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Less Star Wars, more Marvel discussed at Disney's D23 Expo in Anaheim

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About 45,000 Disney fans were expected to attend Walt Disney Co.’s D23 Expo in Anaheim on its first day Friday, where they heard a lot about upcoming projects, save one: Star Wars.

The expo runs for three days, and tickets for Saturday are already sold out.

Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said the event energizes Disney’s brand among its loyal consumers. He said says many of those fans have blogs, and they’ll write about these events.

“If you have a new product or game, get it in front of these people and they will help spread the word and help Disney in the long run,” Corty said.

Steven Clark, head of the D23 Expo, said Disney would reveal more of its plans for Marvel, but curious fans would have to go to the Anaheim event to find out more. On Friday, Disney said Captain America would be a meet-and-greet character on Disney Cruise Line. Clark said you might see him at other Disney properties too.

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“Well, I would venture to guess you’ll find him wandering our theme parks somewhere in the world before too long,” Clark said.

But don’t expect any major spoilers about Star Wars. Disney’s CEO Bob Iger expressed to D23 attendees on Friday it’s a little too early to talk about it, Clark said.

The event is similar to San Diego’s Comic-Con, but for Disney fans. This year’s D23 Expo is the third that the company has hosted. At the last D23 Expo in 2011, more than 40,000 people attended.

Brad Jashinsky, director for digital media of Burbank-based Summertime Entertainment, said he bought a $45 ticket to attend the D23 Expo on Sunday.

"I'm a big Disney fan, I've been a Disney fan probably since birth," said the 25-year-old Jashinsky.

Jashinsky, who works in the animation industry, said he's looking forward to hearing about Disney's latest products.

This year’s D23 Expo will offer several presentations ranging from a behind the scenes look at Mary Poppins to a demo of Disney's upcoming video game, "Fantasia: Music Evolved."

The expo comes at a time when Disney continues to grow profits. Overall sales grew 4 percent to nearly $12 billion in its third quarter, the company said.

But there’s one area that’s struggling — Disney Interactive, the company’s gaming division, which represents about 3 percent of the company’s revenues, said David Miller, a senior analyst with B. Riley & Co. Interactive sales fell 7 percent to $183 million in the company’s third quarter.

“They’re pushing up against the secular wall that folks 18, 19, 20, 25 are spending all their time online and they’re not really in tune with Disney product,” Miller said. Miller was referring to that crowd’s interaction with Disney games outside of the theme parks, movies and networks like ESPN.

But perhaps D23 could help pull more of those people into Disney games. Disney will tout its games to its biggest fans this weekend, who Disney likely hopes will create more buzz.

This story has been updated.

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