Posted by D. Martin on August 17, 2015 at 04:46 AM CST
2015 Disney D23 Expo
Words by Vince Zannelli and Images by Suzan Lund

The fourth Disney D23 Expo took place at the Anaheim Convention Center August 14-16 in Anaheim, CA. and celebrated all things Disney, with the Disneyland 60th Diamond Anniversary at the very heart of the festivities.

This was the largest, most expansive D23 Expo yet, and featured an ever-increasing banner of licenses unmatched anywhere else in the entertainment industry. With Marvel, Disney Studios, Lucasfilm, and Pixar all under the Disney umbrella, Disney has established themselves as the worldwide leader in animation and live-action movies, as well as console video games (Infinity 3.0, Star Wars Battlefront) and a myriad of other innovative consumer products showcased at the Expo.

There was no shortage of shopping at the D23 Expo, with numerous retailers selling (out of) items throughout the weekend. Disney sponsored three sales outlets on the show floor, including the Dream Store, the Disney Store, and Mickey's of Glendale. Each of these pop-up shops included exclusive items not made available outside of the D23 Expo. In addition to these stores, retailers in attendance sold their own items directly from their respective booths. Mattel, Hallmark, Tomy, Jelly Belly, Acme Archives, Her Universe, Jakks Pacific, and Disney's own retail divisions had a presence on the show floor in the 3000 sq. ft. Disney Consumer Products Pavilion, with different exclusive products debuting each day, giving attendees a reason to repeatedly visit these locations throughout the weekend.

Mattel debuted their new Cars Precision Series Play Sets, which allows kids and adults to recreate Radiator Springs one building at a time beginning this September. Flo's V8 Café was available in limited quantities to show attendees for $99.99, and will be available to all via the Mattel Shop online on 9/17/15. Additional Radiator Springs locales will follow. Also on hand from the popular die cast Cars movie line was the 1/32 scale Big Al, Lightning McQueen's biggest fan, limited to 1000 pieces ($34.95 SRP).

Hallmark sold an exclusive Itty Bitty Cinderella and Prince Charming set for $20.00, limited to 825 pieces, and is one of their most limited offerings thus far in the increasingly popular Itty Bitty mini-plush line. Also available was an exclusive black and white repaint Keepsake Ornament of "The Band Concert" limited to 825 pieces, retailing for $35.00 each.

Tomy showcased action figures and role play toys from the hit animated show Miles from Tomorrowland, featuring Maximum Miles and his friends. Loose production samples of the Starjetter, Transforming Exo-Flex, and Stellosphere were on-hand for attendees young and old to demo and explore. Tomy's most successful U.S. endeavor, the stackable plush juggernaut Tsum Tsum, could be found at multiple venues across the show floor, most notably in the Disney Store where each day during the Expo a new Tsum Tsum debuted in limited quantities in each of their signature size offerings: mini, medium, and large sizes. Mini vinyl Mickey Mouse Tsum Tsum figurines were available for an additional $5 with any Tsum Tsum purchase at the Disney Store (also in very limited quantities).

Inside the Disney Consumer Products Pavilion under the Disney Store banner, the increasingly popular 3D Print Studio made its West Coast U.S. debut with mobile "scan-me" stations set up for attendees to be facially scanned and turned into customized figurines of their choosing: a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer, a First Order stormtrooper from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, or be featured in Tony Stark's "Heartbreaker" Iron Man armor as seen in Marvel's Iron Man 3. Two sizes of each type were available in male or female bucks, standard (approximately 7" w/ base) and premium (approximately 13" w/ base). Prices ranged from $79.95 to $999.95.

The pavilion also highlighted Disney Infinity 3.0 and Star Wars: Battlefront, the two Disney interactive media components which were featured most prominently on the Expo floor with playable demos and interactive environments. Infinity figures of Rey and Finn from The Force Awakens debuted on stage by the actors portraying the characters in the film, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, and will be released later this year. It was also announced that the Star Wars: Battlefront video game will be released bundled with a customized PS4 that will feature Darth Vader graphics on the console case, available in-time and in limited quantities for the Christmas shopping season.

