On Saturday morning at the 2017 edition of Disney's D23 Expo in Anaheim, the biennial "The Walt Disney Studios Live Action Films" presentation provided new looks at live-action feature films from Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, accompanied by copious amounts of surprise appearances from major celebrities and one heck of a teaser for Avengers: Infinity War.
The presentation, like yesterday's spotlight on Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, started with a sizzle reel highlighting upcoming and recently released Disney films -- including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Mary Poppins Returns.
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn was first out, joking that he got a wake-up call from Mickey Mouse himself this morning at his room at the Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Horn said that even though Disney is comprised of many different companies and studios, they're linked by, "our commitment to quality and values. Values like decency and integrity. Values that I believe we share with you."
Horn recapped Disney's successes in the first half of 2017, namely the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Cars 3, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Horn then brought out Sean Bailey, the head of live-action production for Walt Disney Studios. "It has to be a story worth telling," Bailey said of Disney's approach to filmmaking.
First film up: Disney's A Wrinkle in Time, based on the Madeleine L'Engle novel. Bailey said that director Ava DuVernay has created a "new world" for the film that is faithful to its source material.
"We have hit the jackpot once again with this cast," Bailey said, naming Storm Reid as Meg Murry, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who and Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which and Chris Pine as Dr. Alexander Murry. DuVernay, Reid, Pine, Witherspoon, Kaling and Winfrey then each joined the presentation.
"The thing that attracted me to the project was, I saw myself in it," DuVernay said. "I thought if I could bring my ideas to the classic novel, maybe we could do something new, and the only place you could do that is at Disney."
"Everyone here is my very first choice," DuVernay continued, saying that she wanted a cast that reflected the real world. Reid said working on the film was "amazing," and that seeing Winfrey work was "magical." Pine said that he was drawn to A Wrinkle in Time because of the opportunity to work with DuVernay. "Within five minutes of meeting Ava, I knew I was going to do it. It has everything to do with Ava's focus and direction and passion and commitment."
Kaling's character, Mrs. Which, speaks only in riddles. "This is a character who only speaks in the wisest sayings," Kaling said. "I learned a lot, actually." (Kaling also reported that she saw Benedict Cumberbatch in the green room today.) Witherspoon said she was a "huge fan" of the novel growing up, and that she admired how the film reflects DuVernay's ability to "see the whole world, and the beauty of the world."
"I had not read the book," Winfrey said. "When Ava mentioned it to me, and said it was a character who was one of the wisest women in the universe, and is an angelic celestial being, who is going to get to wear amazing costumes, and work with Reese and Mindy, who wouldn't say yes to that?" Bailey pointed out that audience members will receive an A Wrinkle In Time poster on the way out of the presentation, and Winfrey then said in a familiar cadence, "Everybody gets a poster! You get a poster!" -- leading to "Oprah" chants.
That led to the reveal of the first trailer for A Wrinkle in Time, set to a cover version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." (Not the Marilyn Manson version, we can assure you.) It's already online here:
Next film up: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, with Bailey announcing the release date of Nov. 2, 2018. After the reveal of the first teaser trailer, Bailey introduced the film's Mouse King -- dancer Charles Riley, also known as "Lil Buck" -- who took the stage for a live performance of Nutcracker choreography.
Bailey then moved to Mary Poppins Returns, the upcoming sequel to the 1964 classic. After an outline of the plot and cast, director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt entered the stage. Marshall praised the "the wonder, the joy the music" of the original." "I was not fully aware there were these eight other books," Marshall said, speaking of the subsequent Mary Poppins material written by P. L. Travers.
"I was a huge fan," Blunt said. "I found the idea that this magical, mysterious person whisking into their lives and making everything right again really comforting, as a child." Blunt also said that she liked how the character had a lack of sentimentality and was "rude, eccentric and odd." Speaking of her performance, Blunt said she wanted to honor what Julie Andrews did in the original, but "carve out something" for herself, and that the film emphasizes the character's eccentricities as portrayed in Travers' books.
