Exhausting, exhilarating and amazing. That was Disney’s D23 2017, and I gotta admit it was the best D23 Expo I’ve attended. We arrived early in order to get a jump on the show and prepare ourselves for the whirlwind that would filled the next three days.
Having been through this drill before we pretty much knew what to expect so we prepared ourselves accordingly. The Anaheim Convention Center was still fairly quiet because the coming onslaught had not yet begun. A handful of eager, early arrivals milled about the convention area and a few were even in costume. We were meeting friends for dinner at Disneyland, and being early we decided to kill some time in the Grand Californian Hotel. As expected, I was stopped a few times by Disney fans who recognized me as we made our way through the park. I still find this weird because I hardly consider myself a celebrity. Yet, I’m well aware of the power of Disney magic and if you’re at the Disney Studios long enough, a few grains of pixie dust will eventually land on you.
As always, the Disney Legends Ceremony launched the Expo and this years inductees were a diverse but well deserving group. With his casual coolness, Disney CEO, Robert Iger hosted the event. Though a number of the talented inductees were no longer with us, the awards were accepted by their kids. In the case of the late, Garry Marshall, it was like seeing Garry as a young man. His son was the image of his dad. After a moving tribute to his old partner, Jack Kirby, Marvel creator, Stan Lee received a standing ovation from the cheering Disney audience. Yet, it was a morning for exceptional women as well. Media producer, Oprah Windfry, entertainer, Whoopie Goldberg and director, Julie Taymor were welcomed into the exclusive Disney club. A moving performance by the cast of The Lion King wrapped up a star-studded morning.
The lobby of the Hilton Hotel was suddenly filled with the screams of young women as actor, Mark Hamill (now a Disney Legend) made his way up the escalator to the Legends Lunch. And, what a lunch it was as everybody who was anybody at the Walt Disney Company gathered in the Hilton for a delicious lunch. It was an opportunity to meet with old friends and make a few new ones as well. Meeting motion picture director, Ava Duvernay was a delight, of course, and I’m so looking forward to her new movie, A Wrinkle in Time. However, another very special woman dominated the room. I’m speaking of the truly legendary, Oprah Winfrey Whose infectious enthusiasm lit up the space. Of course, the highlight of the lunch was posing for photos with my three lovely ladies, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Legends all!
Because of a pretty full D23 schedule I knew I would be missing a good deal of the show. However, every now and then we were able to catch a few panels and they were always delightful surprises. One such, “Eat Like Walt,” was a cook book revealing the Old Maestro’s taste in food. Who would have thought that a cook book could be so fascinating? However, this book detailing Walt’s favorite foods turned out to be just that. An added treat was having Walt Disney’s granddaughters onstage to “spill the beans” firsthand. Jenny and Tammy Miller shared their childhood experience in grandpa’s kitchen and even provided a few insights such as a list of Walt’s favorite dishes and a view of what was contained in the Disney home refrigerator. Finally, John Lasseter dished up a few tasty stories about the yummy treats in Disneyland and the Disney Studio Commissary.
Of course, there are more stories to tell such as the introduction of our new book, “A Kiss Goodnight,” which we were able to share with a very responsive D23 audience Saturday evening. However, let’s end it with that, shall we? It was a great D23 Expo and I’m already looking forward to the next.