D23 Expo: Day 3

Day 3 at the D23 Expo can be summed up in one word: Waiting.

Without paying much attention to the clock, I arrived substantially early in the morning. So early that I was able to walk right into the convention center and was ushered downstairs to what felt like a basement to wait for the main doors to open. They even gave me a wristband to prove I was there early enough to be in the first group to enter the expo. How early was this? 5:30AM.

Waiting for the hours to pass for opening was surprisingly easy. We were set up in straight lines, comfortably spread out but close enough to your neighbors that if you didn’t strike up conversation with them over the hours you were making things awkward. Everyone shared tales of the past two days. What they saw, what they learned, what they were disappointed they missed, and what surpassed their expectations. Fully engaged with two women from Canada and two women from Ohio, the time flew by!

What came next was frustration. We were allowed onto the Expo floor right when doors opened, but with no large morning panel or session, the floor was completely saturated. In the blink of an eye, lines grew from nothing to 2 hour wait times, if you were lucky! My plan was to get in line to jump into the Ducktales Money Pit for an awesome photo op. After that, I’d run to get lunch and head back downstairs to get in line for the first session of Alan Menken live on stage, my must-do of the entire trip.

I was able to get in line for the Ducktales Money Pit but after 45 minutes, they started handing out wristbands for guests to return at a later, pre-designated time. My return time was 12:00-1:00PM, which would have made it impossible for me to see the Alan Menken show. What a bust and disappointment, but choices had to made. I chose Alan Menken.

I grabbed lunch at a little kiosk outside the convention doors and rushed downstairs, grasping to all hope that the line wasn’t too long. Honestly, I didn’t care where I sat in the giant hall, as long as I was there to hear Menken’s commentary about his music.

What I found was truly surprising. The line for D23 Gold Members (priority seating) was only starting its fourth row. If you’ve never been to the expo, I’m sure this is confusing but essentially this meant if I jumped in line at that time, I would get a stellar seat.

I sat down with my lunch, looked at my watch, and had only three hours to burn until show time. Only three hours. Thankfully, televisions were playing movies. All the while people around me were engaged in conversations about the week. Again, being Disney fans brought us all together and no one was short on topics to discuss. I made friends with a couple from San Francisco, who, by sheer coincidence, I know by one degree of separation. How cool is that? Talking with them helped pass the three hours in a flash!

Then we were off! We were filed into the gigantic hall that was filled with rows upon rows of chairs. Oddly though, they were not guiding guests from the front of the line into the best available seats, which was kind of rude given they had waited the longest. So the couple I was chatting with ran to a volunteer and asked if we could be put into better seats, which they weren’t supposed to do, but they did! Thank goodness for my new friends’ gusto because we were dead center about ten rows back from the stage. The seats could not have been better!

The show was called “A Whole New World of Alan Menken”. As expected, he gave commentary about his career, the pieces he was tasked to make, and played either full songs or bits for the audience. If you don’t recognize Alan Menken’s name, you certainly recognize his music. He’s the composer for some of Disney’s most famous films and Broadway shows including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Hercules, Home on the Range, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, Enchanted and much more. The entire 90 minute show was magical, but here are a few of my favorite parts:

Zachary Levi, the voice of Flynn Rider from Tangled, introduced Menken with a funny and endearing tribute.

Did you know Alan Menken was the composer of Little Shop of Horrors?

Menken first collaborated with Steven Schwartz (Wicked) on Pocahontas, but also worked with him on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Enchanted.

Pocahontas is one of my top 5 favorite Disney movies and I teared up when he played “Colors of the Wind”.

The crowd gave thunderous applause to The Hunchback of Notre Dame song “Out There” to which Menken asked, “Where were you in 1996?” The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a notorious flop and was considered a misstep for Disney animated films due to its heavier content and feel.

For the movie Home on the Range, Menken wrote the song “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” in reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Outside the Disney animated films, Menken also composed the music for the ABC show Galavant and the song “Star Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger.

Menken closed out the show with a beautiful tribute to his first partner Howard Ashman and a few pieces from the live-action Beauty and the Beast. And finally, he confirmed that a live-action version of The Little Mermaid is in the works, collaborating with Lin Manuel-Miranda. Yesss!

This show was the highlight of the weekend for me. I had so many cool moments and experiences over three days but nothing compares to seeing the soundtrack of your childhood played on stage. My weekend was officially complete.

All in all, the D23 Expo was 100% worth it. I know conventions aren’t everyone’s style but I would say going to this expo at least once is a must for any Disney fan. I learned a few lessons along the way that I will share in a future blog post but for now, I will say… the D23 Expo was magical.

Thanks for joining me on the ride!​​

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