WW GOES TO WDW at Yesterland.com

Review of

D23 Destination D
Amazing Adventures


November 19-20, 2016
D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Convention Center

This past weekend at Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World, I attended my first D23 Destination D event. I was there as a paying attendee, but D23 provided press photos to me.

What a great event!

If you were lucky enough to be there too, take another look. Otherwise, see what you missed.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, November 21, 2016


D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

The room where it happened

The theme of this D23 Destination D was “Amazing Adventures”—an umbrella that covered worldwide Adventurelands, other adventurous places in the parks (such as Pandora and the rest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom), nature movies, adventurous movies (especially the new Moana), and even a photo exhibit about Walt Disney’s own adventures.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Swag that came with the credentials

At registration, attendees received an Ethan Allen | Disney-branded goody bag containing (clockwise from upper left):

  • Mickey Mouse birthday button (at least for those of us who picked up our credentials the day before the presentations began, on November 18, the official birthday of the Mouse)
  • Catalog of Ethan Allen | Disney furniture and decor
  • Limited-edition Destination D MagicBand 2.0
  • Destination D Amazing Adventures pin
  • Passport booklet with the schedule
  • Leather-cover blank book for taking notes

MagicBand 2.0 is a new form factor for MagicBands. It features a removable oval puck that can be moved to keychains and other accessories. D23 members attending the event are the first Disney guess to see, receive, and use the new style, which is not yet available elsewhere.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Ethan Allen | Disney collection pieces in the Fantasia Ballroom

Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. timed its official launch of the Ethan Allen | Disney collection for “the birthday of everyone’s favorite character, Mickey Mouse” (according to the Ethan Allen press release):

Designed by Ethan Allen and inspired by Disney’s iconic characters, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, the impressive collection includes over 500 fun, yet sophisticated, styles for the modern family that start at just $19.

Needless to say, most pieces cost far more than $19. The quality, befitting the venerable Ethan Allen brand, appears to be high.

During the event, tired attendees used the comfortable sofa as a place to relax with their smartphones.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Large HD screens in the front of the room

Although a ballroom with a flat floor is not ideal as a theater, the room was set up so everyone could see what was going on. The stage was raised. A large screen above it usually showed the presenters, while screens to their left and right showed the presenters’ visual material—all sorts of wonderful concept artwork, historical photos, never-before-seen images, and brief videos.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Large (but not overly large) audience

Unlike the huge D23 Expo conventions in Anaheim, Destination D does not sell more tickets than there are seats for presentations. In fact, there were more seats than attendees to make sure that everyone could always find a seat. The first four rows were reserved for those—dubbed “Wilderness Explorers”who paid a substantial premium for this event—while the rest of the room was open seating.

Destination D did not allow photography, audio recording, or videos during presentations. Only Disney’s own designated people could do so. This allowed the presenters to show images and discuss topics that that are not meant for a larger audience. It made for a better environment because attendees sat back and listened, instead of holding their smartphones above their heads.

However, this also means you won’t be able to find the presentations on YouTube.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Dr. Albert Falls, ”noted explorer and humanitarian“ and master of ceremonies

Attendees came from 39 states and eight different countries. For two days, we enjoyed outstanding presentations by Disney executives, Imagineers, filmmakers, other creatives, historians, archivists, and others.

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the presentations…

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

D23’s Jeffrey Epstein with Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Bob Chapek talked about the highlights of 2016—Shanghai, new Soarin’s, new Frozen stage show, new Frozen ride, Disney Springs, and the drone show there—and then made announcements about Pandora and others things to come. I could write a whole article about this presentation.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Don Hahn and Becky Cline

Film producer Don Hahn and Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline provided a witty presentation about Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures, with some comparisons to the current Disneynature movies.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

“Tales from the Jungle Cruise”

Former Jungle Cruise skippers—including Archivist Justin Arthur, Skipper Canteen’s Trevor Van Dahm, and Imagineers Chris Merritt, Wyatt Winter, Kevin Lively, and Alex Grayman—told the legendary history of the world-famous ride that originated in 1955 at Disneyland and also has versions at Magic Kingdom Park, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. There’s no Jungle Cruise at Disneyland Paris because, by the time that park opened, there were Jungle Cruise knock-offs at various European parks, and Disney did not want to be perceived as a copycat.

The funniest part was when Kevin Lively told the backstory of the Skipper Canteen, which includes how Dr. Albert Falls’ daughter Alberta Falls inherited the Canteen upon his death—whereupon event emcee Dr. Albert Falls marched onto the stage to show his distinct disapproval of that fact.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Jared Bush

Moana screenwriter Jared Bush, who was also the co-director/co-screenwriter of Zootopia, shared stories from the making of Disney’s newest animated film, including how they set up the Oceanic Story Trust to depict the people and culture of Polynesia authentically. Jared quoted an elder, “For years, we have been swallowed by your culture. For once, can you be swallowed by ours?“

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Q’olari River by canoe at Shanghai Disneyland

The presentation “Adventurelands Around the World,” included not only lands officially called Adventureland, but also other adventurous lands.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Joe Rohde, James Cameron, and Jon Landau

For their presentation ”Pandora – The World of AVATAR,” Imagineer Joe Rohde and AVATAR creators James Cameron and Jon Landau (as Alpha Centauri Expeditions Founder Marshall Lamm) acted as though Pandora is a real place (not a theme park land) that they had recently visited, and that it would soon be open to guests. In the process, they described what to expect from the newest land at Walt Disney World, opening summer 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

I’m one of the many Disney fans who saw AVATAR (2009) in a movie theater, contributing to its huge box office numbers, but was less than thrilled when Disney acquired the theme park rights. The movie lacked the memorable characters and “I want to go there” qualities of the Cars, Star Wars, and Harry Potter franchises. But, I have to admit, I’m now looking forward to Pandora.

