D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th

Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th took place May 14 & 15, 2011 at Disney's Contemporary Resort in the Fantasia Ballroom

The event featured 15 presentations, 19 hours of events/programming, 25 Disney legends and luminaries, a concert, autograph sessions, that spanned both days. There was also a small archives exhibit and of course merchandise opportunities. There were over 1,000 D23 fans in attendance each day representing Canada, Australia, Bahamas, Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, 4 Canadian provinces, and 42 states.

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:

** Note the sections that I have pictures for I have linked the title to the pictures


  • To sum it up another great event put on by the D23 folks. The event featured two full days (doors opening at 9am and I did not leave the resort grounds till after 10 both days) of presentations, panels, and more.

  • After attending the first Destination D in Anaheim last year for Disneyland I knew what to expect and was just hoping that there would not be a lot of repeated material. I correctly assumed with the focus being WDW there would be little overlap and this turned out to be true. A couple of the presentations were similar and had some returning slides and some of the panelists told the same stories but most of the content was fresh for this event.

  • I was really surprised at the number of guests I talked to over the course of the two days that had been to the Anaheim Destination D as well. I was expecting to see some but it sure seemed like quite a few. During the introduction Steven asked who had attended both and it was hard to tell from my vantage point but I would say somewhere between one third and half the room.

  • Quite a few guests in attendance had participated in the two day scavenger hunt that spanned all four parks on Thursday and Friday. I had not. Those that did all seemed to have a similar reaction. They thought it was a little too intense in the Florida heat. (Of course there were record highs earlier in the week!). Most thought the activities were fun, they just could not deal with the stress of all those hours out in the heat and moving quickly through the parks.

    Some facts on the Scavenger Hunt:

    569 - Teams participated
    455 - Teams Completed all four parks
    1,975 - answer book scored
    812 - Top Score
    94,558 - estimated number of individual answers that were scored

  • Since I did not know what to expect I checked in on Friday afternoon and had no real wait. There were several D23 volunteers and team members working and there was only one or two groups in front of me. The merchandise line was longer, I took a quick look and moved on though.

D23 Merchandise

  • It would not be a Disney event without merchandise. This time around though there was not a large selection and not many of the extremely limited edition items that were found at Anaheim's. I thought the range of T-shirts, pins, and other products was ok. I would have liked to have seen a smaller pin offering at a lower price point. They only had large ones at $22 each. I am not a big fan of the large pins due to the space they take up to display. I have quite a few of the smaller ones from years ago.

Archives Exhibit

  • When I heard there was going to be an archives exhibit was I impressed. This was a new feature and a nice bonus for the WDW version of the event. As you saw in my pictures it consisted of a breakout room with a couple of display cases and then some audioanamatronic figures. It was fun to spend some time in there and I made a couple of passes checking it out.

Day 1: Saturday, May 14, 2011

  • Welcome to the World
    • Steven Clark started things off with a welcome that included a short video and an overview of the days ahead. He also shared some facts from the event. For example approx 20% of those in attendance were staying at the Contemporary while another 20% were at Pop Century.
    • He also talked about the great response D23 had to its first survey last year and that this years will be coming out soon. They had a 60% response rate last year.
    • The next welcome was from Debbie Dane Brown who was the first ambassador of Walt Disney World and started her career at the welcome center in 1970.

  • Weird Disney: Walt Disney World & Beyond
    • This session was again led by Becky Cline who is the archives director and Paul Anderson who is a Disney Historian and works for the Disney Family Museum.
    • The first half hour of the presentation was a best of featuring slides and the baby new year story by Tim O' Day which were also shown in Anaheim before diving into the new Walt Disney World specific items for the rest of the presentation.

  • Walt Disney World: The Way We Were
    • Dave Smith, retired Director of the Disney Archives gave this presentation and it focused on a little of the history of the property, then a bunch of construction shots, and concluded by looking at some of the gone but not forgotten changes around WDW.
    • If you have ever looked at one of my park update sections you know I really enjoy following the construction and changes in the parks and Dave did not disappoint with a great selection of pictures showing the construction of all the parks. I could have looked at another hundred shots!

  • Epcot: Walt Disney's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
    • Presented by Steven Vagnini from the Disney Archives and Paul F. Anderson who is a Disney historian. This presentation looked at Walts vision for EPCOT and solving some of societies problems. They traced Walt's interest in urban planning through several projects and decades and discussed some of his inspirations. They then went on to show some of the EPCOT concepts that made it into reality. Throughout the presentation they had some great photos and film, including an alternate ending for the EPCOT film we have all come to know that was made just for the residents of Florida to sell the project.

  • Past Forward: Walt Disney World on Television
    • Rob Klein from the Disney archives and Tim O'Day took us through several clips of Walt Disney World on TV. Ranging from commercials, to network shows, to Disney Channel pieces.

