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On Friday, I wrote an extremely enthusiastic article about the D23 convention. I was overwhelmed with the exhibits and presentations and was convinced that Saturday (Day #3) would prove just as informative and exciting. I couldn’t have been more wrong. All the exhibits remain the same, so those here for the first time can still enjoy that aspect of the convention. However, the panels have been underwhelming to say the least. There is a lot of downtime between presentations, and content just doesn’t seem as strong. This downtime is also causing all of the exhibits to be more crowded and creating longer lines for the panels that there are.
The day began with a presentation entitled “Imagineering the Future of Disney Parks.” There was a definite air of excitement in the room as they began unveiling their upcoming projects. However, as the presentation went on, dejection began setting in. Jay Rasulo, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman, divided everything into four categories: Fantasy, Adventure, New Frontiers, and Tomorrow.
The Fantasy segment was the most interesting, showcasing a massive expansion of Fantasyland in Walt Disney World. This will feature separate mini-lands within the whole, giving guests the opportunity to enter the worlds of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid. He also unveiled that they would be getting a Little Mermaid ride, and a massive expansion of Dumbo. He brought along several pieces of concept art to demonstrate their vision for this project, and it looks really fun. Several of the pictures got audible oohs and aahs from the audience. (To see some of the art click here)
The next two segments were Adventure and New Frontiers. He mostly focused on the Disney Adventures program, and barely discussed the parks at all. He also briefly went over the Disney Cruise Line expansion, as well as a new hotel being built in Hawaii. This all looked good, but it wasn’t why we were here. This was supposed to be a presentation on Disney Parks, and he was getting off topic.
Finally came the segment everybody was waiting for. It’s safe to assume that in a segment labeled tomorrow, we should get a lot of great reveals as to what was in store for the parks. Well, he showed us some concepts for the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland, but all of this was already on display on the showroom floor, and I had personally seen it up close and in better detail yesterday. He then talked about World of Color, without providing any new information. Next up was Cars Land, again mostly reiterating what I had already seen yesterday. He did show an early piece of pre-visualization as to the how the ride would begin. It looks like there will be a lot of characters in the attraction, but the ride itself is really beginning to look like an amazingly themed redo of Test Track at WDW. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the entire project is visually amazing. I just hope that there is more to the ride itself than we’ve seen so far.
And finally came the big announcement we weren’t supposed to know yet. As an army of Storm Troopers came running on stage, it was revealed that Star Tours will be closing in October, 2010. They will be redoing the ride and opening again in 2011 as Star Tours II. After a really lame skit with Darth Varder, Rasulo showed us a 3-D video that would demonstrate what the attraction is all about. It turns out that it’s about Pod Racing. Or at least a part of it will be. I don’t really know what Pod Racing has to do with the concept of Star Tours, but I’m pretty disappointed that this is the route they have chosen. All I know is that I am going to be riding Star Tours A LOT before October of next year.
This was the ending note for that panel, and there was a lot of time before any other presentations of interest. Personally, I wasn’t even able to get into the next few panels. There was so little going on, the lines were forming really early, and the presentations were filling up fast. I ended up doing a lot of wandering around, revisiting what I had already seen the day before.
Finally, I ended up in the last panel of the day, a preview for the upcoming holiday special Prep and Landing. This was a really fun presentation. Originally conceived as a Pixar short, it was decided that it would work better as a TV special for ABC. Animated at Disney Animation, Prep and Landing tells the story of two stealth elves who “prep” the houses for Santa before his arrival every year. They check to make sure the fireplaces are out, the milk and cookies are satisfactory, there is enough room for the presents under the tree, etc. It’s a creative concept, executed extremely well. After the directors showed us an extensive look at the conceptual art, color palettes, research photos, etc. they ended up showing us the entire program. The audience seemed to love it, and I really think that it is going to do very well when aired at the end of the year. It’s funny, cute, and has a really strong message. It fits right into the pantheon of other classic Christmas specials, and I have a feeling we will be seeing Prep and Landing every year for a very long time.
And that was the end of Day 3 (Saturday) for D23. Because of the poor scheduling of the events and a very lackluster presentation on the future of the parks, I found today to be a real disappointment. I know it’s their first year, but I really hope they learn a lot from their mistakes and are able to put on a convention next year without so much down-time, and enough displays to keep people busy for the entire duration of the event. Better luck next time.