With this year's installment of Disney's D23 Expo taking place just three weeks after Comic-Con International, there wasn't much in the way of new Marvel Studios material Saturday at the show's "Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios" presentation.
Following an introduction from Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige took the stage to guide fans through the division's next three films: "Thor: The Dark World," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Strikingly popular Loki actor Tom Hiddleston joined Feige to talk about the "Thor" sequel. Hiddleston acknowledged that while he wasn't in costume (as he was for Marvel Studios' Hall H panel at Comic-Con), he did bring some friends -- specifically, Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) and Anthony Hopkins (Odin).
Along with the footage first seen at Comic-Con -- including an extended look at the Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander)-centric battle scene featured in the latest trailer, the formation of Thor and Loki's tenuous alliance, Jane slapping Loki and Loki (seemingly) inevitably betraying his brother -- Feige also screened a "still rough" clip of Jane's first day in Asgard, with her being examined by an Asgardian "soul board" (which Jane referred to as a "quantum field generator") due to an unknown condition. Odin expresses lament over Jane's presence on Asgard, sternly stating, "She does not belong here in Asgard anymore than a goat belongs at a banquet table." Hopkins was much friendlier to Portman on stage, saying, "I thought she was so beautiful, she belongs in Asgard." "Thor: The Dark World" is out Nov. 8.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" just finished production, Feige said, leading to the Comic-Con footage for that movie being shown to the arena crowd at the Anaheim Convention Center. It starts with a badly outnumbered Captain America (Chris Evans) in a Steve Rogers: Super Soldier-esque costume dispatching a group of thugs in an elevator. Robert Redford's Alexander Pierce tells Cap that "to build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down," and Steve is further disillusioned by a message from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) -- "S.H.I.E.L.D. sees the world as it is, not how we'd like it to be." "This isn't freedom," Cap responds. "It's fear."
Also in the clip: The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) flying, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) fighting, a brief glimpse of Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp), a Helicarrier crashing into water and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)'s robot arm reaching toward Captain America's shield.
Mackie, Evans and Stan all appeared live, with Evans saying that while Captain America is no longer shocked by modern technology, "he's getting used to the way the world is now, in terms of society, politics. It's a little bit harder for him to understand the definition of good and bad, and what is right, especially when he's working for S.H.I.E.L.D."
Feige shared an unfinished sequence from the film, featuring Captain America jumping out of a plane and onto a boat, taking out guards and being joined by Black Widow -- who also interrogates Cap about his personal life. ("What about the nurse who lives across the hall from you? She seems pretty nice.") "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is scheduled for release on April 4 of next year.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" was described by Feige as "something totally new" and based on an "excellent comic book with excellent characters, but not particularly well known." Feige said that Marvel feels similarly about "Guardians" now as they did about "Iron Man" before the first film's release in 2008, when the property was considerably less recognizable among mainstream audiences.
That led to another sizzle reel first shown at Comic-Con, with the main "Guardians" cast -- starting with Chris Pratt's Star-Lord, and including Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) plus the CGI-rendered Rocket Raccoon and Groot -- introduced, as Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly) details their list of crimes. "What a bunch of a-holes," another Nova Corps member says to Dey. (Also featured in the clip: Prominent use of "Hooked on a Feeling.") "Guardians of the Galaxy" is scheduled for release on Aug. 1, 2014.
The brief teaser for May 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" from Comic-Con wrapped the Marvel Studios portion of the presentation, with an Iron Man helmet morphing into Ultron's head, accompanied by vocal clips from the 2012 original. Open Marvel Studios questions -- like the voices of Rocket Raccoon and Groot, and insight into the untitled Marvel films scheduled for 2016 and 2017 -- remain unanswered at this point.
Angelina Jolie, star of the Disney feature "Maleficent," (co-written by Paul Dini), provided the biggest starpower of the day. Jolie discussed her fondness for the character in front of the approximately 4,000 folks in attendance.
"Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite," Jolie told the crowd. "I was terrified of her, but I was so drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know what she was like, who she was. She had this eloquence and this grace, and yet, she was so cruel. She was wonderfully, deliciously cruel."
Jolie's appearance preceded the debut of a "Maleficent" trailer, setting up the familiar situation of the title villain cursing "Sleeping Beauty" protagonist Aurora as a baby, and the fateful finger prick leading to the princess's long nap. "Maleficent" is scheduled for release on July 2, 2014.
Shortly after, director/writer/producer Brad Bird and writer/producer Damon Lindelof unveiled a bit of the secretive "Tomorrowland" project, which stars George Clooney and just started shooting this week.
Starting with a video package that played up Walt Disney's futurist bent, Bird and Lindelof went over the purported artifacts in a box said to be found in the Disney archives labeled "1952" (the working title for the "Tomorrowland" film), including a coded message found in an issue of "Amazing Stories" and blueprints for Disney's "It's a Small World" attraction that hid secret plans when viewed via blacklight.
The crown jewel of their findings, Bird and Lindelof claimed, was a disc that played an allegedly '60s-era animated short, subsequently shown to the audience. The clip, narrated by a voice strongly resembling animation veteran Maurice LaMarche, discussed society's progress amid deliberate skips around "missing" footage. The narrator stated that the world's greatest minds -- Thomas Edison, Gustave Eiffel, Nikola Tesla and Jules Verne -- collaborated on a "tomorrow we need not fear, but can aspire to," which was being built and was about 20 years from completion. "Tomorrowland" is scheduled for release on Dec. 19, 2014.
Toward the top of the presentation, Horn briefly discussed Lucasfilm, acquired by Disney last fall. Other than recapping previous announcements -- the J.J. Abrams-directed Episode VII is in the works for summer 2015, and Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinbeg are working on standalone films -- there was no Star Wars news, with Horn advising, "It will happen, and it will be wonderful."
Also promoted: Next year's "Muppets Most Wanted," with an in-person appearance from actor Ty Burrell and a clip of a duet between Ricky Gervais and Kermit's nefarious near-double, Constantine; 2015's live-action "Cinderella," with director Kenneth Branagh describing the project via a pre-taped video; musical adaptation "Into the Woods;" Disneynature documentary "Bears;" and "Saving Mr. Banks," starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers, out Dec. 20. The presentation closed with a performance of "Let's Go Fly a Kite" by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak -- who play "Mary Poppins" composers Richard and Robert Sherman in the film, and were joined in song by the real-life Richard Sherman, now 85.