Day 1 of the 2015 D23 Expo was a lot of fun, with all of the Disney Animation/Pixar news as well as the Disney Legends ceremony and fun, smaller things like the Muppets! Day 2 focused its larger presentations on live action films and Parks and Resorts, with some exciting news and first looks on both fronts. I lined up early again this morning to get a spot for the Live Action presentation, and I’m happy I got there when I did, because half an hour later would have meant missing out. Clearly people were eager for some Marvel and Star Wars news, not to mention the full slate of films from Disney proper.
Alan Horn once again opened the presentation, but he served as host throughout rather than turning the duties over to someone else. After the same sizzle reel we saw yesterday, Marvel kicked things off, bringing out Kevin Feige to give us a look at what’s coming up. He started with the 2nd film set for release next year, Doctor Strange, which is due to start filming in November. Benedict Cumberbatch appeared via pre-recorded message to say how excited he is to be a part of the film, and is looking forward to literally expanding the MCU into new dimensions. Feige didn’t have any footage to debut, obviously, but he did have concept art set to music which gave a look at the style and feel of Doctor Strange, which will definitely be the weirdest Marvel film yet. It combined mind-bending other dimensions with some Inception-like visuals for a film that is certainly unique. It also gave us a look at Doctor Strange’s iconic, high-collared outfit (in sketch form with Cumberbatch’s likeness) as well as imagery of Tilda Swinton and Chewitel Ejiofor.
More important, however, was what many in the audience had come to see, our first look at Captain America: Civil War. Feige told us that with one week left of filming, in Germany of all places, he could only get one member from the cast to come introduce the film, and brought Anthony Mackie out onstage. Mackie, of course, immediately introduced Chris Evans, and the crowd went nuts. After some banter and discussion of the film, Feige got to what we really wanted to see, the first trailer/footage from the film.
I’m not a fast enough note taker to remember everything that happened, but I’ll try to give you a spoilery summary in this paragraph, so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you would rather remain in the dark. The trailer opened with Cap and Falcon orchestrating a strike. Falcon deployed a drone from his backpack/wings he called “red wing” which swooped through crowds looking for their target. The target turned out to be Crossbones, also known as Brock from The Winter Soldier, who has a grudge against Cap for dropping a building on him. Agent Romanoff joined the fray, taking out several soldiers while Cap fought Brock. This sequence formed the bulk of the action, but interspersed we got a bunch of other highlights. There was a quick clip of Steve Rogers holding a helicopter that was sliding off the side of a building. We got a glimpse of a funeral for a beloved character that had already been spoiled months ago. We heard from William Hurt, reprising his role as General Ross from The Incredible Hulk, who questioned Cap’s status as a hero when perhaps he’s really a vigilante. We saw Bucky Barnes, trapped in a vice from the end credits scene of Ant-Man, who seems to have regained his memory as he knew Steve’s mother’s name as well as anecdotes from their youth. We saw the new Avengers, Vision, War Machine, and Wanda Maximoff. And then Tony Stark appeared, telling Steve that “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.” We saw some clear divisions among the group, with War Machine and Iron Man on one side, and with Romanoff and Clint Barton facing off, though perhaps just for show given Barton’s banter. And very interestingly in one heroic moment we saw Steve and his allies (Falcon, Romanoff, Wanda, and Vision as far as I can remember) charging at the camera with Bucky Barnes alongside. All in all, it was the thrilling trailer we all expected, and makes me super excited for the film, but given that we all knew it was coming it wasn’t exactly revolutionary. There was, for instance, no footage of Spider-man, who is rumored to have a cameo. The trailer ended with a funny bit that revealed Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, having been recruited or possibly kidnapped by Sam Wilson, shaking hands excitedly with Steve and then making things awkward by pointing out how uncomfortably long he’d been extending the handshake. It’s cool to see a Marvel hero who is as big a fan of these characters as we are. (Other than Coulson, obviously, who is the biggest fan.)
That was all from Marvel, probably to some people’s disappointment. Sean Bailey came out to handle the Disney films section of the presentation, starting with The Finest Hours. Chris Pine came out on stage to talk about the film, based on a real life Coast Guard rescue from the 1950s, and then they showed a clip, part of which has been seen in the trailers. It focused on Pine’s character’s girlfriend attempting to get the base commander to recall Pine and his boat instead of sending them to their certain deaths. The film looks dramatic and emotional, but it’s not the sort of movie that gets thunderous reactions from the D23 crowd.
