Surviving the 2015 D23 Expo - straight talk from Expo veteransby Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
[This article was updated 9:20 a.m. (Pacific), August 11, 2015]
The 2015 D23 Expo begins this Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center, and the social media landscape is full of survival guides and strategies. There's an entire Facebook group filled with people swapping schedules and spreadsheets, and obsessing over the details of the release of the Disney Store dolls.
While some sites have pulled together pretty good common-sense guides for the D23 Expo—we like the parent-friendly advice provided by the Babes in Disneyland blog, for example—others just plagiarized the official Survival Guide published by D23 last week. In 2013 we published a guide to Making the Most of the Expo, and it's worth another read, even if some of the tips were specific to that year's event.
This year, we decided to take a different approach to presenting our advice to Expo-bound readers. Based on our MousePlanet staff members's personal experience from having participated in each of the three previous events as attendees, exhibitors, and credentialled media, and we've gathered some "street savvy" tips to help you get your money's worth.
Set realistic expectations
Everyone will tell you the same thing—you can't see everything there is to see at the expo. But if this is your first time attending the D23 Expo or any major convention like this, the true scale of the event will be a surprise.
As this article was published, the official convention schedule lists over 100 hours of stage presentations, performances, artist signings, photo opportunities, autograph sessions, trivia challenges, and interactive events.
That's just on Friday.
Saturday and Sunday are equally jam-packed. That doesn't even take into consideration the dozens of other events hosted by third-party exhibitors in the Expo Emporium and around the show floor. Forget trying to be in two places at once; you'd need a TARDIS* to see everything offered from official Disney partners at the expo. You need to know going in that you'll only get to see about 10 percent of what is offered, so that you can avoid that post-expo "what did I miss!?" letdown.
Know how to get inside
This shouldn't be a thing, but it is. Your level of D23 membership, arrival time, and desired first destination all determine where and when you should line up for the expo. Read the "Things to Know" section of the D23 Expo website so you know exactly what to do, whether you want to camp out overnight for the Disney Legends presentation, are a Gold member who wants first shot at the Disney Store, or are a Free member who wants to see the Parks and Resorts pavilion.
Live for today, and stay flexible
As you make your schedule, focus on the experiences you can only have at the expo. While this differs for everyone, here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
- Those fortunate enough to live near the Wonderground Gallery can see artists like Jerrod Maruyama and Guy Vasilovich during their appearances there, and free up some expo time.
- If you live in Southern California, you have plenty of opportunities to see Charles Phoenix's Big Retro Disneyland Slide Show, so you can probably skip that here.
- Disney parks regulars need not watch the Jedi Training Academy during the expo.
Things you can only do at the D23 Expo include:
- Visiting the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts pavilion
- Playing in the Disney Interactive pavilion
- Attending live concerts and performances
- Being open to whatever magical experience happens your way. For some people, the absolute highlight of the 2013 Expo was playing the Adventureland Trading Game, something that wasn't on any published schedule.
As with past years, once you enter Hall D23 for a presentation, are not allowed to exit to visit the expo floor and then return to the hall. This policy includes anyone who opts to wait overnight in Hall E to get a front-row seat for one of the Hall D23 panels. Your entire group must wait together, and you can't leave the area and return.
To ensure a spot in the Hall D23 presentation, you should be there early—however, this confines you inside the hall and unable to leave when the first StagePass distribution block opens at 9:00 a.m. This block covers every presentation that begins before 2:30 p.m., and there's a good chance the StagePass tickets will be distributed before the Legends ceremony ends at noon.
What does this mean for you? Basically, attending the first Hall D23 panel of the day means you probably won't be able to get a StagePass for any presentation that begins before 2:30 that day. It also means that you won't be in line to get a Store Pass when distribution opens at 10:00 a.m.
Those Hall D23 panels come with a big trade-off in terms of missed opportunities to do other things at the Expo. They also overlap other presentations, so you can't, for example, see the Disney Legends presentation in Hall D23, then see the Inside Out panel in Stage 28.
Which brings me to...
Watch some big presentations later on YouTube
With the exception of the handful of panels with photography restrictions, you can expect that a video of almost every other show, panel, and presentation offered at the expo will probably hit YouTube before you make it back to your hotel room that night.
The reality here is that Hall D23 is a large, long, flat room with 7,500 chairs. Members of the media have been told to bring telephoto lenses if we plan to photograph the stage. There will almost certainly be additional monitors set up around the room to improve the view of those who aren't in the first 20 rows, which means you'll be in the room but still watching everything on screen.
Consider your choices:
- Camping out overnight for a seat in view of the stage
- Sitting in the back row of a flat auditorium and watching on a monitor
- Watching online
Which is going to offer you the best experience? If your dream is to be there in person to see Danny Elfman accept his Disney Legends award live on stage, then by all means join the overnight line. If you're just as happy seeing the same thing online the next week, then you can safely skip that presentation and spend your time doing things you can only do in person.
