Make the most of the 2013 D23 Expoby Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
The 2013 Disney D23 Expo is next weekend, now one week away, August 9–11!
You've been asking for a guide to make the most of the experience, so we've pulled together some helpful advice based on our experience at the 2009 and 2011 events. We hope you'll benefit from these tips as you navigate Disney's largest official brand showcase.
#1 Join D23, buy your tickets in advance, and take advantage of early entry
If you've never joined D23, or have let your membership lapse, you really should join to get the most out of the Expo, especially now that there's a free membership option. D23 members—even those at the free membership level—get discounted Expo tickets and early admission to the Expo each day. If you have your heart set on attending the most popular presentations, that early admission access could mean the difference between sitting in the venue watching the presentation in person, or winding up in an overflow room watching on a screen.
#2 Make the MousePlanet LOUNGE your home base for the Expo
With so much to see and do, you need a place to relax and recharge your batteries—both mental and cellular! The MousePlanet LOUNGE is your home base for the Disney D23 Expo, offering a comfortable seating area, a charging station for your electronic devices, and the opportunity to meet MousePlanet columnists, Community Leaders, and fellow readers. We also have a host of special opportunities planned for our readers.
Get a free lanyard and enter to win
Stop by the MousePlanet LOUNGE and receive your free MousePlanet lanyard to wear throughout the Expo. Your lanyard is your entry into our weekend-long contest, where you can win fantastic prizes from our sponsors just by showing your MousePlanet style. You never know where and when our Swag Squad will strike next!
Meet the authors
Meet some of the people behind the website, and learn some of their favorite theme parks tricks and tips:
- Mouse Tales' David Koenig – Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. David's books will be available for purchase and signing at the Expo.
- Parenting in the Parks editor Adrienne Krock – throughout the weekend
- Newsletter editor and Team MousePlanet columnist Stephanie Wien – throughout the weekend
- Team MousePlanet columnist Lani Teshima – throughout the weekend
- Park Update editor Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix – throughout the weekend
- MouseAdventure producer Joe Stevano – Saturday and Sunday
Get a free Team MousePlanet running hat
Are you a runDisney junkie, or are you gearing up for your very first runDisney race? Either way, Team MousePlanet has a special gift for you. Stop by the MousePlanet LOUNGE and receive a free Team MousePlanet running hat or visor featuring our brand-new logo!
Just show us one of the following:
- A medal from any runDisney half- or full-marathon event
- A racing bib from any past runDisney half- or full-marathon with your name printed on it
- Proof of your entry into an upcoming runDisney event (such as your registration confirmation or waiver)
(While supplies last; one per person, please.)
You'll also be able to see and order the new Team MousePlanet performance wear, certain to be a welcome addition to your training or race day gear.
Rocks for CHOC
MousePlanet is proud to support Children's Hospital Orange County, and we've partnered with CHOC to kick off a unique fundraiser at the Disney D23 Expo.
Just like the rocks in "A Bug's Life," CHOC Rocks have a deeper meaning. The tradition started with a young woman named Timmaree, who began painting rocks to give to the doctors and nurses while she was being treated at CHOC. She also sold them at fund-raisers, signing hundreds of rocks for dedicated collectors. Today, Team Timmaree Rocks is one of the largest teams in the annual CHOC Walk, and her friends and family continue to host rock painting events in her memory.
Beloved artists, including Shag, Chip Foose, Dave Avanzino, Kevin Kidney, Jody Daily, Joe Yakovetic, Stacia Martin, Jeff Granito and Katie Kelly have each hand-painted a CHOC Rock, which will be offered at auction via eBay's Giving Works program. You can view these rocks and our other auction items at the MousePlanet LOUNGE. 100% of the proceeds from these auctions will go directly to Children's Hospital Orange County.
Get ready for Adventure
At the MousePlanet LOUNGE, you can sign up for our Fall 2013 Walt Disney World World Explorers event, or take home one of three MouseAdventure Vacation packets developed for you to keep your skills sharp between events.
