Last weekend was the long anticipated event, D23 Expo (originally slated for last year, but pushed back due to COVID), return! The three day event celebrates all things Disney and takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center (conveniently located just across the street from Disneyland) and includes exhibits, panels, and shopping. It’s something I’ve attended each time since we moved to California, and is always fun!
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, and much of the event’s focus was on that, as well as showcasing upcoming projects and highlights from recent films and series. Because the Expo is about all things Disney, it includes of course classic Disney properties, as well as Star Wars, Marvel, and even American Horror Story (because remember Disney also owns FX) so there is something for everyone to enjoy. I especially love the exhibits, which often include costumes and props from the variety of films and series, even ones that aren’t out yet, such as a trio of costumes from the upcoming Indiana Jones film. Speaking of exhibits, every D23 Expo the Walt Disney Archives chooses a subject to focus on. This year the Archives highlighted landmarks from each decade of the Walt Disney Company’s 100 years, which included early merchandise from Snow White, costumes and props from Mary Poppins and Dick Tracy, and the iconic neon from Flynn’s Arcade in Tron.
Another highlight from the Walt Disney Archives was Walt Disney’s plane, which was recently restored. In 1964 Walt replaced his first private plane with the Gulfstream, which was fully customized for him, right down to dividers that featured leaves from the tree in his front yard, his wife’s idea, so they would always have a piece of home wherever they went. Outfitted for 15 passengers, a pilot, co-pilot, and one stewardess, Walt used this for his cross-country trips from Burbank to Orlando while working on “The Florida Project” or what we now know as Walt Disney World. After Walt’s death, the plane continued to be used for promotional projects, and was even used in two Disney films starring Kurt Russell, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes in 1969, and the sequel, Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, in 1972. A little over ten years later, in 1985, the plane was relocated to Orlando, where it received a new paint job. In 1992 the Gulfstream was retired, and put on display as part of the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, until 2014 when the attraction closed. Later it received an extensive restoration to get it back to its Walt era look and debuted here at D23.
I absolutely adored the flight bag, and was excited when I found out that a version of the flight bag, as well as other items inspired by the plane are (or soon will be) available on Amazon. However, as of writing, I don’t see the flight bag, even though they showed it at the Expo as an item that would be for sale. As for the plane itself, very soon it will go on display at the Palm Springs Air Museum, which I visited back in 2017, and you can take a look at that visit here. Why Palm Springs? Walt loved it there, having a home, and frequently visiting Smoke Tree Ranch. Keen eyed observers will notice Smoke Tree Ranch’s brand on many of Walt’s ties in various footage of him. So common were these ties that it was immortalized on the Partners Statue in Disneyland.
The Walt Disney Archive has also put together Disney100: The Exhibition, which will kick off a world tour showcasing many Disney artifacts, starting at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, before heading to Chicago (the birthplace of Walt) and Kansas City, Missouri (near Walt’s hometown of Marceline) and then it’s headed to Munich, Germany. Where it goes from there I hope will soon be revealed!
As animation is what started the Walt Disney Company, there was a delightful area dedicated to the history of the Animation Studio, complete with a look at the backside of animation cells, which is where the painting is done, resulting in a humorous, uncanny valley version that the audience never sees. There was also a demonstration of the ink and painting process.
There is always a portion dedicated to what is new for the Disney Parks and Resorts, and I was excited to see a model of the upcoming attraction inspired by Princess and the Frog, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which is replacing Splash Mountain, as well as a model of the revamp of Toontown.
The revamp of Splash Mountain is long overdue, and I’m excited that one of my favorite Disney princesses is receiving her very own attraction. I’m just bummed it’s such a long wait, as it is slated for a late 2024 opening.
Sadly I didn’t snap any real outfit photos, but they were just repeats of the dresses I made not too long ago, which you can check out here and here.
I’m excited to see what 2023 has in store across the Disney Parks and Resorts and how they continue to celebrate the first century of the Walt Disney Company. Eager to attend the D23 Expo? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it only happens every other year. In the meantime you can visit their website, and maybe even join to become a member of the “Official Disney Fan Club.” In the meantime you can get a glimpse at past D23 Expos here on the blog.