7 Most Surprising Moments from D23 Expo (#3 is my favorite!)

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What happens at D23 Expo definitely doesn’t stay there, here’s my 7 most surprising moments from D23 Expo (number 3 is my fav!).

7 Most Surprising Moments from D23 Expo
7 Most Surprising Moments from D23 Expo

After recapping my D23 Expo with one of my Disney BFFs, I got even more excited about the experience I had there and look forward to the next expo. If you’ve ever wondered what a D23 Expo is like in person, this gives just a small glimpse of life inside (and believe me, you will be inside all day!) the Anaheim Convention Center with thousands of other Disney obsessed fans like you!

1. The Lines

D23 Expo Lines
D23 Expo Lines

Let’s just get this one out of the way shall we? While the lines weren’t a huge surprise, it is still quite shocking the enormity and popularity of the D23 Expo, dubbed the biggest Disney Fan event in the world. It’s no surprise there were more than a few people in attendance.

The most popular panels and shopping experiences had people waiting in line for 5 hours (yes, I did) and even sleeping overnight outside the convention center, and then overnight again (no, I didn’t) inside the basement of the Anaheim Convention Center.

Hall E lines
Hall E lines

Once you got inside, there were more lines to greet you. Some lines were organized and worked efficiently. Some lines didn’t and ended in angry outbursts complete with naughty (non-Disney approved) words and actions.

Some staffers were well trained and handled the crowd with exceptional professionalism, others were simply convention center employees jumping in to do their best with the instructions given that morning.

Any way you look at it, the lines are something I won’t soon forget and gets everyone talking about buying the Sorcerer package in 2 years ($$$, but gets you into panels, shopping and more without the waits).


2. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Imagineer Interview

Interview with Scott Mallwitz
Interview with Scott Mallwitz

Along with the announcing the new Star Wars-themed land’s name and the news that Disneyland’s land will open ahead of Walt Disney World’s version, I got the incredible opportunity to interview Scott Mallwitz. Scott is Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering and had a wealth of information to share.

This interview was one huge surprise for me. Since I wasn’t there on a media pass, I didn’t anticipate the opportunity for an interview but was thrilled to meet Scott and talk with many of his Imagineer co-workers off the record as well.

Here’s the transcript of my brief interview with Scott while overlooking the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge scale model at D23 Expo.

Scott: Hi, I’m Scott Mallwitz, Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Jessica: We’re super excited for the Star Wars-themed land, of course we are waiting in anticipation to hear—what is this new land going to be named? Can you say anything about that today?

Scott: I cannot say anything about the name of the land today. Right now this is the Star Wars-themed land and you’re looking at the Disneyland installation. This is a 1/2 inch to 1 foot scale model. There’ll be 14 acres of development, the largest [single-themed land expansion] development ever. The following day, Bob Chapek announced the name, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Jessica: How many entrances are there going to be into Star Wars-themed land via Disneyland Park?

Scott: These will all be more apparent as we complete the railroad, but there will be an entrance in the Critter Country area, closer to the Hungry Bear. The second entrance at the center—will be north Big Thunder Ranch area and a third closer to Fantasyland and Big Thunder Trail.

Jessica: Do you know if, during the grand opening of the land, there will be restricted access as far as the number of people they will let in at one time?

Scott: I do not. My role is developing great space that can support the continued operations, but we leave that to operations and the park and they are great at it.

Jessica: Perfect! Tell me a little bit about what’s been your favorite part of working on this project.

Scott: My favorite part has been the exciting collaboration—the amazing sharing of concepts and ideas with LucasFilm, and the free-flow of information back and forth. Obviously, they’re the subject matter experts on Star Wars, we’re the subject matter experts on building the physical environment.For us to get together with their creative team and our team and become one; produce story and architecture, color, it’s a powerful thing. It’s been the best thing.

We’ve made a great product too and that’s the exciting thing—the collaboration has made this project!

Jessica: That’s amazing! Thank you so much for sharing.

