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Disney's D23 Expo's new dates put it back-to-back with Comic-Con

Disney announced the dates for their next huge fan convention, D23 Expo, and they're moving from an August slot to July, just days before the expected dates for next year's San Diego Comic-Con. The biggest impact that fans may feel: more Marvel and Star Wars news at D23 Expo, and less of it at Comic-Con.

D23 Expo is held every other year, and their 2017 event is set for July 14-16, 2017 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The dates for next year's Comic-Con haven't been officially announced, but an event that can't really be anything else is already on the San Diego Convention Center calendar — starting July 19, 2017. That means two days off for the hardcore conventiongoers, and probably no time off for those working behind the scenes to put on and to cover those conventions.

In the past, D23 Expo has been slow to push their newer franchises, but that shifted in 2015 with more coverage of Marvel and Star Wars, so that growth could continue, according to Parks and Cons' Shawn Marshall.

"Still, I think a lot of people left [in 2015] expecting more. The announcement about Star Wars Land at Disneyland Resort was a cool thing and a big deal, but I think at the end of the day, it didn't feel like it was half of what it could have been, with owning all of those big intellectual properties," Marshall told KPCC.

Concept art of Star Wars Land.
Disney Parks
Concept art of Star Wars Land.

The D23 Expo announcement comes just after the nonprofit that runs Comic-Con officially announced that their WonderCon convention, which was in Los Angeles this year, is moving back to Anaheim next year. This was seen by many as an audition by the city to bring San Diego Comic-Con here in the future, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told the L.A. Times that the city wants WonderCon back in 2019. He said they were looking at expanding the convention center and also expressed hopes to get the big convention to move here down the road, but Marshall said he found that unlikely.

Marshall said that the location in L.A. also proved a challenge, both thanks to the layout of the L.A. Convention Center as well as other events happening nearby, including games from different teams at the Staples Center every day of the convention. Down in San Diego, the Padres actually don't play home games during Comic-Con, with the stadium used by companies tying in with Comic-Con — and that deference extends throughout the downtown area, giving the city a campus-like feel during Comic-Con, Marshall said.

Cosplayers attend day 3 of Wondercon 2016 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 27, 2016.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Cosplayers attend day 3 of Wondercon 2016 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 27, 2016.

While landing Comic-Con itself may be a stretch for L.A., Marshall said he wouldn't be surprised to see WonderCon return or for L.A. to get its own convention run by the parent group behind both WonderCon and Comic-Con. What he sees as the most likely outcome: a northern California convention in the Bay area (where WonderCon used to be before problems getting dates at San Francisco's Moscone Center), another in L.A., and Comic-Con staying in San Diego, despite ongoing battles to get enough hotel rooms for attendees and exhibitors, and at an affordable price.

Back in Anaheim, the next D23 Expo will likely be a big one, coming ahead of "Star Wars Episode VIII" and the first part of "Avengers: Infinity War," the new Star Wars Land, "Toy Story 4" and much more.

While Disney could hold back content from Comic-Con, Marshall said he thinks that, at the moment, the announcement is about giving the company flexibility with how they approach big announcements at these two huge conventions and that they likely don't have it all worked out themselves yet. Marshall said he expects Marvel to be the most likely to reduce the amount of involvement from the celebrities in those films.

One key difference between D23 Expo and Comic-Con: D23 Expo is fully owned by Disney, so they have more fully-produced panels/events — Marshall compared what they put on as being closer to an Apple event where they announce new products rather that what you see at something like Comic-Con. Putting D23 Expo ahead of Comic-Con also means they can get press for everything they announce there ahead of Comic-Con and in the coverage by various outlets leading up to Comic-Con.

Disney doesn't usually do much on their animated films at Comic-Con, so the future animated films under both the Disney and Pixar banners are likely to remain something you'll only see at D23 Expo, as well as the announcements about what's to come for their theme parks around the world (such as the currently-under-construction Star Wars Land).

"But at the end of the day, D23 won't have 'Walking Dead,' or 'Game of Thrones,' or DC/Warner Brothers and things like that, so it's I think a lot of crossover, but not that you couldn't have a really good time in San Diego without Marvel there, or without Star Wars there for that matter," Marshall said.

Still, interest has continued to increase in D23 Expo, Marshall said, particularly thanks to Disney bringing Marvel and Star Wars more into the fold.