HIGHPanels On Art & Artists
My favorite panels of the Convention were the sit down with Michael Giacchino and the look at the Character Design of Monster's University. What these had in common were a focus on the art, as opposed to a focus on the money behind the art. Taking Disney almost completely out of the equation allowed for enlightening discussions, genuine quotables, and the ability to actually learn something. Even though in both cases, a good majority of the audience left when the Q&A began (unfathomable to me), the people who stuck around got to see some lovely interaction, like a woman asking Giacchino about a specific refrain from the opening of Star Trek, Giacchino revealing the scores that touched him most (Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes, The Accidental Tourist, Star Wars), and a fun moment when the director of Prep and Landing, posing as an audience member, asked Giacchino when we was going to compose a musical to go after getting his EGOT. For details on the Monsters University panel and Q&A head here. I've heard similar things about the Art of Brave and Imagineers panels - when the event at hand is focusing on the art and interaction with fans, and not the theatrics and Disney Dog & Pony show, it's actually a wonderful way to spend an hour.
Every panel in the arena was a regular potpourri of Disney propaganda, dripping with desperation and so enthusiastically egotistical that by Sunday's Marvel panel, I just about couldn't take it anymore. Instead of Q&As and genuine fan discourse, every person on stage read from teleprompters and left a cold, dead feeling in the room. I couldn't help but be bothered by this seeming need to control the show on Disney's part. Nothing real was permitted to happen and there was no room for surprises. With every single little thing written and planned out beforehand, the energy in the room was bizarrely minimal. I myself only felt compelled to clap a couple of times during the Studios panel, which showed off upwards of 10 new films over two and a half hours. Instead of being comfortable with us seeing what they had to offer and making up our own minds, we were constantly bombarded with the notion that "Disney rules!" as if them saying it enough times would make it true. And while certain films did stand out like Wreck It Ralph or The Muppets (which showed off stellar footage and a delightful live bit between Jason Segel, Kermit and Miss Piggy), they only could have benefit from a less controlled forum. Can you imagine Kermit and Miss Piggy answering fan questions, the way Pee-Wee did at this year's Comic-Con? How brilliant would that have been? In perhaps the strangest move of all, at the end of the Studios panel, the entire cast of The Avengers was brought out and except for Robert Downey Jr, no one said anything. This may have been acceptable as a surprise button at the end of last year's Marvel panel at Comic-Con, when nothing had been shot or read and they were simply announcing the official cast, but over a year later, with two weeks left of shooting, to bring the cast down just to stand there? It shows a complete lack of understanding where this film is concerned, where the fans are concerned and where marketing is concerned. No substance. All talk. Unacceptable.
On a similar note, everyone from Pixar seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their involvement. I believed that they were happy and love their jobs and every one of them was an inspiration. I got to know the faces and names of the creators (Right: Monster's University Dan Scanlan was kind of hot in college, no?....) and hear them talk about their profession that brings them so much joy on a daily basis. In all the mess that I find Disney to be, Pixar continues to stand out, with higher standards and a positive attitude that stems from something true.
LOWMarvel & ABC's Presence
For some inexplicable reason, neither ABC nor Marvel had a booth on the floor. There were no ABC or Marvel exclusives, no comics or DVDs. Why? Why when you own these two companies, both of whom could provide products I would actually buy, why would they not have booths at your convention?! Not to mention the horror show that was Marvel's panel and the fact that there was exactly ONE panel for ABC. If there is any hope of my considering going next year, both Marvel and ABC have to have more of a presence. And not a Disnified presence, simply Marvel and ABC, doing their things.
One of my favorite aspects of D23 was the cosplay. I'm so used to people dressed up at anything Disney related being staff members, that every time I saw a prince or princess, I just assumed they were working. More than once I made the mistake of asking where something was only to be met with "Oh, I don't work here." I had no idea this many people were eager to dress up as Disney characters! And hilariously enough, the only non Disney character I saw the whole time was Deadpool. TONS of Deadpools. Many of them wearing Mickey ears. Why Deadpool?! Perhaps the least family friendly Marvel character of the bunch?! Whatever the reasoning, it was awesome.
