D23 Expo Panel Highlights – 60 Years of Jungle Cruise, Once Upon A Time, Disney Broadway Originals

D23 Expo has a large amount of panels and presentations, and it is impossible for one person to catch them all.  Each are fun and unique and sometimes brings trivia, news, and great guests for all.  Here are some highlights from a selection of panels.

Safari So Good: 60 Years of Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise was an opening day attraction for Disneyland.  So, as the park celebrates its 60th anniversary the Jungle Cruise does as well.  This panel, hosted by Kevin Lively, had Alexander Williams, Brandon Kleyla, Bryan Thombs, and Randy Grant.  Most were former skippers now doing something else bigger at Disneyland or Imagineering.

Lively and Williams talked at great length about the history of the original, and also showcased some vintage photos and film.  It was fun to see the costumes skippers used to wear and the full color photos of the construction.  Harper Goff used a stick and ran it along what he thought could be the course for the cruise to make it.  Machinery followed along and dug out dirt, and that was the Jungle Cruise!  A car was taken through the track before any water could even be put in, and this was in order to see how the ride would be before it was too late to make changes.

Kelly Small shared her vast knowledge of the plant life of the Jungle Cruise.  One example was telling how vines look like they’re attached to a tree, but are sometimes unattached and touching the water for nourishment!  My favorite tree she pointed out was the Sausage Tree, which is named because of its round fruit.  It’s hard to see unless you’re looking in the right direction, so I’m going to try to find it next time I’m on.

History was given with all the other Jungle Cruise versions at the other resorts in the world.  It was pointed out that Magic Kingdom’s had more planning, and a bigger area than Disneyland’s.  Great detail was given to Tokyo Disneyland’s recent upgrade to their attraction, since Bryan Thombs was there to give that information.  Since this was an opening day attraction for Tokyo, this was the first refurbishment of the ride since then.  Special night lighting was installed that made the jungle come to life starting in the evening.  A more involved story was made where a spirit animal unlocks effects in a temple ending for the attraction.

After this the origins of Jingle Cruise was told, and the Disneyland and Disney World versions were compared.  WDW’s version had cast members and props make costumes and boats more elaborate and colorful.  Trader Sam’s was explored with its connection to the Cruise as an origin point.  Some of the gags that have been put in revolve around the famous trader himself.  Photos of the character around the world have Trader Sam, the animatronic, photoshopped into existing photos.  He has the same expression in all of them!

Last, but not least, a pass the mic around virtual Jungle Cruise was performed.  The former skippers got to use all of their favorite jokes.  It was one of the highlights of the whole D23 Expo for me!

Disney On Broadway: The Originals

Saturday had two performances of Disney’s Broadway hits.  James Iglehart hosted and sang joined by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland.  Iglehart is the Genie in the current Aladdin production, while Brown is the first Broadway Mary Poppins and Strickland was the original Broadway Tarzan.

The show went through historically each production, starting with Beauty and the Beast.  Having not been to any Broadway performance, it was truly a delight to hear highlights of each stage show.  You could see why each of these performers were picked for their roles.  And they covered other shows’ songs delightfully well.

Iglehart’s hosting duty was done great.  He pointed out some of the history of the productions, while a few videos filled in the rest.  Little facts like how Beauty and the Beast is the 8th longest running Broadway show, while Lion King is actually the 4th, pointed out how memorable these are.

At the end, the next show’s key song was performed by the trio accompanied by the live orchestra.  “Let It Go” was a preview of Frozen being made up into a Broadway production.  In all, this was a magical showcase of songs and talent!  It makes me want to run out to one of the shows!

Once Upon A Time: An Evening With Snow White and the Evil Queen

I’ve been to Once Upon A Time panels before.  Being a viewer for all four seasons and a fan this is something I look forward to at Expos now.  This time having cast with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz made it that much more memorable.

To begin the show, a behind the scenes video that will accompany the DVD was shown.  This was hosted and written by Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, the show’s Snow White and Prince Charming.  The two comedically took everyone around the set of Storybrooke.

After that, Kitsis and Horowitz took the stage to talk about both the history and preview of the show.  On everyone’s mind was what is going to happen to Emma now that she is the Dark One.  Not a lot was divulged, but Camelot will be a place visited by the main characters.  An image was shown with Rumplestilskin, the previous Dark One, behind “Dark Swan” Emma.  It’s puzzling and intriguing, and clear that the two are not in Storybrooke.  A photo of Merida was shown as well, and it was hinted that other characters from Brave will be appearing.  Kitsis and Horowitz are excited to have the first Pixar characters in the show as well.

Next, the creators were joined by Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parrilla, the Evil Queen.  Though they are at odds in the show, the two actresses are friends off screen.  They talked about how fun it is to play their characters on the show, and some of their highlights of making it all.

There was a pause in the panel to have a question from the audience.  A man with a Jango Fett helmet stood up and asked who Ginnifer Goodwin’s favorite character is besides her own.  Her response was Rumplestilkskin, which prompted the man to take off his helmet and reveal Josh Dallas, who exclaimed “Not Prince Charming??”  It was a surprise guest for squealing fans in the audience.

Dallas joined everyone on stage to talk more about the show.  One of the long conversations was about how so many actors on the show have become parents in the last 4 years.  Goodwin and Dallas, who are married, had a son last year.  All of them were saying how parenthood has helped them on the show.  Parrilla thinks of her youngest stepson as she interacts with Jared Gilmore who plays Henry, the adopted son of the Evil Queen.

To end the five’s conversation, they were asked fast questions on some of their favorite Disney rides, songs, and other similar items.  Having to answer quickly provided comedy for them all.  The whole panel ended with the first couple minutes of Season 5.  When the last season ended, Emma was sucked up into a dark vortex and her name written on the Dark One dagger.  Her family being left after witnessing it is very upset to say the least, and proceeds to figure out what to do to get her.  Hook tries to command her to come to their spot, using the control of the dagger.  When she doesn’t appear, Regina/Evil Queen realizes she’s not in Storybrooke anymore.  This will set the group off to look for her in the fairy tale world.

The D23 Expo had very memorable panels and exciting news and guests!  It was a delight to attend different ones throughout the weekend.


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