D23 Expo 2022: Disney Shares Its Future By Looking Back At Its Past

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D23 Expo 2022: Disney Shares Its Future By Looking Back At Its Past
This year's D23 Expo explored plans for Disney's future, many of which are remakes of classic originals.

For being almost a century old, Mickey Mouse looks pretty good. 

The world's best-known mouse and tens of thousands of his biggest fans came to celebrate what made him famous: The Walt Disney Company. 

Fans from all 50 states and 43 countries, according to Disney, gathered at the D23 Expo fan convention, filled with heroes and villains to celebrate all things Disney.

"It's a place for Disney fans, Star Wars fans, Marvel fans," said Kiara Ortiz, Disney fan. "There's a little bit of everything for everyone. It's just a fun experience."

At D23 Expo, the company was already looking ahead to 2023 and its 100th anniversary.

In the last century, Disney has grown into a global, cultural and business behemoth with movies, streaming, broadcasting, theme parks, resorts and even cruise ships.

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Earlier this year, Disney condemned a Florida law that critics called the "Don't Say Gay" bill. That decision angered Gov. Ron Desantis and lawmakers, who voted to revoke a special district status that Disney uses to operate like its own small government. Exactly how it will affect Disney and Florida taxpayers is still unclear.

Disney is looking to the past for some of its future, revealing at the D23 Expo the latest live-action movies that will reimagine classic animated films, like "The Little Mermaid," starring Halle Bailey.

In a remake of the 1940 original, Tom Hanks plays a live Gepetto in a "Pinocchio" movie now running on Disney+.

It's that nostalgia that fans, and especially collectors, can't get enough of. Rare finds can bring in a lot of cash.

Anja Buehring is a big fan of the puppet who became a real boy. At an expo booth full of vintage Disney, she saw one thing she couldn't resist.  

"I bought a trash can, a Pinocchio trash can," Buehring said. "It's too cute to trash it up."

The company is also honoring its past by rescuing Walt Disney's mothballed Grumman plane from the punishing Florida climate and restoring it to its former polish. It was the plane Walt Disney used to fly cross country to the 1964 World's Fair, scouting locations for Walt Disney World. It even shows up in a couple of Disney movies.

"It was his pride and joy," said Becky Cline, of the Walt Disney Company Archives. "He loved this plane. He had a special seat with his special instrument panel and his phone to the pilot and everything. He just loved this."

These days, Disney has a hand in so many properties it's hard to be a fan of just one.

The costume Emily Billones built is a mash up of two Disney characters: Moana and Boba Fett.

"I am Moana and Boba Fett combined," Billones said. "We call ourselves Disney Fetts, so I go by Moana Fett. The helmet took me probably on and off, maybe a couple weeks."

For Billones and countless fans like her around the world, Disney is a state of mind, as it's about to start its second century.

"I feel like it's a place where people can come together," Billones said. "I feel like it's very diversified, so I feel like there's a princess for everybody, so to speak. And, it's just fun. There's really no growing up. You just live your life, enjoy life to the fullest. That's really what life's all about."