D23's Destination D: Disneyland 55

Destination D: Disneyland 55 took place on Friday September 24, 2010 and Saturday the 25th in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel. This first of its kind two day event featured panels, films, and entertainment that celebrated the park that started them all, Disneyland! These were full days starting each morning by 9am and running till almost 10pm.

The event featured 16 sessions that spanned the two days. There were over 1,300 D23 members and their guests from 39 states and 7 countries in attendance.

To see pictures from the event please visit our D23 Picture section: http://www.disneygeek.com/d23/pictures

I broke my thoughts, observations, and notes into the following sections below, to try and make it easier to follow:

  • Overall
  • Registration
  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • The Great Scavenger Hunt


  • Wow is the best way to sum it up. If you are a disneygeek, like myself, you were in your happy place most of the weekend. The sessions were packed with artwork, photographs, and stories to fill you with more than your quota of Disney history and trivia. The challenge was keeping up and not overloading yourself (or in my case tiring out my trigger finger).

  • I found the variety of panels and presentations to be a great mix with a lot of new and interesting stories, pictures, and video scattered throughout. In talking with others over the course of the two days most had the same sense that there was so much information and the variety was right on target. There seemed to be something for just about everyone to take away and many I think learned quite a bit about Disneyland in the process.

  • The D23 team worked extremely hard on the logistics and pacing of the event and it showed. The sessions kept moving and there were no real lulls in the action. I believe all of the sessions started approximately on time. The one part of the timeline they did seem to have problems with were letting people in. I think the doors opened late for ever session but still there was enough of a time buffer built in that the sessions were able to start on time. The one complaint I heard about the schedule, from quite a few people was there were not enough breaks or time between panels. If you wanted to use the restroom or grab a drink or something you had literally no time. Once sessions would end and the next would start. So this lead to some tough choices. Also it meant an awful lot of sitting. A 5-10 minute break a couple panels would have been nice. Three sessions back to back to back is a long time to be seated and keep your focus (lucky for me I work in academia and am used to these long conference formats!). Also some comments on the comfort level of those chairs for that long, but again about on par with other conferences I have been at, so nothing out of the ordinary. People did appreciate having the option to sit in the wings and spread out. They had more than enough seating and if you opted for a more limited view you could have much more space to spread out.

    The other consensus I heard was people thought Day 1 was much stronger than Day 2 especially the finale with the concert. The bar was set so high with the first day that the second day had a hard time following it. The concert was the highlight for many and ended the day on such a high that the film screening and panel on the second night was hard to compare against. Also the first day featured the Mickey Mouse Club and Imagineering panels which are highlights for most disneygeeks/dweebs.

  • The other minor issue that I heard several comments on were the long lines to get in the door. Before each session started you had to line up outside the ballroom since seating was on a first come first serve basis. This meant a long line that wrapped around the front of the Disneyland hotel and around the ballroom area. The two issues here were the heat (since this event happened to take place on the hottest weekend of the year so far) as well as the length of time due to them opening the doors late. No one really had a better/more fair solution and it was more little grumblings than full complaints, but it was something that came up.

  • One of my concerns going into the event were some of the repeated sessions from either the Expo or other events I have attended over the years. The two that really jumped out at me were the closing two of the event. The Vintage Disneyland and Disneyland USA. The vintage Disneyland I attended at the Expo and the Disneyland USA at the Disneyland event in 2009. Both were great, but they ended the event for me on a repetitive note.

  • Bottom line, was it worth the day off of work and the price tag? I would say a resounding yes! But then again I am a disneygeek. I can see how the two days could be long for people, especially with the amount of sitting and waiting. But the pace of the program and variety of the sessions really worked for me.

    Will I go to future Destination D Events? That depends... on the subject, pricing, location, and timing. The next one will be in the Spring at WDW. So for me the travel could be an issue depending on the time of year. Hopefully they will announce the dates soon.


  • The registration process and checking were both a breeze for me. We ordered our tickets online through the D23 website the first day and had no issues at all. I did not know how limited/open attendance was going to be so was not sure if the event was going to sell out instantly or be around for a while. It took a few weeks but eventually it did sell out.

