This year’s Disney D23 Expo takes place September 9-11, 2022 in Anaheim, California. This guide covers the 3-day schedule, strategy, area hotel recommendations, tips for braving the crowds, and recommendations for things to do to improve your event experience. (Updated June 9, 2022.)
Personally, I’m really looking forward to the 2022 D23 Expo. I’ve had a good time at each of the past Expos, and enjoy making a wishlist/predictions for the Parks & Resorts presentation, which is what I care about most. (A bit unrelated, but after doubt about announcements, I’m starting to become more optimistic regarding Walt Disney World and Disneyland news.)
With that said, the D23 Expo absolutely is not for everyone. The event has great moments, but also the worst aspects of both conventions (sitting around in conference rooms for hours on end) and theme parks (sitting around in lines for hours on end). It’s great for fans of celebrities, history, hype, interactive exhibits, cosplayers, and celebrating fandom. That’s a very eclectic range of interests, but such is the nature of the D23 Expo.
Dubbed “The Ultimate Disney Fan Event” and hosted by Disney’s Official Fan Club, the 2022 D23 Expo takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center September 9-11, celebrating the magic and excitement of Disney entertainment past, present, and future.
Most notably, the D23 Expo is the kick-off for “Disney100,” the centennial celebration of the Walt Disney Company. All of Disney’s core brands–including Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars–unite under one roof to showcase what’s new and what’s on the horizon for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, international theme parks, Disney+ and Hulu streaming services, television, music, products, and films.
Disney has now announced some of the major presentations that’ll take place during the 2022 D23 Expo…
September 9, 2022 – Disney100 starts at 10:30 am with a presentation that includes the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, featuring Disney CEO Bob Chapek. This honors the visionaries and artists who have made significant contributions to the Disney legacy.
At 3:30 p.m., new details, first looks, sneak peeks, surprises, and announcements regarding upcoming theatrical and Disney+ titles from Disney Live Action, Pixar Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Studio heads, filmmakers, and celebrities will appear onstage with the inside scoop on the most exciting movies.
September 10, 2022 – Filmmakers, celebrity talent, and surprise guests will join leaders from Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, onstage in Hall D23 at 10 a.m. to showcase theatrical and Disney+ titles. Attendees will see exclusive footage and be among the first to learn what else is in the works.
At 3:30 p.m., Disney Branded Television will present an exclusive showcase of upcoming content that will continue the legacy of excellence in storytelling. The showcase will feature talent and sneak previews of original content for Disney+, Disney Channel, and Disney Junior, including looks at the new Disney+ series National Treasure, American Born Chinese, and The Santa Claus.
September 11, 2022 – At 10:30 a.m., Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro will preview what’s to come at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond. With announcements and updates, attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at projects planned by Imagineers. This presentation promises exciting news, concept art, and surprises.
For us, this is the “big” panel of the 2022 D23 Expo. Any major announcements will likely be made here, unless they concern Marvel or Star Wars, in which case they could come during those panels. (It’s happened before.)
At 4:15 p.m., Disney will present a special performance of Disney Princess – The Concert, featuring Tony nominee Susan Egan, Isabelle McCalla, Disney Channel star Anneliese van der Pol, and Syndee Winters. Music director Benjamin Rauhala and Prince Adam J. Levy will also join the quartet. The acclaimed cast will perform favorite Disney Princess and Frozen songs, including classics such as “Part of Your World,” “Let It Go,” “A Whole New World,” “Colors of the Wind,” and “Almost There.”
The D23 Expo 2022 will feature 50+ shows, presentations, and panels. This includes the popular Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, which honors the talented individuals who have made significant contributions to the Disney legacy, as well as an all-new exhibit curated by the Walt Disney Archives highlighting the 100th anniversary of Disney.
Returning to D23 Expo 2022 will be the massive show floor full of interactive booths and elaborate exhibits from a wide range of Disney brands and partners–in the past, there has been everything from sprawling showcases from Walt Disney Imagineering and Pixar to intimate displays from Sphero and clothing companies. Truly something for everyone.
One of the neat things about the show floor is the chance to have one-on-one time with Imagineers, animators, and filmmakers who work their respective booths. Then there’s the 7,000-seat Hall D23 that plays host to the biggest panels, which will be joined this year by the 3,000-seat Premiere Stage, and the 1,200-seat Backlot Stage.