Here are the four panels that we expect will have photo and video restrictions. Disney will certainly add more later, but these are the ones we know about as of press time:
- In Conversation with the Filmmakers and the Emotion Behind Inside Out (Friday)
- Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios (Saturday)
- Welcome to Zootopia! (Saturday)
- Aladdin – The Making of a Classic (Saturday) [Editor's note: The restriction on this presentation was announced this morning, August 11.]
- The Shorts of Walt Disney Animation Studios: From Paperman to Prep & Landing, Feast to Frozen Fever (Sunday)
Use your smartphone to clone yourself
Speaking of multi-tasking... while you can't be everywhere at once, there are quite a number of websites and blogs, including MousePlanet, attending the expo, too. Any major announcements made during the expo will be online in a matter of seconds.
What's the best way to spend your Saturday afternoon—sitting in the Parks and Resorts panel while Bob Iger talks about Shanghai Disneyland, or spending the same amount of time looking at scale models and concept art inside the Parks and Resorts pavilion?
We note that the "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" exhibit prohibits photography, so that's something you'll have to see with your own eyes.
Download the D23 official mobile app; follow @DisneyD23 on Twitter
Even with the recent redesign, the official D23 Expo website is sorely lacking in details about the expo, and missing some useful tools—like maps, floorplans, a single-page schedule or a preview of the Expo Guide Book—offered at past events. However, maps are now available via the app, and the scheduling function allows you to save your chosen events to your phone's calendar and set alarms.
Still, we don't know if the app will send push notifications if scheduled events change, so it's best to follow @DisneyD23 on Twitter for up-to-date announcements. Note: The @D23Expo account used in past years is no longer active, so don't rely on it for notifications.
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.
Here are a few things you should tuck into your day bag:
- A stiff envelope for storing trading cards, photos, and anything else you don't want to get bent
- Permanent markers for autographs
- A notepad and pen for writing notes or trading contact information with other people.
- A charger for your cell phone. When you need to top off, stop by the MousePlanet booth to recharge.
- Extra batteries and an extra memory card for your camera.
- Refillable water bottle. There are water fountains inside the convention center, and you'll save a fortune if you don't have to buy bottles of water on-site.
- A folding shopping bag or two. You never know which booths are going to have great giveaways. At the same time, you don't want to lug a huge empty bag all day, so those little nylon bags are perfect.
- Cash – not all of the vendors take credit cards.
Hang out with MousePlanet
MousePlanet is prominently located in the Expo Emporium—come find us in Hall A, booth 403, directly across from the Store Pass distribution area and the Disney Dream Store. Stop by to meet MousePlanet columnists, Community Leaders, and fellow readers. Top off your electronic devices at or charging station. We also have a host of special opportunities planned for our readers.
Get your free MousePlanet lanyard and wear it to win
Stop by the MousePlanet booth 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 – throughout the weekend. David's books will be available for purchase and signing at the Expo.
- Parenting in the Parks editor Adrienne Krock – Friday morning
- Newsletter editor and Team MousePlanet columnist Stephanie Wien – throughout the weekend
- Park Update editor Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix – throughout the weekend
Get the 2015–2016 MousePlanet Community Calendar
Earlier this year, we held a reader photo contest and encouraged everyone to submit their best Disney vacation photos to help create the MousePlanet community calendar. The calendars are ready to share, and will be available at no charge at the 2015 D23 Expo, August 14–17 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
If you already subscribe to the MousePlanet Newsletter, or sign up before August 12, you will receive a voucher in the August 13th Newsletter that you can bring to the Expo and redeem for your free calendar. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up at the expo and receive the calendar on the spot.
We don't want to spoil the surprise by showing all of the chosen calendar images here, but want to recognize the photographers whose work was included in this project:
- Cover: Jennifer Dutrow – Twitter: @juniper8301 | Instagram: @juniper8301
- Gary Fernando – MousePad: RockDoc07 | Twitter: @DrGary32 | Instagram: @drgary32 | Flickr: IlliniDoc32
- Chris Salata – MousePad: GusMan | Twitter: @GusMan90 | Instagram: @gusman_90
- Nora Martinez – Twitter: @norasongbird | Instagram: @noramar
- Lucy Clark – Instagram: @quackersnaps
- Tony Dunford
- Richard J. Hayden, Jr
- Nikko Shaw – Twitter: @NaturallyNikko
- Christy Zemler – Twitter: @shortpix77
- Steven Tani
- Scott Morris
- Derek Lewis – Twitter: @MadChatters
- Elaine Collingwood
- Jim Knepley
- Rick Davison – Twitter: @PopsicleRick
Are you an Expo Expert? Share your own advice in the comments below: