D23: From ‘Frankenweenie’ to ‘Dalmatians’ this weekend

Aug. 19, 2011 | 11:27 a.m.

The Disney D23 Expo 2011 kicks off today at the Anaheim Convention Center with a weekend of all things Disney (as well as Pixar and Marvel),  and our Geoff Boucher caught up with Steven Clark, the head of D23, to get some insight into the three-day event.

Tim Burton (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

GB: This is the second D23 Expo. What are you hoping for this time around?

SC: In the first year we didn’t necessarily know exactly what to expect from our fans or just in general what the response would be. We knew we had a good show and knew that we were giving people the insider look at across the company. The one thing we’re trying to do even more of this time is to provide the fans with that touch-point with the creative executives or the talent or the archivists — those people within the Disney organization who never get to have the chance to have that face-to-face contact with the fans and vice versa. One thing that’s different this time is we’ve amped that up. One of the biggest successes at the first expo was the Parks Pavilion and those Imagineers that were there — those people who create our theme parks around the world — they’re so busy creating and building it’s not often they get the chance to interact face-to-face with our  fans. The Imagineers were the hosts of the Parks Pavilion and it’s very rare for them to be in that public-facing role on a one-on-one basis. It was a unique experience and of course the fans loved it, but what was great was the Imagineers loved it, too.

GB: One of the things that a lot of people enjoyed the first year was the props, costumes, artwork and other artifacts from decades of film and television shows. Will we see an entirely different collection from the Disney Archives this time?

SC: With the Treasures of the Archives, our entire archives staff will be up there to talk to fans and answer questions, and we’ve doubled the size of the Treasures of the Archives exhibit. It’s similar to how we displayed the assets the first year, it’s a little bit more gallery-like or museum-like, but then we also go into environments that are evocative of the films and television shows that we’re featuring. There’s an entire beach and island motif for “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Lost,” so there’s a big representation of those two, which is really cool. For the D23 Fan Art Contest,  this time it’s focused on “101 Dalmatians,” for the 50th anniversary for the film, and for the exhibit of the art we’ve re-created the office of Cruella De Vil from the live-action movie. And with “Tron” we have a whole blacklight area so you can see what those costumes were meant to look like. We’ve also re-created Frank Thomas’ office from the old animation building. He was one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, one of our premier animators, and it will be like you are walking into his office and seeing what he’s working on.

GB: I’m especially interested in the Saturday morning Walt Disney Studios presentation for upcoming films like “John Carter” and “The Avengers,” but most of the young fans coming out this weekend have a different emphasis — it’s the Disney Channel. In a social media analysis by Fizziology, the conversation about the D23 Expo on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, the No. 1 topic  is the “Shake It Up” show’s cast appearance and fashion show. It represents 13% of all mentions.

"Iron Man 2," "Brave," and "John Carter" actor Taylor Kitsch. (Marvel Studios/Disney Pixar/Associated Press)

SC: In the first year we had a fantastic presentation on Sunday, the closing day, with “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and I have to tell you I don’t think any of knew exactly what to expect. They packed the house and people were screaming like it was a rock concert. It really shows you the power of Disney Channel. So this time we have a Disney Channel pavilion on the show floor hosted by Radio Disney, and over the three days of the Expo casts from shows will be there to meet the fans, whether it’s “Lemonade Mouth” or “Shake It Up” or “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” … it’s a chance to meet and greet and get a photo, it’s a great and a rare opportunity for the fans.

GB: Looking forward, is there any talk of doing an event like this in places beyond Anaheim?

SC: It’s a really tough thing to do to take around the world. Anaheim is perfect for us. It’s right next to the studios, it’s right here in Hollywood; we have access to all of the talent, all the executives, all the creative forces. We’re not opposed to the idea of looking at other options but right now I think the Expo will be staying in Anaheim for the foreseeable future. But would we love to take it on the road? For sure.

GB: What can you tell us about that Saturday presentation for Walt Disney Studios?

SC: There are definitely some surprises we’re not going to talk about today. I can tell you they’re great and they’ll be a lot of fun. We have people coming from a lot of our upcoming films, “The Muppets,” “John Carter,” Pixar’s “Brave” and Marvel’s “The Avengers.” We’ll be showing some elements from “Frankenweenie” and “Oz the Great and Powerful” which we haven’t shown anything from, really, that I’m aware of … people who come are in for a real treat. Two-and-a-half hours of Disney filmmaking nirvana. You’re not going to do better than the Expo for that kind of thing.

– Geoff Boucher

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