D23 Expo begins Friday: Legends honored, animation panel expected

By Ashley Carter, Attractions Insider
Last Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017, 3:27 PM EDT

Disney, Star Wars and Marvel fans have taken over Anaheim.

With D23 Expo — Disney's biggest fan event — kicking off Friday, thousands of people have descended onto the city in hopes buying exclusive merchandise, seeing their favorite celebrities and learning what's next for the multi-faceted company.

The conference started in 2009 as a gathering place for fans, giving them in insider's look. Since then, it's grown to feature a jam-packed schedule of presentations, panels, meet-and-greets, giveaways, costume contests and more. 

Many attendees were lining up Thursday — yes, Thursday — for a chance to be among the first inside the Disney Store on Friday. Others will try their luck at snagging a seat to one of the major presentations.

Some fans who bought special packages got a chance to see the one of the most hotly-anticipated features of the expo — a scale model of the new Star Wars land planned for Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California. The new lands are expected to open in 2019.

Up first on Friday — the Disney Legends Awards ceremony. Ten influential people — actors, writers, directors — who have contributed to The Walt Disney Company will be honored. Past honorees include Bill Farmer and Susan Lucci.

This year's crop of Legends are:

  • Legendary Marvel Comics creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
  • "Star Wars" stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Director Garry Marshall 
  • Disney animators Clyde "Gerry" Geronimi and Manuel Gonzales
  • Disney Imagineer Wayne Jackson
  • Julie Taymor, the filmmaker who also adapted "The Lion King" for Broadway

The ceremony is sure to be emotional, with the recent passing of Fisher still looming and the death of Stan Lee's wife on July 6. Marshall also passed away last year.

Later in the day, anyone wishing to see and hear about Disney's upcoming slate of animated movies can attend a special panel hosted by Pixar head John Lasseter. During the presentation sneak peeks, stills and other details will be shared.

Pixar has several movies in the works, including "Coco," "The Incredibles 2" and "Toy Story 4."  Hope for something — anything — about "Incredibles 2" in particular is high among attendees. After all, it's been 13 years since the first "The Incredibles" was released in theaters.

Of course, that's just a snippet of what the panels entail. Disney could have a few surprises up its sleeve.

D23 Expo is from July 14 to 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center.