It’s been nearly five months since the D23 Expo back in July, and I’ve been working on this post here and there since then, trying to collect my thoughts and photos from our experience – there was a lot about the event to process, and I’ve been rather overwhelmed with the thought of summarizing it all. However, with the recent controversy over John Lasseter’s allegations of misconduct, my recollections are now rather bittersweet. I’m thankful, though, that we attended the Expo while the magic was still unsullied for us. And since I refuse to let anyone destroy my love for Pixar or the toys – I will continue to view the studios as the sum of all the talented people who work there, not as one sole person – I’d like to look back, and share what we saw and learned at the Expo in regards to Pixar, and Toy Story specifically.
Toy Story 4 at the Animation Panel
My top priority for the D23 Expo was getting into the Animation panel on Friday afternoon. Besides the great potential for a sneak-peek at Toy Story 4, I just had to see John Lasseter (yes, he was my hero) and the other Pixar filmmakers who I respect so much in person. If we did nothing else there, I knew we had to do that. And we did! It was a long wait on the concrete floor of the holding area, but it was worth it, since getting there early got us into the D23 Gold Member seating. There was absolutely no photography or video recording allowed in this panel – we had to seal our phones in opaque bags, and security patrolled the aisles constantly – but a few images and clips were shared online by press folks who were allowed those privileges.
John Lasseter took the stage, and the panel opened with DisneyToon Studios, and then moved into Walt Disney Animation Studios. We were treated to a live performance by Josh Gad of Olaf’s song from the new Frozen short, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure; then got to see all of the modern Disney Princesses (Ariel through Moana) on stage in honor of a hilarious – and not to be missed – scene from Wreck-It Ralph 2. The Pixar segment opened with a look at Incredibles 2, with appearances by director Brad Bird and the entire voice cast, as well as some “super” funny work-in-progress clips from the movie (part of which were incorporated into the recently-released teaser trailer).
Toy Story 4 was next. Not gonna lie, when the logo came up on the screen, my friend sitting beside me thought I was gonna pass out. John Lasseter brought out Josh Cooley, and announced that he was stepping down as director, with Cooley now moving up from co-director into the head position. Lasseter assured the crowd, however, that he would still be very much a part of the filmmaking process for Toy Story 4 (now, no longer likely to be the case). Then, Cooley introduced producer Jonas Rivera, replacing Galyn Susman who had previously been announced as producer. Cooley and Rivera worked together on Inside Out, as co-director and producer, so I can imagine that had something to do with the change.
The highlight of the Toy Story 4 segment was the video that Josh Cooley introduced next, showing a humorous “behind the scenes” look at the making of the movie. It’s a blur in my memory, because I spent the whole time trying to focus on all the concept art that covered the walls behind the filmmakers in each scene. Most prominent was a beautiful full-color painting of Woody and Bo; and while I missed anything showing Jessie, my friend did spot her in the sea of drawings. We were given a glimpse at a few new characters, including a toy named Lulu, with a round face similar to Dolly. Some other new toy characters were shown as well – all looked as if they could belong to a very young child, which makes me wonder if we’ll encounter them wherever Bo is found, considering that she’s technically part of a nursery lamp. A significant possible plot point for the toys’ journey was also teased, when Cooley hinted that absent colleagues were missing from the video due to being away on a road trip in an RV. And we were shown the “first dialogue” being recorded for the movie – the Little Green Men’s “Oooooooooo” voiced by Pixar story artist Jeff Pidgeon. Everything moved so fast in the video – that was the point, I’m sure, to not let anyone see too much – but it was so much fun, and we’re all still talking about it, even so many months later.
Following the Toy Story 4 segment, director Dan Scanlon came onstage to discuss his upcoming and as-of-yet unnamed film, which will be out in 2020 and looks to be very original. But I have to talk a little here about the presentation’s finale showcasing Coco, even though it doesn’t pertain to Toy Story, because it was utterly amazing. After an introduction by director Lee Unkrich, co-director Adrian Molina, and producer Darla K. Anderson, we got to see a clip from the movie, as well as a performance of the song “Remember Me” by both Anthony Gonzalez, the voice of Miguel, and Benjamin Bratt, the voice of Ernesto de la Cruz. Instead of trying to describe the awesomeness, just look for it in the recap video below, because words fail me. We all left with beautiful posters for the film, which I believe were also given out as crew gifts at Pixar. Because of the previews and excitement surrounding Coco at D23, my family and I just had to see the first showing that our local theater offered, and we loved everything about it – the heartwarming story, the beautiful animation and music, and the great characters – we’ve even gone back to watch it a second time. Please, in light of what’s happened, don’t try to make a point by boycotting this wonderful movie; it makes me so sad that hateful people are even calling for that. Go, see Coco, and support it, and give the artists who poured their hearts into it the appreciation and recognition they deserve. It is definitely one of Pixar’s best!
Toy Story Land, Pixar Pier, and Pixar Fest at the Parks Panel
I had hoped to make it into the Parks panel on Saturday, but I’ll be honest, we didn’t get into that one. Misjudging the massive crowd that would be attending for the Star Wars Land news alone, we showed up at the same time we had for Animation the day before, but the auditorium was already filled. Sure, I would have liked to have been there in person for the Toy Story Land segment, but I wasn’t particularly sad to miss another day’s wait sitting on concrete.
