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.