Day 4 of our D23 Expo trip, but Day 3 of the Expo, and the final day, on the agenda for this morning, the Marvel presentation in the Arena. Don’t tell anyone from D23, but I cheated. Yeah, I know me cheat? Well, the only presentation of the Expo that Sam really wanted to attend was this session with Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer – Joe Quesada, so Mom and Sam switched tickets for the morning, so she could go in with me and get good seats. Having listened to Joe on Episode 146 of Mousetalgia, I too was looking forward to this session and more from Joe. We went in and got seats in the third row center stage. About 20 minutes later, we were allowed to move up to the front two rows because the seats were not filling. Sam got a seat in the front row and I was in the row right behind her. Being of the vertically challenged nature, a front row guaranteed no one was going to obstruct her view. For this, she was very happy.
The session opened with a video message from Mr. Marvel, himself – Stan Lee. He told us that he was locked away in a secret bunker protecting the world, but that he had sent us a special emissary in Joe Quesada. Since this was Marvel’s first real exposure to the Disney fan base, Joe gave us a bit of history lesson about Marvel, how it developed and it arrival in within the Disney fold. At the tender age of 16, Stanley Martin Lieber joined Timely Comics as an assistant. He filled inkwells, got the artists their lunch, proofread, and basically did anything they needed. In 1941, Stanley Lieber made his comic-book debut in Captain America Comics #3. With a childhood desire of writing more literary works and wanting to safe his given name for that purpose, Stanley the comic-book writer became Stan Lee, later which he took as his legal name. Stan later became the Editor at Timely comics and eventually became Publisher of what we now know as Marvel. Joe went on to explain how he came to the position he currently holds, and about the Disney acquisition. I think the most important take away I got was that Disney wants Marvel to keep doing what they do well. There doesn’t appear in Joe’s mind any effort to Disney-fy Marvel. That, to me, is a good thing. The last part of session, he dedicated to what he has been doing at many other presentations – A Cup of Joe. Since he found it difficult to get answers and time with people in the business, this was his effort to make himself available to people trying to get into the business. So, Cup of Joe is a Q&A session where the audience can ask any question they want. Since this was my first Cup of Joe, I don’t have anything to judge by, but, I found almost all of the questions to be most people trying to get scoops on storylines, or why their favorite character was or wasn’t be developed. But, all-in-all it was a fun experience.
After a Cup of Joe, another troll around the Expo floor to see if there was anything we might have missed. Several of the Stores had be several hours waited to get into, so walked the floor to them out. Disneystore.com, still a bust, there was at least 50 people waiting in the queue. Next down to the Expo Dream Store… What do you know; nobody in the queue, the lines here had been miserable before now. After walking around the store for about 10 minutes, and being the tightwad that I am, turns out the only piece of merchandise I was really interested in was the Noah print that was commissioned for this Expo. The original was, of course, priced far beyond my finances, but there were smaller litho’s available, so one walked out the door with me. Now a stop at the Park and Resort Pavilion, yes we’d seen the presentation days before, but, it was a chance to actually see some of the models being mocked up to show what some of the new developments looked like. The highlight for me was seeing what the new main street of California Adventure is going to look like when it’s finished, and the new statue of Walt and Mickey planned for the new hub. There’s another miniature I’m going to have watch out for in the near future. Though I didn’t get to try it, the new audio-animatronics fortune teller looked pretty interesting.
Leaving the pavilion, we saw the entrance for the Mickey’s of Glendale store – this is the store associated with the company store at the Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale, the line here was still, long, long, long… So it was off to the Collectors’ Forum for one last look around. Darn good thing we decided to do this… as we were roaming the collectors’ forum, I ran across my Museum buddy Heather, and she told me Noah was in his booth there and signing things. Thanks Heather!!! So I head over and was able to get my print signed, and may I say Noah is a very friendly guy. Side note: when I was back at the room I decided to go looking for the name of the piece, so I did a Google search and found a signed copy of “Remember… It All Started with a Mouse” on eBay for $295. Funny thing, you can still get a signed copy at Noah’s web store for $50… Go Figure! Either way, mine’s not for sales.
Those of you who know me, know that there is a fan board that I’m not real fond of, and one that I hit at least once a day to check the happening. Well both boards had a presence in the Collectors’ Forum, so I just kind of cruised by the unpopular one, and it appeared that I am not the only one not really interested in their drivel. During the three days I never saw more than 3 or 4 people milling around, and they appeared to me to me mostly the same people every time. My fav board usually had 10 or so people around the booth, with new traffic rotating through routinely. All I can say is, “It serves you right, Yertle.”
Luckily, I stopped by the MiceChat booth for a final look, only to discover Don Ballard there doing a meet and greet. I got to stop and talk to him about his Disneyland Hotel presentation from the first day. I have a copy of his new book, but it wasn’t with me, so Don was gracious enough to sign a card that I know have on the inside cover. Thank Don and thanks MiceChat for hosting him. Another short visit at the Walt Disney Family Museum booth (what can I say, I really like the place) and it was time to head back to the hotel room for a rest before D23’s closing night soiree for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Premiere pass holders.
