By Peyton Liebler
2023 was nothing short of remarkable for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club. Marking the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, this milestone year was brimming with experiences made to capture imagination, inviting all fans to live out the most daring of dreams. As we look ahead to the next 100 years of memories waiting to be made, we thought it only fitting to review just how magical this year was because of fans like you!
Destination D23 presented by Lug
The biggest Disney fan event of the year brought even more of the Disney100 celebration to Walt Disney World Resort in September. Fans from across the globe gathered at Disney’s Contemporary Resort to celebrate a century of The Walt Disney Company during a weekend of can’t-miss panels, frightfully fun parties, and extra magic in the parks. Whether it was reflecting on a platinumed past with the Walt Disney Archives or looking toward a great, big, beautiful tomorrow with special presentations from Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro and upcoming projects from The Walt Disney Studios, D23 Members delighted in a weekend of unforgettable experiences tailor-made to celebrate the fan in us all.
D23 Members Set the Stage with Disney on Broadway
D23 Members across the country delighted in D23 Member Nights at the touring productions of The Lion King, Frozen, and Aladdin. Among the nationwide tours, D23 Gold Members were also among the first to see the limited run of Disney’s Hercules at the Papermill Playhouse! It was a true joy to belt along to these smash hit productions from the wintery wonderland of Arendelle to the rhythmic Pride Lands. With special discussions featuring cast and crew, all these theatrical experiences deserve a standing ovation in our book.
European Adventures with D23
Last spring, D23 was thrilled to take three specialty fan experiences across the pond! Commemorating Star Wars Celebration London, D23 hosted a 40th anniversary Screening of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for D23 Members. In Paris, D23 Members embarked on an epic two-day Grand Finale celebration closing out the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. This Grand Finale featured specialty viewing experiences, guided tours from Walt Disney Imagineering, and an exclusive attraction walkthrough. In Munich, D23 Members previewed Disney100: The Exhibition. This lineup of remarkable experiences was a whirlwind adventure, and a great way to celebrate 100 Years of Disney in Europe!
Exciting Experiences at Disney Parks
TRON Lightcycle / Run made its debut in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, and D23 Gold Members got a chance to enjoy this remarkable attraction at a special Gold Member preview in March. We then went from “END OF LINE_” to “the end of the line,” heading to California, where D23 Gold Members were among the first to witness Rogers: The Musical at Disney California Adventure Park. Sensational show tunes met Super Hero showdowns as all delighted in this musical take on the story of the first Avenger.
60 Uncanny Years at the X-MEN Hellfire Gala
Every year, there is one night when mutantkind invites fellow mutants—as well as the outside world—to an unforgettable celebration of mutant culture. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the X-Men in Marvel Comics, D23 brought the first ever real-life Hellfire Gala from the page to an in-person event this summer in San Diego. Inspired by mutantkind’s most fashionable event in Marvel Comics, the Hellfire Gala brought us some of the most incredible cosplay and costuming inspired by not just the X-Men, but an array of fashionable Marvel characters. With three distinct areas to “x-plore,” our kaleidoscopic night in Krakoa showed us the best of what happens when the worlds of fandom and fashion collide.
Glorious Halloween Happenings
Despite every effort to form a calming circle, we just couldn’t keep the frightful delights from materializing in 2023! D23 celebrated 30 Years of Hocus Pocus with a bewitched Black Flame Ball in Salem, Massachusetts. And who better to crash this candlelit costumed confab than the Sanderson Sisters themselves? After meeting up with the witches of Salem, it was time for us to join forces with the Cromwell Clan. Commemorating 25 Years of Halloweentown, D23 welcomed Members in St. Helens Oregon for an exclusive theatrical screening of the Disney Channel Original movie in the very city and theater it was filmed in! And from Halloweentown, we went to Halloween Town, marking 30 Years of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas at the El Capitan Theatre. With a special presentation from Disney Legend Don Hahn, fans rejoiced in the hallowed history of Jack Skellington and this beloved tale.
Sensational Screening Celebrations
2023 brought us some of our favorite fan screening experiences that sprinkled a little extra magic onto the silver screen. In celebration of the debut of TRON Lightcycle / Run at Walt Disney World, we brought the Grid to Disney Springs, where we hosted 3D and 2D screenings of TRON: Legacy (2010). Fans got an extra special “digital delight” when director of TRON (1982) Steven Lisberger arrived to introduce the legacy sequel, which he produced—and even made a cameo in! Then, it was time to grab shell and coast on the EAC! D23 “shell-ebrated” the 20th anniversary of the Pixar classic Finding Nemo with a special experience at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. In addition to watching the film on the big screen, Members heard from an animal husbandry expert on the diverse aquatic ecosystems found in the film. To mark the 25th anniversary of Mulan, D23 Members in Los Angeles gathered for a special outdoor screening celebration of the animated classic. In partnership with Street Food Cinema, this screening featured an authentic Chinese Lion Dance from a local troupe and a special appearance from Disney Legend and voice of Mulan, Ming-Na Wen.
Premiere Memories from the Red Carpet and Beyond
2023 brought so many new stories to the worlds of Disney through a variety of films and D23 Members got the chance to be there when they debuted! D23 Members strutted the red carpet at the premieres of films like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Haunted Mansion. Members also were able to partake in fan event screenings of Wish and even attend the digital premiere of Disney Legend Don Hahn’s documentary Westward Walt. Whether you joined us on the red carpet or the worldwide web, we had a blast premiering some incredible stories with you in 2023!
A Wonderland of Holiday Wishes
This holiday season took “merry and bright” to a whole new level as D23 Members joined us on both coasts for extra Disney holiday magic. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, D23 Members joined us at Disney Jollywood Nights for a special experience at PizzeRizzo. The D23 Fa la la la Lounge boasted merry Muppet-inspired décor and holiday hilarity! On the west coast, D23 Members de-lighted at Light Up The Season 2023 at the Walt Disney Studio lot in Burbank, California. Inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Wish, this festive celebration brought all our greatest holiday wishes to life in the most exciting ways.
In 1923, two brothers created a company, whose legacy has grown deeper and further than anyone could have ever imagined. Over the last century, the magic of Disney has only become more prevalent for the world. It’s a testament to how dedicated Disney fans are, and it was our pleasure to celebrate Disney’s centennial with you in 2023. In addition to celebrating this milestone at Destination D23, we welcomed members to the historic Walt Disney Studios lot for the D23 Disney100 Royal Ball! Clad in their royally regal best, D23 Members marked a century of the Walt Disney Company the day before the official anniversary on October 15th. This sovereign soiree boasted food inspired by the delicious decades of Disney, fantastic photo ops and character interactions, and a lineup of fabulous Disney luminaries in attendance.
Last year took us places we’ve only dared to dream upon, from the digital domain of the Grid to the powered-up island paradise of Krakoa. 2023 brought us together to celebrate 100 years of Disney, but also to celebrate 100 years with you—the ultimate Disney fans. None of this would be possible were it not for your passion and love for these stories. While we’re sad to say goodbye to 2023, we are beyond thrilled to share the surprises and fantastic experiences that await D23 Members in 2024!