D23 Expo: Does the Experience Outweigh the Headache?

Good Day to all the Geek Enthusiasts and Nerd Aficionados!

I happened to attend the D23 Expo on Friday July 14, 2017. This is not a review of the entire expo for the weekend, as I was not there all the days and we as a website were unable to be everywhere at once. This however is a review of my personal experience at this year’s Expo, and how the day played out.

D23 Expo in the past

D23 is the official fan club for the Walt Disney Company. It has an annual membership fee that comes with perks. As with all memberships it’s up to you to decide if the perks are worth the price, and usually when it comes to Disney the perks are worth the price. The fan club has been around since 2009. The name derives from the year 1923 when Walt founded the company.

Along with the fan club came to life the ultimate Disney fan experience D23 Expo. The Expo has had four previous events prior to this year and is a semi-annual event. Being that it is a convention ran by Disney, as a result it is unlike any other convention you attend. Instead of focusing on the multitude of companies looking to sell things. The majority of the show floor has photo opportunities and experiences to create memories. Not to be outdone by San Diego Comic Con it also brings fantastic panels.

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I have been fortunate enough to attend at least one day of each D23 Expo. The first couple years of the event you could walk up the day of the event and buy a ticket. Proceeding to walk the floor, have fun with the experiences, and just a generally good time. As the years have gone on and the convention scene has grown, also has the amount of people attending the show.

Love of the Show

I have been going to San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon for years. D23 Expo is something different, and I love it. I shot plastic waffles at a building where cartoon bad guys from Phineas & Ferb were climbing. I’ve come across surprise scavenger hunts that have you running all over the floor to get a totem. I’ve sat in panels that revealed secrets of the older Disney films. The Expo helps you expand your imagination, and creates a great experience that you will forever talk about. The show has been so well received over the years that more and more people are looking to come experience it. This should not be a concern, after all we are talking about Disney. If anyone knows how to deal with crowds it’s them, right?

2015: Crowd Explosion

As I stated above I have attended at least one day at each Expo. Part of the reason for this is generally it is very easy to do the entire convention floor in one day and have time to spare. A perk you don’t get at many larger conventions. In 2015 something changed. The crowds got bigger, and those that ran the convention weren’t prepared. A large reason for this was due to the SDCC attendees fear of missing out on something big from the Marvel Cinematic universe – not to mention any possible Star Wars surprises. D23 Expo was no longer just Disney: they had made their way into the geek world.

With that knowledge plus the factor that their Saturday had sold out earlier than years past, you would expect them to be prepared. However, they were not. It was the first time that people had arrived at least three hours prior to the show floor opening and everyone in line was still standing in the hot sun outside. Resulting in a Disney Legends panel that was half full. In fact everyone wasn’t in from outside until about 3 hours after the Expo had already been going. This is where you hope that in the two years since 2015 Disney would have learned their mistake.

Fool me once…

This years D23 Expo was finally here. We were in line at 7:30 a.m. to get into the convention center. Surely it would be better after all Friday wasn’t sold out unlike the Saturday 2 years prior. We came to find out we were very wrong. They had added more security, about 30 metal detectors and only used 5. Resulting in getting into the Convention at 10 a.m. a full hour after the floor opened, and there were still at least 1000 people behind me.

We got onto the floor and shot over to the Ducktale’s Scrooge McDuck Money Bin to go jump in coins. After learning of the 2 1/2 hour wait, it was decided to go do something else and come back. The gentleman maintaining the line kept telling everyone ” The line is 2 1/2 hours from this point we will be opened until 7 pm you can come back any time before then.”

Making our way to the Pirates of Caribbean 5oth Anniversary Exhibit. A 15 min wait and we were in. We were treated to everything from the ride, Muppet: Treasure Island, and the current films. A truly amazing exhibit.

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Our next experience was walking the floor and seeing all the wonderful booths and their potential photo opportunities. Marvel with its costumes from Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. The always fantastic Disney Animation / Pixar booth. Presenting stuff from Incredibles 2, Wreck It Ralph 2, Cars 3, and Coco. Everything we loved about the Expo was here again, and it was a wonderful experience.

