D23 Expo – Disney Kingdoms Panel

IMG_0844With a weekend full of Johnny Depp and Star Wars Land buzz it was very easy for some of the smaller panels to slip through the cracks at the Expo, but luckily if the words “comic books” are in the discerption I’ll be there!IMG_1125Sunday morning in Stage 28 Bill Rosemann, creative director at Marvel Comics, David Gabriel, SVP of Sales and Marketing for Marvel Comics, Jim Zub, writer of Figment and Figment 2 for Marvel Comics, Josh Shipley, creative designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, and Tom Morris, Vice President and Executive Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering took the stage to talk about Disney Kingdoms.IMG_5719For those of you who don’t know what Disney Kingdoms is, as it seemed a lot of people who attended the panel were, it is a  Marvel Comic book brand that is dedicated to the world of Disney. As the story goes Josh Shipley and, fellow Imagineer Brian Crosby pitched the idea of original Disney theme park stories to  Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel, at an Angels game they went to around the 2011 D23 Expo. This pitch then turned into the first Disney Kingdoms title Seekers of the Weird that was actually teased if you went into the WDI display and asked for something Weird at the 2013 D23 Expo.


Seekers of the Weird, as was pointed out, was a story based on Rolly Crumps Museum of the Weird concept that had been showcased on the Disneyland Tencennial episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television showThe panel talked about the trials of figuring out a name for the comic as well as the pressure of taking the idea to Rolly Crump himself.IMG_1127Following the Seekers of the Weird was the Figment title. Jim Zub, the writer recounted how out of the blue he had gotten a phone call asking if he had wanted to write and pretty much come up with a origin for Figment and Dreamfinder. One of the most interesting pieces I took away from the brief discussion about Figment was the fact that in the original attraction one of the lines from the Dreamfinder was “Everything I collect can inspire amazing and marvelous new ideas, and you never know what kind of figment you may come up with. Ho, ho, here’s my favorite.”  Which Jim took and ran with as this was not the first time Dreamfinder had encountered Figment and he would just have to write the first time it happened. One of the other facts that was talked about is how quickly Figment had sold out in comic shops and had moved to 2nd and 3rd printing almost before the first issue had even hit the stores.IMG_1130Moving from Figment to the next Disney Kingdoms title Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  The crew talked about how this story was based loosely on the story of Thunder Mesa in Disneyland Paris.IMG_1131One of the topics that was brought up was how each title so far has a not only a very different feel, but also a very different color palette going from the dark in Seekers, to the brights in Figment, and the Earth tones of Big Thunder. One of the fears that was talked about with this title is the over use of brown, but as could be seen from the first cover the colors were very striking.IMG_1132One of the challenges discussed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was due to the many iterations of the attraction how to build a story out of a runaway train ride and they went loosely with the story of Thunder Mesa from Disneyland Paris. As all good stories do, this one needed a villain and as Josh Shipley pointed out there was already a story of a mine owner named Barnabus T. Bullion who was showcased in a painting in the newly enhanced queue of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World.IMG_1134This painting was based off the head of the Big Thunder project and Disney Legend, Tony Baxter. Josh also talked about the day he took the comic to Tony to look it over and he just happened to snap of picture of life imitating art.IMG_1135

As by now I am sure you have gathered I am a huge comic fan and while I won’t give away to much of the story, you really should go buy the comics or soon to be collected trade, I will say this story not only has the most Easter Eggs to the Big Thunder attractions it also has a tie to what could become a much bigger world of Discovery at the end of the 5th issue!IMG_1136Moving from the Wild West of Frontierland back to the world of Epcot, the panel gave us a brief look at Figment 2. This comic will pick up right where the first Figment series left off with Dreamfinder and Figment arriving in present day Central Florida and the Academy, which of course has its own glass pyramids and geodesic sphere, after their battle of The Singular.IMG_1138Jim Zub is backing writing the sequel to the popular Figment title and looks at this time around as a “hero out of time story” much like Captain America. We will get to go along with our misplaced duo as they learn the Dreamfinder has gone on to inspire over a century of dreamers and see how things have changed. Figment2By the way Figment 2 is now available at your local comic book store!

One of the last bits of news that was shared during the panel is the Disney Kingdoms titles, starting with Figment will be collected in Library Editions to be made available at school and local libraries in a hard bound single issue format.IMG_1141It was great learning more about this fantastic intersection between the Imagineers at Disney and masters at Marvel. If you want to take the storytelling of the Disney Parks into a new medium, make sure you pick up a Disney Kingdom title and enjoy!