3. The Green Balloon

Disney puts on one incredible show. They know how to “wow” guests every day at their theme parks. And the panels I attended at D23 Expo were no exception. From live vocal performances by Disney royalty like Anika Noni Rose,

to elaborate dance numbers by a Dancing with the Stars ensemble,

everyone in the audience was in awe. But what had almost all 6,000+ people in one room in tears is something I will never forget.

Green Balloon
Green Balloon

It’s the story of the green balloon (click the link, since it’s best said by the original writer of the story) and how two cast members forever changed one family’s day at Disneyland. After hearing this story, it was pure magic seeing green Mickey balloons dotting the expo floor later that evening. Now every time I see a green balloon at Disneyland, my heart swells with gratitude, love and magic.

4. Tributes to Disney Legends

If you’ve heard of D23 Expo, chances are you’re familiar with the Disney Legends ceremony. It wasn’t on my “must-do” list, but I am so glad I decided to attend this panel/ awards presentation where you learn more about the history and those who have helped shaped the Walt Disney Company.

Disney Legends
Disney Legends

Here are just a few things that stood out to me during the Disney Legends presentation.

Oprah Winfrey said how we all feel about the Walt Disney Company, have a look here:

Like Oprah, “Disney let’s me be me.”

In honor of another Disney Legend, Garry Marshall, his son Scott Marshall’s speech stood out to me.

Scott said how Garry would often take him to Disneyland as a child, but instead of riding rides, he’d sit on a bench and take it all in. Similar to the way Walt himself sat on a bench in Griffith Park while watching his daughters on the Merry Go Round, Garry found peace and relaxation on the many benches scattered throughout Disneyland.

Garry Marshall often remarked, “Walt understood a bench.” Scott Marhsall closed with one of my favorite quotes from the entire weekend, “Sit on a bench and daydream, you just might change the world.”

While there were many, many remarkable tributes and acceptance speeches, including honoring the late Carrie Fisher, I also enjoyed hearing from another Star Wars legend, Mark Hamill.

Stan Lee lost his dear wife just days before the D23 Expo. Many wondered if he would even make an appearance. The story he shares in his acceptance speech is inspiring and true to the Disney Legend he is.

5. Pixar Pier, Pixar Fest & Return of Paint the Night Parade

Of course there MANY huge surprises for Walt Disney World (not that I’m bitter about Tron or their Star Wars hotel or anything), but since the focus here has always been the original Disneyland Resort, a big surprise was the announcement that Paradise Pier will be re-imagined into Pixar Pier which will help kick off Pixar Fest and the return of Paint the Night Parade in 2018.

Paradise Pier will transform into Pixar Pier

Pixar Pier
Pixar Pier concept art at D23 Expo

Summer 2018, Paradise Pier will look a little different. The area adjacent to the “World of Color” lagoon will have a refreshed look as favorite Pixar characters and stories come to life including “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out” and more from the “Toy Story” franchise. I can’t wait to see how this all takes place at California Adventure!

Pixar Fest

Pixar Fest will be a limited time engagement at both parks coming in 2018. This includes a brand-new fireworks display, along with the return of Paint the Night but this time to California Adventure, making room for Pixar Play Parade to join the line-up at Disneyland park.

6. Disney Costumes Galore!

I didn’t attend the costume showcase contest, but even the ones I saw roaming the show floor were amazing!

People go all-out with home made costumes that just blow your mind. There are also costumes on display from Disney films and more.

7. When Can We Do This Again?

Even with the long days, waking up super early and waiting in endless lines, I am ready to do it all again in 2019. It’s surprising how much you talk to and get to know other people in line. Many people are unplugged and ready to talk all things Disney. I learned so much just from striking up conversations with people around me.

I went by myself, so it was a lot of fun to meet up with people I knew in the online world or people I just happened to sit by in a panel or while waiting in line, including my friend (and reporter for OC Register) Joseph Pimentel. Check out his stories covering Disneyland Resort with OC Register or through the LA Daily News circuit.

Me with my friend, Orange County Register reporter, Joseph Pimentel who covers Disneyland Resort news.

All of it just leaves me asking “when can we do this again?” and of course, I want to know, what was your favorite part of D23 Expo whether you were there in person or watched it play out on social media, I want to hear about it!

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