There’s also the expanded, 700-seat Walt Disney Archives Stage for presentations curated by the staff of the Archives–this is always one of our favorites for niche history topics.
On the main show floor, the D23 Expo Live! Stage will feature performances, appearances, demonstrations, and more all weekend long. Many of these and other panels will be livestreamed to audiences at home, so it’s not imperative to attend if you want to keep up with what’s happening. However, a lot is not live-streamed, including pretty much anything with archival content, concept art, or extended trailers.
Guests can also enjoy shopping, many featuring D23 Expo-exclusive collectibles, at an assortment of Disney and partner pop-up shops including the D23 Expo Emporium, where the ultimate Disney fans can wait in the ultimate lines. Seriously, the lines are always multi-hour for these stores. I’ve never even set foot in Mickey’s of Glendale during any of the Expos I’ve attended.
The popular Mousequerade costume contest will return, hosted by Nina West and featuring a star-studded panel of judges including Yvette Nicole Brown, Ashley Eckstein, and Ally Maki. The contest will feature new categories, as well as a fan-favorite award voted on by the audience and a “Best in Show” prize of $2,300.
While we never wear costumes (unless you count the best retro shirts in our collections), seeing the clever and elaborate styles on the show floor is always a highlight. It’s not just cosplay–there are really cool designs that pay homage to the history of the theme parks and classic Disney creations.
One of the biggest highlights of the 2022 D23 Expo is that the Walt Disney Archives and new Platinum sponsor Amazon are restoring Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream company airplane, currently housed backstage at Walt Disney World, and transporting it to Anaheim.
The iconic aircraft was seen for years as part of the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and will be on display at D23 Expo 2022 for guests to see in an exhibit called Mickey Mouse One: Walt’s Plane presented by Amazon.
The seventh D23 Expo in Anaheim was postponed from last year until 2022 for obvious reasons, and follows the D23 Expo 2019, which drew tens of thousands of Disney fans and offered tons of announcements about Disneyland and Walt Disney World, including the transformation of Epcot. Many of those reveals have since been indefinitely postponed or cancelled, with no replacements announced or even intimated. It’ll be interesting to see whether that happens at the 2022 D23 Expo.
As always, there were a lot of celebrities from the Marvel and Star Wars series and films, along with those appearing in Disney+ content. Those celebrities included Robert Downey Jr., Christina Aguilera, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Emily Blunt, Angelina Jolie, Robin Roberts, Salma Hayek, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, and the casts of The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Tickets for D23 Expo 2022 are now on sale. Purchasers must be members of D23, either at the complimentary level or at the Gold Member level. Discounted single-day ($89) and three-day tickets ($229) are available exclusively to D23 Gold Members. Regularly priced single-day tickets are $99 for a one-day adult admission and $79 for children, and money-saving three-day tickets are also available.
This year, a limited number of Hall D23 Preferred Seating tickets are available exclusively to D23 Gold Members. Discounted hotel and Disneyland Resort park tickets are available to all D23 Expo ticket purchasers. In addition to an exclusive discount on tickets, D23 Gold Members will enjoy special benefits at the Expo, including on-site discounts from select retail locations and a complimentary gift.
One policy we want to draw your attention to is that “all D23 Events are subject to change without notice. There are strictly no cancellations or refunds.”
Given the unpredictable environment (and reality that D23 will have no issue selling out this event), this is a bit disappointing. It’s also worth noting that the 2022 D23 Expo will qualify as a “mega-event” per the California Department of Public Health. Who knows what that’ll mean in terms of health safety protocol come September 2022, but here are the current requirements.
With that said, we’d strongly recommend booking your hotel for the D23 Expo now if you’re planning on attending. If past precedent is any indication, rates will only increase as the event date draws nearer–and some hotels near the Anaheim Convention Center have already seen their rates skyrocket.
Refer to our Disneyland Area Hotel Rankings & Reviewsfor a rundown of the best (and worst) options. Note that it’s not strictly necessary that you book a ‘convention center’ hotel, as pretty much anything on or around Harbor Boulevard is going to be within a reasonable walking distance. You’ll be paying a significant premium for the hotels at the ACC. With that said, we’d strongly discourage you from booking something that requires driving to the convention center–parking in the morning can be a real pain.
