D23 Membership Review

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D23 is the official Disney Fan Club. It costs $75 to join as a Gold Member or $35 as a Silver Member in 2014, before discounts. At present, there are three levels of D23 memberships: the above-mentioned Silver and Gold Memberships, plus a Free Membership. The difference between Gold and Silver is the quarterly magazine, while the Free Membership only really has access to online articles, an e-newsletter, the ability to purchase merchandise, and the ability to purchase tickets to some events (for higher prices and after they’ve been on sale for Gold and Silver Members for a while).

It would not surprise me at all if Disney marketing brass predicated their marketing strategy for D23 on wanting to convince Disney fans that they could not be “true” or “loyal” Disney supporters if they weren’t members of D23. The marketing tacitly implies as much. Yet oddly, it seems that the more sanctimonious group has been non-members, rather than members of D23. With ardent opposition to D23 in the Disney fan community, you’re unlikely to earn the adulation of many by stating that you’re a member of D23. So, I guess, if that’s your principle reason for joining, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Luckily, there are other reasons for joining D23. Membership offers some cognizable benefits and perks. Currently, there are two levels of membership, Gold and Silver. A few of the perks for each level are discussed in turn below.

Disney “Twenty-Three” Quarterly Publication: Gold Membership includes a one-year subscription (four issues) to D23′s collectible magazine. When I say collectible, I really mean it. Twenty-Three is printed on nice and thick paper, and has a great glossy look. Slightly oversized, it is the perfect “Coffee Table” magazine. If you’re a fan of all things Disney, and not just the theme parks, this is a pretty compelling justification to get the Gold Membership. If you’re primarily a fan of the theme parks, check out “Celebrations” or “Orlando Attractions” magazines, instead and get the Silver Membership. In addition to the quality of the magazine itself, the D23 magazines frequently include little gifts with each issue that are also pretty nice (although way too many are patches).

This magazine is the only thing that distinguishes the Gold Membership ($75) from the Silver Membership ($35), the Silver obviously being the Membership that does not receive the Magazine subscription.

Membership Card and Certificate: Your membership card, which you will need for events, and a certificate that could only appeal to children. Disney describes it as “suitable-for-framing.” I can’t imagine anyone on earth actually framing this thing.

Surprise Collectible Gift: Usually a D23 watch. The watch is fine, but it’s cheap quality. I wouldn’t wear it.

Exclusive Special Events and Merchandise: If you live in California or Florida, or make regular trips to either coast, this is a big draw. While many Walt Disney World regulars complain that “all of the events are in California” that simply is not the case. We live in Indiana, yet there have been several events for which we’ve purchased tickets. Were we to live closer, there would have been three other events we would have liked to attend. D23 has started to address this by offering more regional events and events outside the parks. Kudos to D23 for responding to fan complaints on that one.

There is no way to purchase tickets to most events without being a paid member (most events sell out before being available for the Free Members), so if you want to attend any of them, you’re basically forced into buying at least the Silver Membership.

Additionally, in years when the D23 Expo is held, members receive a discount to the Expo. D23 Expo returns in 2015; this is considered the flagship D23 event, as announcements are often made at the D23 Expo. Here’s hoping Cars Land and Star Wars Land are announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and Disneyland in the case of Star Wars Land) at the 2015 D23 Expo!

The greatest of these perks, for most, is the Twenty-Three magazine. Some argue that all of the information available from D23 is available for free, online. This is undoubtedly true, but for me, “information” isn’t the only reason to buy something. There is something to be said for the tangible feel of a magazine. Sitting outdoors with a cold beer on a summer day, I don’t want to be squinting as I try to view the poorly illuminated text on an iPad or similar device. But that’s just me. I am a fan of printed publications. Your mileage may vary on that one.

The second perk, and if you can avail yourself of this one it’s likely the greatest, is the opportunity to purchase admission to the events. While I was not overly impressed with the first Magic & Merriment we attended, we had an absolute blast at the second Magic & Merriment, and even more fun at the D23 EPCOT Center 30th Anniversary events! I have heard great reviews of most other D23 events, too.

It can stink that most of these events are in California, but there are plenty in Florida, and it makes the most sense to have them in the parks, where the experiences are most relevant. To expect D23 events to be held in non-major cities (where’s my Plainwell, Michigan, event?!) is a tad unrealistic. If you’re unable to plan your trips around these events or take weekend jaunts when they’re offered, you might be disappointed with the event schedule. However, if you can attend even an event or two per year, Membership quickly becomes worth the while for you. If you cannot or will not attend any events, I do not see a lot of intrinsic value in the membership, and I wouldn’t recommend becoming a member, unless you’re interested in the magazine.