For Toy Story's 20th Anniversary, the Disney Store debuted a plethora of new items daily including re-releases and exclusive repaints and variants of Mattel's previous Toy Story action figures, as well as Disney's own dolls and playsets from each of the 3 Toy Story movies. Apparel, pins, mugs, and lithographs to celebrate the milestone could also be found in the Disney Dream Store.

Perhaps the most notable change from the past three D23 Expos was the incredibly huge presence of Lucasfilm and the incorporation of Star Wars into the Disney family. The last D23 Expo (August 2013) occurred less than 8 months after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, and the presence of the Force was found only by mention in Star Tours ride attraction features and the illusive concept of Orange Harvest, which has since been revealed as a series of two separate Star Wars Disney theme parks, one slated for Anaheim and the other to be constructed at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. With the untenable excitement building to a crescendo this December when Episode VII hits theaters worldwide, Disney CEO Bob Iger was on stage at the Expo promising that a new Star Wars movie will be released each year through 2019 according to a timeline which he outlined during the Disney Live Action panel on Saturday morning, August 15.

To compliment all of the Episode VII: The Force Awakens anticipation at the Expo, Disney delivered with many exclusive products which debuted throughout the weekend. The Disney Store launched an exclusive set of Star Wars Elite series die-cast figures (MSRP $199.95), which varied in size from 4"-6" and included characters from both existing movie trilogies. While the set was limited to 500, each of the figures will be made available individually at Disney Store locations worldwide (MSRP: TBA) later this year. The R2-D2 and C-3PO in the set had exclusive highlights and paint variance which will differ from the regular versions yet to be released. The set includes: Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Boba Fett, stormtrooper, General Grievous, and R2-D2 & C-3PO.

The Disney Store also offered a 12" scale exclusive Princess Leia collectible doll with a fabric gown and blaster based on her appearance in Star Wars: A New Hope. Retailing for $59.95 at the show, only 450 were produced and sold out in less than two days. There was no mention if this would be the first in a line of subsequent collectible doll offerings produced at this scale released at Disney Store locations in the future, however with the success of Disney's Designer Fairy Tale Collection figurines, it appeared as if the Princess Leia doll might have been a market test to gauge public interest; strangely absent from the Disney Store was any mention of upcoming The Force Awakens movie product, and the 12" collectible doll format could be a likely option should this line continue.

Available for vinyl collectors was an exclusive Disney Store collection of Star Wars Legion Helmets, a series of eight vinyl collectible helmets inspired by the Star Wars Legion Helmet Project launched in early 2014. Celebrating creativity and Star Wars, the project pulled together artists from across the Walt Disney Company, resulting in 300 stormtrooper helmets being transformed into diverse pieces of art, which inspired these collectible recreations. This collection debuted at the D23 Expobut will be available at other Disney retail outlets soon.

At the Disney Dream store, the third and final carded exclusive 3 3/4" build-a-droid of 2015 was released: R4-D23. Available in limited quantities, this R4 droid follows the release of the Holographic R2-D2 from Star Wars Weekends in Orlando, FL. in May, and the R2-D60 droid released in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland last month. R4-D23 features an exclusive silver paint deco and Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey Mouse hat. The figure had an MSRP of $12.95 and was sold out by Saturday evening.

On the show floor, Jelly Belly sold an exclusive original trilogy themed Star Wars jelly bean dispenser, similar to a gumball machine in appearance and function. Golden Books debuted their new line of Star Wars books for children which will focus on the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. Jakks Pacific displayed an assortment of their existing Star Wars Big Figs (20", SRP $19.99), Big Figs Massive Scale (31", SRP $34.99), and Big Figs Colossal Scale (48", $99.99 SRP) which will debut on September 4, 2015 featuring new characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Colossal Scale figures will feature interactive, motion-activated sounds.

The next D23 Expo, set to take place once again in Anaheim, CA. in 2017, seems rather distant; however, many of the projects and themes alluded to throughout the 2015 D23 Expothis past weekend will barely be coming to fruition in 2017 if the announced projected completion dates hold firm---in other words, Disney's slate of proposed entertainment will be ready for an update of epic proportions, worthy of taking center stage at a venue such as the D23 Expo, the ultimate showcase for all things Disney. It is apparent now that the D23 Expois fast approaching a vastness and enormity matched only by the annual San Diego Comic-Con 90 miles south of Orange County...
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