ANAHEIM, Calif. — Hollywood stars will link up with Mickey Mouse and the rest of the Disney gang, as well as thousands of Disney-loving fans — many dressed in cosplay — this week for Disney’s D23 Expo, Disney’s ultimate fan event and convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Tim Allen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Anderson and Kristen Bell are scheduled to be there. Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh and John Stamos are also expected to make an appearance, alongside Josh Gad and Idina Menzel.
“We could not be more excited,” said Michael Vargo, the head of the D23 Fan Club, in an interview with Spectrum News. “The signage installation has begun [on the Anaheim Convention Center], and it’s becoming very real. We’re excited about the fans, and the entire company has rallied around this event.”
The usually biennial conference that began in 2009 returns to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday after the coronavirus pandemic restrictions postponed last year’s event to this year.
Disney does not give out attendance figures, but Vargo expects tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to flock to the convention center, which sits across the street from the company’s flagship Disneyland Resort. The event is sold out.
Vargo said Disney would live stream several popular panels and presentations on their social media channels throughout the weekend.
The D23 Expo is when the company’s high-level studio executives, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, and Disney stars gather and tease and preview Disney’s latest slate of upcoming Star Wars, Marvel movies, Pixar, animated films, television shows and theme park attractions.
This year, some lucky attendees will be among the first to see a preview of Zootopia+, the Disney studio’s newest animated series coming to its streaming channel Disney+. There’s also a special screening of National Geographic’s “Limitless” with Chris Hemsworth, although the “Thor” star can’t make it.
Lilly Singh and Raven-Symoné host a special musical extravaganza, and several stars from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” plan to head to Anaheim this weekend.
On Sunday, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro will give visitors in Hall D23 news and updates on what’s happening at Disney’s array of cruise lines, resorts and theme parks worldwide, including at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and Walt Disney World.
The D23 Expo kicks off with the Disney Legend event, which celebrates and honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the Disney legacy.
The honorees include Anderson, Bell, Gad, Menzel, the late Chadwick Boseman and more.
At the D23 Expo marketplace, Vargo said there’ll be plenty of limited-edition merchandise for sale and memorable exhibits on the show floor, like checking out the restoration of Walt Disney’s private plane.
Attendees can do a morning yoga session with a yoga instructor to the sights and sounds of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zenimation,” sing-along with Darren Criss, or sketch with a Disney animator.
Because of the popularity of some panels and presentations and to streamline the guest experience, Vargo said that Disney had to make several changes for people waiting in line.
At previous D23 Expos, fans would camp out in front of the convention center overnight, wait several hours to ensure their attendance in an exclusive panel or presentation, or buy limited edition products.
Vargo said Disney would not allow an overnight lineup. The earliest a person can wait in line will be at 4:30 a.m. that day.
“We are strictly enforcing this throughout the evening,” Vargo said. “Anaheim police with security will remind everyone to return before the gate opens at 5 a.m.”
General attendees have no vaccination or mask requirements, although some meet-and-greets with Disney stars might require it.
“Masks are welcomed but not enforced,” he said.
Vargo advised those attending to come up with a game plan. The Disney team has come up with great content and experiences for the weekend.
“Have a plan and check off the list,” he said.
After the pandemic postponed last year’s event, there’s a lot of pent-up excitement to hear the announcements of upcoming Disney films or theme parks, but primarily to gather once again for this year’s D23 Expo.
“This is what it’s about,” he said. “It’s time to share our Disney fandom and reunite the Disney community. The way I look at it, this is going to be a great fan reunion.”