I remember hearing about the D23 Expo the first year they did it...and the second year...all the while being stuck in Florida on the other side of the country. I always knew I'd have to go some day, and now that I live in CA, I finally had the chance! I bought my tickets way back in January, and so had been waiting literally all year for the event.
Anyway, the day before, I drove all the way from San Jose to North Hollywood to meet my friend Lisa who lives in that area. We then piled into her car and drove through bumper to bumper traffic all the way to Anaheim- boy, was I thankful we didn't have to be there at a particular time for reservations or anything. We checked into the Marriott right across the street from the convention center- we could see all the banners for the Expo just waiting for the ambush of Disney fans to take over. For dinner, we headed to Downtown Disney where I had some New Orleans meat pies and some bread pudding- yum! There was no place left to sit in the patio area, but luckily a nice guy invited us to share his table. We ended up with our first lively conversation with a fellow fan of the trip. He turned out to be a castmember- in fact, at least half the people we met were former or current CMs!
We got out of bed bright and early for our first day. I wore my old Belle costume made by my mom back during my college years with some new added touches to make it more resemble the Once Upon a Time version of Belle's dress. I also made up my face and added a little curl to my hair with my curling iron. For a finishing touch, I wore my homemade chipped cup earrings. Lisa wore a shirt printed with Ariel's shells and leggings made to look like mermaid fins. We got in line around 8 am- a long endlessly weaving line taped off on the ground. It was really fun to see all the creative costumes. One of my favorites of that morning was a Bert who had recreated every detail of the kite Mr. Banks repairs for the children at the end of the film.
There were some food trucks lined up on the side of the road. This first morning I stuck to my granola bars and trail mixes, but it took so long before we ended up getting real food that I felt woozy later. The following days, I made sure to get breakfast burritos during the morning line up, and I felt so much better. My friend Lisa hardly eats anything normally- I think we would have gone the whole day with out food if I didn't keep insisting we eat at some point!
Since D23 had introduced a free tier recently, we both got to wait in the members line and enter the floor at 9 instead of 10. They didn't even bother checking our membership information though- go figure! However, for the first day we had plans to see the animation preview in the arena. There was a huge crowd surging in that direction, and we were still being seated as Bob Iger came out to welcome everyone. We ended up way over in the nosebleed seats, but thankfully, they had giant overhead screens. This presentation was so exclusive that they bag checked for cameras and phones before we went in, and then we had to seal them in these special bags they gave us!
There are plenty of full recaps of the presentation out there in internet-land, so I'm just going to go over some of my favorites. It was hosted, of course, by John Lasseter. He had on a different Hawaiian style shirt for each segment. We saw a several sneak peaks throughout the morning including two animated shorts to be shown in front of future films and the first 10 minutes of a Toy Story Halloween special called “Toy Story of Terror”. The latter looks very fun- a spoof on stereotypical Hollywood horror films with the toys getting lost at an old motel out in the middle of nowhere when Bonnie's mother's car breaks down. We saw a really funny Monsters U short as well as an amazing Mickey Mouse short that I'm not going to spoil. I'm only going to say you have to see it.
One of the films I'm most excited about is Pixar's Inside Out- the story of these emotion characters who are trying to steer a typical 11 year old girl through her day- along similar lines of the old Cranium Command attraction at Epcot. It looks very creative, and I'm thrilled to see Pixar do more female centered stories for a change. We also learned about a new anthropomorphic animal film called Zootopia- normally not my thing, but they talked about how they did all this research in order to figure out how different animals might live if they had human characteristics which I thought was very cool. I enjoyed the previews of the next couple of Tink movies as well, especially the one called Pirate Fairy in which we meet a fairy who is a pirate and her cabin boy James...and just before they said it, I whispered to Lisa, “I think that's a young Hook!” Sure enough, I was right! He's being voice by Tim Hiddleston who made an appearance at the presentation and caused a great deal of fangirling, but I've never watched Thor and didn't know who he was!
Of course, the moment I was most excited about was when they finally got to the newest fairytale musical coming this holiday season, Frozen! It's funny- with both Tangled and The Princess and the Frog, I first heard of their existences years before their release, but it's only been within the last year or two that I've heard rumblings of this one. Now, I'm really excited! It's the story of two sisters, one with the dangerous ability to create ice and snow who pushes everyone away because she is afraid of her own powers. Idina Menzel is doing one of the voices. I'd heard rumors that she was supposed to sing- rumors that turned out to be true as she treated us to a breathtaking performance of one of the film's songs to close the presentation!
The preview presentation was supposed to end at 12:30, but by the time was got out, it was close to 2pm! It was now too late to get stagepasses for that evening's Broadway concert. We'd have to risk standby- ugh. First, we hightailed it to the Collector's Forum where Susan Egan (Belle on Broadway) would be making an appearance at the MiceChat booth. I've met Susan a few times before starting from the time I was around 18 and have had several interactions with her online over the years. It's such a thrill for me that she knows who I am. We found the booth, and I spotted her immediately even though she hadn't officially started to meet and greet yet. She was chatting with someone so I hung back, but we were first in line to meet her. We met up with some other girls who were very excited about meeting Susan- we would end up running into them frequently throughout the event.