LOWDealer's Room Booths
What an odd Dealer's Room this was. It seemed much more like a trade show, with an area dedicated to showing off the new Parks & Resorts plans, a whole stretch that featured only liscensed Disney products, most of which weren't for sale, and then the back part of the room, filled with Disney collectibles, that were for sale, but why on Earth would I ever buy any? It was fun enough to look around, as there were no crowds and barely any lines anywhere (except to get into the Disney Store booth, of course), but it was just kind of boring. I don't have kids to play in the kids area, I have no interest in owning parts from old Disneyland rides, I'm not about to buy any clothing with Disney designs on them and why tempt me by showing off your Muppets makeup line, if it's not available to buy, huh?
One thing I did appreciate on the floor was the Volunteering booth, where throughout the weekend attendees could write notes to soldiers, make relief kits, plant seeds and more. In exchange, they got a sticker and a bag, but more importantly, got to do something good.
As someone who actually has an understanding of health and nutrition, I was a bit more than mildly offended by the booth focusing on how to have good health. Anyone who still propagandizes that milk plays any role in a healthy lifestyle needs to do a little bit more research and I was really bothered by the Disney branding that went with it. "Walking at Disneyland burns x amount of calories!" "Disney toothbrushes are really popular!"
Call it bribery or call it good old fashioned friendliness, cupcakes were given away on multiple occasions, first by John Lasster in the Arena, celebrating Pixar's 25th anniversary and again on the show floor at the booth dedicated to children's birthday parties. While the Lasseter cupcakes were AMAZING, the floor cupcakes were still good and they definitely made me forget about any of the Convention negatives for a good ten minutes every time.
Tasted awful, was way too expensive, and made me sick. I've never encountered convention food THIS terrible before. Id you ever find yourself at this convention center, do yourself a favor and eat at the Hilton food court instead, where you can find Baja Fresh and freshly made Sandwiches.
HIGHPlenty Of Free Time
With no crowds and very few panels, there was plenty of free time at this Convention to wander around, get free cupcakes, not buy anything, and if you were a member of the press, sit in the media room and write up the panels you just saw.
LOWPlenty Of Free Time
My GOD, was I bored at night. I shouldn't have been bored, Louis CK, I know. I could have been watching TV or reading or using my imagination, but I was at a CON! A Convention! These are normally spent going out and drinking with friends or going to screenings or SOMETHING. Instead, I could have been found drinking in the lobby while reading or drinking in the hot tub starring at hot German men. Not that these are horrible ways to spend your evening, but seriously, some evening events wouldn't kill them.
For all of the control surrounding the panel content itself, myself and many others, were baffled by the lack of organization when it came to other areas, especially getting into panels. There have been many reports of attendees organizing lines themselves, without the help of any staff members, lines that in some cases were dissasembled when staff members got involved. The instructions for press remained unclear throughout the entire process, as they were told to wait in line, then not to wait in line, then to wait until everyone who was in line got in (despite having already left the line to wait in another line) to come up right before the panel for press seating, to do so only to discover there is no press seating, and so on. There was so little consistency, that a lot of the time, people didn't know when to wait in line, where or for how long, and would end up dedicating hours of their day to get into a panel that was so far from full, they could have just walked in five minutes before and not had a problem. To add to this frustration, there was only one - ONE - door we were allowed to enter the convention center from. Which meant if I had to go to the Arena or had a meeting at the Xbox booth, I still had to go all the way to the far side to enter.
So that about does it for me. I could include the LOW of I woke up Saturday morning with 15 bites on the small of my back, but since that concerns the Anaheim Hilton, not D23 itself, I can't exactly fault Disney, but it does mean I may be trying out the Marriott next time if I ever come back. All in all, a strange experience that has done a good job of putting me off Disney for the time being. If you're wondering about going yourself, all I can say is, if you loves you some Disney, sure. If you aren't obsessed with Disney? So not worth it.