D23 2019: The 23 Biggest Stories From Disney's Event
By James White Posted 21 days ago
Ever since Disney launched its stand-alone celebration of all things under the Mouse House banner a decade ago, the biennial D23 Expo has grown, along with the studio itself, into a massive display of everything it has to offer on screens and beyond. Not surprisingly, then, This year’s Expo was bigger than ever, and Empire was there to see stars talk up their new projects and filmmakers from the like of Lucasfilm, Pixar and Disney’s live-action/animated arms show off fresh clips. Here’s our list of the biggest happenings for cinemas and the new Disney+ streaming service. Incidentally, while Disney+ is launching in the US on 12 November, the company has yet to confirm a UK date beyond saying it’ll land in 2020.
1) Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker debuted new footage
While director JJ Abrams would probably be happier not releasing anything at all, D23 attendees expect to see something. And so, with the likes of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams (plus droids R2-D2, BB-8 and newcomer D-O) on stage, there was plenty of chatter about how special the latest movie is, and a tear-jerking tribute to the late Carrie Fisher. The highlight, of course, was the footage, which showed Rey and Kylo Ren dueling on a crashed ship in the midst of stormy seas, a galactic cloud filled with Star Destroyers, and, most tantalizingly, a shot of Rey clad in a dark cloak and using a double-sided, hinge-down Sith red lightsaber. We’ll have to find out what that means… If you want to see the footage for yourself, you can find it right here.
Also, as has become D23 tradition, a new poster was put on screen, with every audience member handed a copy on their way out of the room at the end.
2) Kit Harington became the latest actor to join the MCU
Though news of his potential addition broke shortly before the panel started, it was left to Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige to confirm that Kit Harington would be joining Eternals as a character called Dane Whitman. It wasn’t mentioned on stage, but he’s also known as the superhero Black Knight. The artist formerly known as Jon Snow wasn’t present on stage (he’s busy preparing for the film in London), but fellow new recruits Barry Keoghan and Gemma Chan (Druig and Sersei, respectively) did show up to join the announced likes of Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee and Angelina Jolie. We were also treated to a look at how the cast will appear in the film via some concept art.
3) Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad and Daveed Diggs were announced for Pixar’s Soul
Pixar boss and Oscar-winning filmmaker Pete Docter is at work on a new original film for the company, and it boasts an intriguing, metaphysical concept of the type that might be a tough sell, but tends to work in the animation studios’ experienced hands. It’s the story of Joe Gardener (Foxx) a school band teacher who has always harboured dreams of playing jazz professionally. But shortly after he gets his big break, something happens to him, which finds his soul somehow sent back to a place called The You Seminar, where souls are educated and formed before they are assigned to humans. There, he meets 22 (not her full name, but it’s a number too long to quote here), voiced by Tina Fey, who has been observing Earth for a long time and has decided that it’s a terrible place. But she does agree to help Joe get back there.
Foxx and Fey were joined on stage by fellow cast members Rashad, Diggs and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, best known for his work with The Roots. Docter, along with producer Dana Murray, co-director/writer Kemp Powers and writer Mike Jones showed off some early footage, which boasts Pixar’s first African-American lead character and cast.
4) Marvel Announced Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and Moon Knight series for Disney+
Kevin Feige had already announced the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe-based series that his team is working on for the Disney+ streaming service, but there was more news squeezed at the end of the panel: word that Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and Moon Knight are all in development, though it was too early to share any real details on any of them. You can read more via our panel report here.
5) The first full trailer for The Mandalorian arrived
Jon Favreau was at the Anaheim Convention Center to debut a look at his new, live-action Star Wars Disney+ series The Mandalorian, expanding on what had been shown to the audience at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year. Stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Taika Waititi (who pulls double duty voicing droid IG-11 and is one of the show’s directors) joined Favreau and fellow producer Dave Filoni on stage to explain about the show’s poking into the outer reaches of the galaxy for a story set in the aftermath of the Empire’s fall in Return Of The Jedi. Not present? Werner Herzog, who nevertheless pops up in the trailer.
