Epic journeys, ancient dragons, and secret pasts?!
The recent D23 Expo has given us all the feels with the news they’ve dropped. After getting an inside scoop at the Disney+ Panel (Lizzie McGuire is coming back — this is what dreams are made of!!) and the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Panel (have you seen the three neighborhoods coming to Epcot??), we made our way to The Walt Disney Studios Panel… And, we’ve got ALL THE DEETS about what’s in store for Star Wars, Marvel, Disney live-action adaptations, Pixar, and The Walt Disney Animation Studios.
So, if you think that heading to the supermarket on a Saturday is busy… Just try to imagine the fact that 7,000 Disney fans were in the audience for The Walt Disney Studios Panel (!!!). Alan Horn, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, kickstarted the showcase, ready to guide those in attendance through every sneak peek, song, and cast introduction awaiting the audience during the 2-hour panel. And, just like Mr. Horn, buckle up and get ready — we’re gonna give you all the info on what’s in store for the Walt Disney Company’s film departments (don’t worry — it won’t take us two hours).
President of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and recent Star Wars film director, J.J. Abrams, took the stage along with members of the original trilogy (Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams) and many of the new trilogy’s cast members (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, and Oscar Isaac).
R2-D2 and BB-8 accompanied newcomers Naomi Ackie, and Keri Russell to discuss the additional characters being added to the franchise and to show the audience a new trailer of the film.
Um… Did you hear? Rey was seen wielding a double edged RED lightsaber, while draped in a dark cloak! WAIT, WHAAAAT?!?!
President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige couldn’t give audience members too much information about Phase Four just yet, especially since the fates of a few characters are still up in the air. However, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler joined Feige to announce that the second installment would be released on May 6th, 2022. Yeah, we’ve still got a bit to wait, but we’re sure that seeing T’Challa back on the big screen will be worth it in the end.
The first look at the Eternals‘ costumes was also revealed with the cast members present onstage…
… AND the news dropped that Kit Harington, Gemma Chan, and Barry Keoghan Druig will be added to the star-studded team!
Although many Marvel cast members were present at the panel, the Black Widow film stars were unable to make D23 as they were in London on set. However, joined by other castmates, Scarlett Johansson herself recorded a video message for the audience before an exclusive preview of the film played.
Can anybody guess where we’re heading with Nat in Black Widow? Back to Budapest, baby!! The secretive Budapest mission is about to be revealed as Natasha navigates work and her martial-arts inclined partners, like sister Yelena played by Florence Pugh and the Red Guardian played by David Harbour.
While we looovvveee the action-packed Star Wars and Marvel franchises, we also can’t wait to see what’s next for the live-action department at Disney. Sean Bailey, president of production at Walt Disney Studios, announced plans and details for four major movies coming to the big screen. Traveling in a river boat and old-fashioned car respectively onto the stage, actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt represented Jungle Cruise at the panel.
As a joke, multiple versions of the trailer were shown, but each one actually gave more insight into the characters’ motives and history.
The story promises to take you on “the adventure of a lifetime” as the film follows Frank, who is a skipper on La Quila. He works for a touring company that makes its profit off gags (“the back side of the river”) that shock guests on their jungle cruise excursions. However, the business is going under and losing money quickly when Nina hires Frank to take her on a dangerous journey up the river to discover hidden secrets and unravel mysterious tales.
Are you ready, beasties?? Maleficent: Mistress of Evil will be released in only a few short months! (YAS.) A few of the cast members — Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor — spoke about the epic battle that will take place between humankind and the creatures of the Moors.
Angelina Jolie, the standout star of the film, spoke about the characters, stating “We fight for the belief that what is different makes you stronger… and what defines family.”
Afterward, an exclusive clip was shown, depicting the struggle Maleficent is facing as she doesn’t want Aurora to marry Phillip, as the Queen is possibly responsible for the disappearance of the Moors’ inhabitants. The ultimate question is posed for the villainous Maleficent: Does she protect the humans and the child she raised or stand up for the Moors and her real family?
Speaking of villains…
Cruella has arrived, dahlings!! The film starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson will take place in the 1970s in London, complete with a pop-rock soundtrack. After Emma Stone greeted the audience with a video message, the first image of the star dressed as the villain made its world premiere on the D23 stage. To add to the 70s vibe, Cruella is dressed in black leather, round glasses, and a permed version of her signature white and black hair.
The villains aren’t the only strong females in Disney films. Mulan premiered a few minutes of the film after director Nikki Caro introduced the premise.
The clip showed the notorious matchmaker scene where the cricket causes chaos amidst the tea ceremony. The cricket scares Mulan’s sister, which leads to the table being flipped and the tea set flying into the air. Mulan skillfully catches every item, but her hair falls out from her tight updo into her face and the tea set shatters on the floor.
As the matchmaker announces to the public that the Fa family’s daughters won’t bring honor to them, soldiers arrive with a decree that each family must present a male to fight in the army during the war. Mulan’s weak father offers himself, falling to the ground without the use of his cane. In a quick montage, we see Mulan make the decision to take her father’s place, train at the base, and heroically fight for China.
