The Walt Disney Company is arguably the most recognizable entertainment company in the world. Over the past ninety-three years, they’ve created some of the most popular films, television programs and theme parks ever made, and they show no signs of slowing down. Thanks to their massive pop culture influence, Disney has managed to create their own biennial convention, the D23 Expo.
Named after the official Disney fan club of the same name, D23 is the biggest fan convention for anything and everything Disney—Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Disney Parks, you name it. What makes the convention even more exciting are the panels Disney creates to promote their upcoming releases, and this year was no exception.
Some of the news was expected, some was unexpected. Some was exciting, some was boring. The most important part about almost every announcement, though, was that each one was interesting in its own unique way. Obviously, I won’t cover every single event or announcement that occurred over the weekend, just the most interesting headlines, the news bulletins that turned heads and excited Disney fans the world over and the reveals that made people go “I can’t wait for the next couple of years.” So, keep in mind that there’s so much more to what the Mouse House has planned that I just can’t fit in.
“A Wrinkle in Time” Is Coming
Typically, video footage of the movies Disney shows off at their D23 panels is press only, meaning people will only get descriptions of the action by the lucky few journalists and expo attendees who manage to see it. However, the upcoming March release “A Wrinkle in Time” is an exception to the rule.
The sci-fi fantasy adventure showed its teaser trailer not just to the D23 attendees but to the public as well, and judging by the two minutes shown, “A Wrinkle in Time” looks like it will be one of the most interesting films of 2018.
Based on the novel of the same name, “A Wrinkle in Time” boasts gorgeous visuals and an incredible cast, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and more. But the film’s most crowning achievement comes from the woman behind the camera.
Ava DuVernay, the director of “Selma,” has quickly become one of the most famous female directors in history, thanks to her incredible filmmaking and prominent advocacy for stronger media representation of African-Americans and women, as well as advocacy for more opportunities for both black and female filmmakers. With “A Wrinkle in Time,” DuVernay will make film history, becoming the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.
Having such a radical thinker adapt a book considered radical at the time, for daring to have a girl be the lead in a sci-fi story rather than a boy, is an inspired idea, and the final project looks like it will have the potential to be a future Disney classic, making me wish March 9 would come sooner rather than later.
In the next couple of years, Disney will be releasing four animated sequels. “Frozen 2” and “Toy Story 4” garnered mentions, but are still heavy in development, with almost no plot details revealed. On the other hand, “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” had a lot of exciting information presented.
“Incredibles 2” director Brad Bird revealed the sequel’s story will focus more on Elastigirl, unlike how the first film focused on Mr. Incredible. The film will also show the growing and developing powers of baby Jack-Jack, as shown through a clip revealing the infant’s battle against a raccoon. Both sound like fantastic additions, making it seem like “Incredibles 2” will be a worthy successor to its predecessor.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” introduces a brand new world, as Ralph and Vanellope leave the arcade and have a wacky adventure in the internet. The biggest thing revealed at D23 about the film involves a sequence paying tribute to all of Disney’s heroines. The scene shown to attendees involves Ralph and Vanellope going to “Oh My Disney,” an actual blog owned by and operated by Disney in real life. The sequence is a hotspot for every Disney character, from Marvel heroes to stormtroopers. The highlight of the sequence is when the two leads meet all fourteen Disney Princesses, from Snow White to Moana. Each character gets their chance to shine, celebrating and poking fun at the tropes found within the Princess brand.
The best part? Every princess is voiced by their original voice actress (outside of Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora), including Jodi Benson as Ariel, Idina Menzel as Elsa and Auli’i Crahvalo as Moana. Seeing such iconic characters together is already wonderful, but having the original women who brought these timeless heroines to life is a dream come true for Disney fans, and immediately makes the film a must-see.
In the 2010s, Pixar has had a greater focus on making sequels to their previous films rather than original films. True, there was “Brave,” “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur,” but from 2010 to 2019, Pixar is expected to release seven sequels.
Thankfully, D23 did give a brief look at two original projects. This Thanksgiving’s “Coco,” a film based on the Mexican holiday “Día de los Muertos,” will have an original song, “Remember Me,” written by none other than Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez, the songwriters behind “Frozen.”
But even more exciting was the announcement of a currently untitled film based on a “suburban fantasy world.” Little is known about the film, but director Dan Scanlon has revealed the film’s story is a personal one, focusing on two elf brothers embarking on a quest that will allow them to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him. Considering Scanlon himself had lost his father when he was only a year old, it’s clear this upcoming film comes from the heart.
Plus, the idea of a “suburban fantasy world” is an inherently cool idea, and seeing elves and trolls in a world much like our own, as well as the humorous idea of unicorns being the equivalent of rodents in this society, makes it seem like a real winner, although sadly no release date has been announced for the project.
Remakes, Remakes and More Remakes
With the box office success of “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney has slowly been remaking almost every animated film of theirs into live-action, and this year’s D23 proved the trend is alive and well. The Tim Burton-helmed “Dumbo” is currently in production and is expected to be released in March 2019, with actors like Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito. Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin” has all three heroes cast, including Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie.