Later on the same day, Joe Rohde did a solo presentation, “Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Evolving a New Species of Theme Park,” describing how he approaches projects to achieve authenticity and respect for indigenous cultures. He told eye-opening anecdotes from this global travels. And he made it clear that Pandora will have authenticity, even though it comes from a work of fiction.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

© Disney, courtesy D23

Marc Davis drawing pirates, from “The Art and Adventures of Marc Davis,” presented by Chris Merritt

One message that reverberated across the two days is how much today’s Imagineers respect and admire those of came before them and invented the art of Imagineering. Chris Merritt is not only a top Imagineer these days—one of his many recent projects was Mickey Avenue at Shanghai Disneyland—but he’s also a theme park historian and author. I’ve reviewed his wonderful book on Knott’s Berry Farm and his equally wonderful book on Pacific Ocean Park.

Along with director Pete Doctor, Merritt now working on a new book about Marc Davis. There was recently another book about Marc Davis, but this one will have never-before published images from his widow Alice Davis, from the Walt Disney Archives, and from the collections of Walt Disney Imagineering. Much of the book will use Marc Davis’ own words. If the result (currently envisioned as a two-volume coffee-table art book) is even half as good as Merritt’s presentation, it should be one of the best books ever involving the subject of Imagineering.

So far, I’ve only touched on the presentations. I haven’t even mentioned Marty Sklar. Or Tony Baxter. Or the many others who were on the stage that weekend—not all as famous (to Disney fans) as Rohde or Sklar or Baxter, but all with great stories. Except for the aardark, who had nothing to say. (Yes, there was a real aardark.)

You should have been there.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Mickey’s of Glendale pop-up store in a Convention Center meeting room

As already noted, Destination D is quote different than the D23 Expo. Compared to the Expo’s multiple tracks of sessions for different interests and its huge exhibit space, Destination D is focused almost entirely on the two-day agenda of presentations inside the hall. But there was more.

Not surprisingly, a Mickey’s of Glendale shop sold pins, t-shirts, other apparel, and a few mugs and books. I bought a Pleasure Island pin for $2.00, marked down from $12.95. Of course, there were other attendees who spent far more than I did.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Walt’s Great Adventure photo exhibit

Walt Disney Archives has four million photographs in its collection. For this event, they set up a small gallery exhibit with historical photos, and a terrific loop on a large video display, a few display cases with artifacts from the archives. The pieces were well selected, and I enjoyed the exhibit very much.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Beck Cline (left), Director of The Walt Disney Archives, with photo archive staff

The Walt Disney Archives has partnered with Disney Fine Art by Collectors Editions to digitize particularly outstanding images and make them available to fans who would like to hang them in their homes. If you’d like to know more and find out what it costs, there’s a link at the end of this article.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Sorcerer Class Concept Bus (not currently planned for production)

On Saturday, Bob Chapek talked about how transportation can be functional or magical. Right now, he explained, transportation at Walt Disney World is functional. Without providing any details, he made this promise: “It will be magical.”

On Sunday, we got a clue what that could mean. We were allowed to enter a prototype bus with tasteful graphics (in place of the ugly bus ads now inside Disney buses) and colorful lighting programmed to go with slick audio. I think the rolling light show would just get annoying on a long bus ride between the far-flung corners of WDW. Considering that flat-panel displays have become cheap, lightweight, and low-power, I’m surprised they didn’t go that route. (Maybe they still will.)

In any case, I’m glad that Chapek wants to improve WDW transportation.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

“Movie theater” for Moana screening

Destination D had events both evenings.

On Saturday, we headed over to the sandy waterfront (no longer a beach) at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, where a 1200 chairs and a large movie screen waited for us. After an hour or so of other material and a lively host, we were shown an advance screening of Disney’s new animated feature, Moana, and the new six-minute animated Disney short, Inner Workings, that accompanies it. So far, my favorite movie this year had been the brilliant Kubo and the Two Strings from Laika. Now Moana is tied with it. Moana is well worth seeing at your local cinema, even if it doesn’s have a beach sand floor.

Well ahead of the event, D23 had this intriguing tease for attendees: “Please keep in mind, we have a special evening activity planned for Sunday, November 20 that attendees won’t want to miss. Stay tuned for updates.” Rumors spread online that perhaps it would be a preview of the long-delayed Rivers of Light nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Alas, that was not the case. Instead, we were invited to visit Magic Kingdom Park with a FastPass+ for Jingle Cruise pre-loaded on our new MagicBands 2.0 and free admission to the park for those who needed it—but otherwise no in-park Destination D grand finale. I decided to skip it so I could begin work on this article.

D23 Destination D event, 2016

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

And you get a comic book, and you get a comic book, and you…

After the final session Sunday, everyone received a free copy of Marvel’s new Enchanted Tiki Room comic book. Other gifts that everyone received during the event were a set of four Pandora posters and a Pinocchio lithograph. When I get home, these will join my other D23 items, which are too nice to throw out, but that I really don’t need.

I don’t know yet if I’ll go to D23 Expo, July 14–16, 2017, at the Anaheim Convention Center. But I’m already looking forward to the next D23 Destination D, which I hope will be at WDW in the fall of 2018.


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Updated November 21, 2016.