The D23 Expo looms over the horizon, waiting to unlock its surprises and unforgettable opportunities for Disney fans. I recently spoke with Jeffrey Epstein, spokesperson of D23, to discover more about what attendees can expect at the biggest official Disney fan event.
This Disney In Depth explores what awaits at D23 Expo, thanks to Epstein’s insight.
Image Courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein
THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS ARENA EVENTS
The Walt Disney Studios’ two major expo presentations will take place on two separate days. John Lasseter will host the Friday animation-focused event, while Alan Horn of Walt Disney Studios will lead the Saturday live-action film event.
This past Monday we saw a press announcement revealing special appearances by Ty Burrell of Muppets Most Wanted, and Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel of Frozen, among others. I talked with Epstein prior to this release, and he teased at what is to come.
“The Studio pulls out the stops, which is why we love their presentations, and obviously why they’re so incredibly popular,” Epstein said. “Disney fans can expect some really great star power, some very cool sneak peeks at movies they may not have been expecting to see, and definitely a live performance that people are not going to want to miss.”
Though Epstein could not share all of awaits, he said he expects that attendees will have an amazing experience.
“I think that’s one of the great things from the Studios presentation, is that they make some really, really cool announcements, and we’re just excited about those as the guests are, because a lot of times they are surprises to us.”
Announcements have indicated that The Good Dinosaur, Brad Bird‘s Tomorrowland, Saving Mr. Banks and Frozen are some of the upcoming titles to be previewed at the respective presentations.
MARVEL AT D23 EXPO
Marvel will also see its biggest presence yet at the D23 Expo, across multiple platforms, no less. Thor: The Dark World will serve as a player in the Saturday Studios presentation, characters from the Disney XD Marvel Universe block will greet guests, and even Marvel-themed products will be analyzed.
Epstein said Spider-Man’s Ultimate Innovation will allow attendees to look at the development behind items from Disney Consumer Products. Additionally, Marvel voice talent will appear.
“Marvel’s been a terrific partner, and we love having them at the Expo,” Epstein said. “When Disney acquired Marvel, it felt like such a terrific fit, because the history and rich storytelling that Marvel has done over the decades is very much in line with we as a company, Disney, has done over the years.”
D23 Expo will play host to two spectacular concerts. Epstein, a major musical-theater aficionado, said among his most anticipated events are Broadway & Beyond, a live showcase of Disney Theatrical Productions’ shows with its performers, and also the Richard Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook extravaganza.
Epstein said Broadway & Beyond, which will include performances of favorite songs by the stars who originally sung them on Broadway, has been a long time coming.
“Thomas Schumacher, who oversees Disney Theatrical Productions, and Steven Clark, who runs D23, have been brainstorming for a long time to bring Disney Theatrical to the Expo in a really meaningful way,” Epstein said.
He said Disney Vacation Club cruises have been offering concerts created by Disney Theatrical, and that this serves an extension of that endeavor.
“They’re bringing together some of their Broadway talent,” Epstein said. Ashley Brown, who originated the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway, as well as Josh Strickland, who played Tarzan, will appear.
I asked Epstein if the concert could include songs from the forthcoming Aladdin musical on Broadway. “They are calling it Broadway & Beyond, so I make no promises, but I’m hoping myself that the ‘beyond’ part does include a trip to Agrabah.”
As far as the Sherman and Menken concert, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime event for any Disney fan.
“We’ve had both Richard (Sherman) and Alan (Menken) perform at different Destination D events for D23 members, and people left both of those concerts incredibly moved, crying, so nostalgic,” Epstein said.
Luckily I have had the chance to see each of them perform for D23 audiences. I was enchanted by Sherman’s piano-playing skills at the 2009 D23 Expo, after a screening of The Boys documentary. I also had the privilege of seeing the marvelous Menken perform his catalogue of tunes at last year’s Destination D that celebrated 75 years of Disney feature animation. These men are exceptional in every sense of the word.
“It was such a truly unbelievable experience, and they (Menken and Sherman) know each other,” Epstein said. “They’ve talked and everything, but they’ve never performed together. That was sort of where that idea genesis came from. Through these two incredible composers, who together have crafted probably over 50 percent of the Disney songs that we know and love combined, if not more, what a fantastic opportunity to get them to share the stage for the first time ever.”
An overflow theater will accommodate 2,000 additional attendees to see the men perform together live.
ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME
Epstein will not only serve as a member of the D23 Team at the event, but also as moderator of the ABC’s Once Upon a Time: Beyond The Fairy Tale panel.
“The show, I feel as a Disney fan, is just so spectacular, because it manages to really enhance the Disney stories without doing anything that might derail them, per se,” Epstein said.
Epstein, a huge fan of the hit ABC series, previously moderated a similar panel at the last D23 Expo, prior to the show’s Fall 2011 premiere.
“It shows you sides of the characters that maybe you didn’t know, but feel are authentic and true to the ones that we know from the stories, which are loved,” Epstein said.
Attendees can also expect a preview of the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spin-off, which Epstein said fans will love.
THE ULTIMATE DISNEY COSTUME CONTEST: A LA MODE
Fans can even take part in the Expo action. Previous attendees have dressed as their favorite Disney characters, which played a role in the development of the A La Mode Costume Contest, named after the fashionista stylist to The Incredibles.
“It was so amazing each year to see the costumes that Disney fans created just for fun,” Epstein said. “It (the event) really is an extension of that, to see so many brilliant costumes, people who really put time and effort and real quality design work into these pieces. What a terrific opportunity to show off that work is the A La Mode Costume Contest. We had some truly fantastic submissions, and so, we think that what the guests still see on Stage 23 is really the cream of the crop of creativity.”
The theme: heroes and villains. The judges: yet to be announced as of press time. The excitement: only building.
STAGEPASS: EASING THE LINES
Attendees should expect greater accessibility to the presentations in the Stage 23 and Stage 28 locations, thanks to the institution of the StagePass system. This works similar to FastPass, allowing individuals to obtain these tickets for members of their party, ensuring seats into the presentation of their choice as long as they abide by the rules. The D23 Expo site expands on the details.
Epstein said in order for attendees with StagePass tickets to sit as close to the stage as possible, they will need to queue up early.
Here is a D23-produced recap of some studio-related highlights from the last D23 Expo.
Thanks again to Jeffrey Epstein for his participation in this up-close D23 Expo preview edition of Disney In Depth, and be sure to follow him on Twitter.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Stay tuned for a month full of D23 Expo coverage, with special daily D23 Expo editions of Disney In Depth from Thurs, Aug 8 – Sun, Aug 11.
Follow me on Twitter for live updates from D23 Expo and be sure to participate in the Expo conversation by tweeting me. I’m off to Anaheim, excited as could be, and cannot wait to share with you the news and previews that come out of this spectacular Disney event.