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We jumped into what was a very short line for the Disney Dream Store and were able to pick up some merch. We were having a magical time.

Shame on you..

The next event that was on our planned day was the Disney Animation / Pixar panel. We arrived three hours early and took our place in line for Hall D23. The line up here is different than most lines. You sit in a row that shows you what section of the auditorium you will be in and about where your seat will be. The crowd was greeted and informed of the no video or photo policy and that bags would be passed out to put your stuff inside. Cool, keeping everything exclusive to the crowd something Comic-Con fails to do every year. They also informed us they would be looking to get people in 1 hour early, AWESOME!!

Fool me twice…

The hour bench mark came and went 30 minutes prior to the panel I stood up and saw that the line was moving in. I was getting giddy with excitement. Then the ax dropped. With only half of the queue in the auditorium an announcement was made. Everyone in the overflow would not be getting in. That’s fine we were sitting in the guaranteed seating area. ” And to everyone else the room is starting to fill up we will  try and get as many people as possible in” was the statement. This was made 10 minutes prior to panel start.

30 minutes later and not one more person was let in, we heard faint cheers of applause, but surely the panel hadn’t started they said they were going to get more people in. Not until 30 minutes after the panels start did anyone come out, and when they did it was not met well. They informed the crowd of more than 1000 people that were in guaranteed spot areas of the line that the panel had already started and nobody else would be let in. They accommodated the 3 day pass holders with wristbands to the next days movie panel, everyone else got a shrug.

Shame on me

It was a royal screw up, but hey there’s nothing to be done move on and try to have fun. We went back to the show floor and decided to get in line for the 2 1/2 hour wait for Ducktale’s Money Bin. We arrived and there was a sign that said closed, this is at 2:45 PM. I ask about the sign. The response given was: “Yeah our line was getting long so we decided to do wristbands and all slots are filled for the day.” This is when I lost it. After the panel debacle, and the fact we were told we could come back anytime prior to 7 PM for the Money Bin – it was time to speak up.

A Savior to the Rescue

I asked who the supervisor of the booth was, and was pointed to a gentleman. I discussed with him the situation and the problems with communication over the day. He promptly showed the customer service you have come to expect from Disney. Looking for solutions, taking my phone number down, and letting me know he would text me if any spots opened. We went to eat 10 minutes later there was a text “Come back to Ducktales.” We went back, they informed us they were starting a standby line, no guarantees of entry. It was something and it worked out we spent about an hour in line and then we got to jump in the bin, and you got some nice swag for doing it.

The gentleman’s name was Gary and he truly saved the day. His exceptional customer service and handling of the situation re-established hope. We finished off the day going to look at the Star Wars Land (now known as Galaxy’s Edge) model. It was another long line but that was due in part to Mark Hamill deciding to come check out the exhibit while we were in line – a treat in itself. The model is very detailed, looks amazing, and makes 2019 seem such a long time away.

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End Result

D23 Expo still has a lot to learn on how to run a convention. However, they do bring fantastic exhibits and experiences. If they are able to get the logistics in place better. The expo is by far one of the best conventions out there. When 2019 comes around, I hope that many things have been fixed, giving us back the Expo remembered from years past. I was not a regular attendee of SDCC when it first started getting packed. I do remember all my friends that did go complaining of the growing crowds. They also complained of the lack of control. Comic-Con has made leaps and bounds with this. I’m sure if Disney actually cares they will fix the issues that have become a constant over the last couple Expos.

In 2019 when you attend just be prepared to add one to two hours to what ever you want to experience. If your expectations are set the experience will be better.

Did you go to D23 Expo? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. Make sure to follow us on all our social media outlets Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (Where you can see our videos from the event)

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Mest5150 – Contributor

Twitter: @Mest5150_MaliceCorp

Instagram: Mest5150

 

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