  • There was plenty of time to check in for the event too. They had registration open all day on Thursday (noon to 9pm) as well as all day Friday starting at 7:30am. We checked in Thursday evening around 6pm and had no wait at all. There were a handful of D23 CMs around and slow, but steady stream of guests checking in. I did not check on Friday but I am assuming there were no massive lines to check in. Did anyone experience something different? Maybe I just had great timing.

Day 1: Friday September 24, 2010

  • Welcome
    The highlights of Steven Clarks opening remarks - 1,300 D23 members and guests from 39 states and 7 countries. For 2011 they are expecting to unveil a new format to the Studio/Archive tour to be able to accommodate more guests. Starting this November will be another video blog, Armchair Archivist which will dig into the Disney archives. Lastly he announced that the Magic and Merriment event at Walt Disney World will be December 10th and 11th, but no details yet.

  • Weird Disney

  • Mickey Mouse Club 55th Anniversary
    The topic ranged in discussion from how they landed the role on the show to what their average day was like. The consensus from all was it was among the best times of their lives and they made friends that would last a lifetime. They did speak about some of the fame and said nothing compared to what they received in Australia. There were over 24,000 people that greeted them at the airport. They also spent some time talking about Annette and her influence on the group. They talked about how everyone really seemed to get along like a family. There was a healthy competition for camera time, but they would still help each other to perform to the best of their abilities.

  • From Quirky to Collectible: The Wonderful World of Disneyland Merchandise

  • Mouseketeers Meet and Greet
    The Meet and Greet took place during lunch. In a nearby room they had tables and some backdrop set pieces set up so fans could go through an autograph line. From what I observed the process was orderly and worked well. The challenge was the volume of guests in line and the Mouseketeers were trying to spend some time talking to each, which lead to a long wait. I spoke to several people who spent their entire lunch break in line, but they did get their autographs and time so they were pleased!

  • Star Tours
    I was a little disappointed with the Star Tours presentation. I was really hoping to learn a bit more about the new experience. Instead the major focus was the history of the attraction and how it came to be. This was interesting but I just had a different expectation. Also leading to this was the fact that this was one of the few sessions that had no information in the program beyond the title and speaker.Tom Fitzgerald did speak briefly about the time setting for the new adventure (somewhere between the first three films and the second three so he was calling it episode 3.5ish). Also he introduced a couple new droids which were also posted to the Parks Blog.

  • The 1964 New York World's Fair and the Development of Audio-Animatronics Characters
    I really enjoyed this panel. Paul Anderson posed some interesting questions that made you think or at least wonder a bit, such as What would have happened if Disney was not so involved in the World's Fair? (From a Disney evolution perspective).

  • Imagineering the Magic of Disney
    I was really looking forward to this panel. I was unable to make it into the version of it that was at the D23 Expo. I always enjoy hearing from the Imagineers and this group did not disappoint. I had heard many of the stories before, but the panel moderator (Marty Sklar) did try to keep the discussion focused on Disneyland asking things such as their favorite attraction they worked on in the park or favorite attraction that was not built.

    One part of the discussion that really stuck in my mind was when they were talking about John Hench and how he believed the parks were reassurance that there can be a safe, friendly place, that it was ok to talk to a stranger, etc.. and that they were not escapism.

  • E-Ticket: Music from the Disney Parks
    The E-Ticket concert was a grand way to end the first day and everyone I spoke with ranked it near the top of their list of sessions. I thought all the performers were really enjoying themselves and this came through and really brought you into the performance. For a disneygeek like myself what better way to hear the park music than by the original songwriter! I had seen him perform before, but still great!

    I was a little disappointed to hear how much Richard Sherman likes the Winnie the Pooh attraction, but I guess I hold an unfair bias against it since it evicted the Country Bears which I really enjoyed.

