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Friday, September 6, 2013

Review of the D23 Expo by guest author Ken Reece

Ken Reece, travel specialist with It's All About the Mouse Travel is our guest author this week.  Ken attended the D23 Expo this past August, and the following is his take on the festivities! 

Recently I attended my first D23 Expo.  I was expecting large crowds, mass confusion & missed opportunities of attending the programs that I really wanted to see.  What I found, was an incredible array of Disney experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed!  There were three presentations that I wanted to see:  Broadway & Beyond...Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway; The Art & Artistry of Aulani; and ABC's Once Upon A Time, Behind the Fairytale.  I had mentally prepared myself so that if I didn't get to see the ones that I really wanted to see, there would surely by some presentations that I could get into, and enjoy.  I counted myself incredibly lucky to be able to attend my three "Must-do's" and also was able to attend Dave Smith's Behind the Scenes of Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins".

Dave Smith gave an entertaining & historical behind the scene account of how Walt Disney brought everything together to get the film made.  It really got me excited to see this year's Christmas release of "Saving Mr. Banks".  Imagineers Joe Rohde & Jeanette Lomboy gave a fascinating account of how the Walt Disney Imagineers, along with a team of Hawaiian locals created Disney's newest resort, Aulani near Honolulu, Hawaii.  Jeffrey Epstein narrated a panel with Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, the creators and executive producers of ABC's "Once Upon A Time".  We were treated with a 20 minute clip of their newest show, "Once Upon A Time in Wonderland" and were also teased with upcoming moments of one of my favorite shows, "Once Upon A Time".
I have to say that if I had just seen these three presentations, my vacation time & money would have been well-spent.  But, I had been lucky enough to snag a "Stage Pass"  (D23 Expo's version of a Fastpass) for the Friday evening performance of "Broadway & Beyond".  This one show, was worth all of the time & effort to get to the D23 Expo.  At this presentation, Thomas Schumacher, the president & producer of Disney Theatrical Productions introduced five Broadway stars for a journey into Disney's history on Broadway and beyond.  Heidi Blickenstaff, Ashley Brown, Merle Dandridge, Josh Strickland & Alton Fitzgerald White performed songs from:  Beauty & The Beast, Aida, The Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, King David & Mary Poppins.  We also got a special sneak preview of an original song from the upcoming production of Aladdin.  All of these performers had appeared in shows Disney had produced on Broadway, and some had actually performed in several of Disney's shows.  Ashley Brown originated the role of Mary Poppins; Josh Strickland had originated the role of Tarzan, along with Merle Dandridge who originated the role of Kala opposite Mr. Strickland.  I don't think that I will ever have the opportunity to see such talent on one stage.  All of the performances were incredible. 

I was able to do a lot more than just these four presentations.  There were many things to buy, many stores to see, and many booths to look through.  I didn't see anywere near all of it!  My favorite pavillion, by far, was "A Journey Into Imagineering"--I spoke with Imagineers at the recreation of "1401 Flower Street".  I was able to manipulate an Audio-Animatronic.  I saw a live plant that plays music when it's leaves are touched.  I met Captain America (soon to be sailing on the Disney Magic).  I have a picture of me taken with Abraham Lincoln's head...which gave me a bit of a shock when it started moving!  I saw models of never-before-built attractions, and a model of Disney Springs, which is currently under construction at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  I saw Audio Animatronics that could recognize your face in a crowd, and speak with you in real time.  Also on display, for the first time ever, was Herb Ryman's original pencil sketch of Disneyland.  Walt Disney used this sketch to secure funds for the construction of Disneyland.  There was so much to see & do.  There is absolutely no way you could have done it all!  Reason enough for a return trip to the D23 Expo in 2015.  I can't wait to go back!

Ken with the Abe Lincoln head.......

Props from the Once Upon a Time  TV series

Costume of Winifred Banks from Mary Poppins

Ken and Captain America!

Thanks to Ken for sharing this great experience with the blog!!  We really appreciate his efforts, and so glad he enjoyed his experience!

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