Disney Fan Fest Draws 40,000 Attendees, Requires 2,500 Staffers

By Alesandra Dubin August 25, 2011, 1:45 PM EDT

Photo: D23 Expo 2011/Richard Harbaugh

Disney's D23 Expo
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You could say Disney fans rival fans of anything else in terms of enthusiasm and devotion. And those fans had a place to gather and do their thing at the D23 Expo, a Disney fan event at the Anaheim Convention Center from Friday through Sunday, where guests got special access to Disney films, television, and theme parks. (The name of the festival pays homage to 1923, the year Walt Disney opened his Hollywood studio.) The expo drew 40,000 attendees over the three-day event, from 48 states and 18 countries—and they had high hopes for what Disney can and should pull off.

“Whether it’s a Disney event, park attraction, feature film, or television series, Disney fans have exceptionally high expectations for quality content and experiences, and the D23 Expo, the biggest event in the world for Disney enthusiasts, is no exception,” said Disney director of corporate special events Michael Vargo, the event's producer. “Our goal was to exceed those expectations in the most incredible and magical way that only Disney can.”

Vargo explained that the production of the expo brought together colleagues from just about every part of the company to create the vast pavilions, presentations, performances, and experiences necessary. “Thousands of people throughout the company worked around the clock to ensure that we surprised and delighted our fans in attendance in unexpected and memorable ways,” he said.

On the production side, the 2011 expo was more than two years in the making. Disney Corporate Creative Resources handled production and management; technical, scenic, and graphic design; marketing; logistics, social media development; and operations. A staff of more than 2,500 helped create the event on site, including planners, security, guest control operations, technicians, stage crew, vendors, booth representatives, talent and performers, marketing and press relations folks, and general production teams across the company.

Vargo said the production highlights included developing and mounting compelling high-caliber show productions including the Disney Legends ceremony, as well as managing detailed event logistics for all involved business units of the Walt Disney Company. Pulling off the D23 feat required evaluating and studying show layout, schedules, and guest flow, and using more than 425,000 square feet of space for all exhibit halls, the D23 Arena, and second- and third-floor event spaces. 

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