    As I discussed the concert with others two themes kept popping up. First the consensus is this would have really made for a better finale to the event than the Disneyland USA film. It seemed to have more energy and the crowd would have walked away more electrified. Secondly they thought the Melo-D choir should have performed in the middle of the show or maybe even with Richard Sherman since they were singing all his music. Then they could have returned for the finale like everyone else. Ending with a big choir after the other performances just did not have the same punch to it.

Day 2: Saturday September 25, 2010

  • Disneyland Through the Eye of Television
    I thought the kickoff to this presentation was great with everyone being asked to rise and recite the opening day dedication along with Walt. The audience really ate this up and it got the day started on a positive note.

  • Disney Undiscovered
    I really enjoyed Dave's presentation. Its hard not to enjoy Imagineering artwork! There were quite a few pieces I had not seen before (or remembered seeing). Two bits of news trickled out during the talk. First was he recently worked on a project to redo the Mark Twain spiel. It will debut once the Twain is back in service after some deck work over the next few weeks. Secondly he is currently working on Buena Vista Street. He said one of the stores (I missed the name) would have a model of Candy Mountain inside. He also hinted that the street would be loaded with inside references and trivia. So looks like us disneygeeks will be spending some time in the new stores.

    One of the running themes of Dave's presentation is how in an interview Walt said Disneyland took approximately 15 years from concept to reality. In reality the idea did bounce around and formulate over that time frame, but from actual plans/construction to opening was more like two years.

  • Disneyland: The Way We Were
    Dave Smith pulled quite a few vintage pictures out for this presentations to show how the park evolved over the years. Since I enjoy construction shots (as you probably noticed if you visited my pictorial updates) I really enjoyed this presentation. Another take away from this presentation is the amount of corporate sponsorship in the parks from day 1 and how they changed over time. It really is something I have not spent too much time thinking about.

  • Disneyland: The Happiest Place in Pop Culture
    This presentation by Tim O'Day was very interesting to me. Several people I spoke with rated this near the top of their session list also. Maybe it was the multimedia presentation, it includes stories, images, video clips, and audio clips. Or maybe it was just the subject matter everyone could relate to. I thought his story about his experience on September 12, 2001 really hit home with the audience and many could understand. In a nutshell he was talking about how the park was practically deserted and he came across a woman who was just not doing very well. He talked to her and learned she had come to the park because she was done with watching the news and just wanted to be someplace else for a while. So she was sitting on Main Street. (his telling was much much more engaging than mine, sorry for mangling the story a bit).

  • A Word from the President
    I thought the format of this session worked really well. Probably much better than George Kalogridis just talking by himself. Garth Kemp, who is a weatherman on the LA ABC station, was the host and spoke with/interviewed George. I had heard much of George's history before but I did not remember the Character dining story. He was involved with the first character dining experiences at WDW, which is now a staple at both WDW and Disneyland.

    You could tell George has gone to media training (and he even joked at once point) so some questions he danced around. For example he was asked his top 3 priorities at the Disneyland resort and never really got into it. I was surprised that he did cite that Captain EO is averaging about four times the attendance that Honey I Shrunk the Audience was. He was also asked about the People Mover and was fairly blunt in saying it would be extremely hard to bring it back in its old form due to new safety regulations such as a wider walkway on either side and stairs every X number of feet, which just would not work in the park. He did say they are investigating solutions and the track is still there so who knows...

    Another tidbit that leaked out was that the new Star Tours would have 54 different/random experiences.

    He also spoke about the upcoming entertainment at DCA, There was a presentation about TRON that included the trailer and some of the performers coming out on stage from elecTRONica that will run Fri, Sat, and Sun this off season and daily during the holidays. There was also a preview number of the upcoming Disney Dance Crew. The routine was led by Mickey Mouse and it was a newer Mickey head, hard to tell if it was the newest version with the voice box or if it was just the same type that is used at the stage shows at WDW, in either case a step forward for Disneyland.

