The 2011 Disney D23 Expo was another success as the event returned to the Anaheim Convention Center just across from Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. over the weekend of Aug. 19-21. The event built upon the success of the inaugural D23 Expo in 2009, and was touted as the “ultimate Disney fan experience” encompassing all aspects of the Disney organization: a celebration of Disney animation and live action movies, television programming and electronic entertainment, travel, Disney parks & resorts, and endless showcasing of new and exciting Disney merchandise available at virtually every retail outlet imaginable, both online and in brick & mortar stores worldwide.
Many retailers were new to D23 this year, and a few familiar expo alumni were in attendance as well. Hallmark, Mattel, ACME Archives, MindStyle, and Disney’s own store brands exclusive to the Disney Store chain (and their online store outlet) are among the notable show floor retailer highlights. Since the Disney Store is busy celebrating their 25th anniversary, the deluge of D23 exclusive anniversary product and rare offerings was to be expected. Many retailers displayed items currently available on the market, with a surprising lack of holiday season merchandise and upcoming releases. While the D23 Expo is clearly using the convention template set forth by the San Diego Comic-Con, it is apparent that the demographic Disney has chosen to focus on is far different from those who frequent SDCC. They have not forgotten collectors, but most retailers were interested in focusing on the product currently available on the market and were eager to provide hands-on experiences with those offerings, namely to families with children, in an attempt to educate them on the various brands they may be missing out on at present.
Mattel brought with them their first-ever D23 exclusive products, which included a Cars 2 submarine Finn McMissile die-cast exclusive, and a black and white Woody marionette from Toy Story 2 in an interactive package modeled after a vintage television set. Both items retailed for $19.99 each and were available via Matty Collector online before the expo, but were also made available at their booth all weekend. As a surprise for those who purchased the Cars 2 Finn McMissile exclusive, some orders came with a black “TOP SECRET” envelope which included a loosely packaged Ransburg Finn McMissile inside of it, with a dark blue metallic paint job and premium wheels & tires.
Coming in November to Matty Collector is the first-ever electronic talking/light-up Lightning McQueen 1:55 scale racecar that will retail for $59.99. While there was one car on display ready for public demonstration, the item is still being tweaked and additional changes will be made before the public has a chance to obtain them. The car is made of plastic and rubber, however the headlights and taillights illuminate, the eyes move, and his mouth does have motion as McQueen’s pre-recorded lines are spoken. Despite all of the electronics, the car does roll surprisingly well. Will not be available in any retail store. Other Mattel products included the recent and upcoming miniature Cars toys and playsets.
In the Disney Store on the Expo floor, fans of Cars were treated to a very exclusive limited edition chrome die-cast premium Lightning McQueen with illuminating headlights and taillights, as well as rubber tires and movie-accurate decals. Only 250 units were produced exclusively for the D23 Expo and the Disney Store’s 25th anniversary, and were sold for $99.50 each. The hexagonal shaped box could be opened from the side to remove the vehicle without damaging the packaging in the process.
Also available at the Disney Store was an exclusive D23 Expo electronic Buzz Lightyear, which was a special chromed re-release of the Toy Story 3 electronic Buzz complete with new packaging and chrome highlights in celebration of the Disney Store’s 25th anniversary. The production run on this limited edition exclusive was not revealed, but it did sell for $59.50.
Funko released a jumbo Pop! Vinyl Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse exclusive limited to 360 pieces, and retailed for $49.50 at the D23 Expo Disney Store.
A new line of Disney Designer 12” dolls debuted, featuring 10 different famous Disney ladies (not all princesses), and will be made available on consecutive Mondays at select Disney Stores around the country and on the Disney Store’s website. One doll will debut each Monday and will only have one production run. Each one will retail for $59.50, and will have different production numbers not made known to the public (i.e. – expect more of Cinderella and Snow White than Pocahontas, etc.). An exclusive sequin-lined Cinderella limited to only 250 pieces was sold exclusively at the D23 Expo (individually numbered, $59.50 each), but none of the remaining dolls, including the regular issue Cinderella, were sold over the weekend. However, a pre-order was made available at the expo which guaranteed the purchaser one of each of the 10 regular issue dolls plus an exclusive lithograph (numbered to 500, featuring all 10 dolls) only available via the pre-order as a free bonus incentive item.
