Sunday, August 4, 2013
Hey Disney....What About The Parks?
The D23 Expo with its previous two runs in Anaheim (2009 and 2011) has caught a lot of flack. Yep, there have been problems with crowd control, misjudging venue sizes, panel and event scheduling issues, and just generally Disney not having the real experience necessary to keep a large convention flowing instead of bottle necking and breaking down into chaos.
My favorite D23 Expo fiasco story occurred in 2009, the Expo's first year. In its inaugural year, the Expo was a 4 day event (instead of the current 3 day event) that started on Thursday with the keynote speech by Disney CEO Bob Iger. Well, turns out that on a Thursday, the Expo attendance was going to turn out to be pretty meager much to Disney's disappointment and there would be an abundance of empty seats for Iger's speech. Now that just wouldn't look good for those reporting on the event so quick acting Disney went over to Disneyland, grabbed every available on the clock cast member, then bussed them over to the convention center to basically fill empty seats and pad attendance. I think they even got a free lunch out of the deal. Yep, Iger's keynote speech was pretty full after all but many of those in the audience worked for him.
Ah yes, attendance, there is also the story from 2009 that with numbers of people actually paying full price or discounted D23 members price falling fall short of expectations, stacks of admission tickets were given to supervisors and managers at Disney's corporate offices that were to be sold to Disney employees at a major discount (down to about $5.00). Well, even at $5.00, there were still tickets sitting on managers and supervisors desks to the point where they eventually just told their employees to help themselves to tickets in some cases. Ouch!
But there are aspects of the D23 Expo that are immensely popular with Disney fans. Certainly the presenting of the latest group of Disney Legends, special evening musical performances from Disney notables, and celebrity gawking at the Disney Studios presentation rank right up there with popular Expo events. But probably the post popular is the presentation by Disney Parks and Resorts on what's coming in the future for the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts (not to mention world wide Disney parks and the cruise line). This is what Disney fans die to hear. This is what focuses their rabid Disney vision toward the future. Remember 2009 and the announcement of Star Tours 2.0, Cars Land, and the Magic Kingdom expansion? Big news.....really big news.
But the rumors are that Disney is not going to have any major announcements about their U.S. based theme parks this year. Oh, there may be some minor announcements about increasing a Star Wars presence in the parks and maybe something will finally be said officially about that Avatar Land in WDW that no one seems to be really thrilled about. Major announcements is a tricky proposition. People tend to take them literally and in order to go through the motions of presenting a major announcement with concepts and artwork, Disney actually has to commit the hundreds of million dollars it now takes to build major attractions. Apparently they do have a lot of ideas, but aren't to the point where they are actually going to commit the money to build them. When Disney revamped Disney California Adventure at enormous expense the apparent position was to rest on getting return on their investment back on that before announcing more brand new building projects.
If that really is the case, I think you are going to hear more disappointment from Disney fans about this years D23 Expo. But if I'm honest with myself, in a perfect world, I wouldn't mind being at the Expo and check it all out. I'd be the one with a cynical look on his face.