Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reverend’s Report: A Gay Day at Disney's D23 Expo

Though many GLBT locals may have been unable to attend the D23 Expo on Saturday, August 10th due to the conflicting Orange County Pride celebration, it didn’t stop other GLBT Disney fans from turning out and helping to make it a sell-out day.

The third D23 Expo in four years (it is currently a bi-annual event) actually saw tickets sell out on Friday as well. With Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars universe, the 2013 event also resembled Comic-Con International more than ever before. While a relatively small number of attendees were dressed as iconic characters from Disney films and attractions — the best I saw was a woman attired and coiffed as the voluptuous red-headed “wench” being auctioned off during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride — many more stormtroopers, Boba Fetts and Princess Leias were on display.

A gaggle of gays, myself included, were to be found in the Expo’s now-traditional Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibition. This year’s display wasn’t as extensive as in years past, but it featured a rare collection of items detailing the Disney Studios’ efforts over seven decades to bring L. Frank Baum’s Oz books to the screen. These included costumes and props from an aborted 1950’s TV production, the underrated 1985 flop Return to Oz and this year’s smash hit Oz The Great and Powerful. The remainder of the archives exhibit was dedicated to next year’s 50th anniversary of Disney’s musical masterpiece, Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews’ carpet bag, two of the actual carousel horses used during the standout live action-animation sequence, and some of the written correspondence between Walt Disney and Poppins author P.L. Travers were just a few of the displayed gems. Finally, costumes worn by Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, about Walt’s battle to secure the movie rights to Mary Poppins from Travers, could be viewed.

Saving Mr. Banks was also trumpeted during Saturday’s preview of upcoming live-action films from Disney and its related entities, chiefly Marvel Studios. Actors Jason Schwartzmann and B.J. Novak, who play Poppins’ brother-composers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman respectively in Saving Mr. Banks, were joined by Richard M. himself for a climactic rendition of the classic song, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (Robert B. passed away, sadly, just last year). It truly was a magical moment at the end of a lengthy presentation that also featured appearances by Angelina Jolie, star of next year’s Sleeping Beauty-inspired Maleficent; Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins from this fall’s Thor sequel, Thor: The Dark World; hunky Chris Evans repping next spring’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and Ty Burrell of TV’s Modern Family, arriving onstage in a tiny European auto, who co-stars in the upcoming Muppets Most Wanted. Also, some additional casting was announced for Disney’s 2014 adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, which will be helmed by gay director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine). Joining previously confirmed Meryl Streep (as the Witch) and Johnny Depp (as the Wolf) will be Star Trek’s Chris Pine as one of the Princes, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother. Attendees were rewarded as they left the preview with their own pair of strap-on Maleficent horns!

The expo’s centerpiece pavilion was “Journey Into Imagineering,” a terrific, in-depth but overcrowded exhibit spotlighting the work of Disney’s famous Imagineers when it comes to designing theme park attractions. They are striving to make not only future rides but the typically lengthy queues in which riders wait as immersive and interactive as possible. One of the first major achievements in this is the newly-opened Mystic Manor attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. It’s time to save up for a trip to China.

Despite the larger crowds and longer wait times for presentations and exhibits since its last incarnation, the 2013 D23 Expo was a typically well-organized, supercalifragilistic experience. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that it will return in 2015. Start getting your costume — whether inspired by Disney, Marvel or Star Wars — together.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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