D23 was introduced on March 10, 2009, by Robert Iger during the company's annual meeting in Oakland, California. The name D23 refers to D for Disney and 23 for 1923, the year when Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood and the company was founded. Walt only came with a little amount of money and no job, as he is quoted as saying: “I came to Hollywood and arrived here in August 1923 with forty dollars in my pocket and a coat and a pair of trousers that didn’t match. And one half of my suitcase had my shirts and underwear and things and the other half had my drawing materials..." The goal of D23 is to communicate with Disney fans by "placing them in the middle of the magic."
The major components of D23, and its memberships, include its own web site, Disney twenty-three (a quarterly publication), yearly member gifts, member events, member exclusive merchandise, and the D23 Expo, a Disney fan convention "Bringing all things Disney under one roof."
During the first year, D23 featured one level of Charter Membership for $74.99. In 2010, D23 introduced two levels of membership featuring different prices and benefits. Charter Memberships became Gold Memberships, and a $34.99 Silver Membership was introduced which included all the benefits of Gold with the exception of the quarterly publications "Disney twenty-three". On June 17, 2013, a free membership level was introduced which offers limited discounts and locked content access.
The D23 Web site features comic strips, breaking Disney news stories, event information, "This Day in Disney", a "Walt Disney Archives" section, and a "Disney twenty-three" section based on the quarterly publication.
Starting August 2, 2010, D23's website added a new page called "D23's Disney Geek", a weekly video newsmagazine hosted by Jeffrey Epstein of D23 about the latest news from the Disney universe. That day also saw the site's slightly new overhaul, with a new slogan—The Official Disney Fan Club—and mascots Chip 'n' Dale. On November 9, 2010 a new weekly sister web show titled "Armchair Archivists" premiered. Hosted by Steve Czarnecki & Josh Turchetta, 2 Disney employees (and D23 members) who showcase assorted treasures such as props, costumes and lost film clips from the Walt Disney Archives to the viewers. After the Second Season, Steve Czarnecki left the web show leaving Josh Turchetta as the lone host, the series was renamed "Armchair Archivist" (Singular). In January 2012, Melody Dale joined the show as co-host. Disney Geek's current host since February 2013 is Ty Ervin from the Walt Disney Studios.
2009 & 2010:The Ultimate Disney Fan Experience
The first D23 Expo was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on September 10–13, 2009. It featured pavilions from Walt Disney Imagineering, showcasing models and tests for future attractions, Corporate Responsibility, which feature a photo op, as well as projects for overseas troops and homeless shelters, Disney Consumer Products, showing the many products being sold by Disney within the next few years, a Disney Dream Store, costumes and props from the Walt Disney Archives, a Collectors Forum, where people from all over the country showcased and sold memorabilia.
Events were held in the D23 Arena, Stage 23, Storytellers Theatre, and Walt Disney Studios Theatre. Many future projects were announced, including an expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, an extensive re-hauling of Star Tours for Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios, a film based on the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, a fourth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, a new Muppet film, as well as clips and sneak previews promoting projects such as Prep & Landing, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast in 3-D, a set of viral Muppet videos, and a film series with Guillermo del Toro.
Celebrity appearances included John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer, Tim Burton, Selena Gomez, Donny Osmond, Tom Bergeron, Kym Johnson, Betty White, Robin Williams, Joseph Fiennes, Johnny Depp (as Captain Jack Sparrow), as well as live performances by Miley Cyrus, Honor Society, and the Muppets.
As announced at the annual shareholders meeting in 2010, the D23 Expo did not return in 2010, but appeared to the Anaheim Convention Center through August 19–21, 2011. A then-new event called "Destination D" was held at the Disneyland Hotel ballroom in Anaheim, California on September 24–25, 2010. Each year Destination D will have a new theme, with the 2010 event's theme being "Disneyland '55." It is likely that these events will alternate each year. The following Destination D was held from May 14–15, 2011 in honor of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary.
2011: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event
The D23 Expo returned for its second time at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on August 19–21, 2011. Closely resembling the Inaugural D23 Expo on 2009, the Show Floor has expanded its pavilions with Disney Channel and Radio Disney, the Collector's Forum, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Living, Disney Corporate Citizenship, and Disney Interactive Media Group. The Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives has expanded by 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) since the Inaugural D23 Expo. The Show Floor also featured a new pavilion, similar to the Walt Disney Imagineering pavilion from the D23 Expo 2009, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts's Carousel of Projects which shows the highlights of the developing projects coming soon in Disney Parks around the world.
