Friday, September 18, 2009

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part III

I really need to get a life going here, so I'll make this brief.

Go, just go, to the next D23 Expo. As good as this one was, the next one is bound to be even better.

Buy and trade useless pins. Wear lanyards and dorky mouse ears. Drink $3 water. Eat $9 hamburgers. Stand in line for hours. Willingly hand over your camera and cell phone. Meet wonderful people. See wonderful things. Have a magical experience.

See you next year. (Get in line early if you want to get a voucher.)

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part II

Fair warning, I am forgetting lots of unforgettable folks who appeared at the D23 Expo. Without pictures (they confiscated our cell phones and cameras for arena presentations) I have no personal record. Funny story, this guy sitting next to me was "analog Twittering" throughout one presentation. He had a little notebook and he was recording his tweets in pen and ink, for later transcription into his Blackberry account. Now I'm kinda wishing I was following him. I could use his notes.

I'm kind of torn. As weird and disconnected as I felt without my phone and camera, it was actually kind of nice to experience things on a human sensory level. So often we miss what's happening when we are recording what's happening. In the panels and presentations where cameras were allowed, the flashes and motor drives were a huge annoyance. Despite the fact that Disney fans are the nicest, cleanest, most courteous fans on Earth, they can't be trusted to obey a request as simple as "Turn off your cell phones. No flash photography, please."

Witness the blog entry of Phil Johnson of Roadside Attraction, "Though I was able to sneak my camera in, I unfortunately wasn’t able to get any good pics. Too blurry." Phil, your "woe is me" emoticon irks me to the core. I say "razzberry" emoticon to you, you camera-sneaker-inner, you. And to demonstrate my ire, I'm stealing your pics.

The arena.....................Marty Sklar....................Darth and Friends

So, who was there, you are asking. Well, I was there for one. And I'm sitting in an arena with three or four thousand Disney fans like me, and by the way, less than one tenth of one percent of them were under age 20. I had no idea what to expect. A familiar Disney announcer-voice pierces air. Air thick with anticipation. A guy I didn't recognize comes onstage and as it happens he's one of the guys who has been mixing the vat of Kool-Aid I've been drinking all these years, but still don't know, or care about, his name. He welcomed us like we were individuls, each of us invited to a party at his home on Christmas morning.

He speaks, "Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm Disney welcome to [one or more of these celebrities you will recognize by face and by name]...
Betty White, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp (dressed in full Capt. Jack Sparrow regalia), John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Nicolas Cage, Donny Osmond (who danced with Cheryl Burke of DWTS), Courtney Cox...

...and [one or more of these people whose name OR face you will know, but not necessarily know both]...
Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Ed O'Neill (Married with Children), Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars and America's Funniest Videos)...

...and [one or more of these people whose names you might recognize but couldn't pick them out of a lineup]...director of creepy movies, Tim Burton; director of wonderful movies, Bob Zemeckis; recently retired 54-year employee of Walt Disney Company and only person to attend opening of all the Disney theme parks, Marty Sklar; co-star in her big screen debut with her parents John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Ella Blue Travolta; soundtrack, score and song writer, Dick Sherman of the Sherman Brothers; Disney artists-of-much-acclaim, Noah and Robert Kincade...

...and [one or more of these beloved Disney characters]...Mickey Mouse; Minnie Mouse; Donald Duck (and the guy who does Donald's voice); Goofy (and the guy who does Goofy's voice); The Muppets...all of them, not just Kermit and Miss Piggy, aboard a miniature Mark Twain steam boat on stage; and Darth Vader accompanied by let's say, 23, Storm Troopers...

...and the newest (shockeroo alert, she's black) Disney princess...Princess Tiana from the bound to be a hit movie "The Princess and The Frog." This gal sang, like an angel, a song from the movie. I admit I held a preconceived, and ill, notion of this movie, because I can't bear to see one more race victimization story. I was pleasantly surprised, not only by the song, her singing, and the animation, but mostly the wonderful way the story is told. It pretty much follows the Soroptimist message, to "live your dream" leaving race out of it other than to demonstrate we ALL have dreams, and we ALL meet obstacles, and we all have to persevere. Plus now little black girls can wear a cute little costume to Disneyland and be a Disney princess like little blond girls, little brunette girls, little redheads, little Native American girls, little Middle Eastern girls, and little Asian girls. Tha's cool.

I'm telling you, the talent and creativity and celebrity and nostalgia they brought to this expo was above and beyond a Disney fans wildest imagination. Which says a lot.

At one of the presentations they did a fantastic, fast-paced, wide-screen, hi-def, video montage of Disney movies and television shows, both old and new, and the underlying soundtrack was LIVE. Singers and musicians performed in perfect sync with the video. It was unbelievable.

[Insert 'woe is me' emoticon here] I'm doing a horrible job of relating the Disney Magic to you. Picture it this way, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our special guest, former president and animatronic legend, Mr. Abraham Lincoln." Abe then introduces Barack Obama. And the president of the United States introduces Walt Disney, whose cryogenicly frozen body has been specially thawed for this first-ever D23 Expo.

