Viewing a large convention event of any kind behind a screen versus physically participating in one can be a bit of an eye-opener. The grand scale of the amount of people you encounter, the volume of information your brain tries to process all at once and all while your five senses are being overwhelmed is something you can’t truly prepare for. Thinking that I was ready for what was about to transpire, I tackled Disney’s D23 Expo as my first ever convention with a feeling of adventure, but not to get my hopes up. After experiencing only one day of the Disney festivities, I have to say that D23 completely blew any expectations I had out of the water and was the perfect first convention to hang under my belt.
Now, just to clear one thing up: I did not initially want to go to D23. About a year ago, my girlfriend, Blanca, asked if I wanted to go with her to the convention. I like to see myself as being a Disney fan, but compared with her there isn’t a competition. Disneyland is like a second home for her, so of course she wanted to go to a convention specifically for Disney. Being the idiot that I am, I declined the offer, using the excuse of “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing a year from now”. A few months later, however, my good boyfriend sense of mind finally came into effect and I purchased myself a ticket.
So, on the morning of July 14, 2017 at 2 a.m., Blanca, her sister and I made the trek to the Anaheim Convention Center. Up until that morning, I had received countless emails regarding the convention, so my general perception of what I was about to witness had begun to take form. I expected to see a few people in cosplay, the occasional “ooh” and “ahh”, but other than that, I was more looking forward to buying some souvenirs.
As soon as we reached the center, my heart began to sink a bit. The line was at least 3,000 people in it, moving incredibly slow and I started fearing this was all for naught. I don’t know if the ghost of Walt Disney felt my concerns, but it was at that moment when I realized the day was going to be one of the best. Whether I turned my head left or right, I saw countless people in various costumes, all of them looking magnificent in their own way. It didn’t matter if I saw seven different Ariels walk by, each had their own personal take on the mermaid. Instead of dreading how much longer this line was going to be, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to marvel at all the incredible cosplay designs people had thought of.
Upon entering the facility, I could feel my eyes widen like a kid in a candy store. Everywhere we looked there was something that begged to be investigated. Blanca suggested that we start in the middle and work our way to the outside of the convention room. (At the time, I thought the part of the convention that we were in was the entirety of it, so Blanca’s suggestion made sense to me…until I realized how truly big this convention center was.) Our first stop was this Animation station area that showed the various degrees of how the animated movies evolved throughout the years. It was incredible to see how far Disney’s creations had come. We spoke to a gentleman about an upcoming tour with the Imagineers, Disney’s magic workers that make everything special, so we promised to return.
After taking quick peeks at the recently announced Star Wars land and the Pixar area, we made our way to the place I was most excited for: Marvel’s stage. Beautiful costumes from the upcoming film Black Panther were on display, as well as some intergalactic gear from Thor’s next adventure. The art work on these outfits were wonderful to see up close, especially after watching them on the big screen. Aside from the costumes, there were also a few gaming stations that had Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, Marvel Heroes Omega and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Blanca and I took a crack at Marvel vs. Capcom, my first time ever playing one of those games. I chose an unlikely pair in Thanos and Iron Man, don’t think they’ll be friendly in the next Avengers movie, and Blanca selected Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon. Despite many negative comments regarding the character design, the game felt very smooth and efficient. Most of the time I was simply button mashing, but some of the random attacks were awesome.
Once the battle for the Infinity Stones was over, we made our way back to the Imagineer tour. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes in making these classic rides, characters and movies really gives you a new sense of appreciation. There is so much work that needs to be done by so many different people to make the magic happen. Disney has people working on sound, 2D and 3D designs, there was even a guy who had a virtual reality machine to help envision the parks and rides. They have so many resources at their disposal to enhance fan experience and they do a fantastic job doing it.
Nearing the end of the tour, we were appropriately directed toward a gift shop. Seeing how my main goal for the day was to spend extreme amounts of money, I happily obliged. While waiting in line, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed to see what I had missed (trying to conserve battery) when I see the Marvel account tweet that Chadwick Boseman is over at the stage near Blanca and I had played Marvel vs Capcom. I tell Blanca and her sister to stay in line, as I race back to the stage and luckily, I’m able to snap a quick photo of him from afar. As I made my way back to the gift shop line, I spotted another celebrity out of the corner of my eye: Janina Gavankar! If you don’t know her by her real name, don’t fret, I didn’t either. What I do know her by is another name: Shivakamini Somakandarkram, otherwise known as, The Shiva. Gavankar played Somakandrakram in the fantasy football comedy The League, and is now recently the lead character of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II. It was strange, though, because there were hardly any people near her, so at first, I questioned if it was really her. After checking her Wikipedia page, a handful of times, I safely took a few photos as well.
Feeling pretty good about myself after those two celebrity sightings, I let loose in the gift shop. Never had I ever shopped without looking at the price tag until that moment. It was glorious. I thought, “This is what being rich feels like, isn’t it?” I came away with some good quality Disney memorabilia, but of course I would find more in another larger shopping center that I thought did not exist.
To wrap up our extensive day, Blanca and I stumbled upon an elderly woman signing autographs and speaking with people. Curious, we went over to do some more investigating and learned that she was in fact the 1953 model for Tinker Bell, Margaret Kerry. Excited to meet an actual Disney legend, we waited in line for what seemed for ages, lots of people love chatting to Tink apparently. Kerry was an absolute delight. When I told her my name, she said that she’d never heard of an Avery before, and asked if I told people I owned that label company. It’s funny because I would tell everyone that that was my company when I was younger.
Following our conversation with Kerry, we decided it was time to call it a day. There was just too many things around us to spend money on and we were satisfied with our purchases. Overall, D23 was an experience I will never forget. If I could go back in time to when past Avery had originally declined, I would slap him in the face. Being someone who wants to attend many other gaming conventions, going to D23 was an eye-opener and set a standard for what I should expect. It’s unfortunate that the Disney convention is every other year, because I miss it already. In 2019 though, I vow to be a part of the cosplaying community and then people can ask for my picture.
Final Score: 10/10