Making the Most of the D23 Expo
Once the actual 2022 D23 Expo rolls around and you’re in Anaheim, there are several other things you should do to make the most of your experience. We’ll cover some of those here, expanding this section over time as the event draws nearer (assuming people actually care).
Your first step towards this should be downloading the D23 Expo app. You can find it now on the App Store and the Google Play Store. This app has the complete schedule, a show floor map, ways to favorite what you’d like to do, and much more. I recommend starting your planning by favoriting everything you even might want to attend on this schedule.
It does not matter if some of the things you’re scheduling conflict with other things (in fact, that’s good!), just go through and favorite anything of interest. There are over 250 “things” to do at the D23 Expo: presentations, panels, concerts, demonstrations, meet-and-greets, sneak peeks…even a recurring pancake art making seminar(?) There’s more than enough to keep you busy for 3 full days.
The reason for some overlaps being okay is because you’ll inevitably get shut out of certain presentations. The D23 Expo’s motto should be “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” From long lines for the seminars to congested areas to lines even for restrooms to [insert random thing you currently don’t expect to cause you delay] you cannot predict what will prevent you from making it into a particular panel. The only thing that you can safely predict is that it will happen.
If the D23 Expo had a second motto, it’d be “lines, lines, everywhere a line.” Add to that widespread confusion among volunteers and attendees, and you have a perfect recipe for delays. The scope and scale of the event that D23 organizes is incredibly impressive in a lot of ways. Historically, crowd control and guest management have not been one of those ways. Be prepared to encounter some frustrating situations.
If you’re really into lines, and the daytime lines just are not enough to quench your line-thirst, you can camp out overnight in a line! You can line up at 10 p.m. the night before Friday and Saturday for the Show Floor and Hall D23. I’ve never done this, as I think it’s excessive, even by Disney fan standards.
I have arrived earlier for these sessions (like 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.), and I can tell you the place where you line up is a sterile basement with a concrete floor. You may not have cell service at all down there, and you certainly will not get a good night’s sleep. There are almost no scenarios that require arriving before 7 a.m.
There are ways to reduce your frustrations. First, use StagePass. Think of this as FastPass for certain panels (noted in the D23 Expo App). It’s a great way to avoid waiting in line and you can show up 15 minutes before a panel starts and be guaranteed a seat.
Second, skip the panels with celebrities. This is probably going to be a controversial recommendation, but any panel I’ve ever attended with a big name celebrity has not been worth the effort. The primary offenders here are the movie panels and the Disney Legends panel. We’ve done both a few times but won’t again.
Yes, there some big names will make surprise appearances and you’ll see sneak peaks at movie trailers that won’t make it to YouTube for another whole week, but you will be so far from the stage that you’ll be watching on a monitor anyway, and you’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn to wait in line. I’ve made this mistake before, and won’t be repeating it this year.
I know FOMO is strong, but it’s okay to skip the marquee panels. Not only will it relieve you of stress and time in lines, but it frees up some of your time to explore the show floor, which is crucial. At past D23 Expos, I’ve spent about 25% of my time exploring the show floor. Given the panel schedule, I don’t know how I’ll manage that this year, but you should set aside at least 2-3 hours over the course of the weekend for the show floor.
Finally, expect the unexpected. As mentioned, I’ve attended the last several D23 Expos. The one consistent thing I’ve encountered is no consistency. All policies and procedures seem to be made up on the fly, and no one actually knows what’s going on. Roll with the punches and be flexible, otherwise you’re gonna have a bad time.
Technically, no outside food is allowed into the Anaheim Convention Center, so don’t get carried away and bring a cooler or anything. I’ve never had a problem bringing protein bars and beef jerky. Your mileage may vary, though.
Additionally, I’d recommend dressing in layers. I know this sounds preposterous and like over-planning, but we’re having a heat wave in Southern California right now, so it’ll be hot in the morning while waiting in line, but the inside of the Anaheim Convention Center is hospitable for polar bears. Throw a sweatshirt or something in your backpack to stay comfortable. Shoes rather than sandals might be a wise option, too. You’ll easily get your 10,000 steps per day in while navigating the huge Anaheim Convention Center.
Do you agree or disagree with our advice for the D23 Expo? What have been your experiences with crowds and lines at past D23 Expos? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!