(credit: D23 Expo)

On a weekend in August, hordes of people flocked to the Anaheim Convention Center for an expo mysteriously called “D23.” Twitter was abuzz with the #D23Expo news. Everyone was talking about it. Celebs were sighted. But if you weren’t there, you wondered “what the heck?” Here are your answers.

(credit: Caryn Bailey)

What Is D23?

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D23 is the name of the official Disney Fan Club, honoring the year when Walt Disney first opened his studio in Hollywood. The official community for fans offers the opportunity to experience Disney’s past, present, and future in a unique and meaningful way. This year marked the second annual D23 Expo, deemed THE Ultimate Disney Fan Event, which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center. A three day adult pass cost $136. As expected, thousands of Disney lovers united to celebrate and immerse themselves in “all things Disney.”

(credit: Caryn Bailey)

Carousel of Projects

One of the most anticipated exhibits at the D23 Expo is the Carousel of Projects, which gives attendees a first look at concepts, designs, models and storytelling tools/ technologies in development at Walt Disney Imagineering for Disney parks around the world. Highlights of the exhibit included an entire model of the new Fantasyland, scheduled to begin opening in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 2012. On display was a vehicle from the brand new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which takes Walt Disney World guests on a ride through the mine in a newly innovated ride system where the vehicles swing back and forth. Attendees had an opportunity to view a short video detailing sketches and simulations of how the ride will come together.

(credit: Caryn Bailey)

Parks and Resorts

During the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation, attendees learned that Fantasy Faire, which is currently located in Fantasyland at Disneyland Park, will be transformed into a village square offering guests an immersive experience including storytelling, music, and dance. The new Fantasy Faire, set to open in 2013, will make its home in the Carnation Plaza Gardens area. And while no other major announcements were made, guests were left wondering if Disney Parks chairman Tom Stagg’s talk of guests wanting a deeper, more personal experience with the resort were actually hints at what’s to come. Guests oohed and aahed over Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis’s talk of having dinner at the Haunted Mansion, drinking tea with your favorite Disney Princesses, or revisiting attractions from long ago.

Pixar head John Lasseter led a celebration of the company’s 25th birthday before talking about his involvement in Cars Land and how he felt like Disney California Adventure needed something more. At 6 acres, Radiator Springs Racers is the biggest ride Disney has ever built. It was interesting to learn that some of the elements of the new Cars Land were incorporated into the movie “Cars 2.” Full-size vehicles from the ride were on display as well as a model of the new Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle Theater which will complete Disney California Adventure’s transformation.

(credit: D23 Expo)

Movie Sneak Peeks and Behind-the-Scenes

Because sneak peeks and exclusive experiences are synonymous with D23, those sessions were packed to the brim with fans attempting to get a glimpse of their favorite actor or hear from the filmmakers involved with upcoming releases. In true D23 fashion, fans were treated to never-before-scene footage from Disney’s “The Muppets,” heard from Jennifer Garner as she talked about the inspiration and magic behind “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” and received exclusive information about two upcoming Pixar films (untitled at this time) from the filmmakers. The first, which will be directed by Bob Peterson (“Up,” “Finding Nemo”) and produced by John Walker (“The Incredibles”), will attempt to explore what Earth would be like if dinosaurs did not become extinct. The second, directed by Pete Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and produced by Jonas Rivera (“Up”) will explore the human mind.

(credit: Caryn Bailey)

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

While fans get excited about up and coming projects and innovation, they also want to look back at Disney’s rich history and celebrate those things that originally brought them to this place. It’s not too often that the public has access to more than eight decades of Disney memorabilia. This year, Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives doubled in size and showcased items that have never been displayed publicly. Guests experienced noteworthy props, costumes, and other items from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Alice in Wonderland,” “National Treasure,” “Tron,” “The Rocketeer,” “Pinocchio,” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” And to celebrate the fans that are integral to Disney, this year’s Fan Art Gallery featured artwork created by fans themselves set to the theme of “101 Dalmations.”

Caryn Bailey gathered news from the trenches at D23 Expo in Anaheim. She runs the popular blog Rockin’ Mama.


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