The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Celebration and More at the D23 Expo

It has been a long and fruitful day at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. This weekend was the sixth biennial expo where Disney showcases all of their movies and merchandise that they have planned for the next two years. I skipped the previous expo in 2017, but I decided to stop by on the final day for this one to celebrate the 30th anniversary of my favorite movie, The Little Mermaid. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at this morning's anniversary celebration panel hosted by the voice of Ariel herself, Jodi Benson. The panel kicked off with a group of adorable little girls in Ariel costumes singing "Part of Your World" on faux rocks that lined the beautifully lit coral stage. Jodi Benson made a dramatic entrance in the middle of the song and accompanied the tiny Ariels. Then she interacted with a puppet version of Sebastian before introducing several of the people behind the film, including direct Ron Clements and animator Mark Henn, to share their stories.

The panel concluded with a surprise appearance from Auli'i Cravalho, who will be playing Ariel in the upcoming The Little Mermaid Live! TV special on November 5th, not to be confused with the upcoming live-action theatrical production. Auli'i shared her excitement about playing the iconic role and revealed a concept image of the stage for the live production, complete with brightly colored jellyfish. Another highlight of the panel was when Jodi got bombarded with male contestants from the audience who were competing to kiss her for a surprise rendition of "Kiss the Girl." She kept trying to remind everyone that she was already married and repeatedly mouthed "I love you" to her husband in the audience. When the stagehands brought a fake boat prop out to accompany the song, she finally agreed to a light kiss on the cheek. It was a hilarious debacle. The grand finale of the celebration consisted of a full audience and cast sing-along of "Under the Sea" with bubbles filling the air and fabric water running down the aisles. It was a celebration I'll never forget.

Even more princess goodness happened on the show floor, where the booths and merchandise at the convention are located. Disney almost always premieres a new Designer Princess collection of dolls and artwork at their Disney Store booth at the D23 Expo, and today was no exception. The latest collection, entitled Midnight Masquerade, features the princess all dressed up for a masquerade ball, complete with floor-length gowns and handheld masks. It includes several Disney heroines that are rarely featured alongside the princesses such as Megara from Hercules, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Giselle from Enchanted. The experience was enhanced even further with a photo opportunity to pose with beautiful golden masks in front of a wall displaying all of the artwork from the collection. I was thrilled to have my picture taken alongside such elegant works of art. The Little Mermaid was also featured at the booth to celebrate its anniversary, but only with expensive glass artwork displays. The limited-edition doll of Ariel in her pink dress had already sold out when I arrived, and the surprise Vanessa doll wasn't far behind.

There were plenty of other princess-related photo opportunities at the D23 Expo this year as well. Several companies were cashing in on the princess love by featuring them in promotional items. Besamé Cosmetics, the company that released a special make-up set for Snow White's 80th anniversary, revealed a new Sleeping Beauty make-up collection and gave out metallic gold tiaras to anyone who stopped by their booth. A skincare company called H2O was the sponsor for The Little Mermaid's 30th Anniversary Celebration panel. Their booth on the show floor included a backdrop of the wave from the crescendo of Ariel's "Part of Your World (Reprise)" with a rock in front that was perfect for guests to lean on and recreate her most iconic pose. The Disney Animation booth featured life-sized models of Anna and Elsa from the upcoming Frozen 2 movie, and a nearby exhibit displayed tons of princess costumes from various live-action movies, including four different versions of Cinderella, Jasmine's outfit from the new Aladdin, Belle's dresses from Beauty and the Beast, Giselle's wedding dress from Enchanted, and more. They even had Cinderella's full-sized coach from the 2015 movie on display!

Disney Princesses always have a presence at the D23 Expo. They were featured even more than ever this year between The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Celebration, the costumes, the photo ops, the designer dolls and artwork, and the product promotions. I'm glad I got to be a part of it and cover my walls and beautiful new princess imagery. The Little Mermaid panel was a lot of fun and a wonderful opportunity to revisit the making of my favorite movie. The next D23 Expo will be in 2021 and will likely feature lots of clips and tidbits about the live-action Little Mermaid movie that is set to release later that year. The D23 Expo can be an overwhelming experience for first-timers, but the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and merchandise make it all worthwhile.


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