D23 Day One: "Rainbow Connection" and Route 66


As promised yesterday, I'm reporting to you from the D23 Expo in Anaheim. I knew it was going to be huge, but wow, it's HUGE.

We started the day by going to the Disney Legends ceremony, where they essentially induct talented Disney-related folks into their Hall of Fame and give them a nice trophy (a Waltie?). Today's honorees included a whole handful of princesses (well, their voices), Guy Williams (from TV's Zorro and Lost in Space), Regis Philbin and Jim Henson. I'm not a big princess girl myself, but I'll admit that I thought it was pretty cool to see what the people behind the voices looked like and see them sing their famous songs in person.  Here's Jodi Benson, the speaking and singing voice of Ariel, performing "Part of Your World." As you can see, I did not get special seats...


I also learned something that you'll probably see pop up on Twitter trivia later: Jodi Benson is also the voice of Barbie in the Toy Story movies.

Anyway, the real highlight for me was seeing Jim Henson's induction. His son, Brian, performed an old Muppet bit of his dad's to the song "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" and then talked a little about what it was like to have Jim Henson for a dad (as amazing as you think it would be, apparently). At the end, Kermit and Rolf came out and sang "Rainbow Connection," which was enough to soften even my cold heart a little bit. OK, a lot. I may have teared up.


After that, we just had enough time to grab some lunch and get in line for the Parks and Resorts presentation. I don't think there were any shockers like the whole Fantasyland renovation that stunned Expo-goers in 2009. But there were definitely a few highlights, including:

A brief simulated ride-through of a new roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland tentatively called the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster

  • The announcement that Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast will be the host of a trip through Belle's cottage in the new Fantasyland. Though they've practically perfected audio-animatronic humans, getting the movements of a to-scale candelabra just right was apparently one of the most challenging audio-animatronic projects the Imagineers have taken on to date.
  • A sneak preview of what they think the new Disney park in Shanghai will look like. The big news: the castle there is going to include a Disney first - a ride that goes through it. You can walk through some of the other castles and even enjoy waffles with Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom, but an attraction that goes through the castle is all-new.

  • A tantalizing tidbit that the ultra-exclusive Club 33 will be expanding in 2012. That's it. No mention of if the expansion means more members or just a physical renovation. Intriguing.
  • The fascinating detail that cast members who end up working in the currently-being-built Cars Land at California Adventure will be wearing John Lasseter-esque Hawaiian-style shirts featuring Route 66 logos. By the way, to research Cars Land, Imagineers took an eight-day road trip along what's left of Route 66. What a job, right?

  • Cars Land will also feature a Disney oldie-but-goodie: the flying saucers. The floating discs will come in the form of tires, but it's a similar concept.
  • On tap for tomorrow: the Disney Studios presentation, "25 Years of Creativity at Pixar" and a couple of Imagineering seminars. I'm sporadically Tweeting from D23 as well, if you can't wait until the end-of-the-day recap.