The D23 Expo is the ultimate Disney fan event. Comic book fans have New York Comic-Con. Movie fans have Comic-Con International. Cosplay (short for costume play) fans have the Labyrinth Masquerade. And Disney fans have D23 Expo, the convention held by Disney for its fans. With sneak peeks into the worlds of film, animation, Imagineering, merchandising and trading, D23 is the place to find out what new upcoming projects we can all be excited about.
For instance, if I were to say that Hatbox is coming back to The Mansion, it would sound cryptic and unimportant to most people. But for a Disney fan, it is a long awaited return to be celebrated joyfully with much carousing and park hopping. However, for non-diehard Disney fans, an explanation is due.
The Hatbox Ghost is a character from The Haunted Mansion who debuted with the attraction in the attic scene, seen standing, holding a hatbox in one hand. His head, wearing his trademark stovepipe, would disappear and reappear in the hatbox. He haunted the Mansion for a few weeks but was removed shortly thereafter because he was too scary and Disneyland received too many complaints. Hatbox was on much of the merchandising for the attraction and became a fan favorite, even decades after his disappearance. There have been many grassroots efforts to get him back in the Mansion with some rumors supposedly confirmed by Imagineering on several occasions. It wasn’t until the D23 Expo, though, when we saw the animatronic that it was confirmed that he is indeed on his way back to the Mansion. Exciting news for a Disney fan after many years of hoping.
Disneybounding (dressing in real clothes as opposed to costume pieces to suggest a character for cosplay) was everywhere at the Expo. This new fashion trend is associated with Disney first and foremost, but it has branched out into many fandoms. The displays by some fans were truly astounding, from hand sewn roses and ringlets on thrift store skirts to suggest Belle cosplay to full-on Snow White and Peter Pan cosplay made from found things and random assortments of leftovers in the closet.
And then there were the actual costumes. One costume contest winner hand sewed her entire ball gown, with hoopskirt and all, half black-and-white and half color with mouse heads sewn on the dress, each depicting a scene from Disney lore representing either a hero or villain depending on the side (black and white were villains, color was heroes), and full makeup to match. Truly impressive. And this was just one of many, many costumes to be found at the Expo, lovingly crafted by the fans who wore them.
As far as the sneak peeks go, it was much better than last time. The last D23 Expo held in 2011 didn’t show as much of the works-in-progress as this year’s did. Avatar Land from Walt Disney World is a coming project that had a small display and photo op in the Imagineering pavilion. Hatbox Ghost, as previously mentioned, was on display. There were panels on upcoming animated movies, live action movies, video games and television. The Once Upon A Time show on ABC had a particularly great display, walking in a pirate ship to meet Captain Hook from the show followed by a short teaser from the coming season. On the way out, guests were given one of four collector pins from the television show, teasing the next adventure they are about to go on. Really well done.
For merchandising, the D23 Expo exclusives were the worst they have ever been. While the Imagineering store (Mickey’s of Glendale) had a nice showing, the one that really stood out was also located in the Imagineering pavilion. It was juju trading. Described by a cast member as “If Disney did pin trading” (ironic because Disney is the top pin trading enterprise ever), guests were invited in to the Jungle Trading Co. booth where they met a cast member who told their story of adventure. When their tale was finished, the guest was given a juju – a small sculpture piece hung on a leather strap. This is the Shakespeare juju (in the shape of a tribal painted skull) for the guest to carry with them and remember the adventure they went on. Heading over to the shipping desk, guests could purchase more jujus – a crocodile tooth for example, or they could choose to go on an Expo-dition.
For this, the guest would pick up a telegram, paying shipping and handling for the message itself. This telegram would send them on a quest somewhere in the convention center to prove themselves in one of many areas depending on their Expo-dition – courage, knowledge, tracking, etc. You then went on your quest, completed your challenge and earned your juju. There are 10 jujus in all to collect and each one provides a new story to share.
For more D23 info, visit D23.com; for more about the Expo, visit Disney Parks Blog.