Check your gear
Cameras and recording devices are not permitted in certain venues, as indicated in the Expo Guide Book and on the D23 Expo app. MousePlanet will again offer free, secure electronics check for our readers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
#3 Get the tools, prioritize, and make a plan
When you're ready to leave the comfort of the MousePlanet LOUNGE, you'll need a game plan. Just like in the Lion King, there's more to see than can ever be seen, and more to do than can ever be done. Unless you've mastered cloning, you'll need to make some tough decisions.
Look at the event schedule for each day you plan to event, and, if possible, print it out and highlight your can't-miss presentations. If you have a schedule conflict, check to see if one of the conflicting presentations will be offered at other dates or times—some presentations will be repeated later that day or the next.
If you have a smart phone, download the official D23 Expo app. This free tool can save your schedule, alert you to changes, and has several fun tools to help you stay connected to social media while you explore the Expo. Remember that the convention center doesn't offer free WiFi, so you may want to print out your schedule just in case. Don't forget, you can always return to the MousePlanet LOUNGE to top off your cell phone during the day.
#4 Get a StagePass
Just like a Fastpass ticket in the Disney theme parks, StagePass holds your place in line for some of the most popular presentations held in Stage 23 or Stage 28. Attendees can receive up to two StagePass tickets per day—one for a session starting between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and a second for a session starting after 3:00 p.m. There are no passes offered for sessions that begin before 11:00 a.m., or for sessions held in the Arena.
Distribution of StagePass tickets for the first session block begins at 9:00 a.m. at the ticket distribution area, located between Halls A and B, and ends when all StagePass tickets are distributed. StagePasss tickets for the second session block starting at 12:30 p.m., and ends when all StagePass tickets are distributed.
Once you have your StagePass, you need only to return to the appropriate stage no later than 15 minutes before the presentation to get a seat. Seating is first-come, first-served, so you'll still have to return earlier if you want a front row seat, but if you're just happy to be in the room you don't need to wait in line.
#5 Planning to see the The Walt Disney Studios presentations? Get there early and use the correct door.
Buried on the Things to Know page is the information that "the D23 Arena entrance will open as early as 8:00 a.m. to all attendees for the Friday and Saturday morning sessions." This means those wanting to attend the "Art and Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios" on Friday or the "Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studio" presentation on Saturday will need to get there extra early, and head for the Arena entrance. You'll also need to be prepared to check your cell phone, camera, or recording device, since these are not allowed in the Arena. If you'd rather not deal with the crowds at Disney's electronics check tables, you can leave your gear in a secure area at the MousePlanet LOUNGE at no charge.
Note: It appears that everyone—D23 member and non-member alike—can enter the arena when it opens, so this is one time where being a D23 member won't help you avoid the crowd.
[UPDATED] #6 Choose Wisely
Since first publishing this guide, we've learned that once a guest enters the Arena for a presentation, they will not be allowed to exit to visit the Expo floor and then return to the Arena. This was Disney's policy at past Expos, and the addition of the StagePass has not prompted a change in the policy as we had originally believed. As such, the advice we posted about sending a runner to collect tickets for your group is not valid, and should be disregarded.
What does this mean for you? Say you're attending Friday, and want to see the Art and Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios presentation in the Arena, then see Dave Bossert Remembers Roy E. Disney at Stage 28 at 1:30 p.m., and then see the Broadway & Beyond… Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway event in Stage 23 at 6:30 p.m. Even though the timing works, you may not be able to do it all.
To ensure a spot in the Arena presentation, you'll want to be there when the doors open at 8 a.m., but then you'll be inside the Arena–and unable to leave–when the first StagePass distribution block opens at 9 a.m. This block covers every presentation that begins before 3:00 p.m., and there's a good chance the StagePass tickets will be distributed before the Walt Disney Studios presentation ends at 12:30 p.m.
If you want to get a StagePass for the Broadway & Beyond event, or any presentation that begins after 3 p.m., you'll need to go straight from the Arena session to the StagePass line. Distribution for the second block of tickets starts at the same time the first Arena session ends, so you'll need to hope that 1) the Arena session doesn't run long (and it will), and 2) that there are still StagePass tickets left by the time you get across the Expo floor and join the end of the StagePass line.