    To close with they went over some top questions from D23 guests, I thought this format worked nicely vs opening the floor to questions. First was on a third gate. Nothing to announce but he did confirm the long held belief that if/when it is built it will be on the Toy Story lot. Another was the People Mover which was already discussed. Next up about a new E-Ticket for Disneyland. No hints but did say they are working on a new master plan over the next year to lead the resort after the DCA improvements open. Next up about transforming the Hollywood and Dine into the Sci Fi. No real answer except it was an interesting idea. The last was a joke about Club 33 membership and how to get it, no real answer again.

  • D23 Expo: Sneak Peek
    The Expo sneak peek turned into a trial run of the Ultimate Trivia Challenge which will be part of the expo next year. Most of the session was spent on the challenge and overall it was fun to see the questions, but not sure how much more I could take, without participating in some way. I think the concept is interesting, but curious how the execution will play out.

  • The Wonderful World of Vintage Disneyland- In Color!
    This was a repeat session for me. I had seen Tony and Ed's presentation at the Expo last year. They added another 20 minutes or so of footage so there was new material but most of it was the same. I enjoyed seeing it again on the big screen but really did not learn too much new.

  • Disneyland, U.S.A. Screening and Panel
    This was another repeat for me. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Disneyland event in 2009 that featured the same film and a similar panel. I thought the film was good and the panel interesting as usual, even though I heard almost all the stories already. I just did not think this was a powerful way to end the event. After two days of seminars, presentations, etc.. you end with a film? It did not really energize the crowd. It was enjoyable and ranked among the favorites of some I spoke to, but almost an equal number ranked it near the bottom of their list. I think this was due to the placement more than the content.

The Great Scavenger Hunt: Disneyland:

While not technically part of Destination D it took place on Sunday and many of the Destination D guests participated. I was not able to participate due to a scheduling conflict later in the day, but I did spend some time in the park Sunday morning and ran into quite a few guests on the hunt. All who I spoke to were really have a great time and enjoying the event. The only complaint I heard was that as luck would have it this was the hottest weekend of the year we think! Not D23's fault but still an extra hurdle to overcome.

For those of you not familiar the scavenger hunt took place all around the Disneyland Resort. You and your team were able to roam the resort to search for answers to over 300 questions. The team with the most points at the end won the grand prize.

I had several people ask me for the types of questions that were asked. The questions/clues were grouped into three levels and more points were awarded for the harder level.

Miner League clues:

  • In the Jungle Cruise village where the natives are dancing, what stylized, iconic Disney character adorns one shield?
  • Above the door to the Toontown Library two windows pay homage to one of Walt Disney’s first companies. What is the name of the company?
  • Inside Innoventions the Elias family has a desk with a bookcase. On the bottom shelf of the bookcase is a set of postcards from what?
  • On Main Street, USA, what city is Tilly from?
  • In the video currently playing at Blue Sky Cellar, Sayre Wiseman describes the World of Color fountains as being like what?
  • According to the Mission Tortilla Factory, each year Americans eat more than how many tortillas?
  • In the Monterey Cannery Row window, we learn that Ed Ricketts became friends with what author?
  • What is the weight (in pounds) of the Mark VII Autopia vehicle stationed in front of Goofy’s Kitchen?
  • Whose garden is pictured behind the Guest Services desk on the first floor of the Paradise Pier Hotel?

Major Domo clues:

  • It’s A Date
    Find the year Toon Park was established, subtract the year Mickey’s Toontown was established. As your answer, write the name of the attraction designated by that number on the Disney California Adventure guide map?
  • All the World’s A Stage
    Playhouse Disney is located in what “Stage?”
    What location on the Disney California Adventure map is designated by that same number?
    Go to that location.
    Inside that building is a picture of "The Headlight."
    What year is on "The Headlight?"
    Add up those four digits, and what is the sum? Write that number as your answer.

Super-Difficult-Idocious clues:

  • Animal Kingdom
    Go to Aladdin’s Oasis.  
    A depiction of what animal adorns the entrance archway?
    Ride the attraction that features that same type of animal prominently on a piece of furniture (hint: it’s a throne!).
    What new creature can be seen sitting on that piece of furniture?
    Go to the attraction where you’ll find several more of those same creatures watching you as you ride through.
    What color is the vehicle parked outside the entrance of that attraction?

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