Disney's 2013 D23 Event|
Story by Vince Zannelli with photos by Suzan Lund.
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The D23 Expo returned to Anaheim for the third time in four years, and truly covered each and every aspect of Disney fandom with hourly panels, events and demonstrations, collectibles, archive exhibits, upcoming Disney attractions and movies, consumer products, and virtually anything you can possibly think of being offered by the Disney brand of family entertainment.
Modeled in a fashion similar to the San Diego Comic-Con, Disney has managed to blend an authentic trade show experience with the modern approach of infusing Hollywood appeal and celebrity, a trend that has resulted in the second-straight Saturday D23 general admission sellout in as many years.
Hosting a modern convention steeped in pop-culture consumerism immediately implies that exclusive items will be made available in limited quantities for savvy convention-goers and collectors, and the D23 Expo is no exception. Exclusive collectible offerings appeared to be slightly fewer in number this year when compared to 2011; however, there was a substantial increase in other types of exclusives: jewelry, purses and accessories, elaborate pins, and even Swarovski-covered makeup compacts for ladies were limited to fewer than 100-300 pieces in most instances, and attracted casual and seasoned collectors alike who may not otherwise purchase items of this nature.
Undoubtedly, the hottest items at the expo could be found at the Disney Store located on the show floor near the expo entrance. The Disney Fairytale Designer Collection Dolls two-pack variant of Snow White (in alternate gold dress) & the Prince is the first of this new series of fairytale inspired couple multi-packs in 1:6 scale. The set was limited to 600 pieces, retailed for $139.95, and sold out before lunchtime. Attendees could preorder the entire set for one price at the expo, shipped directly to your door as they are made available throughout the remainder of 2013 and into next year. Those electing to preorder were treated to a free exclusive set of 5 mini-lithographs each depicting a different couple in the Designer Collection.
The Disney Store had many exclusive items including but not limited to hats, shirts, pins, mugs, Vinylmation characters, and large figurines from "It's a Small World" and Nightmare Before Christmas. Since not all of their items were necessarily D23 Expo exclusives, a variety of the items they had can also be found via their store website and mall locations across North America in limited quantities. They did have two surprise exclusives for fans of Disney Funko 9" figures: a limited edition Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie (LE 250, $49.95 ) and a glow in the dark Buzz Lightyear and mini-Emperor Zurg (LE 150, $59.95 ). Both were in high-demand and sold out by the second day of the expo.
Buzz was also an exclusive at the Mattel Toys booth within the Disney Consumer Products area of the show floor. A super-deformed, fast food premium mini-figure of "Small Fry" Buzz Lightyear was sold in kids meal-style packaging for $25. Mattel offered a second exclusive featuring vehicles from the Disney Cars/Planes universe, a set of 4 Dinoco RVs in display packaging for $100. Mattel had a booth that was downsized from the previous D23 Expo, and showcased only their recent and near-future Cars and Planes die-cast offerings. No core Disney character items were on display, only Pixar Cars & Planes.
Hallmark returned to the D23 Expo with an exclusive sneak peek of the 2014 Disney Christmas ornament lineup and even included a small glimpse into 2015, and for the first time at D23 Hallmark displayed their current Star Wars ornament offerings--a sign of things to come at future D23 Expos. They had one exclusive ornament available, limited to 825 pieces, and featured a repaint of Cinderella's Castle for $35. An "Itty Bitty Plush" version of Sorcerer Mickey was also made available for sale for $10 each, limited to 2500 pieces, and could serve as an ornament if desired.
Ridemakerz had a small display with a 1:18 scale remote controlled exclusive Dinoco blue Lightning McQueen D23 logo exclusive limited to 500 pieces, and sold for $75.00 each. Their booth featured a demo area where attendees could get a hands-on experience at controlling a Ridemakerz car.
ACME Limited returned to D23 and had a small booth displaying their current prints for sale, but due to the expo taking place only a few weeks after the end of the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, there were no exclusive prints or character keys being offered by them at the D23 Expo.
There were no reveals or mention of additional licenses or movies which the public had not known about previous to the expo, and the only display that included items and collectibles from a future film not yet released was found at the booth promoting Disney/Pixar's upcoming animated feature titled Frozen. Toy offerings will include Polly Pocket-sized figures, 12" dolls, and an assortment of plush items featuring characters from the film.
The news that everyone was waiting to hear and trying desperately to buzz about had to do with anything and everything concerning Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, and what new offerings we could expect by way of live action films, animated features, and theme park-related announcements. Everywhere fans turned to ask questions via on-hand Lucasfilm representatives, the answers they were met with were all rather similar: "we just don't know yet..."
In the Disney live action panel held Saturday morning inside the D23 Expo Arena, Lucasfilm was mentioned as an anecdotal reference by Disney executives who discussed what a pleasure it has been to work with Lucasfilm in any capacity throughout the year, and everyone is looking forward to continuing to work together and have fun on upcoming projects in the future. The panel then quickly turned to Disney's upcoming Marvel films (Thor 2 and Captain America 2) and Lucasfilm was not mentioned again.
