D23 is the official Disney Fan Club that offers paid Gold and free memberships. Perks include discounts at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and D23 Expo tickets. For Gold members, there are also special events, an annual gift, and more. (Updated January 3, 2021.)
Before getting started, we wanted to highlight the incredible 2021 D23 Gold Member gift in celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. This vibrant collection is inspired by vintage Vacation Kingdom of the World souvenirs, and includes a classic vintage-inspired lunchbox, a stunning custom-designed set of five retro pins, a colorful D23 pennant, a vinyl record featuring music from the parks, and a commemorative newspaper.
The lunchbox takes inspiration from a 1973 original, and is designed by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily. It features a variety of characters and scenes (including Figment and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure). The other highlight is the Walt Disney World: Then & Now Vinyl Record, which features “Bear Band Serenade” from Country Bear Jamboree on one side and “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” from Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway on the other. Wondering what else D23 Membership offers? A few of the perks are discussed in turn below…
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: This is something different every year. Once, it was a member watch. Another year there was a calendar. This year, it was a collectible pin set. This is something different every year, and it’s usually a thoughtful and interesting choice. Whether it’s something you’ll actually want is another story entirely, but the point is that Disney does put some effort into the Gold Member gift.
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. 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).
Exclusive Special Events and Merchandise: If you live in California or Florida, or make regular trips to either coast, this is a big draw. When D23 first debuted, many Walt Disney World regulars complain that “all of the events are in California.” That is no longer the case.
While many events are in California (including the D23 Expo), this is fair given that Disney’s corporate headquarters are in California, as are most divisions of Disney and Disneyland. Moreover, celebrities that attend these events are primarily located in Los Angeles, and convincing them to do a conference in Florida would probably be a tough sell.
In any case, D23 has responded to these complaints with various ‘on the road’ offerings located in major cities throughout the United States. In addition to that, there are now a handful of major events that take place in Florida at Walt Disney World, including the popular Destination D event. We’ve done this many times, and absolutely love it.
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 the Gold Membership. Additionally, in years when the D23 Expo is held, members receive a discount to the 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!
We also are huge fans of the D23 Expo, and have attended most of these. This event isn’t for everyone (lines can be long and it’s always a bit chaotic the first morning), but as huge Disney history geeks, we love the panels–especially the ones on the Walt Disney Archives stage, which tend to be less popular.
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 Free 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 the free membership 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.
Ultimately, D23 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.
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What do you think of D23? Is it worth the money, or have you let your subscription lapse? Have you attended any D23 events? Will you be signing up to take advantage of the Disney+ discount? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!