Susan recognized me and greeted me by name. She loved my costume and even noticed the teacup earrings I'd made. Lisa had met Susan at the expo 2 years earlier, but Susan didn't remember until Lisa reminded her that she had mentioned being a bridesmaid in my wedding. Susan commented that both she and I were married now (I think she said something like “Sadie Sadie Married Lady!”). I told her I loved being married, and she said she did too and that we had both married princes. Aww. I was excited to show Susan my Belle costume as it was made to resemble the Broadway one- including the pretty embroidery on the apron. Susan loved it and seemed surprised and happy I'd noticed that detail on the dress she had worn. She checked the pics she was signing to see if it was there, but the apron wasn't showing. She was signing these pretty lithographs of her in various roles for a donation of $5 to an organization that supports art in schools so I got one even though I already have her signature on other things at home. She signed exactly what she wrote years ago in my Beauty and the Beast program, “Love to the real beauty, Angela! Susan Egan” She's such a doll!
As we were circling around, I suddenly spotted Paige O'Hara! I recognized her from pictures instantly. She was actually chatting with Susan who introduced her to the crowd as the real Belle. We got in line again- but suddenly, Paige left! Oops! Well, we didn't need to wait in line for Susan again, so we casually strolled in the direction Paige had been heading. She stopped in the Disney art section by her own artwork. She has these “Belle by Belle” paintings. We hung in the back while she chatted with people, and then Lisa approached her and mentioned our friend Jamie who actually knows Paige personally. Paige and Lisa talked a bit about Jamie while I just smiled, sort of stupefied, off to the side. I felt funny asking for a picture since Paige was not actually doing a meet and greet, but Lisa got her attention again, and Paige graciously posed with me. I never really know what to say to people I admire. All I managed to eek out was that I love Belle. I also told her that I had written her back in high school and she'd sent me a really nice autographed picture. She told me she was so glad I still remembered that....still remembered?! Good grief, how could I ever forget? She had even written “Loved the drawing” on the envelope! Oddly enough, she didn't acknowledge that I was dressed as Belle at all. I guess it's something she sees all the time.
Wandering around the collector's forum, we came across the Small Fry booth where we knew Pat Carroll (Ursula) would be making an appearance. Suddenly, I looked off to my side and whoa- it's Margaret Kerry, the live action model for Tinker Bell! We were then shuffled away and directed towards a line. Ah, there is a line, of course. Right next to it was a line for Pat Carroll. She was the one we were actually there for, so we got in line. Unfortunately, everything with her was so expensive...$25 for an autograph or even taking a pic with your own camera! We decided to split the cost of one photo with both of us. What an awesome lady though! She actually got conversations going instead of just accepting praise. She thought Lisa and I were sisters. We've gotten that before, but I don't think we look alike at all! It probably has to do with the fact that we are both descended from the same part of the world. I told her that I saw The Little Mermaid at the Cinerama Dome when I was 8, and she thought that was amazing.
I was very excited to see the Jolly Roger representing Once Upon a Time. I had to get a picture in front of it!
We had some time to explore the floor for a while. Lisa really wanted to go into the Disney Store for some of the new Disney Fairytale designer collection that they were offering and because they were handing out these really pretty Ariel shopping bags. Unfortunately, at a convention like this, you even have to wait in line to go shopping! We waited about an hour and a half to get into that darn store. The Cms attempted to entertain people with Disney trivia. They did have some amazing merchandise available though including a beyond belief elaborate adult Snow White dress that was over $300. They were also previewing but not selling really beautiful Disney princess dolls and a set of It's a Small World dolls that looked just like the figures on the ride. I came out with a gorgeous new Belle shirt (can never have too many of those!), a princess litho set, a beautiful Belle and Beast journal, and a set of shimmery princess nailpolish. We almost missed the Ariel bags. They had run out, but brought new ones in just as we were about to give up.
Since we had not been able to get Stagepasses for the Broadway concert, we grabbed hotdogs at the commissary and went straight for the standby line over an hour and a half before it started. We were sitting outside on the roof. At least there were some cool people to talk to. The guys immediately behind us were puppeteers! In fact, one of them was a sub for Gonzo! It turned out we had likely even worked together before as we were both performers for WDW's Voyage of The Little Mermaid around the same time. Small world! It's a good thing we got there when we did. We were among the last to be let into the room for the performance, and it was standing room only. In fact, by the time we got in there, the show had already started, and we had missed the Beauty and the Beast numbers much to my disappointment. On the bright side, standing up meant having the ability to dance around a bit.
A small group of Broadway actors and orchestra members from various Disney productions took to the stage, and the host basically brought us through each production chronologically with songs and stories right up through Newsies. Most exciting for me was that they announced that they are finally bringing Hunchback of Notre Dame which opened originally in Germany to the American stage and we were treated to the first English performance of one of the songs! We also heard a new song written for the upcoming Broadway version of Aladdin. It's sung by Genie, and very fun. Another highlight was that both Alan Menken and Richard Sherman were in the audience! Of course, they were just little specks in the crowd from where we were standing!
Lisa wanted to head to the hotel to work on uploading her photos, but we had eaten so early I was hungry again. I was going to walk just a little ways but ended up all the way at Downtown Disney! I ended up getting a pizza and a cookie before heading back. Since I was still in full Belle get up, I got asked for directions twice with people assuming I worked for Disney!
The next morning, we'd do it all again...