Disney’s D23 confab: All about the Internets
Who else but Disney would have created a conference like D23? What other studio has the ego to even try?
Opening day at the four-day conference devoted to all things Disney, top dog Bob Iger kept saying that no one else could have mounted a gathering like it. That may very well be true, but it’s even more interesting to examine how and why the studio took the plunge.
Iger suggested there were two main spurs: Fan interest in a Disney club, and desire to share “Disney treasures,” aka production artifacts, with those die-hard supporters. But that wasn’t the only motivation: Iger believes that the Internet can help sustain fan connection to the brand, and these fans can in turn draw new fans into the fold.
“Not only will they tell people about this and the things that they see,” Iger explained, “but they will also tell people about the company.”
Unstated: the importance of fostering such bonds in an fragmenting media marketplace, and the success of other fan shows such as Comic-Con and Star Trek conventions. Comic-Con, however, draws on a number of creative sources, not just that from one company. Betting that enough Disney faithful would show up – and pony up the healthy admission fees – to such a show was a bit of a gamble. Would it justify the studio expense?
Attendance was a fraction of the Comic-Con hordes. But enough fans turned out opening day for Iger to proclaim the show a success: He promised the studio would do additional fan shows in the future, although not necessarily the same way. Among the possibilities he mentioned was a show designed for kids and traveling exhibits.
“This is just the beginning,” he told assembled media. The goal, he added, is to “improve our business, but also give back.”
There was, in fact, palpable excitement during marquee presentations. Footage of Walt Disney and animated classics drew hearty cheers from the thousands assembled, as did popular movies such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Pretty Woman.” Luminaries such as Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Betty White and Robin Williams also drew rapturous applause, but that was to be expected. Cheers for Radio Disney? Even Iger was surprised.
The show promoted all corporate divisions; there were even displays devoted to Disney home furnishings and paints. But there was perhaps no greater testimony to the Disney legacy than the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit. It showcased Davy Crockett’s coonskin cap, and Mary Poppins’ costume and artifacts from Walt Disney’s desk; Miley Cyrus’s wig and Anne Hathaway’s gown from “The Princess Diaries” was also on display. These props and costumes evoke the movies themselves and remind visitors of the care that went into making them.
While some visitors no doubt would prefer more props from older classics, the show was designed to celebrate Disney past present and future.
“When you get a job like this, you understand right away that you are a steward of the brand,” Iger said. “You need to balance the richness of the past with the need to innovate.”
Disney being Disney, however, there were some safeguards built into the festivities. Attendees were encouraged to wear costumes, as long as they didn’t violate certain rules; in any case, there weren’t that many.
Security was much tighter than at Comic-Con as well – attendees had to check cell phones, cameras, laptops and any other recording devices during the marquee presentations. Reason: The Mouse House emphatically did NOT want anyone to record footage from upcoming shows or movies.