Next up was The Jungle Book, the live action remake directed by Jon Favreau, who came out to tell us about the film. He discussed his desire to meld faithfulness to the Rudyard Kipling book while also honoring people’s love of the Disney classic. He talked about the amazing quality of the film’s visuals, which he thinks will be the most impressive ever seen on film, and then brought out some of the film’s stars, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, and newcomer Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli. Sethi was adorably nervous and excited, while Nyong’o said that this was actually her first visit to Disneyland, fulfilling one of her mother’s lifelong dreams. Favreau said he had no footage to show us, but he did have a teaser poster to unveil, and then surprised the crowd by saying we would all be leaving with a copy!
But that wasn’t all for The Jungle Book. Bailey insisted Favreau must have more to share, and so we got to see our first footage from the film, which we were told was a work-in-progress but which looked like a polished trailer to me. The trailer followed the familiar story beats, with Bagheera the panther (Kingsley), looking after Mowgli while Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) try to do him harm. But things really got the crowd going when Baloo showed up with Bill Murray’s iconic voice. He even sang a bar of “The Bare Necessities,” and you could hear people in the audience start to choke up, and the remainder of the trailer was scored to an epic instrumental version of the song. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in tears by the time the names of the cast flashed up on the screen, but there was one more surprise the trailer had in store. “And Christopher Walken” it said, as we saw an Orangutan hand emerge from the shadows and a very familiar voice said “Hi there. I’m the king. They call me Louie.” When the trailer finished the audience exploded, rising to their feet for an extended standing ovation, in perhaps the biggest but certainly the most emotional reaction of the presentation.
Mia Wasikowska came out to show us a sizzle reel of Alice Through the Looking Glass, which will reunite all of our favorite characters from Alice in Wonderland, while also introducing Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. The film has a time travel element to it that will allow us to see into these characters’ pasts, but it was hard to get much of a sense of the film from the quick clips. The Mad Hatter’s line “I have always wondered when soon is,” was a big hit.
Bryce Dallas Howard came onstage to introduce us to the remake of Pete’s Dragon, which is still in its early stages, but we did get to see a bit of footage, mostly of Howard and Robert Redford discussing the case of this strange boy they found in the woods. There was only the slightest glimpse of some hair belonging to Pete’s Dragon.
Things took a more serious turn with The Queen of Katwe, a biographical film about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi and the missionary who enabled her dream. Lupita Nyong’o made her second appearance to talk about the film, in particular the chance it affords her to show the world the life of people from her home region.
The film I was most excited for was next: Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any footage, but we were treated to a prerecorded message from Emma Watson, as well as Josh Gad and Luke Evans singing a few lines from “Gaston” (with slightly altered lyrics from the 1991 film). They showed some behind the scenes footage, including filming that song, dance rehearsals and a quick look at Ian McKellan. But what impressed me the most was a crane shot of the village set, which looked massive and breathtaking. Quite an undertaking for a musical.
Last on Disney’s slate was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Everyone knew that Johnny Depp had to be making an appearance, as he was already in town for his surprise Disney Legends induction, but Bailey actually distracted us from that for a moment with the announcement that Will Turner will be returning to the series! As an enormous fan of the series, I’m very stoked, but I’m also cautious. Will and Elizabeth’s story was wrapped up so perfectly in At World’s End and I don’t want that screwed with. But the highlight had to be Johnny Depp coming out in full Jack Sparrow character, costume and all, munching on a handful of grapes. He was delightfully incoherent, ignoring Bailey’s questions, throwing grapes into the audience while saying “Grape! That’s a grape!” and warning one audience member not to pick up one that bounced off the floor. It was so random, unexpected, and 100% Jack Sparrow. There are few actors who can inhabit a role the way Depp does, and few roles as iconic as Jack Sparrow. Bailey cut him off before he could start to sing (“I didn’t want to sing anyway!”), and led him away to wrap up the Disney section of the show.
