On the surface, the D23 Expo is nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary, but look a little closer, and you'll see it's not your typical convention.
Somewhat akin to seeing a blockbuster movie at its midnight premiere, the D23 Expo is an enormous and overwhelming celebration for Disney super fans, filled with panels, limited edition merchandise, previews, and celebrity guests.
Approaching the Anaheim Convention Center for last weekend's Expo, it was impossible to miss the line of people. Like a huge and ominous snake, slowly making its way into the enormous building, the queue stretched for miles, condensing itself into a manageable mish-mash of well-behaved Disneyphiles.
It was nothing, however, compared to what it felt like on the floor of the convention. People walking every which way, others waiting in lines that seemed to have no endpoints. Where one line ended, another began, and despite the effort towards organization (this year, D23 started a program called StagePass to better organize seating for events), it was hard to know when and where to go to make sense of it all.
However, once I found my spot, sat down, and began the interminable wait for some of the more coveted events, it became clear why D23 is so unique.
In line for the Disney Legends ceremony, I met a girl who was eager to make conversation. After a few minutes, I felt like I was talking to an old friend. We chatted about Disney animators, our favorite Disney films, and our experiences at the Expo thus far. After the ceremony was over, we touched base, and met up for another event. Though we were complete strangers earlier that day, we became fast friends as kindred spirits on the convention circuit.
The Disney Songbook concert was an adventure in dealing with the dizzying experience of locating a seat in the Convention Center’s arena. I eventually ended up seated next to an Illinoisan couple who were more excited about Disney Animation (particularly “The Little Mermaid”) than many children I’ve met.
My conversation with them was one that stuck with me. They explained that because they don’t have children, friends have often asked them why they're so into going to the Disney theme parks and attending events like D23. Together we came to the conclusion that it’s the Disney “magic” that keeps them coming back.
“Magic” is a term often thrown around by executives of the Walt Disney Company. Even cast members of the Disney Parks are encouraged to wish theme park guests a “magical day” after interacting with them. But its triteness and overuse does not negate its truth.
What D23 lacks in costumes and fervent fanaticism, it makes up for with the heart and soul of its attendees. These aren’t the same people who go to Comic-Con or E3; they’re not the individuals who typically fall under the umbrella of “geek” culture. But their love for Disney knows no bounds. And that's what really makes D23 magical.