Finding Inspiration at the D23 Expo

Well, it's safe to say that D23 Expo 2015 was the biggest Disney fan gathering ever, outside of the Disney Parks of course. This year was the first time I was able to attend this amazing experience, and I'm excited to share my unique perspective as a graphic designer inspired by other Disney artists and Disney movies. Finding Inspiration at the D23 Expo 2015

Here are the highlights of my time at the three-day D23 Expo:

Lovely Ladies of Animation

I was completely entranced watching Lorelay Bove talk about how she found inspiration from women's fashion in Tokyo for Big Hero 6, and Brittney Lee describe how she studied rosemaling in Norwegian culture, then developed her own rosemaling "language" for Frozen. I had already read Brittney's blog post about designing for Frozen, but hearing her talk about it in person was such a thrill. I love how they create color schemes by painting while watching their favorite Disney movies (both love The Little Mermaid) and 50's films.

These women are a big part of the future at Disney Animation. Look for their work in the D23 announced new movie, Gigantic! With Gigantic being set in Spain, Lorelay's home country, and the director of Tangled taking the reins, I am very, very excited to see the artwork for this film!

Disney Visual Development artists

The Good Dinosaur

I knew the Disney/Pixar Animation panel hosted by John Lasseter was a must-do at D23 Expo, but I had no idea what was in-store for the incredibly lucky crowd of 7,500 people. The moment that has stuck with me the most wasn't seeing Ellen Degeneres or Ginnifer Goodwin (although I loved listening to her geek out about Disney).

The moment I keep coming back to is Peter Sohn's presentation for The Good Dinosaur. Of all the directors brought on stage, you could tell he was the most connected and emotionally attached to his film. He spoke about why he wanted to create Disney movies using sketch board images of his childhood. To avoid bursting out into tears (again) retelling his story, please read this summary by Disney Insider about this incredible filmmaker. Then mark your calendar for November 25, 2015 to see The Good Dinosaur in theaters (and bring the Kleenex!).

Disney movie

The Jungle Book

One of the surprise guest appearances during the Walt Disney Studios live action panel was Sir Ben Kingsley. Other than Emma Watson for Beauty and the Beast (who, sadly, could not make it), Sir Kingsley was one of the few people I was really hoping would be at the panel. He spoke briefly about watching Dumbo as a child and having something pop inside of him, inspiring him to become an actor. He also described how watching a young actor (Neel Sethi as Mowgli) become so immersed in his character was such an incredible experience for him.

The director of the movie spoke about how this film couldn't have been made before today due to the technology being used to create this film. Most importantly he spoke about how the technology was so good that is was unnoticeable, and how the movie came to life thanks to the incredible voice talents and Neel Sethi's performance.

My other favorite moments from The Jungle Book portion of the panel including seeing the movie poster with the jaguar Bagheera staring down at Mowgli, and watching Sir Kingsley, Lupita Nyong'o and especially Neel react to clips from the movie for the first time, then getting a standing ovation from a room full of 7,500 Disney fans who grew up with The Jungle Book. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but there were a lot of uncontrollable tears of emotion during this moment for me. To say I am excited for this movie is an understatement. The Jungle Book comes out in Spring 2016.

Disney Studios Live Action Panel

Disney Art

Walking through the galleries of Disney fine art and historical artifacts gave me goosebumps. There were SO many fine art pieces I wanted to pick up by new artists (like this Belle screenprint by Mark Englert), but I nearly passed out when I saw an original Mary Blair watercolor painting for sale by Van Eaton Galleries. Check out their auction if you'd like to own a piece of Disney history.

I did pick up some incredible notecards featuring artwork from the Walt Disney Archives, including production artwork and promotional materials. The notecards are stored in replicas of the storybooks seen in the films' opening sequences. I picked up the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, but they also had Pinoccio and Fantasia. I inquired about other available collections; they said these were the first notecards released, but the hope to offer more in the future!

According to the flyer, these will be available in Enesco stores in Fall 2015. You can find the letterhead stationery now in their online popup store here! These pieces I know I will be referencing time and time again in my design work. They were a splurge, but totally worth every penny!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella

Disneyland: The Exhibit

By the time we got in the hour-long line for Disneyland: The Exhibit, I was pretty exhausted. It was Day 3 and I was running on little sleep and very sore muscles. But the second I stepped into the exhibit, I immediately came alive. With original concept sketches used as backdrops, the Disneyland exhibit featured artifacts from the Walt Disney Archives that tell the story of Disneyland from the original concept to the present day. Some of my favorite parts included learning about the Tahitian Terrace that hosted Polynesian shows in the current Aladdin's Oasis space, seeing ticket #000001 to Disneyland purchased by Roy O. Disney, and seeing details from the original Alice in Wonderland ride.

(click images below to enlarge)

Little Golden Books

The last stop we made at the D23 Expo was the Disney books booth. I had been eyeing the "out of the Disney vault" Little Golden Book Walt Disney's Little Man of Disneyland. After learning about this book in Disneyland: The Exhibit, to get Mouseketeers around the world exciting about the opening of Disneyland, I knew I had to pick it up. You can get your copy of Little Man of Disneyland here!

I also picked up a copy of Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Disney Little Golden Book because I am obsessed with all Disney Little Golden Books. Walt insisted that the artwork be done by Walt Disney Studios for each of the Little Golden Books, and the artwork is often closer to rough concept art sketches than the actual animation images. I love this particular book because it includes pages from most of the Disney Little Golden Books over the years.

Little Man of Disneyland

The biggest takeaway from my first D23 Expo was that there was so much to see and do, it was impossible to "do it all!". I was very happy with my first experience, and I hope this gives you a taste of all the wonderful inspiration I gathered from the expo. My favorite part was being surrounded by other Disney lovers who appreciated the art, music and storytelling that Disney is all about. I can't wait until D23 Expo 2017!

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