6) Frozen II’s team let some new footage and casting confirmations go
Given its billion dollar-plus success, Frozen has naturally become a pillar of Disney Animation going forward. And while attempts at spin-offs haven’t met with much success, the sequel promises to be something special. Director (and chief creative officer at the animated arm of the studio) Jennifer Lee and fellow Frozen director Chris Buck showed off footage for the film that they say will form one big story with the original. We saw Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven playing charades before Elsa is distracted by a strange, singing voice, and Anna is too concerned for her sister to react to Kristoff trying to propose marriage to her. Elsa’s reaction to the voice calling her name is a brand new song, Into The Unknown, which seems sure to get lodged in the brain as with Let It Go. We also learned that Sterling K. Brown will be a new character called Lt. Mattias, while Evan Rachel Wood is Elsa and Anna’s mother Queen Iduna, who we glimpsed in another new scene featuring a song called All Is Found. The panel then wrapped up with the main cast showing up in person to sing another tune from the movie, Some Things Never Change.
7) Disney Animation revealed a new original movie
Disney and Pixar have been criticised of late for relying on sequels and remakes, but both studios had original stories to showcase this year. Disney’s is Raya And The Last Dragon, which comes from directors Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins, producer Osnat Shurer and writer Adele Lim. Inspired by southeast asian legends, it’s set in a fantastical realm called Kumandra, where the heroic Raya teams up with a crew of misfits in her quest to find the Last Dragon and bring light and unity back to their world. The filmmakers showed off some astonishing animation and then brought out Crazy Rich Asians’ Awkwafina, who will voice the dragon, Sisu, and Cassie Steele, the voice of Raya to talk about the movie.
8) The Muppets announced a new series of shorts
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Disney bought the rights to The Muppets a few years ago, and while the two movies have worked well, the company’s attempts to launch a new TV series based on the fuzzy friends haven’t met with the same level of success. Disney+ short-form series Muppets Now is aiming to change that. Kermit the Frog appeared in a video about the series, though he was forbidden from saying much by the officious Joe from legal, a weasel with binding contracts on his mind and a yearning to be a comedian.
9) Ewan McGregor showed up to confirm an Ob-Wan Kenobi series
Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy would probably have preferred for McGregor to appear on stage as a huge surprise, but it was not to be, as rumours broke ahead of the event. Still, the audience was thrilled to see the actor stride out. After years of talk of an Obi-Wan movie, the series is a compromise. Neither McGregor nor Kennedy would say much about the show, save that it’ll kick off shooting next year.
10) Marvel announced the Black Panther sequel’s release date
Given its cultural impact, financial and Oscar success, everyone knew that Marvel would return to Wakanda for another Black Panther, and writer/director Ryan Coogler has been at work developing it. Coogler and Kevin Feige refused to reveal much about the film, which is still only in the very early writing stage, but they did confirm that it’ll hit screens on 6 May 2022. As to what it’ll actually be called? Don’t expect Black Panther 2.
11) The Rock rolled the first footage of Jungle Cruise – and Emily Blunt made fun of him
Jungle Cruise benefitted from the dual star presence of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, who, if you’ve seen the short teasers, you know have good comic chemistry. Johnson showed up first in a boat mock-up, and rolled a trailer that focused on his character, Frank. Blunt then showed up in a classic car to mock his representation of the movie and show her own version of the trailer that is driven by her character, Lily Houghton. The vibe was Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Romancing The Stone and the Brendan Fraser-era Mummy movies.
12) We got our first look at Emma Stone as a young Cruella de Vil
You might not have thought that a character as despicable as Cruella de Vil would be worth exploring in an origin story, but Cruella is aiming to peek beyond the two-tone hairstyle and fur obsession to figure out how she became that way. The movie has just started shooting, so there was not much beyond the initial image to show, but Stone did pop up in a fun video from the set.
13) Pixar’s Onward had clips to share and Tom Holland had a message
You’ve probably seen the first trailer for Pixar’s next film, which finds it exploring uncharted territory with a full-on fantasy. Albeit one that sets the usual elf/gnome/unicorn characters in a present-day suburban setting. The film follows two elven brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) Lightfoot, who go on a journey to bring their dead father back from the afterlife through magic for a day. Director Dan Scanlon showed a clip that set up the story and one of the duo using magic to solve a problem… with strange results.
The panel had one moment of potential awkwardness when Pratt and Holland showed up to greet the crowd and Holland addressed the “crazy” week that has been happening over Spider-Man. “I love you 3000,” he told the crowd, aware that Peter Parker may be leaving the MCU for good.
14) Emily Van Camp and Wyatt Russell joined The Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Even with the star/banter power of Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan already on stage, director Kari Skogland had something new to announce about The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: Emily Van Camp will return as Sharon Carter and Everybody Wants Some!!/Overlord actor Wyatt Russell is playing a character called John Walker. Marvel fans will know he’s also called US Agent, a Captain America wannabe (and occasional replacement) who is more known for causing trouble.
