Disaster at D23 Expo: Staffing and scheduling problems lead to confusion

At special interest weekend conventions, Saturday is usually the big day for dressing up and the staff should be ready for crowd control. They’ve had at least one day, Friday, to get organized and usually Saturday the crowds are the heaviest and the people in their best creations: Not so for D23 Expo 2015. It’s almost as if the staff from the last D23 Expo two years ago have all left and gone on to better jobs.

Waiting to get in may be easier if you want to go somewhere else

Friday morning, when we arrived, the line was already long enough to be out to the sidewalk along the street and down the block. Although most people in the general admission line already had their tickets (mailed to them at their home address), everyone had to have their ticket scanned. When the doors opened at 9 a.m., there were only two door opens and people scanning tickets. For someone who arrived at 8:15 a.m., that mean entry at 10:27.

Saturday morning, someone in line at 8 a.m., got in after a 90-minute wait. Waiting outside, you’re in the sun and by 9 p.m. it is already hot. Unlike San Diego Comic-Con or most of Disneyland, the lines are not under shade.

However, if you lined up inside for the line waiting to get into D23 hall, then you’ll have to sit on a cement floor, but you’ll be in an air conditioned area. Once it is announced whether or not you’ll likely get in, then you’ll be able to walk through the lobby and out before going back inside again. If you’re unlucky the door monitor will tell you to go back and wait at the end of the general admission line.

General admission lines are the shortest later in the day around 2 p.m.

The D23 hall line begins at bedtime

Although officially, the signs say you can’t start lining up until 10 p.m. the night before for the morning, Friday morning there were already about five people in line for the Saturday 10:30 p.m. presentation. Unlike other years, where people lined up beginning in the early morning, people were allowed to sleep in Hall E. That meant that unless you were willing to sleep over, you weren’t going to get into the morning presentations.

This year, D23 was in a section closed off from the exhibition hall. At the end of the presentation, people were let out into the exhibition floor. After the Saturday morning presentation, people saw a lot of people leaving with posters. That usually means a freebie, but once you headed toward that section of the hall, you had to be told that no posters would be given out–not even if there were leftovers.  This wasn’t a problem with a similar giveaway at a previous D23 Expo because the crowd was let out into an area away from the exhibition all.

Sorry, no consolation prize

While in previous years, the overflow of people waiting for D23 Hall and Hall 28 and 23 would be shown into a room where they could view the presentation through a live feed on a screen, that wasn’t an option this year, much to the surprise of many. If D23 Expo had been willing to do so, then all the people waiting in the D23 line would have been able to see the presentations as in previous years. This year, half of the Hall E was going to be severely disappointed.

Let me entertain you

In previous years, there were people around to give pep talks to people waiting in line using humor or even Disney trivia to keep one entertained. In the line for D23 Hall, there was a row of monitors with a loop of various programs and clips that were shown, however, the screens were only in one row across the front of the room. The back 3/4 could not see and certainly could not hear.

What about grub

The food kiosk at the D23 waiting line (Hall D) was closed Friday afternoon although at least 5,000 people were there from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, the kiosk was open in the morning sometime before 8 a.m. That doesn’t seem to make sense that it wasn’t open for lunch on Friday.

Last becomes first

Unlike San Diego Comic-Con H Hall presentations, the hall is cleared out after each presentation. Because of this, you will not be allowed to wait for the next presentation. However, if you’re in line for the first presentation and don’t make it in, you are first in line for the next presentation and assured of getting in to that.

The D23 Hall staff have no idea how long you’ll have to wait or when you should line up. When I asked about the D23 line for the Disney Pixar animation presentation, I was told to come back at 2 p.m. for the 3 p.m. presentation. If I had done that, I would have likely not gotten in. Instead, I lined up at 11 a.m. and was not even in the front row.

Not all of the D23 Hall presentations have freebies. The Disney-Pixar presentation in D23 Hall had no posters or giveaways although a few lucky people got t-shirts and Hawaiian shirts that were thrown into the crowd.  Yet after waiting for about six hours it would have been nice to get something, especially since the D23 Hall Live-Action presentation audience got not one, but two free posters.

The shortest path may be outside and away from the staff

Friday, sometimes you could not find the staff at certain desks, such as reserved seating. Sometimes, you couldn’t be sure if you were standing in the right line (A-M? M-Z?). You could ask, but the staff might not have the answer. You might have to go out to come back into the building to go where you needed to be.

Saturday, one could not get directions how to get to the parking lot connected to the Anaheim Convention Center. You could get out of the attached parking structure, but you couldn’t in through the convention center during certain times because Friday, after the afternoon D23 presentation, we were allowed to use that hallway.

Saturday afternoon, however, when we left the exhibition all and attempted to use the hallway next to D Hall, the staff member at the escalator told us we needed to go out of the building and use the stairs. The person at the stairs originally told us we could not use the stairway and needed to go around the corner to use the stairs. There were no open stairs around the corner. When we returned to tell the staff this, we were told we needed to walk to the parking lot structure. The parking lot structure was around the corner, down the block, almost to the street and around another corner.

If we had used the elevator, which had a line, we also might have been turned back. I recall on Friday one woman with child wondering where her husband was because she had decided to take the escalator, but he wasn’t allowed to because of the baby buggy and the line to use the elevator had been too long.

Since the line is already controlled at the escalator that should be easy enough to divide the lines there from who wants to wait for a D23 Hall presentation and who wants to use the hall to the parking lot. Since the staff was already allowing people to enter using the hallway to the parking structure, if they had used a stanchions and designated one half of the stairway on one side of the banister to parking structure traffic and then the other to the D23 Hall line, the crowd could have been easily controlled with the number of staff present.

How to get freebies: Pixar ball quest

There are freebies and one thing that was hard to get was the yellow ball with a red star. Friday, the demand was high, however, when you went to Pixar (under the giant red-starred yellow ball), the staff couldn’t tell you when they’d be giving out balls. Saturday morning,  there apparently was so much chaos on Friday,  they wanted to change the way they gave the balls out. So they had a line, gave out tickets and then said they’d only give them out to people who posted an Instagram photo with the #D23LuxoBall. However, not everyone, gasp, has a smartphone. So people waiting in that line with a ticket and no smartphone also got a ball.

Last D23 Expo, there were lines with signs and people to tell you if you’d get one in that line and then tell you when to come back for another chance. That’s much better than being told on Friday, come back and check because they weren’t sure when the next give-away would be.

Special Interest convention faux pas

While waiting in line, I chatted with someone there for the costume contest. She had a few choice words to say about Disney. Last time wasn’t good, but the contest was at least on Saturday when most attendees usually dress in their best. It was also in the afternoon. This year the contest was Friday afternoon. Most costume contests are Saturday night, giving people a full day to prepare and allowing them to enjoy the convention itself on Friday and Saturday morning.

There is a dress code for D23 Expo because it is Disney. Think PG-13. Nothing too skimpy or too scary. Nothing that could be deemed offensive either. This isn’t an everything and anything goes type of convention. There are no booth babes.

The costume contest was also at about the time when people would be leaving D23 Hall, and scheduled to be finished only a half an hour before the start of the next D23 Hall presentation. People who wanted to see the animation presentation would not be able to attend the masquerade. Last time, many of the masquerade costumes were inspired by animation (e.g. Snow White, Mulan).

There is only one more day of D23 Expo and one can hope that the staff has learned a few lessons, but D23 Expo is every other year, so that doesn’t mean next expo will be better. Continuity seems to be a problem because the last two expos seemed better organized and the staff could actually answer your questions.

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