D23 Expo 2019 – I Came, I Saw, I Conquered!

I hope that my last post held you over for a few days while I prepared this epic retelling of my D23 Expo experience! Ok, epic may be exaggerating a bit, but it truly was an incredible couple days and if you’re a Disney fan, you need to put the D23 Expo on your Bucket List! There is so much to share, so I will try to break it down in case you’d like to skip to a particular topic.

Disney's 2019 D23 Expo was held in Anaheim, California on August 23 to 25th.
The D23 Expo was held August 23 – 25, 2019 in Anaheim, California.

What is the D23 Expo?

Let’s start at the beginning – the D23 Expo is a bi-annual fan convention that brings together thousands of Disney fans to celebrate the past, present, and future of The Walt Disney Company. All areas of the company are showcased over three jam-packed days, including the parks and resorts, studios, television, music, theatrical, and merchandise. Throughout the three day event, attendees can sit in on panels and presentations, meet celebrities, get access to Expo-only merchandise, and hang out with other Disney fans. On top of all of that, many of the biggest Disney news stories break while at the D23 Expo.

Disney Imagineering showcased some of the upcoming projects for the Disney Parks including the renovation of Epcot and addition of Avengers Campus.
The Disney Parks pavilion highlighted many of the upcoming changes and additions coming to Disney Parks around the world.

Getting There

My boyfriend, Pat, and I bought our tickets about two months before the Expo and purchased Friday and Sunday tickets, as the 3-Day Passes and individual Saturday badges were sold out. Using my D23 Gold Member login, I was able to get my tickets for $10 less than the general public. (TIP: If you are planning on going to the D23 Expo join as a D23 Gold Member. You get discounts on your badges, discounts at certain booths at the Expo, have access to a Gold Member Lounge, get a special gift, and can take advantage of Gold Member queues for certain panels and presentations. I would highly recommend it.)

Find out where to stay in Anaheim, California when visiting Disneyland or the D23 Expo.
After being up since 2 AM, this is the face of excitement when you see the main gate!

We booked four nights at the Red Lion Anaheim Resort, which was about .4 miles from the Convention Center, where the D23 Expo is held, and .7 miles away from the entrance of Disneyland. Location wise, this hotel was incredible and I would definitely recommend if you’re looking for an affordable and close spot. However, the facility itself was nothing spectacular and probably will not be where we stay next time we go – I will say, we may be a bit spoiled since we mostly stay on property when visiting the parks!

The News

I could do an entire post just on all the incredible news that came out of D23, but so many others have already shared, that I am sure you’ve heard it! Just in case, here’s a quick run down –

Marvel and Disney present Avengers Campus, coming to Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland Paris.
Marvel fans were not disappointed with all of the news coming out including a brand new themed area of both Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Paris.
  • One Disney Day – A collaboration between Disney+ and Disney Publishing Worldwide shining a light on the spectacular work of Cast Members across the world. Launching December 3, 2019.
  • Avengers Campus – A Marvel area of the park in Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Paris that will include the first ride-through attraction to feature Spider-Man. Opening in 2020 in Disney’s California Adventure, TBD in Disneyland Paris.
  • Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – The first-of-its-kind vacation experience which immerses guests in the world of Star Wars for 2 nights in Walt Disney World.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi Returns – Ewan McGregor will return as Obi-Wan in an untitled series for Disney+.
  • Lizzie McGuire is Back – Hilary Duff will reprise the role that made her famous, Lizzie McGuire, in a brand new series from Terri Minsky, who created the original series.
  • More Marvel – Three additional Marvel titles were announced for Disney+: Ms. Marvel, Moonknight, and She Hulk.
  • MuppetsNow – The Muppets will come to Disney+ in their first ever unscripted short-form series.
  • Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur – This new original animated series will be coming to Disney Channel and is touted as being Disney Channel’s “new smartest character.”
  • Black Panther II – Wakanda Forever! The sequel to Black Panther is slated for release on May 6, 2022.
  • Soul to have a star-studded cast – Soul, to be released June 19, 2020, will include Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Phykicia Rashasm and David Diggs.
  • Raya and the Last Dragon – The 2020 fantasy-action-adventure was announced and include the voices of Awkwafina and Cassie Steele.
  • New Disneyland Parade – Next spring, Disneyland will get a new parade, Magic Happens, including new music produced in partnership with singer-songwriter Todrick Hall.
  • Next Disney Cruise Line ship name announced – The Disney Wish will join the Disney Cruise Line fleet, setting sail in January 2022. Rapunzel and Pascal will adorn the stern and guests will be able to embark on a a signature island experience that celebrates nature and the spirit and culture of The Bahamas at a new Disney port of call located on the island of Eleuthera, “Lighthouse Point.”
  • Transformation of Epcot – In an effort to stay true to it’s roots, Epcot will be unified with four neighborhoods – World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery. Several additions to the park were announced: an attraction inspired by Mary Poppins will join the United Kingdom pavilion; Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana is set to open next to the Living Seas; Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will feature the first reverse launch into space; a brand new table service restaurant will open in World Discovery, “Space 220 Restaurant”; Spaceship Earth will be undergoing updates; a new expo/festival center will be opened behind Spaceship Earth; a statue of Walt will be erected behind Spaceship Earth.
Epcot has earned a brand new logo and lots of retro inspired merchandise.
The Epcot news took center stage at the 2019 D23 Expo, with the reveal of a new logo!

