When Disney President and CEO Bob Iger took to the D23 Arena stage this morning, it was abundantly clear that to the 4,000 or so Disney fans in attendance he needed no introduction. They had already been erupting in applause throughout the four-minute video presentation that preceded his arrival (Toy Story 3, Pirates of the Caribbean and Hannah Montana seemed to garner the most applause), and by the time Disney’s chief executive strolled elegantly on stage the sense of excitement was palpable.
“That video shows that Disney is a Company like no other,” Bob said. “The stories, characters and experiences we’ve created over the last 86 years are loved by millions of people like you — and me — all over the world. There are so many things that are wonderful about Disney: unforgettable music… beloved characters… thrilling theme park attractions. But the excitement that keeps us going year after year and generation after generation comes from you — the fans. It’s your passion for Disney, your respect for our legacy, your fond nostalgia for our past and your anticipation of more fun in our future that make all of this work — that keeps the magic alive.”
Bob then provided a succinct summary of why Disney created D23. “Through emails, letters and in person at our annual meetings, you asked us why Disney didn’t have an official fan club. You asked us to create something to give you an even greater connection to Disney… So we created D23 for you.”
Bob also touched upon the latest Company news, singling out Disney’s plans to acquire Marvel Entertainment, home iconic characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America and X-Men. “We’re incredibly excited because we are not only combining the great characters and stories of Marvel with those of Disney, but we are bringing together two groups of talented and dedicated people whose creativity and passion have made their companies successful.”
Then it was time for the exciting preview — 30 full minutes from the film! — of Disney’s upcoming return to 2D animation and the classical musical fairy tale genre, The Princess and the Frog. Anika Noni Rose, whom Bob decribed as having a touch of bronchitis, then came out and absolutely wowed the audience with a high-octane, high-octave vocal performance of songs from the film.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one session, Bob and City of Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle then announced that one lucky fan in the audience would be the very fortunate recipient of a free overnight stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite, and instructed everyone in attendance to look under their seat for a special award envelope containing the Disneyland Dream Suite overnight pass. It took awhile (!), but eventually “Dan,” a guest from Murrieta, California, strode on stage with the envelope — visibly moved. “Disneyland has always taken me back to my family,” he said to a now hushed audience, “starting with my father who was a street sweeper there.” “Well, you’re in for a very special treat, Dan,” Bob answered.
A look at what’s happening at the world’s premier family entertainment company, a sneak preview of one of the year’s most eagerly awaited films, a stunning singing performance, a surprise award and thoughts from one of the most influential CEOs in the world — what better way to formlly kick off the inaugural D23 Expo?