- Overall the D23 Anniversary party was a fun time for all. I enjoyed the evening and overhead/talked with several other guests who did too. I would characterize it as a reception. The atmosphere was very relaxed and you had an opportunity to mingle, chat with the VIPs and others and just have a great time. There were no schedule events and the evening was very open for you to do as you wished.
- Event check in started at 4pm in the Esplanade at some tables near the far left (West) side of the Disneyland entrance near the Group Sales/Guest Relations window. I walked by a couple of times and the line seemed fairly constant throughout much of the evening. At check in you were given a wristband that would act as your admission ticket as well as a packet with some information on the evening. (kind of surprising the wristband was generic, no Disney or D23 markings)
- A little after 8:00pm guests started to line up to head in for the event. We got in line just after 8:30 and were all the way back near the security checkpoint. It was a narrow (would not call it single file, but close) line so there were not that many people in line, it just seemed long... they let us in around 8:45 using two of the gates near by.
- Once inside the park we roamed down Main Street as the last guests of the day were exiting. The park closed at 8:00pm but Main Street stayed open an extra hour for shopping, so the last shoppers were just finding their way out as we were heading in.
- At the end of the street there was a rope up and they checked our wristbands again before allowing us into the hub area. Here everyone was queued up from the Partners statue out the curb near the Castle where another rope was set up. (It was fairly dark and looked like a mob of people so I did not have any pictures of this). Off on the walkway leading to the Matterhorn were several D23 CMs as well as other VIPs. As we waited they were playing tracks from the Music From the Park CD that came out back in the mid 90s and featured contemporary artists singing themepark music. The theme song was Remember the Magic.. a great CD that most recognized instantly.
- A little after 9:00pm the voice of Disneyland came on to welcome everyone and play a clip from Walt and then some fireworks went off from around the castle. As I mentioned in the pictorial update I guessed wrong and had the telephoto lens on the camera in hopes of catching something/someone near the castle welcoming us. I did find a Youtube video of the opening. Click here to check it out.
- The D23 CMs and the VIP guests lined up on the bridge (after the fire marshals cleared the area) and everyone was let in and greeted by the receiving line. This caused a bottleneck but was a great opportunity to see everyone that was there and say a quick hello.
- Once inside Fantasyland everything was open (except for the Matterhorn and Carousel which were closed for annual maintenance. They also opened the Astro Orbitor and Captain EO in Tomorrowland. So you could roam from the the Castle over to the Western edge of Frontierland at the Big Thunder Trails start, out to Small World, then back around the Matterhorn to the Hub and into Tomorrowland. So there was a large area for everyone to spread out in.
- There were several dessert/beverage stations set up around Fantasyland (I did not count but I think it was about 10 tables in 4 or 5 locations). The food and beverages were the same at each location with a variety of cookies, pastries, and other goodies available. To drink you had your choice of water, tea, or coffee (for free) or you could purchase soda, beer, wine at a couple of bars.
- The one thing I have to say about D23 events is there is always plenty of food. They never seem to run short. As we were eating we watched tray after tray of fresh desserts brought out. I would have liked to have seen something else for those of us that did not want a hot beverage.. maybe a fruit punch or lemonade? The only choice for kids really was the water unless their parents wanted to spend the $3.50 for a can of something.
- Wait times for the attractions were minimal all evening. The longest line we saw was Peter Pan (of course) which seemed to go from 5 - 15 minutes or so. Still not bad but just about everything else was a walk on all evening. So if you came for the attractions you were not disappointed.
- Throughout Fantasyland there were character photo ops set up
- Near the Castle Maleficent and the Old Hag were available
- Near Pinocchio 's exit were Pinocchio and Jiminy
- Near the Storybook Land entrance were the Three Little Pigs
- Near the Mad Tea Party you could find Alice, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter
- The Walkway to the Matterhorns entrance was blocked off and in front were three Country Bears (Liverlips, Big Al, and Wendell) and they rotated with the Brother Bear gang
- Along the Small World Mall area Mickey was out in his Band Leaders attire and taking pictures near the Grand Marshal car
- Near the Small World Entrance was Cinderella's coach that alternated between Cinderella and the two mice, Suzy and Perla
- Along the Small World Mall area there were three special vehicles out for photo ops
- Walt Disney's "Electric Runaround" car
- Grand Marshal Car
- Cinderella's Crystal Coach
- Also roaming around were several invited VIP Guests that were more than willing to chat with you, take pictures, and sign autographs:
- Imagineers Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter
- Bill Farmer, Disney Legend and the voice of Goofy
- Margaret Kerry, the live-action model for Tinker Bell
- Dave Smith, Disney Legend and chief of the Walt Disney Archives
- “LOST” actor Dan Roebuck, who portrays Dr. Leslie Arzt on the hit TV series
- Actor David Stollery — best known as Marty in “The Adventures of Spin and Marty”
- Denny Newell, senior show director for Disneyland
- Actors Jennifer Cody and Michael-Leon Wooley from "The Princess and the Frog"
- The longest lines we saw for photos/autographs were for the Country Bears, Tony Baxter, and Band Leader Mickey. All three had solid lines all night long. The other characters and VIPs had much smaller lines, or none at all (just a group of people around them chatting in some cases).
- Another great detail was when you were ready to leave they had the Main Street vehicles cycling to take you to the exit so you did not have to walk down Main Street USA, even though many were opting to walk because how frequently do you have the chance to walk down a nearly deserted Main Street.
- As you exited the park they were handing out the commemorative pins for the evening.
- It was great to experience the event with such a fun crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, including the Cast Members working the event. It was entertaining to see them having some fun and more time to interact with guests. So often the Fantasyland CMs are stuck on the treadmill trying to push as many guests through the limited capacity attractions as possible and during this event the lines were not long and they could afford to relax a bit. Also the characters seemed to have some extra time too.
- We walked through the hub a couple of times and started to see a trickle of guests leaving around 10:30ish and as the evening wore on this picked up. We headed out around 11:30 and there was a fairly steady stream leaving at the same time.
- In closing I thought there were some missed opportunities in the evening. The first that stands out to me is the welcome/opening. I would have really have liked to have seen/heard a live welcome from Steven Clark who was there and maybe an introduction of the VIPs. Or at least a brief overview of the first year and a tease for the second or something. I also think it would have been nice to have some sort of presentation or speech some other time during the evening. I understand that they wanted it to be an open reception but I just felt like something was lacking and I could not put my finger on it till I read about the WDW event and the sessions/talks they had.
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