At the Disney Dream Store located at the opposite end of the D23 show floor, a limited edition miniature Disney World TRON Legacy die-cast monorail was released. Limited to 3000 sets and sold only at the D23 Expo, the monorail sold for $19.95 and was double-sided: one side featured Clu and his yellow light cycle, and the other side featured Sam Flynn and his blue light cycle. The monorails were randomly packaged with either side showing, in equal quantities (1500 of one side facing outward, and 1500 of the opposite side). Many purchased two sets figuring they were different, but it was merely a clever packaging variation.
MindStyle featured their 10” TRON Stitch vinyl figure limited to 300 worldwide, and retailed the item for $99.95 each. Also included but not pictured is Stitch’s identity disc which was as an in-scale accessory item made to accompany the figure.
Hallmark returned to the D23 Expo with prototype images of their 2012 July releases and had a small handful of prototypes on display as well. They offered their first-ever D23 exclusive ornament, which was a black & white repaint of the 2011 limited edition Mickey Mouse “Look Who’s Pook-a-Looz!” ornament. Limited to only 1500 pieces, sold for $25.00 each.
Hasbro, who produces Disney-owned Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios action figures, was not present at the D23 Expo on the show floor. However, Hasbro did sponsor the “Ultimate Disney Trivia Fan Event” on Friday afternoon, Aug. 19th. Disney-themed Hasbro products were awared as prizes to those who attended the filled-to-capacity event in the Stage 28 ballroom. Also absent from the expo floor was LEGO who did appear in 2009 to showcase the then-upcoming Prince of Persia and Toy Story brand LEGO toys. LEGO did provide a life-sized Lightning McQueen racecar made entirely of LEGO bricks, but that was the company’s only presence at the expo.
Vinylmation was as popular as ever at the convention with numerous limited edition offerings and product unveilings. Back in 2009, the young brand was just hitting its stride. On Sunday, Aug. 21st at the Disney Store on the show floor, the new Lion King 3” Vinylmation set was offered for the first time. The set was not exclusive to D23, but was first made available at the expo. Also available at the Disney Store was the exclusive D23/Disney Store 25th anniversary silver commemorative 3” Vinylmation figure & pin that sold for $24.95 and was limited to 2500 pieces in a premium display box. At the Dream Store, the official D23 Vinylmation commemorative figure was available in a light powder blue paint deco with a pattern of stars outlining Mickey’s eyes, nose, and buttons. This D23 exclusive was a limited release of 4800 pieces (retailed for $13.95).
Also exclusive to the Dream Store at D23 were two additional 3” Vinylmation offerings and one 9” figure. The 3” Davy Crockett was painted by artist Casey Jones and limited to 1200 pieces (retailed for $13.95). Gladstone Gander, Donald Duck’s cousin, was the final 3” exclusive and was painted by artist Thomas Scott, also limited to 1200 pieces (retailed for $13.95). Butch the bulldog, Pluto’s nemesis, was the 9” exclusive limited to 750 pieces (retailed for $49.95).
The Dream Store featured exclusive mini-magnetic Star Wars jewelry boxes with hinged lids (Boba/Jango Fett, Millennium Falcon, and Yoda), as well as desktop paperclip holders in the shape of R2-D2 and Darth Vader’s head. These items are not exclusive to the D23 Expo (and previously available at the Star Wars Weekends in Orlando) but were first made available at the event.
Disney Treasures, an exhibit located on the second floor of the center, was a 12,000 square foot opening of the famed Disney Archives and featured some extremely rare never-before-seen props and movie exhibits which were available for photo ops for the first time ever. With the release of Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides on DVD & Blu-Ray in the Fall, there was an emphasis on displaying Pirates props from all four of the Disney films. Each main character spanning all four movies had wardrobes, weapons, and virtually any accessory you could think of on display.
2011 also marks the 20th anniversary of Disney’s The Rocketeer, and the original hero prop jetpack as well as several screen-used costumes were featured prominently in the Treasures room. Also of note was a stunning collection of Disney TRON costumes from the original 1982 film, including the identity discs and outfits worn by Yuri, Kevin Flynn, Tron, and Ram. Finally, for the first time ever, maquettes used in the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? were out for the public to drool over. They are boasted as being some of the only remaining props from a film that was not one of the more well-documented films in Disney animation history.