Pete Docter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, was joined by Dana Murray and others to introduce that the upcoming Pixar films will dive into the meaning of humanity and life. (We’re getting deep, you guys.) The movie Soul answers the questions “Why am I here?” and “Where did I come from?”
The premise of the animated picture is that, before we are born, our souls go to the You Seminar to train, develop our personalities at individual pavilions, and finally graduate to become attached to us when we first come into this world.
Joe Gardener is a music teacher at a middle school, but his real dream is to play in a jazz band. After he finally gets his big break, he falls through a manhole and into the You Seminar.
While he’s there, he meets 22, the cynical soul who has remained there for so long that she has no interest in being attached to a human. Played by Tina Fey, 22 helps to return Joe, played by Jamie Foxx, to earth so he can live his dreams of being a jazz musician.
The cast is rounded out by Questlove from The Roots as Curly the Drummer, Phylicia Rashad as Joe’s mother, and Daveed Diggs as Joe’s neighborhood nemesis Paul. The music will be created by Jon Batiste and Nine Inch Nails artists, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
The plot of Soul wasn’t the only Pixar film announced, though. Onward, coming out in March 2020, answers the questions the philosophical questions “Who am I?” and “What am I like?” The magical world that exists in Onward has lost its magic, leaving creatures like mermaids, gnomes, and centaurs behind.
Ian the elf has just turned 16 years old and all he wants is to meet his father who died before he was born. He wants to know what parts of himself he inherited from his late father. His older brother Barley is Ian’s exact opposite, leading his life with an arrogant, outgoing, exciting approach. He reminisces about the days the world had magic, wanting to go on quests in his trusty hand-built van, Guinevere.
Tom Holland as Ian and Chris Hemsworth as Barley, took the stage with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, playing the elves’ mother, to show two clips from the film. The first showed the boys’ mother giving Ian and Barley a gift from their father, which contains a wizard staff, a rare Phoenix Gem, and a resurrection spell.
If they are able to conjure up magic, then their father would be able to return to earth for a day. While Barley tries his best to recite the spell, it is actually Ian who contains the magic to get it to work. Yet, things go awry when the Phoenix Gem runs out of power and only the legs of their father are resurrected. They realize they must go on a mission to find another Phoenix Gem to finish the resurrection spell, first stopping to visit the Manticore, played by Octavia Spencer.
The second clip shows the boys having to pull off-road as Guinevere runs out of gas. Barley encourages Ian to use his magic to make the gas can grow, but Ian gets stressed and accidentally shrinks Barley instead. We’ll have to wait until the movie comes out to learn what happens next!
Walt Disney Animation Studios
The tagline “keep the light alive” had us intrigued the moment Raya and the Last Dragon was introduced. Inspired by the culture in Southeast Asia, the land of Kumandra is made up of five distinct plains where dragons once roamed. However, the dragons have all disappeared, leaving the land unprotected to a sinister force that has replaced them.
A short clip showed Raya, portrayed by Cassie Steele, traveling through a cave as her younger brother narrates Kumandra’s history. They stumble upon Sisu the dragon, played by fan-favorite Awkwafina, who has lost her powers and remains in the disguise of an old woman.
Accompanied by a band of misfits, Raya must discover a way to reclaim Sisu’s powers so Kumandra can be protected by the dragons once again.
The announcement the entire audience was waiting for rounded out the session, finishing the 2-hour panel with Frozen 2.
Many fans questioned where Elsa‘s powers came from, why Anna is powerless, and where the King and Queen were actually traveling to when they tragically died. The film answers these questions, first beginning in the past with Elsa and Anna’s parents back for a consequential scene. During the film, the sisters will be leaving Arendelle alongside Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to journey to an enchanted forest that possibly holds the answers to the royal family’s secrets.
A few scenes from the film were aired for the first time (in foreverrrr) in front of an audience featuring a prologue where the girls’ mother, played by Evan Rachel Wood, sings a foreshadowing lullaby that features the lyrics “Where the North Wind meets the Sea, there’s a river full of memories… For in this river, all is found.”
Wood was joined onstage by Sterling K. Brown…
…who introduced his character Lt. Mattias in a short clip that shows Anna talking to Mattias about his past.
Another prolonged clip gave us some insight into where Frozen 2‘s journey will take us, showing Kristoff failing to propose to Anna, Elsa struggling with a voice that continues to call to her, and a pretty epic game of charades for Olaf. One of Elsa’s new songs, “Into the Unknown,” played for the audience with breathtaking melodies and phenomenal range of emotion (Idina Menzel‘s voice is at its PRIME).
While Elsa reveals that she feels like she doesn’t belong in Arendelle, she is terrified to follow the voice into the unknown to find out her true identity. Little does she know that this voice has been calling out to different people for years — maybe that’s what her parents were following? (Hint, hint.) At the end of the scene, the main characters’ voice actors came together onstage to sing “Some Things Never Change” from the film, giving us some insight into how each character is feeling about the current situations every one of them is facing.
Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff (with a Sven toy, might we add) beautifully harmonized with one another, more than happy to perform the piece for the very first time in an audience outside the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ walls.
And, with a flood of confetti, the panel ended with a bang! We have to say that we are sooo excited to see all these films on the big screen.
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What film are you looking forward to seeing the most? Let us know in the comments below!