In Saturday afternoon's panel "A Course in the Force - Star Wars 101", Lucasfilm's resident expert Pablo Hidalgo was on hand to give fans a retrospective concerning all aspects of the Star Wars Universe starting from San Diego Comic-Con 1976, to what we have already heard officially announced regarding future projects. While no new information was revealed during Pablo's presentation itself, there were some interesting questions answered during the Q & A panel which followed: fans of the Clone Wars animated series WILL be able to watch the material dubbed "season 6" however Lucasfilm will not call the material "season 6" because it is not a complete season of material. Some of the episodes are finished, others are partially completed, and a few are merely sketches and storyboards which will not materialize into finished consumer-ready episodes. However, the offering will be "more than you think" and is a welcome relief for long-time Clone Wars fans eager to complete the next chapter in the Clone Wars saga. The only problem for Lucasfilm at this point is that they do not yet know how to get this material out to the public; that is the reason why no formal announcements have yet been made regarding the content. Information will be coming soon regarding availability, but nothing further to report at this time. Stay tuned to StarWars.com for details the moment they are announced.
Also noteworthy was the announcement of a Star Wars-themed episode of Disney's animated feature Phineas & Ferb, which will be similar to previous crossovers such as Family Guy and Robot Chicken. If successful, this is only the beginning of what may become a plethora of Star Wars crossovers into Disney animated properties. The crowd responded with loud applause when the announcement was made, both adults and children alike. No footage or details were shared.
Star Wars Rebels was the final project mentioned during the Star Wars 101 panel, and the same information made available at San Diego Comic-Con and Celebration Europe II was presented for the D23 crowd. The series will use many of the sketches and diagrams produced by the late, great Ralph McQuarrie, and the show will cover the events between Episodes III & IV. There was a surprise at the end of Pablo's presentation just before the Q & A session began, when he mentioned that limited edition Star Wars Rebels pins were going to be distributed at the Lucasfilm "Evolution of a Villain" booth on the D23 Expo show floor at the conclusion of the panel. This was an opportunity for many to visit the Lucasfilm area of the expo, which will be marked as the very first Lucasfilm booth at a D23 event. When the 2015 D23 Expo takes place, there is no question that the size of it will expand ten-fold and resemble more closely the pavilion that Lucasfilm displays at Comic-Con each year.
The Lucasfilm area this year was exceptionally small and featured only Darth Vader-related products from the mid-1990s to current, from the incredibly limited and ever-impressive Samurai Darth Vader, life-sized versions of a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader, to Kenner and Hasbro action figures and Gentle Giant statues, and even plush toys and seasonal items. Lucasfilm's Mary Franklin was one of the curators of the display, ready to meet with D23 attendees and discuss all facets of Star Wars fandom. The display cases were partitioned by huge canvas walls featuring Ralph McQuarrie concept sketches, and descriptions that chronicled Vader's evolution from George Lucas' imagination to McQuarrie's initial sketches to the big screen and beyond. The Rebels animated series pins were distributed at this booth only on Saturday afternoon after the conclusion of Pablo Hidalgo's panel, and there was only one variety of pin distributed which measured just slightly larger in diameter than a U.S. quarter dollar coin. The white pin featured artwork that will be used on the newest Rebel ship named Ghost from the upcoming animated Rebels feature. No further details were given and the pins did not last longer than 30 minutes before all were distributed.
The final bit of Star Wars on display could be found tucked away inside of the Walt Disney Imagineering exhibit on the expo floor. Once inside the exhibit, attendees encountered a vast display of Disney attractions and information regarding Disney theme parks around the world. Much to this author's surprise, there was a small area off to the side of one of the displays which had a series of shipping crates & boxes with words branded on the sides of each one. The words referred to locations, characters, and items found within the Star Wars Universe. The project, dubbed "Orange Harvest - Speculation Beyond Imagination", was found on many of the crates and is a play on words calling upon the code words used during production of Endor sequences in the California Redwoods from Return of the Jedi, which was referred to as "Blue Harvest" intended to divert public attention away from the true Star Wars production taking place. Homage to the series was paid via references such as blue milk, the infamous cantina band, lightsabers, and astromech droids to name a few. Since this exhibit was found in an area that dealt exclusively with theme park-related news, it is safe to assume that this was additional confirmation that Disney plans on infusing elements of the Star Wars Universe into their future theme park offerings. Rumors (and speculation!) abound, the "orange" part of Orange Harvest undoubtedly refers to Disney properties in Orlando, Florida; however, for many months now there have been rumors regarding updates to attractions inside Disneyland in Anaheim, California which includes the possibility of reworking Space Mountain into a Star Wars-themed ride, additional destinations for Star Tours calling upon new locations yet to be revealed in the upcoming Disney/Lucasfilm movies, and lastly, a possible reworking of the much-loved People Mover attraction since the abandoned track still stands unused above the heads of park attendees as they navigate around Tomorrowland. Again, as Disney reminds us, all of this is merely speculation beyond imagination--but it means only one thing to fans: good things lie ahead since Disney and Lucasfilm are now one with the ways of the Force...