Marshall expressed appreciation on how quickly the cast came together -- including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep and Colin Firth. Marshall added that Dick Van Dyke, who co-starred in the first Mary Poppins, said that the set of the sequel had the same "joy" as the original.
This led to the reveal of the first teaser trailer for Mary Poppins Returns -- but with a twist, as it was accompanied by music from the film's score, performed by a live orchestra. The footage revealed that, like the original, Mary Poppins Returns will have elements of animation, at least for one sequence.
After a sizzle reel spotlighting the recent live-action adaptation of animated Disney classics -- starting with 2010's Alice in Wonderland -- Bailey moved to the live-action Mulan, which he said was in pre-production, with more announcements to come. Bailey also confirmed that Disney is working with Dwayne Johnson on a Jungle Cruise film.
Moving to the Guy Ritchie-directed Aladdin, Bailey announced the film's main cast: Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie. This follows recent reports that Disney was struggling to cast the Aladdin lead role.
Bailey showed a brief video of director Tim Burton on the set of Dumbo, and then brought out a maquette of the film's title character -- three and a half feet tall and five feet wide, he reported -- and announced the film's release date of March 29, 2019.
that led to the first footage from the upcoming live-action version of The Lion King, which was a stunning recreation of the animated film's opening scene (starring an incredibly cute Baby Simba). Director Jon Favreau joined briefly, saying he was incredibly excited to show the footage at the D23 Expo.
Alan Horn was back out on the stage, first talking about how impressed he was with Favreau's work on The Lion King, and then turning to the Star Wars franchise -- first recapping the positive receptions of of The Force Awakens and Rogue One (of the latter, Horn spoke of its box office success, then said matter-of-factly, "and then we killed them all").
Horn said that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy couldn't make it to D23 because she's working on the Han Solo film with Ron Howard, but he recapped the cast for the crowd and expressed his enthusiasm for the project.
Then moving to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Horn said it picks up exactly where The Force Awakens left off, and that Luke Skywalker "actually gets to talk" in this film. Horn took some time to discuss Carrie Fisher's passing, and said fans will "really, really appreciate her performance in this film."
The Last Jedi writer and director Rian Johnson then entered the stage. Johnson said being at D23 was something of a full-circle moment for him, as early in his career he worked on the "coming up next" spots on the Disney Channel, in the Halloweentown era. Behind-the-scenes photos from the film were shown on the screens.
The cast was next out, starting with Daisy Ridley, then joined by John Boyega and Gwendoline Christie. "I already tried to milk some Game of Thrones spoilers out of Gwen," Johnson joked. Johnson then brought out franchise newcomers Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro.
Ridley briefly spoke about filming in Ireland, and said that on the last day of filming her and Johnson jigged for an hour. (Johnson said for him it was more like five minutes before he started to wheeze.) Boyega said Finn gets to fight a formidable opponent in The Last Jedi, and Christie then stood intimidatingly (and playfully) towards him. Christie said her Captain Phasma suit "tends to get a bit warm," so she "tosses a casserole" in it and then it's ready for lunch.
Tran (who plays Rose Tico) said, as a franchise newcomer and a relative newcomer to filmmaking in general, she felt like the recipient of a golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A foggy photo of Dern holding a blaster as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo was shown. Dern said it was the "opportunity of her life" to appear in a Star Wars film, and that she literally said "pew" in scenes where she's using a weapon. Del Toro said he saw the 1977 original as a 10-year-old child, and told Johnson, "When you called, and told me the title, I said, 'let's go!'"
One more cast member then joined the presentation: Mark Hamill. "It's so kind of you to make me not stand next to Gwendoline," Hamill joked to Johnson. "They said I'm too short for a Stormtrooper!"
Johnson said the experience of working with Hamill was "magical" for him. "When I read the script, there were so many unpected elements, which is great in a Star Wars film, because it's getting harder and harder to bring new stuff to the table," Hamil said. "This is real game-changer."
