Disclaimer: Disney invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included D23 Expo, where Disney, Marvel Studios & Lucasfilm Live Action Films were announced and surprises revealed. As always, all opinions are my own.
I’m still reeling from my whirlwind trip to Anaheim, California. With so much to do and see, there is a lot to report, but let me tell you something…being in a crowd of 7,000 (yet, I was only one of few reporting the news live) was exhilarating.
If you didn’t see my live tweets, never fear. I’m spilling the beans right here (one SECRET wasn’t even spilled until the day AFTER this panel). Keep reading to find out what I’m talking about. It was so shocking that I still can’t imagine why it wasn’t announced on Saturday. Oh, that Disney! They like surprises!
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the Disney, Marvel Studios & Lucasfilm Live Action panel , remarking that there was no other company like Disney. In fact, the top 5 films from 2016 were all from Disney!
He reminded us that their goal (and they do it so well) is to tell the best stories from the past, present, future, real or imagined.
When I think of Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), they truly are the best stories that seem so real, yet are completely imagined. And I can’t imagine life without them.
President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey took the stage to begin the afternoon with an unbelievable amount of movie and celebrity surprises (oh yes!)!
With the backdrop of one of this year’s biggest hits, Beauty and the Beast, live action is seemingly here to stay. Disney has found a way to re-imagine Disney classics like no one else…and it works. One only has to think back to Maleficent and The Jungle Book to realize that we love new and fresh stories.
So…with some HUGE surprise announcements below, Sean Bailey began the update on the Disney Live Action movies.
Disney Live Action Slate
March 9, 2018 – A Wrinkle In Time
A WRINKLE IN TIME cast members Oprah Winfrey (new Disney Legend), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine along with newcomer Storm Reid and visionary director Ava DuVernay were welcomed to the D23 stage, where they thrilled fans with a first look at the film’s teaser trailer and teaser poster.
The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic, takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love.
What a cast!
- Oprah had never read the book, but when finding out that her character would be the wisest in the universe, she said YES!
- Oprah pointed to the crowd in an EPIC Oprah moment and said “You”, “You”, “You”…and gave everyone in the crowd a copy of the movie poster.
- Reese Witherspoon is such a Disney fan that she’ll do anything for Disney. Plus it helped that she loved this story growing up.
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is 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 Mr. Murry (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 known as tessering, they are soon 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 writer, Jennifer Lee of Frozen, stays true to the heart of the original story. (Did you see my prior interview with Jennifer Lee?)
Let’s take a look at the official trailer…
It’s a family story wrapped up in an epic adventure!
November 2, 2018 – The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
This holiday season will be like no other with Disney’s all-new take on a classic story in THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS. The legend you love has a dark side!
Just as Walt Disney re-imagined classic fairy tales, this is a re-imagined version of The Nutcracker, a holiday tradition in my family to watch. Instead of heading to the ballet this year, it’ll be a little more budget-friendly to head to the theater!
Starring 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 Misty Copeland, the movie is inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale. THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS is directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Mark Gordon and Larry Franco.
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.
Said Bailey, “The Mouse King is made up of thousands of mice—a cutting-edge CG creation. 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. He is so talented and the way he makes this character move is unbelievable.”
Los Angeles-based dancer Lil Buck hit the stage at D23 Expo 2017 to demonstrate the kind of street dancing—called jookin—that informed the way his character moves in the film. The performance earned a standing ovation.
December 25, 2018 – Mary Poppins Returns
To the delight of D23 fans, Emily Blunt, the star of Disney’s sequel MARY POPPINS RETURNS, took to the stage with director/producer Rob Marshall to talk about the eagerly-anticipated return of the practically-perfect nanny.
In this original musical sequel to the 1964 “Mary Poppins,” 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 and Marshall answered questions from Sean Bailey, with Blunt offering insight on how she made 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 shared, “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.”
Emily Blunt had grown up wanting to be a member of the Banks family! This role couldn’t be more perfect for her.
D23 attendees were then treated to 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, eliciting thunderous applause.
The first look was incredible. You will not be disappointed in the least. In fact, Dick Van Dyke said it best…
— Finding Debra (@FindingDebra2) July 15, 2017
We learned that there were so many more Poppins stories written years ago.
P.L. Travers first introduced the world to the no-nonsense nanny in her 1934 children’s book “Mary Poppins.” However, the subsequent adventures of Mary Poppins remained only on the pages of the seven other P.L. Travers’ books…until now. MARY POPPINS RETURNS is drawn from the wealth of material in these additional books.