Shopping opportunities include the D23 Expo Dream Store returning from the Inaugural Expo. Other D23 Expo-exclusive stores include Mickey's of Glendale from Walt Disney Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale, California and the Walt Disney Archives Treasure Trove from the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank, California. Other stores include A Small World Village and a Disney Store in the Disney Living Pavilion. Another popular area was the Collectors Forum, where guests could buy Disney Collectibles and connect with the Disneyana Fan Club, Mouse Planet, Mice Chat, Hidden Mickey author Nancy Temple Rodrigue, and artist Brian Rood with his one-of-a-kind The Rocketeer.
Events took place at the D23 Arena, Stage 23, Stage 28, the "red carpet" at the Talent Round-Up area, Storytellers Stage at the Disney Living pavilion, and at the Disney Channel/Radio Disney stage. The Disney Channel stage held performances from Coco Jones, China Anne McClain, a first look for Radio Disney's N.B.T. (Next Big Thing), and a karate exhibition from Leo Howard. Guests also had the chance to meet and greet the cast of Good Luck Charlie, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Lemonade Mouth, So Random!, Phineas and Ferb, Kickin' It, Fish Hooks, A.N.T. Farm, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Pair of Kings, and Shake It Up.
Stage 23 hosted many events involving sneak peeks to projects from The Walt Disney Studios and ABC Studios including Marvel's The Avengers, The Muppets, Brave, Monsters University, Once Upon a Time and Prep & Landing, and the celebration for the 25th Anniversary of Pixar. Stage 28 hosted Walt Disney Imagineering panels for the Disney Cruise Line, Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, "The Voices of the Parks", and vintage photos and videos of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The first rounds of the UDTT were held on August 18, 2011 (one day before the D23 Expo)which narrowed from thousands to one hundred and from one hundred to 20. It was hosted by Dan Roebuck (guest starred in LOST and Wizards of Waverly Place) who narrowed down the final round from 20 people to 3. After two full days of trivia questions, John Kurowski is the winner of the inaugural Ultimate Disney Fan Trivia Tournament. His name will be engraved in a Ludwig von Drake (cartoon character) trophy which will be preserved in the Walt Disney Archives and John Kurowski will also win a preview cruise on the Disney Fantasy ship which will set sail to the public, part of the Disney Cruise Line, in 2012.
The D23 Arena hosted many milestone events only at the D23 Expo. This is the second time that the Disney Legends Ceremony has taken place in front of guests at the D23 Expo (originally taken place at the Walt Disney Studios). This tradition started in 1987 and since then, 287 people have been awarded. In the Expo, the Company honored 12 people who contributed to the Walt Disney Company. this includes Jodi Benson, Barton Boyd, Jim Henson, Linda Larkin, Paige O'Hara, Regis Philbin, Anika Noni Rose, Lea Salonga, Ray Watson, Guy Williams, and Jack and Bonita Wrather. During the Ceremony, they honored a surprise honoree to the Ceremony's own host, Tom Bergeron.
The Walt Disney Studios presented exclusive looks at live-action films including Saving Mr. Banks, Muppets Most Wanted, Tomorrowland, and Thor: The Dark World, as well as animated productions from such as The Good Dinosaur, Frozen, and Get A Horse!. Lucasfilm had its first appearance at D23. Media outlets reported that casting information for Star Wars Episode VII would be announced at the event, although no such announcement was made. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts showcased pavilions relating to Avatar Land, future Star Wars attractions, Marvel’s Avengers Academy on the Disney Magic, Disney Springs, and Shanghai Disneyland.
The fourth D23 Expo was held on August 14–16, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar presented first looks of The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory, Zootopia, Moana, and Toy Story 4. Marvel Studios presented footage from Captain America: Civil War and stills from Doctor Strange, while Lucasfilm presented Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Walt Disney Pictures showcased Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Pete's Dragon, The Finest Hours, and The Queen of Katwe. Disney Interactive held presentations on several video games, namely Star Wars: Battlefront, Disney Infinity 3.0, and Kingdom Hearts III. They will feature new in-game footage, trailers, reveals, and more. The presentations also included surprise announcements and special guests. Plans were announced on the development of a new Star Wars themed land for Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios..
