Wow, you guys. After I attended D23 last week, I left on my plane to Atlanta with a full head and an excited heart. The Live Action Disney Movie Panel left me with plenty of brain food to nosh on, since movie remakes always make me nervous as they are new retellings of my favorite stories. But the Live Action Panel at D23 2017 was mind-blowing. Aside from the star-studded guest appearances, the generous poster giveaways, and film clips galore, there was a constant theme as each director graced the stage.
The directors were always concerned with their original source of inspiration. The films and legacies that came before them were honored, referenced, and cherished. I saw great consideration in choosing a production team and a cast that would best work to create magic on-screen, always remaining true to the story. For specific examples of this, make sure you take a peek below at my recaps of Dumbo and Mary Poppins Returns. I hope that you have plenty of popcorn at the movies in the upcoming years; you’re going to want a front row seat!
A WRINKLE IN TIME
I’ll have to admit something. *breathes* I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time. But apparently, I’m in good company. When the cast of the new Live Action Disney movie joined director Ava DuVernay on stage at D23, Chris Pine admitted the same. The new film follows a diverse cast as they have an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s book of the same name, crossing time and space. Watch the trailer below that was shown at the Live Action Disney Movie panel at D23 and marvel at both the costumes and the fabulous storyline. A Wrinkle In Time opens in theatres everywhere on March 9th, 2018!
THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS
Disney has a new take on a classic story. Mixing in extreme fantasy, the Sugarplum Fairy, Keira Knightley, and Drosselmeyer, played by Morgan Freeman, are present, along with a very special performance by Misty Copeland, the first Lead Ballerina of color for the American Ballet.
At the EXPO panel, Los Angeles-based dancer Lil Buck performed his style of dance, called “jookin,” which apparently is also performed in the film. It was a lot like a smooth pop n’ lock, and the audience rose to its feet. I personally thought it looked incredibly painful to do! The Nutcracker and the Four Realms open in theaters everywhere on November 2nd, 2018!
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
A new Mary Poppins film? Why in the world are we messing with perfection? To quote Emily Blunt, “You can’t out-Julie Andrews Julie Andrews.” You just can’t! I hadn’t settled on how I felt about this sequel to the original 1964 movie, but after listening to actress Emily Blunt, and director/producer Rob Marshall, I felt a much better about the storyline and the material. Rob Marshall has a tangible respect for the original film, going so far as to bring in original set pieces, paying great homage to the books, and including original cast members like Dick Van Dyke, who reprises his role as the Bank Manager.
The family goes on a new journey, as the Banks children have grown up and welcomed a new generation during the great depression. 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 (from the official press release). Mary Poppins Returns opens in theaters everywhere on December 25th, 2018, but you can watch a magical moving teaser on Facebook of Mary. When you see how Mary Poppins enters and returns to the Banks family you will SQUEAL with delight. I can only hope it’s part of the trailers when they are released. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”
They’re making another live action Disney movie about another one of our beloved characters. Dumbo. But this choice of director is a good match for this storyline. D23 Live action Disney movie panel-goers were greeted from England by Tim Burton, who was on set and busy directing the reimagining of Dumbo.
Burton admitted to trying to give the “same heart, feeling, and emotion that we all loved about the original,” which made me feel good. Our household watches the original film at least once a week, and to understand the film is to know how dark some of the scenes are (roustabout scene, the meanness of the clowns, the Mrs. Jumbo in jail sequence, etc.). The live action Disney movie will have more human characters in it, such as Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, a former circus star charged with the care of a newborn elephant with giant ears, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins as Holt’s children, who discover that Dumbo can fly. (I’m wondering now where the presence of Timothy Mouse will be!) Danny DeVito portrays the circus owner and Michael Keaton plays entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere. 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. D23 audiences got to see the live-action model of Dumbo, who bears a very striking resemblance to the cartoon character. I was happy to see such a resemblance that hadn’t been a part of Jungle Book or Beauty and the Beast. DUMBO flies into theaters everywhere on March 29th, 2019!
THE LION KING
Okay, the skeptic in me is thinking. Sure, try to do another live action of another huge favorite? You’re bound to misstep this one. NOPE; I am totally wrong. The D23 Expo guests were given a special look at director Jon Favreau’s new live-action take on the 1994 classic film The Lion King. Computer animation and new technology are bringing to the table brand new techniques that are really delivering. You may remember Favreau’s recent work on The Jungle Book, which made animals look so lifelike you could pet them (mind the tiger’s tail!). Onstage, he told us, “This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film. 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.” And did they. Playing a clip from the new movie only excited the audience further, as Circle of Life lit up the speakers and screens blazed with a frame by frame replication of the original movie. Simba’s sneeze, Rafiki on the rock, ants fading into zebras. It was magical and so very detailed. You will adore it.
Starring Donald Glover as Simba, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa, THE LION KING roars into our lives next summer on July 19th, 2019!
THE LAST JEDI
Folks were waiting for this moment! Hearing more about Star Wars: The Last Jedi caused D23 Expo fans to sleep in the basement and line sidewalks, but they were not disappointed in the panel. Rian Johnson, the writer, and director of the latest chapter in the Skywalker saga was joined onstage to cheers by talent from the film, including Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro. Moments later, the audience (and the stars, for they hadn’t seen it themselves) was treated to behind-the-scenes footage from the movie, and we all were hollering from the moment the logo appeared on the 3 large screens:
Spoiler alert: Rey finally hands Luke the Lightsaber. In the new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker story continues as our recently crowned heroes join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI comes to theaters on December 15th!
AVENGERS INFINITY WAR
Ever since Disney acquired Marvel and all its new films, audiences have been even more rapt to the screens. 10 years into Marvel’s movie career we’ve seen heroes like Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy and more. We’re about to see Black Panther and the return of Ant Man with the Wasp. Now at D23, Kevin Feige spoke about the newest film, Avengers: Infinity War. He touted it as the cake topper of the last decade, bringing together blockbuster series and popular characters. As a 10th anniversary celebration, Feige told D23 that fans can expect exclusive products, collectibles, in-theater events and much more. Then, in a surprise that had me screaming on twitter for ten minutes, Marvel film talent graced the stage one after another including, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan Pom Klementieff and my own personal heartthrob Chris Hemsworth (sorry, Chase!). Next, fans were given an inside peek at trailer-like footage covering Infinity Wars, and I can only describe it as epic. With superhero movie-style spins, zooms, inspiring music, and more action than you can shake an infinity stone at. Two of my favorite characters, Thor and Star Lord come together in a great moment that you’ll have to wait for! I’ll be first in line at the theatres on May 4th, 2018 when AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR flies into theaters!
UPCOMING LIVE ACTION DISNEY MOVIES:
A live-action take on Disney’s 1998 feature, Mulan will be helmed by Niki Caro, and we’ll have to wait longer for more details.
A live-action nod to the popular theme park ride, Jungle Cruise will star Dwayne Johnson, recently heard as Maui in Moana. I cosplayed as Trader Sam from WDW at D23 2017, so I’m excited to see the creative revamp on this project.
Lastly, the upcoming Aladdin (maybe I can all you Al? Or just Din? Or how about LADDIE?) live action Disney movie will be directed by Guy Ritchie, starring Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie. The D23 audience loved hearing about Will Smith, who in my opinion, has the goofy chops to play our favorite blue mystic.