Why D23: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event Will Be More Expansive and More Immersive Than Ever

Disney fans around the world will once again convene in Anaheim, California, from August 9–11, 2024, for D23: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event presented by Visa®, a one-of-a-kind experience showcasing the unparalleled storytelling and innovation from across The Walt Disney Company. In an exclusive Q&A, Michael Vargo, Head of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, details why the celebration promises to be more expansive and more immersive than ever before, offering fans access to more of what they love from across the worlds of Disney at an amazing value. 

What inspired you to reimagine D23: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event? 

It’s interesting, because this event has morphed over the years. The last one we did, in 2022, was the kickoff to the 100-year celebration. How do we top that? How do we go bigger? We really listened to the fans, so we’re going to give them more of what they want. 

This year’s event will be so big, in fact, that it’s taking place at both the Anaheim Convention Center and the Honda Center! What’s the benefit of having two locations? 

We wanted to allow more fans to experience their favorite things about the event, so we needed to expand some of the presentation venues. For example, Hall D23, which was at the Anaheim Convention Center, was the marquee stage for all of our tentpole programing throughout the weekend—but not everyone got to experience that. So, we needed to take it to a different location so more fans can now experience it. We needed to make it more epic and more spectacular than what it was before and move it over to the Honda Center, which allows more fans to experience it, to maximize their time at the Anaheim Convention Center, and to also take advantage of all the other fun stuff we have throughout the week. 

Approximately how many different business segments are participating this year?

All the fan-favorites will be returning. On the show floor, specifically, there will be everything from Pixar Animation Studios to Disney+. Lucasfilm will have a very cool experience this year. We’re actually bringing out the technology behind StageCraft for fans to experience. The Disney Experiences pavilion is going to be pretty epic, too, with a look behind the magic behind Walt Disney Imagineering. Lightstorm Entertainment is also coming this year—for the first time—on the show floor. There are more to be announced. We’re having representation from so many different business segments across the company. 

What are the advantages of offering fans a range of ticketing options?

It’s really to offer maximum flexibility so that everyone has the opportunity to experience whatever they want. We’ve put together a ticket package is very value-driven; it’s the same price as what they paid in 2022, but it gives them access to the Anaheim Convention Center and also seats at the Honda Center to experience Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. Those are all single-day tickets, but for the same price, they have the opportunity to experience both locations. The ticket packages are really great. If you don’t want to go to the Honda Center—if you don’t feel like Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night are part of your agenda for the weekend—you can certainly just purchase a ticket for the Anaheim Convention Center, which is a lot less than what it was in previous years. It’s a great value.

What can you tease about D23 Day at Disneyland Resort?

It’s the first time we’ve ever done something at Disneyland Resort, which is exciting. From rope drop to late-night, it’s really going to be a takeover of both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks. We’re going to have a custom cavalcade, and there’s going to be an energetic dance party, as well as a lot of photo opportunities at both parks. On Thursday, Disney Junior is going to host a lively, fun-filled celebration for preschoolers and families at Disney California Adventure park, which will continue through Sunday. D23 will also be “taking over” the Downtown Disney District for an entire week. From August 4 through August 11, fans can experience all kinds of cool stuff at Downtown Disney with D23, like special offerings, benefits, and discounts from some of the retailers and merchants. There will be photo ops and a D23 overlay to the Downtown Disney District.

How did D23 Day at Angel Stadium come about, and what will it entail?

It was like, “We’re already here in Anaheim, we’re in multiple venues… why not add one more? Angel Stadium is right there.” So, we went to Anaheim and met with the team, and they could not be more excited to partner with us to have a D23 Day at the stadium. It’s going to be a fun game, with lots of trivia and different things happening throughout the game that we haven’t yet announced. We did share that the first 23,000 fans through the gates will receive a Mickey Mouse bobblehead. It’s a pretty cool D23 commemorative gift.

What’s the reason for spreading out the three marquee showcases over three nights?

Historically, the marquee shows that we hosted in Hall D23 were in high demand. The fans really love everything about them, so we asked ourselves: How can we make them bigger and better? We decided everything should have its own night at the Honda Center. Friday night is going to be all about Disney Entertainment. There will be a lot of celebrities, a lot of surprises, and some conversations with filmmakers—all kinds of great stuff. Saturday night is all going to be about Disney Experiences. Fans will get to hear a lot about the theme parks, cruise ships, and resorts around the world—and gaming will also be a big part of it. Josh D’Amaro [Chairman of Disney Experiences] always gives a great look into everything that’s in the works for Disney Experiences, and this year will be no different. On Sunday, we’re excited honor 14 new Disney Legends in a fun, reimagined awards ceremony.

How exactly are you evolving the Disney Legends awards ceremony?

This is such a high honor for the recipients, so we really want to celebrate them in a big way—put it on a big stage, bring out some great entertainment, and create a more robust show. We’re really elevating the whole experience, just like we’re doing with everything throughout the whole week and the whole weekend. It will be an Oscar® caliber experience at the Honda Center; that’s the awards presentation that these folks deserve. We’re upping our production value—and in doing so, making this more of an entertainment spectacular. 

What new and returning presentations are you most excited to share with fans?

The show floor is always awesome. Just to experience everything from all the different partners around the company is pretty epic. I love navigating around the show floor and seeing what’s new and what’s creative. We’re not really announcing a lot of the programing yet, with the exception of a few things that will be coming to the Archives stage—including a look back at the 1964 World’s Fair, because this year is the anniversary of that. The Archives will have some really cool stuff to share, given Disney’s history at the World’s Fair.

We’re also bringing back another fan-favorite: the Mousequerade costume contest! Fans pour their hearts and souls into the costumes that they design and develop, and it’s a great venue for them to showcase their creativity. Mousequerade is going to be on a bigger stage and it’s ever been before. We’re putting it on the Premiere Stage, which is at the arena where Walt’s plane was located in 2022, if you remember; that arena has over 3,000 seats!

And, in the months ahead, we’ll be announcing a whole slate of other things. 

Talk about the expanded shopping experience. 

It goes back to the idea of making everything bigger and better. For the first time, we’re actually using the entire show floor at Anaheim Convention Center in the main building; Halls A–D will be show floor pavilions, which meant we ran out of room for shopping. So, we actually had to move the shopping experience over to the North Hall, right across the sidewalk from the main building. Disney Publishing will be there, along with Disney Store and many other Disney brands and partners, including the new The Walt Disney Company Store. We’re also bringing back the virtual queue for shopping, which is always popular with fans who want to maximize their time at the event. 

Are there any team members you want to shout out as preparations kick into high gear?

We’ve been partnering this year with our Studio marketing team, which has been great, because it’s such a Herculean effort. But I have to say, we could not do this without Jennifer Bellman, who is really the glue in pulling this whole event together. She’s our executive producer of the event itself, and she is really the ringleader, working behind the scenes to get everybody holding hands and marching forward. And she’s just done a remarkable job.

What are you most excited about as you gear up for this year’s event?

This is always the exciting part. We’ve got everything mostly figured out on the on the infrastructure side. Now, we’re thinking about the content and how we’re going to make it come to life. Now is the time where we start to put the shows together, and all the panels and the  presentations, and we get to share a lot of the exciting announcements with fans. Hearing and seeing all of their enthusiasm and excitement around that is thrilling. I love to see what the fans respond to, what they’re most excited about, so we can rally behind that.