15) New Mulan footage screened
Director Niki Caro arrived at D23 bearing a full clip from the live-action conversion of Disney’s animated classic. The footage found Mulan (Yifei Liu) brought to a matchmaker, a situation that does not go well thanks to a pesky spider. That was followed by a scene that saw her ailing father (Tzi Ma) agreeing to join the Emperor’s army to battle invaders. Which, if you’ve seen the original film (or have heard of the legends) sparks the story of Mulan disguising herself to take his place in the army.
16) Peggy Carter became Captain Carter in Marvel’s What If…? footage
Director Bryan Andrews and head writer Ashley Bradley are at work on the animated Marvel series What If…?, which allows the team to explore different possibilities within the MCU, and boasts the voices of most of the main casts from the films. The examples shown in the clip package included Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter becoming Captain America (or rather, Captain Carter, with a Union Jack shield) and Steve Rogers helping out via an early Iron Man-style suit, that given World War II technology was more Hulkbuster-sized than Tony’s slimmer later work. Also featured? A Bucky Barnes battling a zombie Cap. Atwell was at the Expo to express how much she likes playing Peggy again.
17) The Cassian Andor stars announced their series starts shooting next year
Given that not a frame has been shot of the Rogue One prequel series that will chart earlier adventures of Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor and Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO, there was nothing to show of the Star Wars-based series. But the actors gamely showed up to banter, even if they weren’t allowed to reveal the title of the show. Mostly because they admitted they don’t know it.
18) Tom Hiddleston represented Loki… Sort Of
Well, we say, “represented”, but in true trickster god form, the busy actor wasn’t actually there. He did show up via a video message, but largely left it to director Kate Herron and head writer Michael Waldron to pimp the Marvel series about the alternate Loki’s journeys after he steals the tesseract in Avengers: Endgame Will he find a friend? Will the sun shine on him? And will he meet creatures that are even more dangerous than he can be?
19) Kat Dennings and Randall Park returned to the MCU for WandaVision
Marvel had revealed one piece of casting for Paul Bettany/Elizabeth Olsen-starring Disney+ series WandaVision at Comic-Con, with Teyonah Parris playing the adult version of Monica Rambeau, who we met as a child in Captain Marvel. Now we also know that Randall Park will return as Ant-Man And The Wasp’s Jimmy Woo and Kat Dennings is playing the Thor movies’ Darcy Lewis. Kathryn Hahn is also aboard, and will appear as, so writer Jac Shaffer and director Matt Shakman insisted, “a nosy neighbour”. Which seems an odd character for a superhero series, but WandaVision is far from your average superhero show. The series starts with the two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems…
20) Lady And The Tramp went live-action
Disney’s latest conversion of its animated back catalogue is headed directly to Disney+ for launch day. The stars of the film – dogs named Rose (Lady) and Monty (Tramp) – joined human performer Yvette Nicole Brown to unveil the trailer.
21) Jeff Goldblum unveiled his documentary series
It’s fair to say that Jeff Goldblum has a performing style all his own, and now he’s being fully unleashed in a new documentary series called The World According To Jeff Goldblum. Like The Matrix, no one can tell you what it is, you have to see it for yourself.
22) Anna Kendrick saved Christmas
To be clear, it’s not Kendrick herself saving the festive season, but her character in Christmas comedy Noelle. Kendrick and co-star Billy Eichner showed up (“Bill Hader was too busy!” Eichner joked about their fellow cast member) to premiere the trailer.
23) Monsters went to work for Disney+
It was predictable that Pixar would get in on the Disney+ and indeed a series set in the Monsters, Inc. universe was reported in April. Stars Ben Feldman and Aisha Taylor arrived on the D23 stage to reveal some imagery from the show, called Monsters At Work. It’s set six months after the original film, which saw the famed scare facility switching over its power supply from the screams of frightened children to their laughter and joy. The show follows Tylor Tuskmon (Feldman), an eager and talented mechanic on the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team who had trained at Monsters University to scare, but now faces a whole new reality. Taylor will be voicing his mother, Millie.
And that wasn’t the only Pixar show on display, as Tony Hale is returning as Toy Story 4’s Forky in a new series of shorts called Forky Asks A Question. The audience was treated to an episode, What Is Money?, which co-starred John Ratzenberger’s Hamm.
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