With that said, the question is whether the magazine is worth your money. Like I stated above, if you’re a fan of the whole company, most likely yes. If you’re a fan of just the theme parks, it’s questionable. When presented with the question of whether I should become a Silver or Gold Member, I opted for Gold after looking at the prices of used magazines on eBay. Most were selling in the $10 range, meaning the magazines roughly paid for themselves. Most magazines also include a collectible gift of some sort (I sold my Horizons patch that I received with one issue last year for $12 by itself!) that also have some value. So as long as you don’t mind dealing with eBay, the subscription is probably worth it as an upgrade from Silver to Gold. From a pure value perspective, I would have a hard time justifying the cost of the subscription if I only wanted the magazine, but I am primarily a fan of the theme parks.

Also worth noting for those reading this who are contemplating renewal is that you’re better off purchasing a new subscription with a discount code than you are renewing! From time to time, Disney has a discount code that is only valid for new members. Try code: D23DVC for 10% off either a Gold or Silver Membership. This code doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot.

With that code, the price is slightly more palatable, but I think overall it’s still a little overpriced for most people. Obviously, the membership benefits vary widely: a SoCal local AP holder may be able to attend 10 D23 events in one year and have membership be well worth the price whereas someone in Topeka, Kansas may never be able to attend an event, and may not care about the watch or magazine. That being said, while it’s really a personal decision, it’s neither a “terrible” or “great” club. Right now it’s just sort of mediocre. What Disney does with it in the next few years will determine its ultimate fate. On the plus side, D23 is actually run by passionate Disney fans (we’ve met them at a few D23 events, and they really seem to care about Disney and the Club), but it doesn’t seem like they’re the ones making the high level decisions concerning the direction of the club.

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of D23? Is it worth the money, or have you let your subscription lapse? Have you attended any D23 events? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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26 Responses to “D23 Membership Review”

  1. Sarah says:

    Interesting review! I originally had no interest in D23 when it was first announced. But that changed when a trip already in the making coincided with the first D23 Anniversary party. I bought the silver membership (trying to save a little money) and was lucky enough to score tickets to the party. At the time I considered the membership worth it because it gave me access to this special event. It was certainly a once in a lifetime type of event for me and I was glad I shelled out the money for it. I haven’t renewed my membership, though. The chances of me attending another event is somewhere between slim and nil and even if another event happened to be during one of our vacations we have two children. (We were lucky the last time because we had nan & pop with us – babysitters!) The events are not really appropriate and/or too long for children. I’m also not willing to pay the price for the gold membership to receive the magazine. Shipping to Canada is outrageous (to put it politely)!!!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Ah yes, I’ve heard that about international shipping. With the large fan-bases in Canada and the UK, I’d think that Disney would print overseas, or do something differently to make it more practical for fans outside of the US to become members. I take it you had fun at the D23 Anniversary Party?

      • Sarah says:

        I don’t understand why they don’t have a warehouse here in Canada that they can ship from. I find it hard to believe that the market for such here in Canada is not popular enough to support one. How many times have I wanted to order something from Disneyshopping.com and have refused b/c of the shipping costs.
        Yes, the Anniversary Party was fun! I enjoyed it to the fullest and would probably do something similar if the opportunity presented itself again.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I find the lack of foreign warehouses equally puzzling, especially in areas where Disney is highly popular, like Mexico, Canada, and the UK.

  2. Catherine says:

    Great review! Since I’m only a five hour drive from Disneyland with a free place to stay when I go, this looks like a good idea for me. Quick question, though: When buying tickets to an event, can a member buy tickets for non-members, say family or friends? Or does everyone have to be a member to get a ticket? Thanks!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yes, members can buy tickets for non-members. For Magic & Merriment, a member could buy a ticket for him or herself, plus three tickets. For Destination D, it’s one additional ticket. Look for it to be one ticket going forward, as I’ve heard there have been a lot of complaints about allowing three extra tickets, especially for the events that sell out especially quickly (Magic & Merriment sold out in SECONDS–some people claim they never even saw the link to purchase tickets, it sold out so quickly).

  3. Wonderful article, but I still do not agree. I was, until this year, a D23 member. D23 is still a very nice idea, but I still do not believe it is entirely worth it.

    I do live in Florida, but was always unable to attend the events, typically because A) they were not announced soon enough or B) the price is far too high. Members paid the entrance fee to join D23, and now we are to fork over an extra $100 for an event?