The Panels

The D23 Expo hosts countless panels each day that discuss all aspects of the company. Panels are held in several different locations across three floors of the convention center and draw anywhere from 300 to 5,000+ people.

Going into the Expo I expected to stand on line after line for any of the panels. However, I didn’t stand on one line for a panel. My trick? Don’t go to the “E-ticket” panels, i.e. the Disney Legends Ceremony, Walt Disney Studios Animation and Live Action Presentation, and Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Presentation.

The Walt Disney Family Museum, Carolwood Foundation, The Disney Hometown Museum, and Walt's Birthplace all took part in a D23 Expo panel.
The topics covered in panels run the gamut!

I know what you’re thinking – “but that’s why I came to the Expo! To hear all the news!” And if that is the case, than stand in the lines (PS – people were lining up each night once the convention center closed at 7 PM for the next day’s panel)! For me, I knew that the information that would be discussed in those panels would be shared across every social media platform. What would not be shared is the stories Imagineers who worked with Walt were telling in other panels. One of my favorite moments of the Expo was listening to animator, Floyd Norman talk about Walt’s process of constructing a story from start to finish. Even my boyfriend, who has become a Disney fan because of me, said his favorite part of the Expo was the stories that you heard that made you feel like you had just found out a secret about Walt’s life.

Cinderella's dress, worn by Lily James, was showcased alongside other renditions of the classic.
“Heroes & Villains – The Art of Disney Costuming,” was a walk through exhibit on the Expo, but had a corresponding panel and book signing.

As a note, advanced Reservations are available for panels, talent signings, and shopping. The reservation system opened the week before the Expo and I was lucky enough to snag a few panels and talent signings. Unfortunately, I did not get any “shop passes” to visit the merchandise locations or “stage passes” for the “E-ticket” panels.

The Expo Floor

You could easily spend three full days at the Expo and never step foot in a panel or store because there is so much to explore on the Expo floor! When we entered the Expo floor on the first day I instantly became overwhelmed. I wanted to see every single booth and take in as much as I could. We started on the right end of the hall in D23 Emporium. The Emporium is home to companies and individuals who purchase booths to promote/sell their products. If you are a Disney history fan this area is a must do, as many fan sites and auction houses are in attendance with priceless Disney artifacts.

The D23 Expo brings together thousands of Disney fans to celebrate and learn the news.
Each afternoon, the D23 Expo Street Party Presented by Alamo took place on the Expo floor, with talent leading the way!

Right behind the Emporium is Talent Central. At Talent Central, and a number of other booths throughout the floor, celebrities will take pictures and greet fans. We had the chance to meet seven Disney Broadway performers while there and each graciously signed a small card and took a picture with us. Other talent that was in attendance included Keegan-Michael Key, Ashley Eckstein of HerUniverse, and several Disney Artists.

To the left of the Emporium and Talent Central is a myriad of booths and pavilions (what I referred to large booths as, because “booth” just doesn’t do it justice!). Areas of The Disney Company, including Walt Disney Television, Disney Music, Disney on Broadway, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., Disney Parks (Imagineering), Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Social Responsibility, and Disney+ were all represented with their own booths/pavilions. Disney partners, such as Brother, Taschen, OtterBox, Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt Disney Hometown Museum, BoxLunch, and Steiff additionally had booths were products and information was available.

Disney+, a streaming platform coming out in November, was the highlight of the D23 Expo.
Guests took advantage of the special D23 Expo attendee rate to sign up for Disney+.

The stand out booths/pavilions for me were Disney+, Disney Parks (Imagineering), and The Hometown Museum. Disney+ offered attendees the opportunity to sign up for the streaming service at a discounted rate and join the “Founders Circle” (of course I did it… you got a pin! Duh!). Disney Parks included a walk through that highlighted some of whats to come, including additions and changes to Epcot and the brand-new Avengers Campus coming to Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Paris. Finally, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum was simple in its layout, but told the story of Walt’s life in Missouri effortlessly. I think most of us left there wondering when we can make the pilgrimage to Missouri!

The Shopping

There are countless opportunities for you to build your Disney collection no matter what you collect while at the D23 Expo. Apart from the Disney Emporium mentioned above as well as the Disney partner vendors throughout the Expo Floor, Disney has several merchandise locations.

