The calm before the storm

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It has been a quiet week in Disney theme park and Disney Vacation Club circles.  Will the activity pick-up later today?

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D23 Expo

Expo entry crowd (2009)

Today marks the start of the fourth "D23 Fan Expo" in Anaheim, California.  The event brings together Disney fans with interests ranging from animation to feature films to theme parks, to celebrate the past and look forward to the future.  With dozens of celebrity appearances and a broad spectrum of unique content, the Expo will draw thousands of attendees from across the country and around the world.  

As a veteran of the first three Expos, this is the first that I will not be attending.  I have personally witnessed the event's growth from a modestly-attended gathering in 2009 to 2013s crowd control nightmare which required a 2-hour wait just to enter the building.  

Personally I enjoyed the low-key affair that was the first Expo.  However, unpromoted 2009 appearances by the likes of Johnny Depp (announcing the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, in-character as Captain Jack Sparrow), John Travolta and Miley Cyrus (promoting "Bolt") and Nicolas Cage (promoting...something) quickly elevated the Expo's standing.  An appearance by the full cast of "Marvel's The Avengers" in 2011 sort of helped, too.  

D23 Expo

Expo entry crowd (2011)

The Expo has always been light on Disney Vacation Club content.  In 2009 attendees were treated to a first look at the elaborate scale model for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.  More recent Expos have featured guest speakers with some DVC link, like Imagineer Joe Rohde discussing the artwork of Aulani.  But the big DVC announcements and fanfare have been limited to other venues.

D23 Expo

Imagineer Joe Rohde (left) discusses Aulani (2013)

Crowds are unavoidable at the Expo...there are lines to enter, lines to shop, lines to eat, lines to attend the sessions, lines to get tickets to attend the sessions.  You get the idea.  

Still, those who carefully prioritze the most important events will--with proper planning and realistic expectations--have little problem seeing those exhibits, speakers and shops.  

D23 Expo

Aulani scale model (2009)

My own absence is attributable more to logistics than dissatisfaction with the event.  With two teenagers involved in sports and about to return to school, it's just not as easy to travel 2000 miles in mid-August as it was when they were 6 & 8 years old during the first Expo.  

So this year I'll be sitting at home with many others, scouring YouTube for the best videos of each breakout session.  (In all honesty, most of the videos posted are much better than my own view at sessions that I've attended.)  I won't be adding any of the exclusive Mickey's of Glendale merchandise to my closet (sniff, sniff) and won't be coming home with the suitcase stuffed with free Expo swag.

D23 Expo

A sampling of the D23 Expo swag (2013)

But I also won't have to deal with those crowds which are certain to tick upward a couple more notches due to this little bit of Disney intellectual property called Star Wars.  

The 2013 Expo was a curious affair for theme park fans.  OK to be blunt, it was a major letdown.  The theme park arena session--which Disney had previously used to announce things like the Star Tours reimagining and expansions to Walt Disney World'sFantasyland--was scrapped entirely.  The themeparks Pavilion--the Expo's showcase display of models, props and concept artwork for items "coming soon" to the parks--was limited to modest intimations of Avatar and Star Wars content that may (or may not) soon be revealed in greater detail.  

D23 Expo

Early look at the ride vehicle for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (2011)

Two years later, Avatar is still something of a mystery and Star Wars is MIA.  So the big question on everyone's minds is to what extent will the projects be featured in the 2015 edition of the D23 Expo.  Rumors around the Internet suggest that Disney now has grand plans for Star Wars expansions to both Disneyland and the park currently known as Disney's Hollywood Studios.  E-Ticket rides, unique dining experiences and cutting-edge technology may soon be revealed to the public for the first time.  Or not.  

Whatever happens, I'll miss not being there personally.  Not because I want to be able to say "I was there when Star Wars land was announced!"  Rather, it's just a truly unique and enjoyable experience to be shared with family and friends who share those similar interests.  With my luck, this will end up being the first Expo that yields some newsworthy Disney Vacation Club content.  

D23 Expo

Imagineer Mark Sumner discusses Carsland with Expo attendee (2009)

Besides, where else can you hear Tony Baxter talk about his early days working at Disneyland?  Where else can you walk right up to Imagineers like Mark Sumner ("Soarin'") and Kathy Mangum and ask questions about the Carsland scale model at the theme parks pavilion?  Where else can you get a free Disney Infinity video game figure following a 5 minute demo, or get a photo with the Phineas & Ferb "Platybus"--surely a must-do for all Disney fans!

D23 Expo

The Platybus! (2011)

The D23 Expo is billed as the "the ultimate Disney fan event."  And it's difficult to argue with that description.  Besides, as Disney fans, we're already conditioned to pay high prices for the opportunity to spend countless hours weaving through long lines.  

What are you hoping to hear most about during the 2015 D23 Expo?