The film also stars Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks, Julie Walters as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen, with Colin Firth as Fidelity Fiduciary’s William Weatherall Wilkins and Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy. Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character. MARY POPPINS RETURNS is directed by Rob Marshall. The screenplay is by David Magee and the screen story is by Magee & Marshall & John DeLuca based on The Mary Poppins Stories by P.L. Travers. The producers are Marshall, DeLuca and Marc Platt with Callum McDougall serving as executive producer, and the music is by Marc Shaiman with songs by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
With everything that is happening in our world today, Meryl Streep has called Mary Poppins Returns a “Gift to the World”. I think it just might be.
From a place hold dear, comes a new story to fall in love with.
March 29, 2019 – Dumbo
D23 Expo 2017 fans were greeted from across the pond by visionary filmmaker Tim Burton, who is busy directing his next project—a live-action reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic DUMBO.
One incredible surprise was when they wheeled out the large-eared Dumbo for us to see. Adorable. Just adorable. I sooo wish I could have taken a picture, as Dumbo (and Mama Jumbo) have always been special characters to me.
“’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.”
Cast: I’m thrilled with the announcements of Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito!
The film stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, 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. Danny DeVito portrays circus owner Max Medici who tries to capitalize on the novelty. And Michael 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.
Filmed entirely in England, DUMBO is utilizing state-of-the-art visual effects to portray the big-eared elephant and many of his animal counterparts.
July 19, 2019 – The Lion King
Alan Horn joined Sean Bailey to surprise the D23 Expo crowd 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.
My reaction to the special look at the film:
— Finding Debra (@FindingDebra2) July 15, 2017
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 LION KING is one of the biggest animated films of all time with a lifetime global box office gross of $968.8 million. It won Academy Awards® for the original song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, Tim Rice) and original score (Hans Zimmer). In 1997, the stage production inspired by the film made its Broadway debut, subsequently winning six Tony® Awards; 19 years later, it remains one of Broadway’s biggest hits.
Starring Donald Glover as Simba, and James Earl Jones as—naturally—Mufasa, Favreau’s live-action version of THE LION KING is produced by Favreau, Jeffrey Silver and Karen Gilchrist.
New Movie Announcements:
A live-action take on Disney’s 1998 feature, which will be helmed by Niki Caro (“McFarland, USA,” “Whale Rider”).
A live-action nod to the popular theme park ride. The studio is working with Dwayne Johnson, recently heard as Maui in MOANA, on the project.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, with Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie.
SECRET REVEALED – The Little Mermaid
This actually wasn’t announced at all in this panel, but the next day while I was in the Alan Menken concert. During an encore, Menken let slip (intentionally I’m sure) that he was working with none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda (a future Disney Legend I am guessing, since he is involved in so many Disney projects) on The Little Mermaid.
Unbelievable! The next few years will be packed full of live action amazement!
December 15, 2017 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Alan Horn welcomed Rian Johnson, the 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, including Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.
The audience was then treated to a special sneak peek of behind-the-scenes footage from the highly anticipated movie:
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman are producing, with J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers.
Let’s take a look at what I saw (and the cast saw too for the first time)…
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.
- Hamill says this story is a game changer.
Incredible actors added to the cast…
— Finding Debra (@FindingDebra2) July 15, 2017
The movie stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, 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.
May 4, 2018 – Avengers: Infinity Wars
For the finale, Horn brought Kevin Feige to the stage for Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
To start the ball rolling, Feige unveiled the Marvel Studios’ official 10th anniversary logo to the excited audience. Marvel Studios’ 10th anniversary begins with the release of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and covers an impressive decade 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.
GRAND ENTRANCE – 10 Years of Marvel Studios
Having just finished the half way mark of filming, we were told a few of the actors were gracious enough to hop on a plane and join us at D23. But then they kept bringing more actors out. One at a time. It was thrilling.
Thor – Chris Hemsworth
Iron Man – yes, Tony Stark (aka Robert Downey Jr.)
And…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.
It was quite a moment in Marvel history!
To top it all off, the thrilled fans got an exclusive early look at footage from the movie Avengers: Infinity War, introduced by Joe Russo, one of the directors. Almost every single superhero ever introduced in the Marvel universe will be there.
An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
Anthony and Joe Russo direct the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.
SURPRISE INTERVIEW: Shortly after this panel concluded I was taken backstage to interview two of the actors on stage. Jaw dropping moment…we had no idea this was happening!
Make sure you read all the new Disney movies update – so many surprises!
Stay tuned for more as I bring you this interview and all the other major announcements including Disney Parks and more!
AND if you didn’t see how much of a Disney fanatic I am, be sure to check out my full costume in my I’m Going to D23 Expo post! Yes, I said costume! 🙂
YOU WILL ALSO LOVE:
Tour PIXAR Headquarters with me
Interview with Ellen DeGeneres – Finding Dory
Interview with Jason Bateman – Zootopia
Inside Out Red Carpet Premiere
Interview with Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy
If you like this post, you’ll love these that I’ve picked out just for you!