Pam and I returned to the Expo later in the afternoon to be on hand for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Premiere closing party in the lounge that had been set up for us to use during the Expo. During the Expo, we were treated to water, soda, and coffee… with cheese, crackers, and sweet treats and a place to rest our weary feet after walking the large convention center. There was even a massage service available, of which Pam treated herself to 10 minutes of work on her shoulder. During the closing party there was the addition of a bar for beer and wine, and the staffers were circulating with a variety of different treats. In the end, the head of D23 – Steven Clark, and Event Planner – Laura Sanchez came out and talked with us for a few minutes, thanks us for attending and hoping that we all had a good time. After mingling with friends for a while, it was back to the hotel to rest up for the final day of our Expo trip before we head home.
All-in-all, the Expo was a really good event, but I was left with a few issues which I will run through now:
First, when I purchased the Premiere ticket package, I (and I learned, many others) was under impression that this ticket level was going to have some sort of reserved seating arrangement for all the presentation venues. After attending the first Expo and spending hours on end in line, queue waits is one of the things that made this package so attractive. As it turned out, the only reserved seating was for the Arena presentation. We did get a sort of head of the line privilege for the first presentations in the morning at the other venues, as we were allowed into the Expo early before regularly ticketed members. Over three days that amounted to three additional presentations, only one of which I was really interested in, over the 7 scheduled for the Arena. The additional cost of the Premiere ticket might have been worth it to me had I had the choice of which 10 presentation I wanted to attend.
Next, there seemed to me to be a lack of communications among the staff working the Expo. Now, I do understand that the vast majority of the people working the Expo were not Disney Cast Members, but rather temps hired to work the Expo. However, there didn’t appear to be enough people with accurate information available for attendees, particularly on day one. As I said, I missed the Legends Ceremony because I could find the location for Sorcerer/Premiere ticket holders to enter the Arena. It took me 5 individuals and over ½ an hour to just find someone who knew. This is also out of Disney’s control, but, I encounter and couple of incidents and heard for others who encountered some very rude ACC employees and Security personnel. Since Disney is actually footing the bill for these people, they should have some ability to demand a certain level and at least civility and courtesy, and in future, I hope they exercise it. Also in the line of communications, on the Thursday evening check in, Sorcerer/Premiere attendees were allowed on to the Expo floor to access the Expo Dreamstore. We arrived, we were told that only Sorcerer’s Apprentice attendees had access at the moment, and no one seems to know when the Premiere attendees were going to gain access. I will admit my own falling in this one; the check package did detail the hours the store was going to be available to what level, and I didn’t read it. But, I would venture a guess that most, if not all, Premiere attendees fail to read that sheet. Since there was a notice in the check-in package, it would seem logical that someone manning the entrance of the Dreamstore should have known as well.
My final complaint is with the process Disney appears to have taken with the Sorcerer/Premiere ticket sales. I have not been able to confirm this claim, but, I heard from several attendees that Disney also additional Sorcerer and Premiere level tickets after the initial allotments where sold. To my best of my memory D23 claim, when these special tickets were announced, that the original allotments were going to be 75/500 respectively. My sources claim that those numbers where at least doubled, and some claimed tripled. Know I don’t know how Disney decided to make these tickets available, but, I know that I was never notified that there was a possibility of upgrading, let alone that additional tickets were available. So, I am a little ticked at that one.
For my closing thoughts on this Expo and D23 in general, I have written before that I think Disney’s intent with D23 is to let it grow and develop more organically. They could throw large sums of money and many cast members at the club, and pretty much overwhelm the other clubs that have grown over the years, with their own in-house efforts. I do applaud Disney for what I believe is their intent, but, come on guys and gals, you are masters at logistics, and guest experience, you’d think you’d be able to apply that better to the D23 experience. One suggestion that I think would be of benefit in the future; if you’re going offer special access tickets to future Expos, something like the Premiere pass should come with be ability to select the (stay 10) presentations that you want guaranteed seating, just a thought. And finally TWDC, I not really sure what you’re real intent for D23 is, but, there are quite a few members out there that think it only ‘dollar and cents.’
I have had the pleasure of attending a number of D23 events over the past couple of years, and the joy of meeting several of the staff members. These are some of the nicest and passionate Disney people I have ever had the delight to meet, and every one of the smaller events have been the most fun. But, by my understanding, there are less than 10 people actually tasked to D23 and few of whom have other responsibilities as well as their D23 duties. For most of the events, they do a fantastic job, but for an event as complex as the Expo, I don’t think that staff is adequately staffed to the task. Even at every two years, I’d think that would take a dedicated staff of 5 to 10 to really pull off the Expo with the traditional Disney flair. It would appear to me, that the D23 effort lacks a clear vision. If you have a real vision, you need to communicate it better and adapt the operation to it. If don’t, you need to find one and build the organization around it, or you are ultimately going lose the momentum you’ve created to this point, and you are going to lose members.
Just a few thoughts, but, I have more if anyone is interested. J
Coming next… Expo Day 5. Can’t go down to Anaheim without at least one day in the Parks.
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