Another D23, a massive Disney fan event, is now behind us. Over the weekend, the Anaheim convention centre was transformed into the ultimate Disney fan HQ with autograph signings by stars, fan photo ops, and all kinds of exclusive merch. It also turns into the hub of entertainment news, with 3 days of big, star-filled panels. While that was happening, I was busy covering the red carpet behind the stage, talking with all the filmmakers and stars, while a crowd of thousands of fans erupted at the big announcements being made on the other side of the wall. I did run into a few Canadian fans on the convention floor over the weekend, but in case you weren’t there, here’s what you missed!
On the animation front, we learned a lot more about Disney/Pixar’s next “Day of The Dead” inspired film, Coco as the cast and filmmakers gave us a more detailed look. In this one we follow Miguel, who plays a magical guitar and ends up in the world of the dead. It’s a story of both the power of music and family. From here we got a small tease for an upcoming Frozen release and Jillian Bell and Josh Gad took the stage to talk about Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the short that will be in front of Coco in theatres this fall. A few older Pixar favorites were also in attendance as we were finally given confirmation they are indeed making a Toy Story 4 followed by a scheduled release date into 2019. Then, to massive applause, the cast and director of Incredibles 2 took the stage! This is one that fans have been hoping and praying for since the original over a decade ago. I asked Samuel L. Jackson if the massive superhero resurgence that’s happened since the original film will help make this one even bigger and he smiled and said “I think we’ve always been ready for an Incredibles 2. I don’t know if I can say the same about some of those other heroes they keep bringing back, but people love the Incredibles.”
Wreck it Ralph and Vanellope are returning to the big screen in Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2. The announcement for this one was particularly internet-breaking, as Sarah Silverman (Vanellope) was also joined on stage by EVERY VOICE BEHIND A DISNEY ANIMATED PRINCESS! Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Kelly Macdonald (Merdia), Kristen Bell (Anna), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), and the newest princess Auli’I Cravalho (Moana)! That’s because in the scene unveiled to the D23 audience we got to see Ralph and Vanellope hop around the internet to various places and websites, and we see them dropping in on these Disney princesses during their day off. Not only do we see a whole new, more relaxed side of the characters, the fact that they are all in the same scene together is history-making.
On the live-action front, it got even more intense as we were given some exclusives on a couple upcoming live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated films. After word online of the uncertainty of the cast for the upcoming Aladdin movie, minds were definitely blown when they went and announced former Pink Power Ranger Naomi Scott will be playing Jasmine, relative newcomer and Canadian Mena Massoud will play Aladdin, and the biggest one? Will Smith will take on the iconic Robin Williams role as Genie!
The audience was also shown the first footage of Jon Favreau’s upcoming live-action Lion King which was one of the most talked-about announcements of the day. Apparently, they even added in that cute little sneeze when baby Simba gets painted by Rafiki. Nice touch. Finally, Disney also announced that Tim Burton will direct a live-action Dumbo movie starring Colin Farrell, Danny Devito, Eva Green, and Michael Keaton. Can't wait for that one!
Speaking of first looks, we also were given the trailer for the book-turned-movie, A Wrinkle in Time. This one stars Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine who were all in attendance at the announcement. Unlike the other D23 exclusives, this trailer was released online and you can watch it here:
Emily Blunt also took the stage for the all-new Mary Poppins sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. Emily herself said that while she may never be able to do what Julie Andrews did with the original, she promises this film is just as inspiring and magical as the one that came before it. I think it’s safe to say a whole new generation may be singing a “Spoonful of Sugar.” The film’s director Rob Marshall confirmed to me that he did shoot a cameo with Dick Van Dyke and it was one of the most magical days on set for everyone involved.
Of course it wouldn’t be a massive Disney live-action panel without something from Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige was joined on stage by director Joe Russo and it quickly turned into one of those clown-car routines as superhero after superhero poured out onto the stage. Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Paul Bettany (Vision), Dave Bautista (Drax), Elizabeth Olson (Scarlett Witch), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Sebastian Stan, (Winter Soldier), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Josh Brolin (Thanos), and the one who started it all, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) entered to an eager crowd. We definitely got a big look at this big movie at D23. Not only did they debut new footage, but on display in the Marvel Studios booth amongst the costumes from Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, they unveiled the villains who will be helping Thanos defeat the Avengers! Thanos’ other Children will be appearing in Infinity War with Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian standing beside Thanos in battle. As far as more specific details, I wasn’t able to get much on the carpet as everyone is still pretty tight-lipped. Pom Klementieff who plays Mantis did tell me “I saw a lot of these guys for the first time today. I didn’t see them on set. When we filmed it, it was like one group here, and one group here, and one group here.” So perhaps we now know a little more as to how this movie will unfold. Perhaps the Avengers divide and conquer to defeat this new team of villains.
The big announcement that took over social media was one particular film coming to theatres this December. Disney hid their Star Wars: The Last Jedi presence at D23 as well as they hid the massive live orchestra that played and completely surprised the audience! Director Rian Johnson took the stage and called out his stars, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie and newcomers Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro. Of course, we knew Mark Hamill was in attendance after accepting his Disney Legends honor alongside Stan Lee and Oprah earlier that weekend. Sure enough Luke Skywalker entered to even louder applause. We still don’t know much as to what this film is about; all Laura Dern could tell us about her character is that “I play Vice Admiral Holdo and she has colorful hair.” Not exactly a scoop. I did ask all the stars on the red carpet if they were, in fact, the last Jedi. I got a loud “COME ON!” from John Boyega, a cute shrug to camera from Daisy Ridley, a “Byyyeeeee” as Gwendoline just walked away, a very cryptic response from Mark Hamill regarding the fact that we don’t know if Jedi is singular or plural, and finally… FINALLY I got an answer from director Rian Johnson! When I asked him “Who is the last Jedi?” He looked at me, and said “YOU!” There you have it. Don’t worry, I promise to do my best to defend the galaxy.
From The Lion King and Avengers: Infinity War, to Mary Poppins and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this was the biggest D23 yet! Be sure to keep looking online as most of what the fans got to experience will eventually be released to the public. If you don’t have the patience to wait, start working on your best Disney cosplay and we’ll see you at the next one!