    The magazines are astounding quality, I will agree! I’ve kept them and still read through them often! But, non-members can purchase these magazines as well. They aren’t much of a members-only perk. If I see an issue I like, I’ll pick it up next time I’m at the parks.

    If you’re a member and you enjoy it, then by all means, stay a member! If you’re contemplating joining D23, then take everything into consideration. This article is a fantastic outline of everything you’ll receive. It’s all a matter of opinion.
    My full feelings on D23 can be found here: http://imagineer2017.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/d23-no-more/

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I guess I don’t quite understand with what you disagree. Your conclusion was that it’s a matter of opinion, my conclusion was that the club is presently mediocre and that whether you’ll get value out of the club depends on how you take advantage of it.

      As for the events, at Magic & Merriment, I had a conversation with one of the higher-ups in D23, and he informed me that all of the events D23 holds are designed to break even, not profit. Yes, some are certainly expensive, but have you attended one? After attending Magic & Merriment, I could easily see why its cost was so high. Even with the many issues I had with the event, it was still undoubtedly very expensive to hold, especially with all of the costs spread over such a small attendance (and the intimate nature of the event was great). I think it’s a little ridiculous to expect the events to be free when they cost so much to hold. If D23 stated that some of your membership fee was going towards events, that would be one thing, but for $20 (D23 has already established the “member value” of the magazine is $40, as that is the difference in price between the Silver and Gold memberships; I’m assuming the watch is worth another $15), if you attend even one event, Disney is losing a lot of money on your membership. Moreover, if the events were free, there would be even MORE complaints by those who can’t attend that they aren’t getting the full value out of their membership. A separate cost for the events is a necessary. That some people can’t attend the events is unfortunate, but it’s something that you must account for when determining whether to become a member.

      • What I do not agree with is that Disney is making it’s loyal fans pay so much for a club that get them really nothing. The events are the selling point, seeing as I could get just about everything else without membership. So my issue is that the events cost so much extra on top of the membership.
        If I understand correctly, you’re saying that by becoming a member, you pay $20 for the events. If so, then why pay more for the events? I understand that Disney does need to pay for these events, but still. It’s a bit much to ask for the $75 for gold membership, then another $100 for an event. It’s even worse for the silver, in that case, seeing as all they pay for is access to events! Pay them for events, then pay them for events.
        I did look into Magic and Merriment, but it was far too expensive for my family. Was it worth the $100 or so dollars, I think it was! But not $100 some dollars /plus/ membership costs.

  4. Diane says:

    As with all things this is a subjective topic. I’m probably the exception to the rule as I like being a member of the D23 club, I live in the UK and have to pay for international shipping, however, from my point of view it’s worth it as the magazine is great quality and I’ve had some nice items from there, maybe I’m just easily pleased from having a not too interesting everyday existance. Even though I live in the UK I do visit Florida regularly and was lucky to be able to do The Last Tour To Endor event last September as I’d already booked my holiday to be there before it was announced (a happy coincidence) and I had already booked my October trip for this year to find that I’ll be there for the Sip And Stroll event and hope to get a ticket for that when they are made available. Yes, I would like to attend more of the events, but, I am still happy to be a member and get D23 items online at the Disney Store, I just wish that they would start selling D23 exclusives at the Theme Parks.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yep, it’s a highly personal thing. If you have the money and enjoy the Club, there’s nothing wrong with that! I agree about theme park exclusives, but I think logistically, it’d be difficult to do more than pins since they wouldn’t want to take up valuable retail space with items only some people could buy.

  5. Great article! I had no idea how the club worked, or what you get for joining. This really helped me understand. I don’t think I’ll be joining right now…but certainly might be fun one year to try!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yep – it’s definitely cool, but certainly not the first way I’d spend my money on Disney “stuff” unless I were going to one of the events.

  6. Tracy H. says:

    I’ve only had my D23 membership for a year and I do really enjoy the magazine. I think it’s beautiful and I get so excited when it comes in the mail. My only complaint with my membership, and complaint is probably the wrong word as this more likely falls under the “user error and ignorance” category, is finding out exactly when these special events take place. I always seem to miss the announcement and thus miss the ability to purchase tickets. I try to check the D23 website at least once a week and also try to keep my eyes open on the Disney fan sites. Beyond that do you have any special tips for special event ticket purchase? I would only be attending east coast events as the west coast is unfortunately a bit out of my budget at this point in time.