And no, with the exception of Obama's animatronic figure, none of these guys were actually there (that I know of) but it was almost as amazing as that, and that's what I'm trying to convey.

Every time you sat in the arena, there was going to be an amazing personal appearance, or performance, sneak peak, or insider preview, most of which were a complete and utter surprise. Nothing about it was lame. I'll go so far as to say, even if you consider yourself a non-Disney person, who thinks of Walt Disney as a butt-obsessed drunken bastard, even you would have been impressed by the artful orchestration of this expo. It was that good.

For me, a Disney fan, words cannot describe the feeling you get when a corporation as big as Disney kneels down in front of you, takes your hand, looks into your eyes, and says, "We get you. We appreciate you. And we thank you. Without you, the well-heeled, middle-aged, nostalgia-dipped, Kool-Aid drinking Disney fan, we would be nothing."

What makes it EVEN BETTER is you're in a room with thousands of people who also get you, appreciate you, and without them, the pins would not be collectible, the lines would be short and boring, and ear hats would look just plain stupid.

Thank you, you people. You people like me.

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part I

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please keep your hands and arms inside the blog at all times.

Once upon a time, there was a Disney fan who traveled to a magical place and experienced adventures she could never have dreamed of. She walked among people of "her kind." She waited in line with them. She dined with them, in line. She shopped with them, in line. And she talked with them about all the things they had in common, all while waiting in line.

For those of you who are line-waiting averse, this might seem like your vision of hell. But for a Disney fan, lines are part of the experience. For me the line-wait adds something special to the experience. It puts the queue in quintessential. It's the best way to observe people, meet people, and talk to strangers...and to find stranger fans than these, you'll have to go to Comic-Con, where you're bound to see some of the same people, not coincidentally.

By now you might be thinking, "Hey, let's get on with the blog! We're tired of waiting to read about what the heck you waited in line for!" (~sorry~)

"C'mon everybody, here we go-o-o-o-o!" (That is a Peter Pan reference, by the way, for those of you who only read the book.)

Welcome to D23 and the D23 Expo.
What is D23? The D stands for Disney. The 23 stands for 1923, the year Walt Disney Studios opened. It's a fan club. But more than that, it's a Disney fan club. To be honest it is a Disney geek club. And I'm proud to say I'm a charter member. You can be a charter member, too, if you sign up in 2009.

The D23 Expo was billed as "The Ultimate Disney Fan Experience." Oh bo'ee, was it ever. I really had no idea what I was in for. It exceeded my expectation to such a degree that I'm almost afraid to go next year, for fear it can only disappoint, now that my expectation level has been raised so high.

The Anaheim Convention Center is across the street from the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, for those of you who...oh never mind, just try to keep up.) This was the venue for the first-ever ultimate Disney fan experience. And even though I was this close to "The Park" I never set foot on the happiest hallowed ground on Earth. Didn't need to. Didn't have time. I was with my peeps and I was happy. Granted, I did get a little sleepy, grumpy and dopey by the end of the day. Goofy, maybe. Bashful, never. I made friends and had an absolutely amazing time.

Disney got it so right I will never underestimate the power of Disney Magic again. I'll even go so far as to suggest they administer the Obama health care plan--all the way from design, to marketing, to distribution, to fulfillment. As opposed as I am to SM (Socialized Medicine) I think the Imagineers could find a way to serve up this vat of Kool-Aid, and have America smacking their lips in gratitude. And now, back to our story.

I started ~gulp~ pin trading. I became a collector of Tinker Bell pins at this event. The whole pin trading thing kind of eluded me until the expo. Then I was surrounded by it, immersed in it, and swept away by it. I don't know what happened to me, but I suspect Pixie Dust. This morning I actually put my pins in a display case. Well, not my Tink pins. My Tink pins are on my Tink lanyard. I have a Tink lanyard, for Peter's sake! What the?!

I was able to resist the Vinylmation craze, thank god. If you don't know what I'm talking about here are a few pictures of these highly collectible rubber dolls, which until this expo I had never even heard of.

Left to right they are blank white, Kermit, Oopsey, Pick Me, and Ham and Eggs. They are 3 inches tall, but also come in 9 inch sizes. And a 5 footer painted by Disney artist-of-much-acclaim, Noah, sold at the D23 auction for $4400. People go nuts for these things. And not just Japanese folks who really go for this strange kind of animation that is, to me, weird, borderline creepy. So I bought just the one...which does not constitute a craze. In my defense I only bought the D23-Members-Only-Exclusive-Limited-Edition one that you can get today-only, but not unless you have the special-voucher-that-you-can-only-get-if-you-are-in-line-at-6-am, or, until-such-time-as-they-become-available-to-the-non-voucher-holding-public (which turned out to be at 4 pm that day), otherwise, you're going to have to wait until tomorrow, where you can buy-as-many-as-you-can-afford on eBay. I will never sell mine. Nor will I take it out of the Special-Edition-D23-Member-Exclusive tin. They're just too creepy. Kool-Aid anyone?

Enough about Vinylmation, Tink and pin trading. In my next post I will tell you who was there. It will blow your mind.