Since the D23 expo is coming up in Anaheim, I thought it was a good time to take a seat on my cloud of memories and dive back into my trip to the D23 expo of 2015. This post will be a trip report series. I dive back into my memory and share the full experience I had in a trip report style. In this post I will cover my travel over to LA, followed by my first 3 days at the convention center. In a next post I go on with my days in the Disneyland Resort. But I warn you, these posts will be long, so take a drink, a snack and travel along with me.
Preparing and getting there
I took this trip on my own, and that made it a bit scary and also really exciting! I’ve been saving up 2 years prior to the trip to be able to affort flights, hotel, entry tickets, park tickets for Disneyland Resort, a shuttle service from and to the airport and pocket money for food and souvenirs.
I had 1 agreement made with myself and that was I would cancel it all if my grades at school weren’t good. Cause the timing of the expo would collide with redo’s for examinations, but lucky me found out I passed all courses and could enjoy a long but exciting summer break wich would start off with 6 weeks London, not even a week at home before I would fly off to LA!
At this point in my life I had never flown outside Europe before. Nor did I spend 12 hours on a plane or even took a plane from Amsterdam. My original plan contained taking a train to Schiphol airport the day before and get an hotel room since my flight would be early in the morning. But my family decided they wanted to take on the long drive over there to drop me off. Money saved for me. I chose Schiphol airport because KLM provided a direct flight to Los Angles International, and with no experience in connecting flights, this could set me more at ease.
At the airport I got myself some breakfast and some snacks for in the air and with a small heart, thinking what I got myself into, the plane set off for LA. I was seated next to a french father and son who drank so much alcohol the stewardesses had to cut them off. I had the small “window” seat on the emergency exit door above the wing. Sadly the tv of that seat was broken, so I spend the flight listening to music, trying to sleep and mostly reading in “Wish it, dream it, do it by Marty Sklar”. Right in front of me was a seat for stewardesses and during take off and landing we chatted in dutch. They noticed straight away I was traveling alone, told them what I was up to and they shared tips about their experiences with such long flights, and the LA weather, the beauty of flying over Greenland, Canada and the whole USA… anything.
When we were on the ground again the staff of the plane wished me a very pleasant and exciting trip. Though tired, I was super excited! I was in LA! 9 hours of time difference with home, yet it only was noon here. But… my excitement pretty soon turned into… a battle to stay awake. Just from stepping off the plane until I got near the shuttle service pick up point, I had lost 3 hours! The first 2 I had spend in line for passport control. Since it was my first time, the papers stated I really needed to pass by an officer and couldn’t use a faster service. My joy was big when I heard the computers had let them down, and everyone needed to fill in the long Visa/Esta application again. In the line with me was a dutch architect who was from “Maastricht” so we ended up talking about the architecture of that region since it’s close to where I studied. And we kept each other motivated we would get through the line eventually.
A little bit before I finally reach the end of the line, they fixed the technology. Yet I was already 2 hours in the line, worrying I wouldn’t have my shuttle anymore. Time to pass by an officer for control. Honestly, those interrogations always creep me out a little bit. So very nervous I passed by the officer, told him I was going to go to Disneyland and the D23 expo and got to the next stage of my airport adventure… luggage controls. Since we had been so long in line for the first check, the leftover luggage from our flight was already taken off the belts and standing waiting for us. So that went smooth… until I stepped into another line of an hour.
Stupid as I was I didn’t got myself something to drink after. It’s only a small hour to Disneyland right? Uhum… not with the shuttle and traffic around LA. The shuttle service I had booked was “supershuttle” by the way. In the shuttle I ended up chatting to the people with me. They were going to some sort of fitness convention held nearby Disneyland as well. And it took almost the full 2 hours in that car before they discovered I wasn’t an American girl.
At 5 in the afternoon, local time, I arrived at my hotel ramada maingate/at the park (now Grand legacy at the park) across the street from Disneyland. I checked in, forced myself not to get near the beds, and went outside for a walk towards the parks and Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney and stroll
My suprise was big when I discovered I was closer to the parks than if I would stay over at Hotel New York in Disneyland Paris!! And this was a non-Disney hotel! I couldn’t wait to explore the parks, but thay would be for after the expo. A terrible mistake as I got to experience… but now I walked across the hub between the parks into Downtown Disney. It was bigger than I imagined it, and I went from store to store, exploring what merch I would take home with me and stopped for some highly needed starbucks since I was starving from the whole journey and my mistake not to buy some food at the airport. I loved the diversity of shops and restaurants here in Downtown Disney! There even were shops more orientated towards adults and a big Sephora!! Paris could learn from this!! But yet, it felt homey and known to me.
