The Disney Studios live-action presentation at D23 Expo 2015 was indeed spectacular. It opened with the same “sizzle reel” as yesterday’s animation showcase, and launched into Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn gushing about how thrilled he is to have so many different entities and franchises under the Disney brand. He remarked that Disney represents values like decency, honor, and respect, and he said he knew the upcoming slate of release would continue that proud tradition.
Horn brought out Kevin Feige, the president of the Marvel Studios division, to discuss what Marvel has in store over the next couple years. Feige noted that the growth and journey of the D23 Expo is similar to the path that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken over the past seven years or so.
The first Marvel movie to be previewed was “Doctor Strange”, which Feige described as “weird” (in a great way) and that with this movie he wanted to push the boundaries of the MCU. He then shared a video message from Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch, who promised “girls, cars, explosions, and astral projecting into alternate dimensions”. The movie is currently in pre-production, and we were shown a cool montage of concept art. It looks neat, but this may be too early to tell.
Captain America: Civil War
Up next on the Marvel front was “Captain America: Civil War”, and stars Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) were on hand to summon enthusiasm, and they were definitely successful. Evans talked about how Disneyland was his idea of heaven, and how he loves being a part of the Disney family. They also shared some footage from the movie, which included an extended battle sequence on a bustling city street, new extended trailer-type material, and a brief scene with Paul Rudd as Scott Lang AKA Ant-Man, which was met with applause and hoots from the audience. Once it was over, Alan Horn, showed a freeze-frame from the trailer that revealed a bit of an Easter Egg: a direct reference to D23.
After the Marvel portion of the show, Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios (live-action division) took the stage to discuss some upcoming films coming out under his umbrella.
The Finest Hours
First in that section was “The Finest Hours”, a true-life historical drama starring Chris Pine, who was present and enthusiastic for the discussion. Pine talked about how different this movie is from the science-fiction epics he is used to. The audience was shown a clip, and the movie looks to be an interesting tale about sailors lost at sea.
The Jungle Book
Next was the new live-action retelling of “The Jungle Book”, and director Jon Favreau came out to talk about finding a balance between the original Rudyard Kipling story and the classic animated Disney version, and how he is using up-to-the-minute visual effects technology to create a seamless and believable world for Mowgli and his pals. The cast of the movie (including Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, and newcomer Neel Sethi) came out to give their thanks and support the film. The footage we were then showed looked like a lot of fun, and the crowd especially loved hearing Bill Murray as Baloo the bear singing “The Bear Necesseties” in the footage.
Alice: Through the Looking Glass
Up next was “Alice: Through the Looking Glass”, which brought with it the news that comedian/actor Sacha Baron Cohen would be joining the cast as the character of Time and a neat-looking sizzle reel, along with star Mia Wasikowska, who came out on stage to greet the crowd.
“Pete’s Dragon” is another retelling of a classic Disney movie, and we were greeted by star Bryce Dallas Howard and treated to a brief trailer that featured a lot of the main characters, but only a very short tease of the titular dragon.
The Queen of Katwe
Another short presentation featured the movie “The Queen of Katwe”, once again starring Lupita Nyong’o, who said the movie will feel authentic, vibrant, and colorful.
Beauty and the Beast
The audience became very excited when the focus shifted to the live-action remake of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, and we were shown a video message from star Emma Watson (on set in London, where the movie is currently being shot) and co-stars Luke Evans and Josh Gad, who proceeded to sing a few bars from the Gaston song.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Up next was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, and the crowd leapt to its feet when Johnny Depp came out in-character as the notorious Captain Jack Sparrow. When asked about Johnny Depp’s induction in yesterday’s Disney Legends ceremony, Sparrow quipped that Depp was more of a “Disney Lesion”. One notable piece of news is that Orlando Bloom’s character, the spirited Will Turner, will return in this next installment. Not to mention esteemed actor Javier Bardem joining the cast as Captain Salazar.
Star Wars news was certainly the most anticipated amongst the crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center today, and they were not disappointed: First, Alan Horn confirmed that Episode IX would indeed be directed by “Jurassic World”-helmer Colin Trevorrow.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
We were then shown a video message from director Gareth Edwards from the set of “Star Wars: Rogue One”, and shown the very first cast photo from that film, which takes place between Episodes III and IV.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Of course, the Star Wars movie everyone is looking forward to with bated breath this year is “The Force Awakens”, and director JJ Abrams joined Alan Horn on-stage with the young cast of that film. The next big surprise was Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, who seemed extremely enthusiastic and grateful to be a part of the new Star Wars stories.
After “The Force Awakens” segment, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger took the stage to share some very big news about the Star Wars presence at Disney theme parks, and you can find much more information about that news elsewhere on this site.
It was certainly a morning full of fun and excitement, and I’m sure I speak for most Disney fans when I say I can’t wait to see many of these films and find out what else the company has in store for us in the future.