Sunday, August 30, 2009

What to See at D23 - Day One

In less than two weeks, Disney will kick off the first "Ultimate Disney Fan Experience" when it presents D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center September 10-13. Disney has been teasing the Expo for weeks, releasing bits and pieces of information online and on various Twitter feeds. This week, they released the most detailed schedule of meet-and-greets, events and seminars yet (and they keep adding to it). Here's a look at what stands out on the opening day of the show:

Thursday, 9/10/09

10:00 a.m. - Bob Iger Presentation, D23 Arena
Disney's President and CEO will never be accused of being the most dynamic speaker, but give him his props. He righted the company's image after the fall of Michael Eisner, bought Pixar when it appeared to be lost forever, and made Disney an industry leader in Internet-based integration. He'll officially launch the D23 Expo with his opening keynote. Expect lots of video clips and maybe a few stars joining him on stage.

11:00 a.m. - Disney Legends Awards, D23 Arena
Attend the Iger keynote if only to get a good seat for this year's Disney Legends ceremony, just the third time in its 22-year history that it's been open to the public and the first time it's ever been held outside a Disney property. Disney Legends honors those who "best embody the Company's unique creative spirit, personified by its founder." This year's honorees have yet to be announced, but past Legends include Julie Andrews, Steve Martin, Dick Van Dyke, Annette Funicello, Dean Jones, Art Linkletter, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.

1:00 p.m. - 'Beauty and the Beast' 3D Preview and Panel Discussion, Walt Disney Studios Theater
I'm not sold on the idea of converting 2D animated classics to 3D--if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Still, I saw B&B's opening "Belle" sequence in 3D at this year's National Association of Broadcasters show and it looked amazing. The clip is certain to be shown at this presentation, perhaps with other segments as well. Definitely worth a look.

2:00 p.m. - The World of Vintage Disney--In Color, Storytellers Theater
Regardless of the presentation, if it brings out Imagineer Tony Baxter, see it. Baxter has a long history with Disney and speaks heartfelt and passionate about his experiences. His theme park credits include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Star Tours, and the Indiana Jones Adventure. At this session, he and Media Preservationist Ed Hobelman will show off early film footage of Disneyland in the 1950s and 60s. Don't miss it.

3:30 p.m. - Haunted Mansion: Sounds of Spooks and Music of the Macabre, Stage 23
Randy Thornton is Supervising Producer at Walt Disney Records and his work includes the impressive boxed sets "Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair" and "A Musical History of Disneyland." Honoring the Haunted Mansion's 40th birthday, he and engineer Jeff Sheridan will talk about the musical history of one of Disney's greatest attraction and the challenges and joys of compiling a new commemorative CD.

4:30 p.m. - An Afternoon With Imagineering Legends, Storytellers Theater
Last month, after over 50 years at Walt Disney Imagineering, Marty Sklar hung up his mouse ears and retired. At D23 Expo, he'll host a panel of Imagineering legends that will include X Atencio (Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean), Alice Davis (It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean), Blaine Gibson (Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room) and Bob Gurr (Matterhorn, Submarine Voyage, Autopia). To quote Captain Barbossa, "There's not been a gatherin' like this one in our lifetime." Well, at least not at D23, anyway.

7:00 p.m. - 'the boys: the sherman brothers' story' Screening and Panel, Walt Disney Studios Theater
You'd be hard pressed to find a more prolific songwriting team than the brothers Robert and Richard Sherman--or a more dysfunctional one. Despite a musical partnership that produced "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "I Wanna Be Like You," and "It's a Small World," among others, "the boys," as Walt Disney referred to them, have barely spoken to each other in decades. This documentary looks at the musical talent that held them together professionally and the family politics that continues to keep them apart personally. The film was produced by their sons Jeffrey and Gregory Sherman, cousins who hardly knew each other until they were adults, and includes interviews with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Roy E. Disney and Alan Menken. A fascinating look at one of the little-known stories of Disney lore.

Those are my faves for opening day. In the coming days, I'll be taking a look at the other D23 Expo events being held through the weekend, plus celebrity appearances and the must-see pavilions at the show. Stay tuned . . .

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