I continued my walk to include a tour of the Disney Hotels. I passed by the Disneyland hotel, Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian. Took a stroll over the property and went to take a look inside the lobbies of the hotels. They looked nice, but I was glad I spend my money on a basic room than the Disney rooms. More pocket money to spend in the parks later. It was already getting dark and it was only like 8 in the evening! So while in Belgium/Disneyland Paris the sun doesn’t set until 22.00 in summer time, the night hours here are much more extended and there is more time to provide night entertainment.
Super tired I dragged myself back to the hotel. I needed sleep, and he next morning would be the start of the D23 expo too!
D23 Day 1 – friday 14 august 2015
So my night sleep wasn’t the best. I woke up several times, around midnight I heard loud bangs and couldn’t place the sound (uhum later I discovered this was the Disneyland Forever fireworks that woke me up) and by 4 is was clearly awake. I dressed, watched some Disney channel and was among the first to grab some breakfast (that was basic and so not my taste!)
I went on to the convention center, which is basically walking next to Disney’s California Adventure. I was overly excited, but that excitement faded in a little while. I asked where I needed to be with my voucher for the ticket, and the person who worked for the expo showed me the very looonnnggg line. That person made a mistake too though, cause onces I reached the doors (by 12, and I was at the convention center by 7.30), the person who scanned the tickets told me I needed to pass by a desk first to get my ticket. If I was told that sooner I would have been among the first in line for that desk, but no.
So for those who don’t know, D23 is basically standing in line and waiting for everything in extreme amounts of time. So after more than half a day in line to get in, I headed to get a stagepass for the imagineering panel, to discover that one was all gone just a few minutes before I arrived at the desks… talk about disappointment! It was a panel I wouldn’t want to miss. So by that I needed to let go of the plan of attending the panel where Marty Sklar would talk about his new book, and spend that time waiting for the Imagineering panel.
The remaining time between my wait, I filled with looking around the showfloor. Figuring out where everything was and eating a bit. I went upstairs to the presentationhall very early and used my time to read along in my imagineering books. The problem with being early, and the imagineering panel being so popular means some unofficial lines formed and they collided once we were let in a separate room in the official line. There I read and got to chat with some lovely people. A guy and his family who were from the area. It was so interesting to discuss about imagineering and the differences between the American parks and Paris. That chat, and some pop-quiz ladies who brightened up the wait with (hard for non Americans who never have visited a Disney park on American grounds) Disney questions!
The panel itself was everything I dreamed of and more. Really inspiring stories. I could listen to them all day. But also during the panel it hit me how much credit Imagineers get for work on the US parks, and how less the other parks are valued. In Tony Baxter’s story, Paris is so important and I think, yet Americans aren’t interested in it at all.
After the panel I stuck around, saw the imagineers leave and didn’t had the guts to get in the little line for Tony Baxter or Marty Sklar! I was litterally 5m away and I didn’t dared. I still regret that moment.
Inspired I walked back to my hotel room, stopped on the way at a shop to get myself some food and drinks for the coming days and fell asleep in an instant. I was beat up and it was only 9pm. Once again I woke up around midnight though. Same bangs as the night before…
D23 Day 2 – Saturday 15 august 2015
Day 2 of the expo and I was awake super early again. Doubted whether or not to walk to the convention center at 6 am already but held myself back until 8. My only goal for today was checking out the imagineering set up with models of Shanghai and Pandora and get into the big Parks and Resorts panel at 3!
So said, so done. And I spent a few hours among the imagineers. I talked to a vehicle designer about the models and the design for the tron coaster but most wonderful to me was talking with an architect who worked on the Shanghai Castle! How fun it was to do and the importance of models. This and yesterday’s imagineering panel I count as highlights from the expo part.
