Monday, September 7, 2009

What to See at D23 - Day Three

If armchair Imagineering is your thing, Saturday is your day at the D23 Expo, with no less than four sessions dedicated to the nuts and bolts of theme park creativity. Throw in two digitally-restored screen princesses, one brand new one, and an auction of exclusive Disney merchandise, collectibles and events, and you've got a jam-packed day from morning 'til night.

Saturday, 9/12/09

9:00 a.m. - So You Want To Be an Imagineer?, Storytellers Theater
At 47, the boat may have sailed for me to become an Imagineer, but I'm fascinated by the creative process and by people who follow their passions. This panel discussion, led by retired Imagineer Marty Sklar, takes a look at the skills and drive needed to join the ranks of many a Disney geek's dream job.

11:00 a.m. - Imagineering the Future of Disney Theme Parks, D23 Arena
This one could be interesting. For a lot of hardcore Disney fans, there's no love lost for Saturday's keynote speaker, Jay Rasulo. As chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, he's drawn plenty of fire from critics who've accused him of diluting the individual character of Disneyland and Walt Disney World by creating the homogenized "Disney Parks" brand, of lowering maintenance and aesthetic standards in the parks, and of being out of touch with consumers, Disney employees and especially the fan base. Rasulo may also have shot Bambi's mother, we're not sure. The crowd's response to him, as he reveals what's in store for the parks worldwide, will tell all.

12:00 p.m. - 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Panel Discussion Followed by a Special Screening of the Restored Print, Walt Disney Studios Theater
Walt Disney's first feature-length animated film will be released on Blu-ray October 6th. Get an early look at the digitally-restored version and enjoy a panel discussion led by Disney producer Don Hahn ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King"). Is Snow White still the fairest one of all? You betcha.

12:30 p.m. - Growing Up Disney With Roy P. Disney, Stage 23
Roy Patrick Disney dishes on his grandfather Roy O. and granduncle Walt and talks about what it's like to be part of such a legendary family. There'll be lots of photos and film footage too. A great companion session to the Walt Disney Family Museum preview later in the day.

3:00 p.m. - 'The Princess and the Frog' Panel and Screening, Walt Disney Studios Theater
Something old: A princess in 2D animation. Something new: She's African-American. Fans get a sneak-peek at Disney's hugely anticipated fall release and a conversation with directors John Musker and Ron Clements and animators Andreas Deja and Eric Goldberg. This is one to be excited about.

3:30 p.m. - Sneak Preview of The Walt Disney Family Museum, Stage 23
Another one to be excited about, and of course it's running at the same time. The Walt Disney Family Museum opens October 1st in San Francisco, a labor of love spearheaded by Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller. Founding executive director Richard Benefield will give an early look inside the museum, paying tribute not to just a corporate icon, but a living, breathing human being who just happened to build an entertainment empire.

3:30 p.m. - The Making of the U.S. Presidents, Storytellers Theater
Tony Baxter and a group of fellow Imagineers will talk about the return of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln to Disneyland later this year, as well as the earlier addition of Barack Obama to the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World. Missing from the proceedings will be Blaine Gibson, who sculpted the original Lincoln figure as well as 41 of the presidents at Walt Disney World (Try to catch him at the "Imagineering Legends" presentation on Thursday.).

6:30 p.m. - D23 Expo Live Auction, D23 Arena
If you've got money to burn, or just like watching people who do, then don't miss Saturday night's live auction. Up for bid are 49 lots of Disney memorabilia and special event opportunities guaranteed to make you get your geek on. Among the more impressive items are a framed personal check signed by Walt Disney, original "Jungle Book" and "Sleeping Beauty" animation cels, an original 1940 "Fantasia" souvenir program, admission to the world premiere of "The Princess and the Frog," a personal tour of the Walt Disney Studios and Archives by archivist Dave Smith, and a slightly used pirate ship ride vehicle from Peter Pan's Flight. Expo attendees may watch the auction action at no additional charge, but auction participants must purchase a $40 auctioneers package in addition to their Expo admission. Look for me. I'll be right there on the arena floor with paddle in hand. And no, I'm not telling you what I've got my eye on.

10:00 p.m. - '50 and Fabulous' Screening: 'Sleeping Beauty' Panel and Screening
The best of the "50 and Fabulous" screenings during the Expo, even if this wasn't Walt's best princess story. "Sleeping Beauty" was artistically ambitious, with stunning background visuals and some nice visual effects, but the overall animation is flat, which is disappointing for a movie meant to thrill the senses in 70mm Technirama. Except for the exciting, climactic battle between Prince Phillip and the dragon Maleficent, the story plods along and really not a whole lot happens. The fire-breathing dragon makes it worth it, though, so don't miss this opportunity to see it in its original widescreen glory.

The D23 Expo is just days away with plenty more to preview. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter as I post live updates and photos from the Expo during all four days.

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