  7. Valerie Shubkagel says:

    I joined 2 years ago and loved it…went to the expo that year but when my membership expired I was reluctant to renew it untill this year because I was planning on going to expo or try to go to some D23 event. I renewed in December; got the silver; the thing I did not like is (and maybe I read it wrong) but I could have sworn that once purchased it would take 8-10 business days to get membership card etc; it took 8-10 weeks or more. Second the Silver does not last 1 full year; just got notice to renew. I do not like the fact that I dont get the magazine because with the Silver membership I have to purchase the D23 magazine at bookstore for $14. Also can not use the membership in the stores [none around here except for in Branson or in Overland Park Ks]. It would have been nice to have been able to use it when I went to see the broadway version of Beauty and the Beast.

  8. John Ledbetter says:

    I still really enjoy the charter year gifts (Mickey Paints a Smile on the World print, etc.) but the gifts have been really hit or miss since that year. Replica vintage Disneyland swag: Good; Tron Legacy Mouse Pad: huge insulting miss.
    I have my charter day member pin but if I am feeling the tug of Florida I don’t pull up D23′s website; I come here. I may switch to silver or forbear entirely next year.

    • Quorra says:

      Just a warning….with Silver you get no gifts! I switch from Gold to Silver for my third year of membership and if it was not for the renewal notices you receive i would not know I was a member. I was disappointed that the gifts only came with the magazine for the gold members. So in essence if you are not gold and not able to attend events then there is no point of membership. Even though I was a charter member I let it drop this year.

  9. Jay says:

    I largely agree with the review, but I think there is another intrinsic value in joining D23 for some people. The ability to buy exclusive merchandise and the discount at Disneystore.com can pay for your membership. Obviously, that will only appeal if you tend to buy merchandise at the disney store, but for me, I have saved $180 (I collect LE dolls and stuff for my daughters)by joining.

    • Gary F says:

      This is what I think originally and from time to time makes the club more desireable/enticing/worth it to some people. My wife got me mygold membership 3 years ago for my birthday and I still say it was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever gotten. That said, living in NewYork and now Illinois we have only had access to the Fanniversary events though the first one was awesome (second one tomorrow!).
      I feel like the merchandise has significantly dropped off. Originally they had the shirts and other gifts you ould buy. I bought a beautiful D23 only pin in Hollywood Studios once but have not seen any D23-exclusive merchandise in the parks since then. I think if Disney made this slightly more visibleinthe parks they might entice more people to join just to be able to get the merchandise. I do love (most of) the gifts they have sent. The Disney Christmas cards were cool, the Wreck it Ralph stuff andcutout Valentines this issue less so. But I lovedtheEpcot patches and put together the whole set.

      • Massachusetts D23 member says:

        The exclusive D23 pins are in the store at Downtown Disney and have been since Charter year. I always stop by there to buy my pin when I travel to Florida.

  10. Andrea says:

    You can buy the magazine new at Barnes and Noble, but it’s an expensive magazine. If you want access to the special events and the magazine, you may as well get the higher membership.

  11. Julia says:

    I could have sworn you didn’t want Carsland replicated at Disney World. What changed?

    • Zac says:

      That is what I noticed as well. I hope they don’t take it there. Heaven forbid they work on something original. Let’s get a better themed Star Wars or Pixar area.

    • Kevin says:

      I think he meant to say: “Here’s hoping Staw Wars Land is announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the 2013 D23 Expo!” :)

  12. Michelle D says:

    Thanks for re-posting this. I was just going through the process of considering joining because I already decided to go to the next Destination D event, and even with the cost of joining I will still save about $10 off the non-member ticket price ($250 versus $190+$40+$10(shipping)=$240). Knowing that I’ll be in a situation to use the partner discounts like WDFM helped finally sway me, too. Sadly, I had not found any discount when I finally bit the bullet.

    The hardest decision was magazine or no. I saw a lot of recent issues listed online for $10 to $12 and decided reselling wasn’t worth it for me. Since next year is also another expo and the renewal price is $10 less than new memberships maybe I’ll spring for the magazine then. Have you actually tried reselling it? It seems the market is a bit flooded.

    I was surprised by the amount shipping and handling fee and tax added to the base price of the Silver membership. Still worth it given my own travel plans.

  13. Brooke G says:

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for posting this. My lovely mum bought me a gold membership for my birthday this year and I’m in the UK. Would I be right in saying that I essentially won’t be able to go to any of the events as it’s 4000 miles to Florida ($750)and more to California + none of the discounts apply outside the US? I love that my mum thought of this for me but with $75 membership fee and $79 delivery to UK, I feel utterly disappointed :(

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