There's no better illustration of the degree of Disney fan obsession, than an arena filled with thousands of them, screaming like the Beatles had reunited when CEO Bob Iger takes the stage.
Today Disney kicked off its first inaugural D 23 Expo, a four-day convention for fans of all corners of the conglomerate's Magic Kingdom.
The Parks and Resorts division is showcasing its resorts in the works, ABC previewing its new fall TV shows, and the studio showing never-before-seen clips from upcoming films. It's like ComiCon but for just one company, and Disney's probably the only media company with the range of such massive brands to attract long lines and fill the Anaheim convention center.
But Disney is struggling with a weak ad market, which has hit ABC, and a pullback in consumer spending, which has squeezed margins at the parks. So why invest in such a pricey fan fest in this economic environment, with no clear return on investment? I sat down with Iger in an exclusive interview this morning and he told me that strengthening relationships with fans is more important than ever in this economic environment, that there's no better competitive advantage than this army of fans who can now go spread the word about ABC's new fall TV shows or "Princess and the Frog," which Disney previewed a full half-hour of today.