Don't forget, there will still be a standby line for each of the Stage 23 and 28 presentations, as well as an overflow viewing area and simulcast for the Arena. Even if you opt to skip the Arena presentation in order to get a StagePass, you should still have an opportunity to see the presentation. But all this means you really need to prioritize your schedule, and decide what you're willing to miss in order to get into your must-see events.
#6 Make new friends, especially if you're going solo If you've followed along and already glanced at the schedule, you've probably just realized that those who arrive early on Friday and Saturday to get a good seat for the Disney Studio presentations are going to be waiting for the 10:00 a.m./10:30 a.m. start of those sessions when StagePass distribution opens at 9:00 a.m. We're sure Disney has figured some way to let you leave the theater to get a StagePass, and reenter the Arena, but who is going to save your seat if you're going solo? This is a great time to make friends with the folks around you, and send one person as a "runner" to get StagePass tickets for everyone. Disney says, "You may get StagePass tickets for your entire party, as long as you have a D23 Expo ticket for each StagePass ticket requested."
#7 Schedule time to explore
There is nothing worse than realizing that it's Sunday night, the Expo closes in two hours, and you still haven't seen the Imagineering Pavilion or the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.
While the Stage presentations and Arena events are the headliners of the Expo, the Pavilions are every bit as exciting, so you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to really enjoy them. We're especially excited about the Journey into Imagineering Parks and Resorts pavilion, with all of the special activities and working Imagineers expected to be available inside.
We also recommend that you don't wait until the last hours to visit the Collector's Forum. While it sounds like a show-and-sale (and to be honest, most of the booths will have products for sale), this is also where Disney has located the booths of independent websites, artists and authors, including the MousePlanet LOUNGE. The Collector's Forum is in a new location this year, so find it behind the Disney Dream Store.
Check out the list of pavilions on the Expo website and make a list of the ones you don't want to miss, then schedule them as early into your visit as possible. Some venues close early, so be sure to watch for these notices.
#8 Schedule time to shop
Need an Imagineering T-shirt, a D23 magnet, a Planes Little Golden Book, and a set of the new Disney-Pixar Capsules? All of these are available at the D23 Expo—but you'll need to stand in four separate lines to buy them all. Unlike a day at Disneyland, you definitely cannot leave your souvenir shopping to the last minute if you want to explore all of the merchandise options.
In addition to the Dream Store, which is offering most of the official D23 Expo merchandise, you can shop at an outlet of Mickey's of Glendale for Imagineering souvenirs, get a preview of new products in a 1800-square-foot Disney Store, and browse through five licensed Pop Up Shops. That's just on the shopping side of the Convention Center. There are also several Exhibitors with wares to sell, and don't forget the massive Collector's Forum.
If you want to bid on any of the items to be offered in a the D23 Expo Silent Auction on Saturday, you must purchase a separate D23 Expo Silent Auction Package for $23, in addition to Expo admission valid Saturday. You can view the auction lots on the D23 Expo website.
#9 Schedule time to eat
No, really. It can be hard to find time to grab lunch when you're dashing from venue to venue, especially during peak meal times when the lines are extra long at the Convention Center counters. Worse, Disney has banned outside food and beverage from the Expo, though "exceptions will be made for attendees with special dietary needs, including food allergies and baby food/formula." We don't advocate smuggling in your $5 foot-long sandwich, but we do recommend having a good breakfast before you arrive and keeping a protein bar stashed somewhere in your bag, just to keep the "hangrys" away.
The good news is that Disney has greatly expanded the food offerings for this Expo, including inviting some local food trucks to make an appearance outside the Convention Center, so you'll have more choices than ever before.
#10 Stay connected
The only constant is change, and you never know when that artist signing or video game demonstration you wanted to see will be moved, rescheduled or extended due to popular demand. If you have a smartphone, we recommend downloading the official Disney D23 app, but also using Twitter and/or Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news from the Expo.
If you'll be at the Expo or just want to experience it with us online, follow MPatD23Expo on Twitter for live updates throughout the show.
We hope to see you there!