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9 Surprising Things at Disney’s Fan Expo D23

If you like, nay, LOVE the Walt Disney company and their varied offerings from theme parks to TV shows to Broadway spectaculars to video games to toys to totally major motion pictures to family cruises and vacays, then there was one place to be this past weekend: the D23 Expo.

Thousands of Disney fanatics—of all ages from toddlers to senior citizens—descended upon the Anaheim Convention Center to bask in the glow of all things Disney.

Now, there was much that we anticipated in seeing: oodles of incarnations of Mickey Mouse, people of all ages going totally crazy for the likes of "Once Upon a Time," "Inside Out" and, of course, all things "Star Wars." But then there were those shocking and surprising moments.

RELATED: 10 Things You Need to Know About Star Wars Land

1. Star Wars Land x 2

Photograph by Disney Parks

There have been rumors, hopes, fantasies and dreams about the creation of a "Star Wars" land coming to a Disney Park. Over D23, Bob Iger (the CEO of Disney) announced that there wouldn't be just ONE brand new "Star Wars" land, but TWO. They're bringing a 14-acre immersive "Star Wars" experience to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

2. Besides Star Wars the parks are adding even more magic

Pandora, the land inspired by Avatar, is a marriage between director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau. Disney's Imagineering will be transforming Disney World's Animal Kingdom into a full day park (right now it's only open during daylight hours). The "spirit" of the night will be alive with the addition of the glow of fireflies and a light and water show called "River of Light." Plus the Animal Kingdom will be welcoming hyenas and wild dogs to their menagerie.

The popular "Soarin' Over California" ride will get an update with "Soarin' Around the World" that will take riders to the skies above China, Monument Valley and more.

3. People used D23 as an excuse to go camping

Photo credit: Shelby Barone/OC Mom Blog

Forget the great outdoors, you might get bit by a mosquito or you could run the risk of being attacked by a bear. If you happen to be camping on the concrete floor of the Anaheim Convention Center, you won't run that risk. That's just what hundreds did when they arrived over eleven hours early for the event with their sleeping bags, pillows and coolers.

4. There were big casting news surprises

Photograph by Disney

Orlando Bloom will be returning to the uber popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise that made him a super star in "Dead Men Tell No Tales." As for the Pirates baddie, Javier Bardem has signed on to bring yet another sinister spin to the series. Sasha Baron Cohen, who has become one of the best character actors around, ticks strongly as the role of Time in the "Alice in Wonderland" follow up, "Alice Through the Looking Glass." Actors Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk and Mads Mikkelsen join the cast of the "Star Wars" spin-off "Rogue One." And in other "Star Wars" news, Colin Trevorrow, red hot off of the success of "Jurassic World," has signed on to direct "Star Wars: Episode IX."

5. Some will apparently wait in line for five hours to shop

Photograph by Disney

While some of the people spent upwards of five hours in line for the star-studded Legends Ceremony (with the likes of George Lucas and Susan Lucci) or the MUCH-anticipated presentations from both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Motion Pictures, they were just as likely to spend five hours in line to get into the Disney Dream Store, Mickey's of Glendale or the Disney Store. The draw? VERY limited edition items such as the highly collectible pins or the "Once Upon a Time" dolls (that are now selling on eBay for $1200). Those with REALLY deep pockets could pick up some serious merch like a life-sized caretaker from the Haunted Mansion for $17,000 or an Mary Blair original piece of concept art from "Peter Pan" for about the same.

6. It was like Halloween x 1000

Cosplayers were in full effect. These creative fashionistas created costume magic that weren't just incredibly well-executed but often completely original. There were plenty of Elsas, Annas and Cinderellas, but there were also those dressed up like the Matterhorn, Captain EO and a mash up between Princess Leia and Snow White.

7. Harrison Ford still has it

Photograph by Disney

If you want to see six thousand people totally freak out and jump up and scream for a 72-year-old man, just bring Harrison Ford on stage. The iconic actor came to D23 in support of "Star War: The Force Awakens."

8. Visual and plot surprises galore

D23 was THE place for first looks and really hot "sizzle" reels from Disney's jam-packed film slate.

We were given our first look at Emma Watson donning Belle's oh-so-iconic yellow dress in "Beauty in the Beast." Additionally, attendees got a sneak peek at Josh Gad and Luke Evans recreating the ditty "Gaston."

The "Toy Story 4" saga continues, but this time it's a romance between Woody and Bo Peep, which happens to be inspired by director Jon Lasseter's wife Nancy.

Photograph by Disney

While you might think that Pixar's "Good Dinosaur" looks like a cute dino flick, you'd be wrong. It's more like an emotional roller coaster and a tale about loss, family and friendship.

The animated comedy/mystery "Zootopia" features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman and the big musical reveal was that Shakira will be singing the featured song "Try Everything."

Robert Redford plays a park ranger alongside Bryce Dallas Howard in the reboot of "Pete's Dragon" that features what looks to be a realistic creature rather than the old-school animated one that we've known (and loved).

And the big new project they announced was "Gigantic," Disney's take on "Jack and the Beanstalk." The project will be directed by Nathan Greno ("Tangled") and will include what will surely be catchy tunes by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez ("Frozen").

Photograph by Disney

"Finding Dory" deets include the reveal that Dory, after a flashback of memories, goes on a search for her family in Monterey, Calif., and meets an interesting array of sea creatures including a grouchy octopus (Ed O'Neil), a confused Beluga whale (Ty Burrell), a sweet whale shark (Kaitlin Olson) and Dory's parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy).

"Moana" introduces us to a new Disney princess from the South Pacific with stunning visuals including the demi-God Maui (Dwayne Johnson) whose tattoos move about on his skin.

Pixar's "Coco" will be a bright and lively celebration of the Day of the Dead complete with dancing skeletons.

The sneak peek at the live action version of " The Jungle Book" was not just visually stunning but a technological wonder. The animated animals—from Baloo to Kaa—were gorgeously rendered, making this one of the most anticipated Disney films coming up.

Oh, and apparently there's a new "Star Wars" movie coming out this winter.

RELATED: Shakira Lends Voice and Hips to 'Gazelle' in Disney's 'Zootopia'

9. People love and I mean REALLY love Disney

I am a life-long fan of Disney. But my passion for the company pales in comparison to the fandom exhibited at the event, not just through their willingness to stand in massive lines or to spend thousands on collectibles, but through the animated conversations that never veered from the topic at hand (it was all Disney, all the time) to the Disney tribute tattoos seen on arms, legs and thighs. Is there any other company that would elicit this brand of loyalty and passion? It really does prove that their pixie dust sure is strong.

Photos: Disney, Shelby Barone/OC Mom Blog and Sunny Chanel

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