That left us with just Star Wars, what many had come to see. The Lucasfilm portion of the show started with the announcement that Colin Trevorrow (of Jurassic World fame) will be directing Episode IX. Given my thoughts on Jurassic World, I’ll be very curious to see what he can do with Star Wars. Gareth Edwards showed up on tape to tell us a bit about Rogue One, and to show us the first official cast photo, but then it was the moment everyone was waiting for: The Force Awakens. J.J. Abrams was brought out and he introduced John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o and Oscar Issac who joined him onstage. By now we all knew that we’d be getting no new footage of the film, so in exchange Abrams revealed an exclusive teaser poster just for D23 and nowhere else, designed by a legendary Star Wars artist. (I somehow ended up with two, so maybe I’ll do a giveaway of my own next week if there’s any interest.) The teaser image showed many of the cast currently on the stage, but also predominantly featured Han Solo. That could only mean that Harrison Ford himself was here for the party, and he walked out on stage to deafening screams and cheers, and an audience who refused to return to their seats. He spoke sweetly of the debt he owes to the die-hard fans like us before saying goodbye as the cast headed backstage again.
Bob Iger took the stage to wrap things up, and in a surprise announcement completely stole the thunder of this afternoon’s Parks and Resorts presentation by announcing the highly anticipated Star Wars land early. He said it will be their largest parks expansion ever, covering 14 acres. It will have an immersive world with a cantina, shops, and everything 100% in universe. There will be two feature attractions, one of which will allow you to get behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon for a customized secret mission. The other will put you right in the middle of a battle between the new First Order stormtroopers and the Resistance. But the biggest news of all was that they’re building not one but TWO Star Wars lands, one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park at Disney World in Florida, and the other right here in Anaheim at Disneyland. It was a completely unexpected coup de gras for the presentation.
I skipped the Parks and Resorts presentation this afternoon in a large part because what I’d wanted to hear was already announced, but there were a few juicy tidbits revealed nevertheless. Soarin’ will be getting a new video, as was widely rumored, but also Star Tours will be getting some new additions to coincide with the new film. There will be a Star Wars experience opening soon in the former Animation building at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well. But the biggest news from this afternoon was the other half of DHS’s expansion, Toy Story land. This land, which will have visitors shrinking down to toy size, will feature two new rides: a family coaster based on Slinky-Dog and a flying saucer ride based around the little green aliens. There was also more news about Pandora/Avatar and other developments at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and on Shanghai Disneyland.
Speaking of Shanghai Disneyland, I spend the afternoon wandering the show floor and looking into some of the pavilions. Imagineering has a neat display for the newest Disney park, with concept art and ride information from all of the different themed lands in the park.
There was also a small Pandora/Avatar display that required waiting in line. Inside we saw an in-universe advertisement video for what we can expect to see on Pandora, with glimpses of the immersive setting as well as teases for the two main attractions. We were then led to a gorgeous scale model of the new land, showing the impressive scope of the addition, as well as its bioluminescent look at nighttime.
I also took a stroll through the Walt Disney Studios pavilion, which had props and costumes from movies like Ant-Man, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, as well as displays for animated features like Zootopia and Moana.
But I spent the majority of my time wandering among the exhibitors in the “Emporium.” There’s such a wide variety of booths, from authors trying to sell their books to giant stores selling millions of Disney pins, from custom art to vintage collectibles. Regular followers of my blog know that I’m a collector of autographs, so I spent a good deal of time getting autographs from some of the celebrities on hand. I ended up with signed pictures from the legendary Dick Van Dyke, Ed Asner, voice legend Jim Cummings, and Karen Dotrice, who played Jane Banks in Mary Poppins.
Ed Asner was a hoot, chatting with everyone and flirting shamelessly with the girls, especially the young lady in front of me dressed like Ariel who sat on his lap. When my turn came I sat next to him for a picture and he did this.
In all it was another fantastic day at the D23 Expo. There is simply so much to see and do, and so many people to talk to and interact with. I’d advise anyone at the Expo to follow the major Disney websites on Twitter, as I won two separate giveaways just by keeping an eye on Twitter and showing up at the right place at the right time. Tomorrow is the final day, and I’m hopeful that I can cross off my remaining activities in the time I have left. In the morning I’ll go to the Disney Interactive presentation, where we’ll get a look at Star Wars: Battlefront, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Disney Infinity. I also need to hit up their pavilion before I leave. I have to see the Disneyland Exhibit, which looks amazing but has had a long line so far. Speaking of lines, I have yet to shop in any of the three stores, as they’ve all had multi-hour lines at all times. Hopefully things will be lighter tomorrow.