  • The Walt Disney World Resort That Never Was
    • Tony Baxter from Walt Disney Imagineering and Steven Vagnini from the archives took us through quite a few pieces of concept art for attractions that never made it off the drawing boards in their original form. The highlight of this presentation was a virtual ride through the Western River Expedition attraction. Unfortunately this session did not allow photography of any type so there are no pictures to share. Here is a brief listing of some of the art we were shown:
      • Cape Cod Bay on Bay Lake - Three areas of three concepts for Motels (1967)
      • Sleeping Beauty Ride (1968)
      • Mary Poppins Ride
      • Wizards Duel - Based on Sword in the Stone)
      • An expanded Carousel of Progress that started with the dawn of time and covered the history of the wheel
      • Pleasure Island Park
      • Denmark -> Ice Skating
      • Africa -> Dining overlook of a savanna and a raft ride
      • Japan -> Omnimover attraction, Meet the World, Mt Fuji
      • Germany -> Rhine Cruise
      • Western River Expedition and then a virtual ride with concept art of the boat ride

  • From the Vault: Walt Disney World Resort on Film
    • Tony Baxter was back and this time joined by Tim O' Day for the evening session which consisted of four WDW films that were produced. Again no photography of any type was allowed during this presentation.
      • WDW Phase 1 Print 8 (1968) - This untitled film took you on a tour of the Florida property examining the concept art including all the resorts of the Magic Kingdom area.
      • Project Florida (1971) - This re mastered film featured a look at what the Magic Kingdom was going to be and a lot of the film was used in the preview center.
      • The Magic of WDW (1974) - Was released as a featurette with the Snowball Express
      • The Dream Called EPCOT (1981) - This internal film was used to promote EPCOT and show the companies efforts as they made the final push toward opening the massive project

Day 2: Sunday, May 15, 2011

  • Walt Disney World Ambassadors
    • Jennifer Mason and Norman Vossschulte welcomed us to day two and talked a little about their roles as ambassadors for Walt Disney World

  • Ultimate Trivia Challenge
    • The big surprise was the Ultimate Trivia Challenge. Steven Clark MC'd the contest. It was also announced that the winner of the challenge in Anaheim at the Expo will be awarded a cruise on the Disney Fantasy next year.
    • This time around the process went much more smoothly and was run more efficiently than the Anaheim version. Again one contest blew the others away though and in the end it was no real contest. For winning he received some prizes and then an automatic advancement in August to a later round.

  • Walt Disney World Resort in Detail
    • Imagineers Jason Surrell, Alex Wright and Jason Grandt put one of the most entertaining presentations of the event. Their lively presentation talked a little about Imagineering and details and then took us through quite a few examples of the layers of detail Imagineers build into the parks, whether it is a trash can, attraction, or shop every detail and word is chosen carefully. They also talk about some of the hidden tributes or nuggets you may find in some of their work.

  • Imagineering Walt Disney World: From Yesteryear to Tomorrow
    • Walt Disney Imagineers Chris Beatty, Kathy Rogers, and Gary Hoffman take a look some current/upcoming Walt Disney World projects and in the process make some news.
    • Chris Beatty opened the presentation with an overview of Imagineering and what happens at WDI.
    • Kathy Rogers spoke about the Star Tours: The Adventures Continue attraction and walked us through the queue area. She explained how there are 54 variations to the new attraction and it would take six hours to ride them all.
    • Gary Hoffman spoke about the Art of Animation Resort and walked us through the various courtyard and room designs. The resort will feature four main sections, the Little Mermaid, Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo. Each section will have its own courtyard and building designs. The artwork on the buildings will be original artwork just for the resort.
    • Chris Beatty wrapped up the presentation with a detailed look at the Fantasyland Expansion at the Magic Kingdom. Some details: the Belle experience will be a 40 minute interaction, the Dwarfs mine coaster will feature two lift hills and the Be Our Guest restaurant will have three dining rooms.
    • To close out their presentation they announced that the original Tropical Serenade show will be returning to the Tiki Room. The Under New Management show is now officially history.

  • Creating a Whole New "Disney World"
    • This panel was hosted by retired Imagineer Marty Sklar and featured 1971 Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane Browne, Disney Legend Orlando Ferrante, Disney Legal Counsel Bob Foster, Disney Legend Bob Gurr, and Disney Legend Ron Logan

  • Making the Magic Happen
    • This panel was moderated by Tim O'Day and featured Disney Legends Jack Lindquist, Bob Matheison, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgway and Bill Sullivan

  • Magic Journeys Pre-show
    • Denny Zavett opened the concert with a few numbers, some well known like Kenny Rogers the Gambler, others not so like his Disney version of the Battle of New Orleans. He performed for 34 years onboard the Empress Lilly.

  • Magic Journeys: A Flight of Fancy through 40 Years of Walt Disney World Musical Memories
    • the Kids of the Kingdom
    • The Main Street Philharmonic
    • Richard Sherman (with Tim O'Day)
    • Dreamfinder with Figment
    • Encore! (a Walt Disney World Cast Member Choir and Band)

Back to previous page