When it came to minimizing their presence at this summer's Comic-Con, the Walt Disney Company could have easily ripped a line from The Treasure of Sierra Madre as their new marketing m.o.: “Comic-Con? We don't need no stinkin' Comic-Con.”
On Friday, Disney threw the doors open to its D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center — the ultimate fan-apalooza featuring sneak peaks, panels, special appearances and exhibitions on the studio's upcoming projects, all next door to the Mickey Mouse Mecca — Disneyland.
While it was expected that princess-clad moppets, Disney Channel tweens and costumed cosplayers would draw boundaries, the convention floor was largely dominated by a demo you'd find at a Barry Manilow concert: 40+ females.
When the Disney Channel served up its “It” commodity, the Lemonade Mouth cast, for a fan meet n' greet, there was a gathering, but not to the extent of those half-mile lines for such panels as It's a Small World at 45 and Voices of the Park.
On Saturday, the crowd tripled in size as fanboys and press corps turned up for Disney's three-hour presentation of its 2011-12 film slate featuring the cast of John Carter, The Avengers and The Muppets.
Despite how happy, fun and organized D23 has been during its first two days, Disney consumerism does have its offbeat moments. The top five are below:
5. You Can't Tell the Staff From the Customers
Unlike Comic-con, there wasn't any Rule 63 gender-bending when it came to dressing up as your favorite Disney character. Those few who decided to doll up were perfectly tailored, providing confusion: Are they fans or do they just work here? When I asked a group, “Are you Disney employees?” they exclaimed: “We wish!” Princesses and princes reigned, but no one dared to wear an actual Mickey Mouse get-up. That would have fooled the kids.
4. Getting your Goldilocks Done at the Disney Beauty Salon
Can we paint your nails with Pirates of the Caribbean seashell nail polish? No? OK, then there's Muppet East Tour eye shadow or Miss Piggy's Simply Moi nail polish. At the Disney Beauty Salon, celebrity stylist Ken Paves and his team were providing complimentary princess 'dos and facials to aspiring fairy tale royalty. Also available: Princess cheek stamps (aka face painting) — which every Queen wants to don in their castle's court.
3. The Park's Voiceover Actors Are a Laugh Riot
D23 visitors fell out of their seats in stitches as the Disney Parks' faceless voiceover artists read visitor safety copy and pushed their celebrity impressions. Fred Tatasciore, who is the voice of Darth Vader on Star Tours seen above, cracked up the crowd earlier with his rendition of Samuel L. Jackson. Raiders of the Lost Ark actor John Rhys-Davies has Bob Joles to thank for keeping his voice alive on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride. Meanwhile, Mark Silverman, whose intense tones are a dead ringer for Rod Serling on The Tower of Terror Attraction, exclaimed that he always wanted to hear Al Pacino provide instructions.
2. David Arquette? What the Heck Are You Doing Here?
To a certain older-hipster crowd, David Arquette is known as a wrestling aficionado, horror film junkie and a guy who tattooed a love note from his daughter onto his arm. But to the under eight set, Arquette is the voice of Skully the parrot on Disney Junior's toon Jake and the Never Land Pirates. It's not the craziest casting by any stretch for Disney: The studio once hired Marilyn Manson to sing “This is Halloween” on The Nightmare Before Christmas anniversary soundtrack. “I've always loved Disney — I wear a Mickey watch all the time,” gushed Arquette about his gig. “As a kid, for Halloween, I always dressed up as a clown or a pirate — those were always my go-to costumes. The pirate lifestyle in general — like the whole RRrr attitude is hysterical.” Arquette was on hand Friday to read from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's book Bridge to Neverland.
1. Animatronics Talk Among Us
The hands down scene stealer was Garner Holt Productions' booth displaying a sampling of its amusement park robots as seen above: This unicycling carnival man looked like he was the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live Merryville Brothers sketch, while a Keith Richards-like pirate bossed convention-goers around. Garner Holt has been creating animatronics since 1976 and lays claim to the biggest figures in the world: Ursula the Sea Witch at Tokyo DisneySea and the Maleficent Dragon at Disneyland. Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas served as his entree into Disneyland in 2001 for the Haunted Mansion Holiday. It would be an understatement to say that the company's craftsmanship is life-like: One could swear that unicyclist was planning to cushion his fall with Princess Jasmine, who was walking the floor.