Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reverend's Preview: Disney's D23 Expo Returns to Anaheim

D23 serves as the official club for die-hard fans of all things Disney. While a bit pricey to join, D23 certainly isn’t as exclusive as Disneyland’s fabled Club 33, which reportedly has a decade-long waiting list to get in. For those unaware, the “D” in D23 stands for Disney, naturally, and “23” is a shortened form of 1923, the year Walt Disney Studios was founded in Hollywood.

The bi-annual D23 Expo, which will take place August 19-21 at the Anaheim Convention Center, will once again provide a unique opportunity for non-members to savor the history and magic behind Disney’s greatest creations. Billed as “the ultimate Disney fan experience,” the first D23 Expo was held in September of 2009. The event was well attended if on a slightly smaller scale than some expected, and featured live appearances from the likes of Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage.

I personally enjoyed several of the behind-the-scenes workshops offered and the fabulous “Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives” exhibit. Showcasing 80+ years of Disney history, it featured amazing props such as the Nautilus submarine model from the Disney classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well as costumes worn in Mary Poppins, Babes in Toyland, Tron, The Rocketeer and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. This year’s exhibit space will be twice as large as 2009 and includes Walt Disney’s personal limousine, among other new items.

Walt Disney Studios has experienced both hits and misses during the past two years. While their live-action, Tim Burton-directed version of Alice in Wonderland was a colossal global hit, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the expensive Tron: Legacy foundered. Toy Story 3 and Tangled delighted both critics and moviegoers, but The Princess and the Frog and Cars 2 weren’t as successful. Still, the Disney legacy endures among both GLBT and mainstream devotees.

A highlight of each D23 Expo is the Disney Legends ceremony, which will be held the morning of August 19. This year’s honorees will be the late Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets; Regis Philbin; Guy Williams, who stirred many a young gay man’s heart in the 1950’s-60’s as Zorro as well as star of the non-Disney TV series Lost in Space; and “Disney Princess” voice actresses Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid), Paige O’Hara (Beauty and the Beast), Lea Salonga (Aladdin and Mulan) and Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog). Past recipients include Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Annette Funicello, Robin Williams and Angela Lansbury, as well as out composers Elton John (The Lion King) and the late Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast).

Special sneak peeks will be provided of upcoming Disney productions such as this November’s The Muppets, the beloved characters’ first big-screen outing since 1996, and next summer’s animated adventure Brave. There will also be a special screening of 1994’s The Lion King in 3D for the first time prior to its release on Blu-ray this fall.

Each D23 Expo is partly devoted to celebrations of Disney films celebrating significant anniversaries. This year’s roster includes Dumbo (70 years old), the animated Alice in Wonderland (60 years), 101 Dalmatians (50 years) and Beauty and the Beast (20 years). Attendees are encouraged to dress in costume as their favorite Disney characters throughout the weekend.

Tickets are required for admission to the D23 Expo, and may be purchased in advance by visiting the D23 website.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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