"I've learned to express that a lot more artfully," Hamill joked, referencing reports that have interpreted his past comments as being critical of the current Star Wars films. Hamill said that he'll say something like "you can't please everyone," and it's then made into a headline that says, "Star Wars bound to disappoint, says Hamill!"
The Last Jedi section culminated in a behind-the-scenes video, featuring new looks at familiar characters and a lot of previously unseen creatures. In the video, Ridley says, the film is "unexpected but right," and leave people saying "oh my god" over its events. She also stated that The Last Jedi "feels like its own thing." The video ended with Fisher saying, "it's about family, and that's what's so powerful about it."
— Star Wars (@starwars) July 15, 2017
Next up: Marvel Studios, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige entering the stage -- and showing a new 10th anniversary logo with the subtitle "The First Ten Years," with the "io" and "studios" represented by a 10. Feige said that he already planned to attend the original D23 Expo in 2009, and between buying his ticket and the actual event, Disney bought Marvel -- "I got better seats," he joked.
"Almost every single hero that we've introduced is going to be in [Avengers: Infinity War]," Feige said, calling the film a culmination of the 10 years of Marvel Studios that started with 2008's Iron Man. The actor behidn Thanos, Josh Brolin, joined the presentation.
"Powerful," Brolin said, when asked what it's like to play Thanos. Feige said the movie is the biggest Marvel Studios production yet, and just yesterday in Atlanta, Marvel Studios wrapped the "halfway mark" of production for Infinity War.
Joining the panel: Avengers cast members Paul Bettany (The Vision) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), plus representing the Guardians of the Galaxy, Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Dave Bautista (Drax),
"I don't know, this would take down most people," Feige said to Brolin of the assembled heroes. "Drax ain't shit," Brolin answered. More cast members joined: Don Cheadle (War Machine), Sebastian Stan (the Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (the Falcon). Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) joined, with Feige saying he used "one of those sparkly portals" to make it from Atlanta to Anaheim.
"These guys have not been together on one stage in a long time, and even I find myself geeking out," Feige said. But he wasn't doing bringing out actors: Tom Holland, star of current box office hit Spider-Man: Homecoming, was next out, followed quickly by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther).
"I'm really excited for you to see [Black Panther]," Boseman told the crowd.
Feige wasn't done, with Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) and his "friend from work," Chris Hemswroth (Thor) also joining the presentation.
"I guess it's worth bringing out the man who started it all," Feige said, bringing out Robert Downey Jr. "It's funny to think Kevin and I figured all of this out at Randy's Donuts shooting Iron Man 2," Downey joked.
Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier co-director Joe Russo joined the crowded stage, saying his brother and co-director Anthony had to stay in Atlanta and "mind the store." Russo cued up a "look back" at Marvel to commemorate the impending 10-year anniversary.
The video looked at the prior Marvel Studios films, but of course it wasn't just that -- it led right into the first Infinity War teaser. It opens with Thor landing on the window of the Guardians of the Galaxy's Milano ship, with Rocket reacting to him like he's a bug on a windshield. They bring Thor into the ship, Mantis wakes him up, and Thor asks, "Who the Hell are you guys?"
Thor is heard saying, "Something's very wrong," and shots include a distraught-looking Loki holding up the Tesseract, Peter Parker on a school bus with the hair on his arms standing up, and Iron Man standing with the Guardians. "Fun isn't really something one considers when balancing the universe," Thanos says, as the teaser then cuts to Gamora's reaction. "But this does put a smile on my face."
Quick shots of then seen are Star-Lord, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man all in battle, with the latter in an armroed Spidey suit. Winter Soldier and Black Panther are seen, along with what appears to ban imprisoned Vision, an unmasked Captain America with noticeably longer hair, Iron Man back in what looks like the Hulkbuster armor and Black Widow with blonde hair. Things crescendo with a shot of Thanos using the Infinity Gauntlet.
With that -- and how could you follow that? -- the presentation wrapped.