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At this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA, Disney, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm shared their live-action film release dates over the next two years. The announcements, exclusive news, and stage appearances during the panel were met with deafening enthusiasm; there were even tweets about how loud it was outside of the hall. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the highly anticipated biennial event.
“At The Walt Disney Studios, we could not do what we do without the support of the many Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars fans around the world,” said Horn. “We feel like our fans are a part of the family, and the D23 Expo is our chance to give a little something extra back to them.”
After welcoming the crowd, Horn introduced Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, to share with the crowd the Disney live-action slate. Afterward, writer/director Rian Johnson took to the stage to present an exclusive look at Lucasfilm’s upcoming Star Wars. The presentation ended with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige who closed the event with a look at the highly anticipated Avengers film and a stageful of our favorite superheroes.
An Exclusive New Look At Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time
Aadapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s science fantasy novel, A Wrinkle In Time cast members Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, newcomer Storm Reid and director Ava DuVernay thrilled fans with a first look at the film’s teaser trailer and teaser poster. The film takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love.
In this new film, in theaters March 9, 2018, Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth and desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of her father (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken.
Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides—Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)—who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space called the tessering, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them.
The Nutcracker And The Four Realms
In November of 2018, Disney will present an all-new take on a classic story in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The film stars Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, newcomer Mackenzie Foy as Clara, Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger, Morgan Freeman as godfather Drosselmeyer, and featuring a special performance by famed ballet dancer Misty Copeland.
The film largely takes place in a strange and mysterious parallel world—home to Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. But it’s the ominous Fourth Realm where Clara must take on a tyrant called Mother Ginger as well as a gang of mice who’ve stolen a coveted key from Clara.
“The Mouse King is made up of thousands of mice—a cutting-edge CG creation,” said Bailey. “But we wanted him to move in a way that would be wonderfully surprising and incredibly cool, so we called on Lil Buck to provide the style of dance that defines the character.”
The Los Angeles-based dancer demonstrated the kind of street dancing—called jookin—on stage during the announcement that earned a standing ovation.
Mary Poppins Returns And We Can’t Wait
We all cheered as actress Emily Blunt, the star of Disney’s sequel Mary Poppins Returns, took to the stage with director/producer Rob Marshall. The two talked about the eagerly-anticipated return of the practically-perfect nanny, a sequel to the 1964 “Mary Poppins.” In the new film, Mary and her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, embark on entirely new adventures with the next generation of the Banks family to help them find the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
Blunt shared with the crowd how she was inspired by the original Mary herself, Julie Andrews, she also worked to make the character her own.
“I needed to try to pay homage to Julie Andrews, but carve out a new space for myself,” said Blunt.
“And we were very loyal to the books.” Rob Marshall said, “I was incredibly honored to be approached by Disney about directing a sequel. This is a brand-new original film musical from top to bottom, which is very rare, and it is a wonderful opportunity to create something specifically for the screen.”
We also were awarded an exclusive first look at the film, which was accompanied by a live orchestra performing original new music from the film conducted by composer Marc Shaiman. The film opens in theaters on Christmas 2018.
Disney’s All New Live-Action Version of Dumbo
Though director Tim Burton couldn’t be at D23 Expo in person, he was able to present via video his newest project, a live-action reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic DUMBO.
“’Dumbo’ was always one of my favorite Disney films,” said Burton. “We’re trying to give it the same heart, feeling, and emotion that we all loved about the original.”
Filmed entirely in England, DUMBO is utilizing state-of-the-art visual effects and stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, and Danny DeVito. Holt Farrier, played by Farrell, is a former circus star and war-veteran charged with the care of a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock of an already struggling circus. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins were cast as Holt’s children, who discover that Dumbo can fly. DeVito portrays circus owner Max Medici who tries to capitalize on the novelty. Keaton is persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere who swoops in with aerial artist Colette Marchant, portrayed by Eva Green, to make Dumbo a star. Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer are producing from a screenplay by Kruger.
The film is in the early stages of development so no trailer or early preview was shown, but the live-action film is slated for theaters on March 29th, 2019.
The Lion King Live-Action Film
Live-action seemed to be the keyword for this year’s D23 Expo as the crowd was surprised with a special look at director Jon Favreau’s new live-action take on Disney’s 1994 classic animated film The Lion King. The technology team behind the movie are introducing all-new filmmaking techniques that promise striking visuals never before seen on the big screen—bringing celebrated characters to life in a whole new way.
Favreau, who was behind 2016’s blockbuster live-action remake of The Jungle Book, joined Bailey on stage. “This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film,” said Favreau. “I wanted to demonstrate that we could be respectful of the source material while bringing it to life using new techniques and technologies. We wanted to do something special for the D23 Expo audience and give them a first look at what we’re up to.”
The film stars Donald Glover as Simba, Seth Rogan as Pumbaa, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa. Check out the new The Lion King in theaters July 19th, 2019.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Exclusive Look for D23 Expo
Of course, the crowd went INSANE when Horn welcomed Rian Johnson, writer and director of the latest chapter in the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Johnson thrilled the audience by introducing talent from the film, bringing on stage Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.
We also brought home with us a special sneak peek of a behind-the-scenes look at the filming process of The Last Jedi.
In Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.
The movie stars Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro. It will also feature Carrie Fisher, reprising her role as Leia for the last time.
Avengers: Infinity Wars Cast Takes Over D23 Expo
In what was likely the loudest finale I’ve heard in years, Horn brought Kevin Feige to the stage for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War. Feige unveiled the Marvel Studios’ official 10th anniversary logo, seen here.
The release of Avengers: Infinity War is the first film celebrating the new decade of Marvel Studios, which includes an impressive span of Marvel Studios’ blockbusters released from 2008 through the AVENGERS untitled film in 2019. In celebration of the anniversary, fans can expect exclusive consumer products and collectibles, along with in-theater events and much more in the coming months.
Then, in a surprise for all that brought the house down, talent from the film made a grand entrance, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff. To top it all off, the thrilled fans got an exclusive early look at footage from the movie, introduced by Joe Russo, one of the directors.
Infinity War opens in theaters everywhere on May 4th, 2018, which is far too long to wait in my opinion.
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Also look for Mulan, A live-action take on Disney’s 1998 feature, which will be helmed by Niki Caro (“McFarland, USA,” “Whale Rider”). Plus, a new live-action Jungle Cruise film, a nod to the popular theme park ride starring Dwayne Johnson. And, news broke during D23 Expo of a live-action Aladdin in production, directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie.