled, and as a result many panels had rows of open seating because attendees were turned away.
With reservations, D23 Gold membership, and standby, we were able to attend a number of panels, from large panels (like the Disney+ and Disney Parks panels) to more educational panels about the history of the parks and attractions.
Most panels I attended were memorable and exciting, regardless of size. Larger panels usually had some kind of giveaway to attendees – pins, posters, even a Target gift card!
The Disney Parks panel was exciting (though very little NEW was announced), and featured new information on the new Star Wars rides opening later this year and 2020, the upcoming revamp of Epcot, and more.
The Disney + panel featured a number of surprise guests, including Jeff Goldblum, Jon Favreau, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, Anna Kendrick, and more. It was quite the star-studded spectacle, and left everyone in attendance excited for the service.
Panels regarding the history of the Haunted Mansion (especially a 50th anniversary panel) were packed. While we weren’t able to get into the 50th anniversary panel due to confusion regarding queues, we did attend some panels regarding the original concepts behind the attraction, and a very entertaining look at fun pieces of Haunted Mansion merchandise throughout the years.
D23 Expo 2019 was our first experience at the event, and had plenty to keep us entertained over the three days between panels and show floor highlights. Depending on your interest in panels, you really can fit the show floor into one day (also depending on your interest in the show exclusive stores, given the lines to get into them). While the variety of fandoms represented meant that no specific fandom was genuinely provided huge focus (such as at Star Wars Celebration), it was fun to see so many things represented in one official space.