But, the remakes that made the biggest headlines were “Mary Poppins Returns” and “The Lion King.” Technically, “Poppins” is a sequel to the 1964 film, focusing on the Banks children now becoming parents and the magical nanny returning to lift their spirits after tragedy strikes Michael’s family. The original film is a classic, and Emily Blunt has massive shoes to fill replacing Julie Andrews in the iconic film role. But, judging by the brief first look of Blunt in character, as well as a supporting cast featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda and Meryl Streep, it’s fair to say the project might be in good hands.
The footage shown to attendees of the “live-action” remake of “The Lion King,” even though it’s technically just an animated film with photorealistic lions, reportedly brought the house down, thanks to its stunning, realistic effects and its faithful re-creation of the iconic “Circle of Life” sequence, with reports that the scene is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the 1994 sequence, a fact that makes me wary. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a fan of Disney taking their classic animated features and giving them a live-action coat of paint, and hearing the film is copying and pasting one of the greatest opening sequences of all time makes me ask the question: Why bother remaking a classic when you don’t offer anything new? But, maybe director Jon Favreau could offer some interesting tricks up his sleeve, like he did when he remade “The Jungle Book” last year, so I won’t be too critical until we get more footage. Regardless, this D23 showed the Disney remake train is still chugging along.
Star Wars…Nothing but Star Wars
Despite my title, there was a surprising lack of Star Wars information on the film side. No news on the upcoming anthology films, and even the Han Solo prequel expected to come next summer barely got a mention. But, what was shown was a behind-the-scenes reel of this December’s “The Last Jedi,” showcasing new creatures, interviews and details about the darker tone, as well as a bittersweet look at seeing Carrie Fisher play General Leia.
The real Star Wars news though came from the theme park side of D23. The long-awaited Star Wars Land, expected to arrive in 2019 was given the new name of Galaxy’s Edge. Taking place between a battle between the First Order and The Resistance, Galaxy’s Edge will feature the most impeccable immersion since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with even the shopkeepers and vendors being characters found within the Star Wars universe. Edge also boasts two unique attractions, including one where guests get to control the Millenium Falcon.
To sell the immersion even further, Disney is planning a Star Wars resort hotel. The “Westworld”-like resort will have guests take part in their own adventure within the hotel, wearing Star Wars costumes and interacting with creatures and droids, while having their own individualized stories. It’s one of the most ambitious theme park ideas I’ve ever seen and this resort has the potential to be a huge game-changer in the field.
Rides Imported to the U.S.
Because Disney has theme parks all across the world, places like Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Shanghai will sometimes develop their own original rides to make their parks more inviting to tourists. But thankfully, several of these special rides get a chance to appear in both Disneyland and Disney World for those who can’t afford a plane ticket to France or China.
In Epcot, guests will soon experience a new attraction in the France pavilion in World Showcase, based off the Pixar hit “Ratatouille,” inspired by the attraction from Disneyland Paris. The Paris attraction has been praised for its 4-D effects and unique ride system, plus giving one of Pixar’s lesser-known films more exposure is always nice to see.
The Magic Kingdom will also be getting an import, this time from Disneyland Shanghai. One of Shanghai’s biggest original attractions is its “Tron”-themed roller coaster, which is most famous for being Disney’s fastest roller coaster at over 60 m.p.h., and in 2021, the coaster will be placed right next to Space Mountain in Walt Disney World.
“Tron” has always been a franchise that Disney has never given the proper love it deserves, but hearing the Mouse House give Americans a taste of the series through an awesome roller coaster is great to hear.
Add a land based on “Toy Story” and the first ride based on Mickey Mouse in Hollywood Studios, a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride in Epcot and new lands based on Marvel and Pixar in Disney’s California Adventure, and there’s a lot to be excited about on both coasts.
Kingdom Hearts x Toy Story
The “Kingdom Hearts” series has always been one of the most bizarre crossovers ever. Combining Disney characters with characters from the video game series “Final Fantasy” is an idea so ludicrous that it miraculously works, as shown with the massive critical and financial success the franchise has garnered over the years.
At D23, the game not only got a release date (sometime in 2018), but also a new world based on “Toy Story.” It marks the first time a Pixar property has appeared in a Kingdom Hearts game, and with the HD 4K graphics of a Playstation 4, Buzz and Woody look just as good as they do in the movies. Add in the same chaotic and fun gameplay found in the other games, and the long-awaited threequel looks like a real treat when it comes out.
The Infinity War Begins
In less than ten years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has solidified itself as one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the series, as well as the premiere of “Avengers: Infinity War.” The film has been ten years in the making, and while the MCU will continue through the next couple of years, no film will be as momentous as “Infinity War,” which sees the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and even characters like Doctor Strange and Black Panther fighting the most threatening Marvel villain of all time—Thanos.
The footage described looks like a fanboy’s dream come true, with Spider-Man developing his Spider Sense, the Guardians meeting Thor, Doctor Strange and Iron Man fighting on an alien planet and Thanos using the famous Infinity Gauntlet to bring down a part of a moon orbiting around the alien planet. It’s the kind of wacky and imaginative action that almost calls back to a young child playing with their action figures, which gives the sense that the film’s action and visuals will be something to behold.
But the one thing I’m most interested in is how the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, will be able to handle a film with so many characters. The cast list pretty much has every single Marvel hero who has ever made an appearance in the MCU taking part in the battles, and the idea of having to juggle almost thirty characters in just one film seems like an impossible feat. Whether the film will end up good or bad, such an ambitious project is certainly admirable and judging by the first bits of footage, “Infinity War” could have the potential to be something special.