At 13.00 or so I went to look for the huuugggeeee line for the parks and resorts presentation. Spending time standing still outside when it is 36°C outside isn’t fun at all! And honestly somewhere during this line I was about to lose my patience. Cause if you do D23, you should be aware of this 1 thing: it’s waiting, waiting and did I mention waiting already? The real low about waiting I’ll save for the next day, but it was getting harder and harder to really enjoy being there.
When I finally was allowed to walk into the big presentation hall, the presentation had already kicked off. The load the halls slowly… but I was in, found a single seat and was dissapointed already. The buzz had been going around that star wars lands would come to DLR and DHS since the big live action presentation of that morning. So one of their big things to pack out with, was already shared few hours earlier and top that with me not liking star wars, and well…. it was hard to keep listening. Lol.
It was really nice to see the presentation though. But 1 thing to keep in mind. It’s America. That means the American parks get the focus. Shanghai was the exception cause it was opening in less than a year. But Tokyo got a small mention, Hong Kong a slightly larger mention because of Iron Man and Paris… well 2 seconds. “Over in paris they get ready to celebrate the 25th” that was it.
But in those presentations you need to be lucky with the content they will provide as well. Not every year they will reveal big plans. So not every edition will be able to pack out with big stuff. One thing that did got me all excited, and I still listen to pretty often, is the end of the presentation. Live singers brought a mash-up from the different “kiss good nights” of the different parks. At that moment I didn’t had even seen the ones they perform in Disneyland, but I was thrilled to hear the post show song of Disney Dreams featured! Up till this day, that musical moment keeps bringing back memories of the trip, and makes my heart fill with joy.
When the presentation was over, I noticed the line for Mickey’s of Glendale (aka the imagineering store) was do-able! So I jumped in as quickly as I could. Picking up a tank top and some imagineering pins. Some might say it’s just some stuff, but I cherish the stuff I got there so much. It keeps me dreaming of becoming an imagineer. I also stopped by the Dreamstore where the D23 merch was sold, but didn’t find anything my taste. With other lines being way to long and presentations over, I went to the hotelroom to chat a little bit with my friends and tried to plan how I would spend the next day.
D23 Day 3- Sunday 16 august
Another hard night to sleep, another early morning, and another day to wait in front of the doors to get into the expo. You know the drill by now. The final day of the expo. And since the presentations and panels weren’t really my interests, it was a day waiting to shop and visiting the archive exhibition. A friend had asked me to pick up a special tsum tsum from the Disney store last night, so I went to get in line for that… 5 hours later I was inside the store and there was no notice of the tsum tsum she wanted. If I had been able to see what they would be selling inside, I wouldn’t have bothered to stand in line 5 hours for it to be honest.
Next stop was the archive exhibition, and basically that was the most interesting I’ve done at the last day of the expo. I felt the historical walk through sparked my interests to discover the parks the next days even more. Besides that I attended 1 presentation. But I regret that decision so much! I think if I would do this last day over, I would have attended the frozen presentation. I heard some good talks about it on the showfloor, but I didn’t went because I had a slight overkill of frozen at that time. So the panel I picked was “the best of Destination D” and it was not what I expected at all. A guy showing some WDW pictures during the build of the park, yes that’s interesting, but I wanted more comments and stories with it that didn’t came. The second part of the presentation was boring and I wanted out, but I thought that was kinda rude so stayed seated.
If I got the chance to do this over, I think I would have skipped the last day all together. Or at least the final presentation. When it was finally over I got up, and left the convention center behind me. I had a 4 day park hopper ticket, and it was about time I would make some use out of that! But that trip report throwback you’ll read in another post.
The main thing I remember about attending the D23 Expo is to have very low expectations. And following it online, relying on people who broadcast the presentations live gives you the best seat you can possibly have! It frees you of the waiting times you don’t see online. Would I go back? Maybe yes, but not the full 3 days of the expo anymore. Or maybe hop in every day, but don’t feel guilty to hop over to the parks more often. Now I had the feeling I needed to spend as much time as possible on the expo and that was my biggest mistake I could have ever made. But it’s an event worth attending, if you’re also willing to take along the downsides that can work on your mood.
Do you have memories of the D23 expo? Or do you have any expectations on what they might share this year? drop me a comment and let’s share experiences! Be sure to follow for the rest of my memorylane tripreport toward Disneyland and check out my mousescrappers gallery to see how much progress I’m making on my scrapbook of this trip!