Since the Parks panel could be recorded, the presentations weren’t so secret and so crucial to be there for in person. The main information shared about Toy Story Land was that it would open in “Summer 2018” – which I pretty much knew already from following rumor forums online. They did show a video of the toys spying on construction (which included Jessie – something I hope indicates she won’t be left out of the new land, like she is at Walt Disney World at the moment, and has been for the past year). You can watch it here, along with Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek’s remarks:
Another Pixar and Toy Story related announcement happened at the panel: that of the new Pixar Pier redesign of Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure, and the Pixar Fest celebration that both DCA and Disneyland will be offering, starting in Spring 2018. Besides a permanent retheme of rides, the festival will include a new fireworks show; the relocation of the Pixar Play Parade to Disneyland Park; and the return of the Paint the Night parade, this time at DCA. The video of the panel presentation continues with this news:
A lot more information has come out in the past several months about the Toy Story and Pixar presence in the parks than what was mentioned at D23, so I’ll share those details soon in a separate post.
When we got our tickets to D23, a year before the Expo, I knew we had to cosplay. I had always enjoyed seeing the photos of all the cosplayers from past years, and knew we had to get in on that ourselves! We planned on dressing in costume for two of the three days, the third being more of a Disneybounding day.
On Friday, we wore our Toy Story “Hawaiian Vacation” costumes that I’d made for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World, back in 2014 – with an added accessory for me, a screwdriver purse. As favorites of ours, they were definitely worth making another appearance, especially in a place where they would be recognized and appreciated. Imagine how excited we were when, having not even been on the show floor for 15 minutes on that first day, we ran into Stinky Pete!
Probably the best thing, though, was when a couple people working at the Pixar booth asked if they could take our picture. That was the greatest honor!
For Saturday, I created brand new costumes for us, specifically for the Expo. Being a bit of a history nerd, I decided to do something original, and reimagine the Toy Story characters as if they were in the Old West, circa 1890s. I sewed the costumes myself, using historically-accurate patterns – except for my son, who decided at the last minute he wanted to dress up with us that day as well, so I had to throw something together for him, fast! And to anyone who would question that Jessie would wear a skirt, it’s a split riding skirt, with a removable panel that allowed early cowgirls to ride their horses astride without deviating too far from accepted fashion. Trust me, I did my research.
We found some fantastic fellow toys on Saturday, too. We were thrilled to meet Zurg – such a cool costume! – as well as Barbie and Ken, Wheezy, and Sid.
After having such a blast the first two days, I ended up being sorry we hadn’t planned a third cosplay for Sunday. If we choose to go back in 2019, we will definitely be dressing up every day!
… and Beyond!
There was so much more to the Expo, from the gigantic show floor representing every aspect of Disney, to a wide variety of smaller panels to supplement the large ones in the main hall. We took in a little of all of it, at least as much as we could with limited time.
The Pixar booth was our favorite to visit. There was concept art and a meet and greet for Cars 3, artwork and an Edna Mode figure for Incredibles 2, and clips from Coco playing continually on a large screen. We spent an obscene amount of time there, and I hope nobody thought we were crazy stalkers for it. But there’s just something about being in the presence of the people who have a hand in making the films you love so much. We particularly enjoyed talking with Joshua Hollander, currently the Director of Pixar University and Content Producer of the Pixar in a Box curriculum program (which my son and I have been exploring, and having fun with it!). And of course, out of all the freebies given out during the Expo weekend, those we received from Pixar are the ones we cherish most.
We only participated in two of the smaller panels. My whole family went to “The Evolution of Pixar’s Characters” panel on Saturday afternoon. There, we got to hear Pixar character design artists discuss the processes they follow in creating the characters we all know and love.
My hubby and son also attended the Disney gaming panel the same day, while I wandered the floor with my friend who we spent our time at the Expo with – had we known Toy Story would be announced for Kingdom Hearts 3, we all would have gone! My boy was so excited, screaming and cheering when he saw that his favorite characters were going to be a part of a game that he already couldn’t wait for. Even though I’m not a gamer like he is, I’m impatiently anticipating Kingdom Hearts 3’s release sometime in 2018!
Our moment of fame (if you can call it that) came when we were approached by Oh My Disney on Sunday to be a part of their video, trying to stump voice impersonator Brian Hull with obscure Disney characters. He was so nice, and I was thrilled to see that, once the video was released by Disney, we both ended up in the video with characters we named!
The Expo experience extended beyond the convention center, too. We stayed at one of the affiliated hotels for the event, and saw other attendees coming and going in costume the whole weekend. But probably the best thing was that the Pizza Planet truck was parked outside our hotel the entire time. It was fun stopping for photos and just seeing it there as we came and went.
D23 was a crazy, hectic, endless-line-waiting whirlwind – but one that my husband and I decided, as we walked out on the last day, we’d do again in a heartbeat. See if you can spot us in the video below!