While the Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Studios panel was the highlight of Friday, live action reigned supreme Saturday with a look at the upcoming films, ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Star Wars. The room was packed to capacity with fans eagerly awaiting to get a exclusive look at some of their most cherished characters and stories.
Alan Horn, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, kicked things off with praising Bob Iger and joking with the crowd that he could probably take-on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from yesterday’s panel. Up on the big screen they highlighted the feature films that would be debuting over the next two years, and the crowd was definitely excited. And with that, they got right into the Marvel side of things with bringing out Kevin Feige to discuss what’s on the upcoming agenda.
After briefly covering the highlight of previous D23 Expos and what Marvel debuted at those, he triumphantly announced that with the releases of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man this year, that Marvel’s Phase 2 is officially complete. Wanting to talk about what’s to come in Phase 3, he started talking about Doctor Strange, a movie they’ve apparently been working on since the initial talks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then fans were treated to a recorded message from Dr. Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, ladies did swoon and faint), and Tilda Swinton, aka the Ancient One. While they don’t start filming until November, we were shown concept art of things to come, including flying cars, his signature red cape, and a fight with Baron Mordo. They even showed a brief clip of Strange shooting a CGI magic bolt, which the crowd went wild for.
Next up was Captain America 3: Civil War, with Anthony Mackie (Falcon) present onstage, who flew in the night before from Germany (not with his wings). Joining him onstage was Captain America himself, Chris Evans, who got a huge applause. Before they introduced the footage from the film, they joked that they edited it on the plane ride over, and Feige promised an easter egg in the footage. The footage was comprised of an electronic Redwing, Captain America fighting Crossbones, and shots of Black Widow fighting Hawkeye, Falcon in a new upgraded suit, Black Panther, and Ant-Man interacting with Captain America.
After the thunderous applause, the Marvel portion of the panel was done. Sean Bailey, Disney’s President of Production, was next to come on stage and talk about The Finest Hours starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana and Ben Foster. It comes out in January, 2016. Pine was present to talk about the film, which was quite hard to sell to a crowd who had just had their expectations heightened from all the epic Marvel footage. It’s based on a true story of a Coast Guard ship going to rescue 30 men in the middle of a deadly storm off the coast of Cape Cod in 1952.
Next up was the live-action Jungle Book movie, with director Jon Favreau taking the stage and talking about his love of the source material. Wanting it to be one of the most technically complex movies being made, Faverau talked about incorporating 3D, digital recording, and CGI into the movie, and having it blend in and becoming unnoticeable. Then he brought out actors Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), and Neel Sethi (Mowgli) to talk about their experiences. A brief cut of the film was shown (it’s still in very early phases), featuring appearances of Mowgli, Shere Khan, and Baloo. The crowd loved the footage, and the cast cleared the stage for the film.
Alice: Through the Looking Glass (coming out in May, 2016) was the next movie up, with Mia Wasikowska (Alice) briefly talking about how time travel will be a major part of the film, and seeing the characters at different points in their lives. Then they showed different clips of Alice returning to Wonderland to save the Mad Hatter. The character of Time will be played by Sascha Baron Cohen. And it was over as quickly as it started.
Next up was the Pete’s Dragon remake (August 2016), starring Bryce Dallas Howard. Howard took the stage to talk about her character, a park ranger who doesn’t believe in magic. She was a big fan of the movie as a kid, and now she’s proud to share this new re-imagining of it with her own kids. Then they showed a little clip of the footage so far, including bits with Howard and Robert Redford, and dragon fur that changes colors.
The Queen of Katwe was briefly talked about next, starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. The movie is about a chess champion from Uganda. Nyong’o came back out onstage to talk about filming in Uganda (right next to her home of Kenya).
Next was the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, currently filming in London. Recorded messages from Emma Watson, Josh Gad and Luke Evans were shown, accompanied by some footage of Gaston fighting, some beautiful castle interiors, and a bit of Gaston’s song. The crowd was loving it. It’ll be out in March, 2017.
Also out in 2017: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The cast includes Johnny Depp as the iconic Captain Jack, Javier Bardem, and then they announced that Orlando Bloom will be returning to reprise his role of Will Turner. If the announcement wasn’t cool enough, then Depp as Captain Jack took the stage to uproarious applause. He ate grapes, joked in character, then left. It was amazing.
Finally, the crème de la crème of the evening: Lucasfilm took the stage. While Kathleen Kennedy wasn’t present (she was accompanying her child to college), Horn was there to announce that Colin Trevorrow was confirmed as Episode IX director, which is set to release in 2019. While production won’t begin for a few years, Trevorrow is heading to Lucasfilm this year to begin working with artists and his fellow Star Wars directors.
It was then announced that they just started production for Rogue One, one of the first Star Wars stand-alone films. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. It’s slated for a December, 2016 release. A brief recording from director Gareth Edwards was played, and a photo of the cast was revealed.
Soon after, J.J. Abrams joined Horn onstage to talk The Force Awakens and what the experience has been like for him so far. Then he brought out Lupita Nyong’o (again, poor woman), Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley before debuting the new poster of Boyega wielding Luke’s lightsaber. Then Harrison Ford came out to a standing ovation, and thanked the fans and shared that he was grateful for the whole experience Star Wars and Lucas have given him. Dude is unbreakable!
Then Chairman and CEO Bob Iger came out onstage for some announcements. First, The Force Awakens cut is at 125 minutes right now. Secondly, two Star Wars-themed lands will be coming to Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. “We’re building a 14-acre Star Wars land at Disneyland.” These authentic lands will have two signature attractions. Along with the thrilling battle experience, another attraction puts guests behind the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, as they take on a customized secret mission. Iger also shared concept images of the Star Wars-themed lands, giving fans a glimpse at what is to come for Disney parks.
And with that, the panel ended with thunderous applause that could probably be heard in a galaxy far, far away.