The Disney Dream Store sells D23 Expo merchandise including Disney spirit jerseys and pins.
The Disney Dream Store is one of the most popular merchandise locations throughout the Expo.
  • Disney Dream Store – Official D23 Expo merchandise and special daily releases.
  • shopDisney | Disney Store – Countless limited edition collectibles.
  • Mickey’s of Glendale – Featuring exclusive merchandise designed by Imagineers and limited edition collectibles celebrating Imagineering.
  • Mickey’s of Glendale Pin Store – Limited edition pin releases daily.
  • Uptown Disney – A mobile shopDisney experience.
  • Disney Music Emporium – online destination for collectible and limited-edition items from the legendary Disney Music catalog.
  • Disney Studio Store Hollywood – Merchandise from the store located next to the historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
  • Walt Disney Television – A collection of items celebrating some of Walt Disney Television’s greatest hits – Scrubs, Golden Girls, LOST, etc.
  • Disney Publishing Worldwide – Offering visitors the opportunity to purchase a number of Disney titles and get signed copies.
Disney Publishing Worldwide held countless signings at the D23 Expo.
Rebecca Cline of The Walt Disney Archives prepares to sign “The Art of Disney Costuming.”

The Disney Dream Store, shopDisney, Mickey’s of Glendale, and Mickey’s of Glendale Pin Store all had lines to enter each day. I never had the chance to visit the shopDisney location due to the line being incredibly long each time I passed, but did get the opportunity to visit the Dream Store and Mickey’s of Glendale. Depending on what you collect or are interested in, you may not want to stand in line for them all. Being a big Disney history nerd and artist, I wanted to get to Mickey’s of Glendale if possible, but also did not want to waste time we could be exploring the Expo in line. Luckily, on Sunday morning we got to the Expo an hour early and were able to get right in line for Mickey’s of Glendale, waiting only about an hour to enter. Later on in the day we were able to walk right into the Disney Dream Store!

If you are hoping to snag some of the limited edition items you will definitely want to get to the Expo early and prepare to camp out in line for a bit.

The Food

I was very concerned about the food situation because I have an allergy to gluten and have a difficult time eating out in general. I couldn’t imagine what I was going to be able to eat at a convention! I read that outside food would not be permitted into the Expo hall unless you had dietary restrictions. I stocked up on gluten-free bagels, little packs of Nutella, gluten-free pretzels, and KIND bars and hoped that security wouldn’t stop me (if you’ve ever told someone you are gluten free you know the face you often get, as people think it is a fad diet and not a necessity for your health…). Thankfully, the security was great – honestly, overall I have to say kudos to the team they had working, as they were welcoming, polite, helpful, and understanding – and let me bring in all my goodies without question!

Disney coffee cozy by NeaterNoggin
The simplest pro tip you’ll ever hear – DRINK LOTS OF COFFEE! Oh, and use a NeaterNoggin Disney cozy!

It seemed that most people were getting through security with food, so consider bringing your own lunch or at least snacks to save a couple of dollars. However, I did hear one family complain about their food being confiscated, as they saw me grab my gluten-free bagel out of my bag (whoops!), so it’s hit or miss!

There are a number of food options throughout the Expo as well as food trucks that park right outside of the convention center.

The People

The best part of the D23 Expo hands down was the people. Everyone, from the fans in attendance, to the Disney-lovers manning their booths in the Emporium, to the talent that you ran into both at the Expo and on property, were welcoming and just so excited to have a bunch of people to geek out over Disney with. I witnessed so many moments that truly touched my heart, as I saw the power of this company to make people feel accepted and loved. I myself felt like I was truly in my element. I didn’t have to downplay my knowledge of Disney or feel like I had to stop talking about Disney after a few moments so not to bore the people around me – it was incredible and something I can hardly put into words.

Meeting Imagineer Joe Rhode
Joe Rhode, legendary Imagineer who is now working on the Disney Cruise Line “Lighthouse Point” project.

One of the most surreal moments of the weekend was meeting Imagineer, Joe Rhode at Disney’s Grand Californian. Mr. Rhode was so gracious when I asked for a photo and took time to visit with every Disney fan that ran over to him bursting with excitement.

See you in 2021

If you are a Disney fan, which I would assume you are if you’re reading my blog, I highly recommend saving up for the next Expo in 2021. I read every blog and watched every video I could find about the D23 Expo to prepare myself, but nothing I read or watched truly was able to embody the feeling I had being surrounded by my people for a whole weekend. Trust me, you will love it.

Posing at the D23 Expo step-and-repeat with my two day badges.
Real talk, only disappointment of the D23 Expo was that no one commented on my VMK badge… any other VMK players out there?