Disney will be bringing us exclusive D23 events. Here is a list of a few with dates to be announced throughout the year.
- D23 BEHIND-THE-SCENES EXPERIENCES: In 2015, D23 Members had the opportunity to explore hidden Disney gems—such as the Animation Research Library—while hearing stories from Disney luminaries such as Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith and animator Andreas Deja. In 2016, D23 will bring back this popular event with incredible guests and new locations, while adding even more surprises and a special gift.
- SCREENINGS ON THE DISNEY STUDIO LOT AND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT: In 2016, D23 will once again offer special screenings on both coasts of Disney favorites including Alice in Wonderland, Finding Nemo, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Plus, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Reluctant Dragon, D23 will hold a special screening event on the Studio lot including special guests, picture spots, and more surprises.
- D23’S LUNCH WITH A DISNEY LEGEND: Following a year that included exclusive luncheons with such luminaries as former Imagineer Orlando Ferrante and voice actress Kathryn Beaumont, D23 will be bringing back the popular event series on the Walt Disney Studios lot, as well as adding events on the East Coast. The first event will be at Walt Disney World Resort with Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway, who helped open Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, and Disneyland Paris.
- D23 DAY AT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS AND ARCHIVES: D23 Gold Member-exclusive tours of the historic Studio lot and Walt Disney Archives in Burbank return, highlighting historic moments from Disney film, television, and theme parks—and in 2016 we will be enhancing the experience with a very special new location to be announced soon.
- ADVANCE SCREENINGS: This year, D23 Members were able to attend previews of Cinderella and Inside Out in cities such as New York, Orlando, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Next year, in partnership with The Walt Disney Studios, D23 will screen a selection of upcoming releases. And for those guests who may not live in the cities where movies are screened, D23 Gold Members across the country will be selected at random to receive complimentary movie passes, which will be included in issues of Disney twenty-three, D23’s quarterly publication.
- D23 MEMBER NIGHTS AT NEWSIES—ON TOUR: Disney fans are cheering for the Tony® Award-winning Newsies, now on tour. In 2016, guests in Salt Lake City, Portland, and other cities around the country are invited to see the show with premium seats on special nights and a talk-back with the cast following the show.
- MEMBER MIXERS AROUND THE COUNTRY: After giving members a peek at the reimagined Disney Stores in Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Kentucky, in 2016, Disney Store will once again invite D23 Members for exclusive mornings of shopping, discounts, games, and goodies. Also this past year, D23 held mixers including Breakfast on Broadway in New York and Never Had a Friend Like D23 events to celebrate Aladdin in Phoenix, Sacramento, and Seattle. Look for more mixers in cities around the country in 2016.
- MICKEY’S OF GLENDALE: The Walt Disney Imagineering employee store will once again offer shopping opportunities to D23 Gold Members at Walt Disney World Resort and in Southern California. Guests will be able to peruse collectibles and pick up official Imagineering merchandise. Dates to be announced in 2016.
- D23 DISNEY FANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION—BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Following D23’s first “Home Edition” of Fanniversary, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Lady and the Tramp, D23 in 2016 will bring fans around the world unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the spectacular, Academy Award®-winning animated feature Beauty and the Beast, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year.
- SIGNATURE EVENTS: Look for the return of some favorites, including SIP & SCREAM (a Halloween twist on D23’s Sip & Stroll event at Walt Disney World in the fall), as well as special holiday events on both the East and West Coasts. More details will be announced in 2016.
D23 has had its fair share of criticism from its members. The D23 Expo in 2011 was considered horribly managed by many fans, who waited in line for hours to see a single presentation. Common complaints about the Expo were venue size, crowd control, quality of presentations, and mismanaged lines. D23 has also been criticized for focusing many more events heavily towards Anaheim, California (Disneyland) than Orlando, Florida (Walt Disney World), with international events being nonexistent. In 2012 a special event called Fanniversary was announced for six cities, making it appear as though Disney was reaching out to the fan community beyond their main local parks, but three of the six cities were within California and Florida (Orlando, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Later in 2012 Disney did expand Fanniversary to other cities. Other complaints have included the prices of events (sometimes above $250/person after membership dues) and how quickly events have sold out or have been limited to a very select number of members. For the 2013 Expo, D23 is hoping to improve accessibility by expanding capacity of the show floor and venues and offering the new "Stagepass" ticket system.
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