The 2017 D23 Expo was absolutely massive, and while I live-tweeted the festivities direct from the show floor, I’m still trying to collect my thoughts on everything that I’ve seen and heard, even now that I’ve been back in Illinois for a full day. At the live-action film presentation, Alan Horn, Chairman, Walt Disney Studios, introduced Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production to give an overview of what moviegoers can expect to see across Disney, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm over the next few years. For a few projects, development is still fairly early on, but ALADDIN was confirmed to be directed by Guy Ritchie, with Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie, with original music by Alan Menken with Pasek & Paul (La La Land) handling lyrics. MULAN will be helmed by Niki Caro (McFarland, USA, Whale Rider), and JUNGLE CRUISE marks the latest Disneyland ride to get a big screen nod, with Dwayne Johnson set to star. Those announcements simply scratch the surface, as the lineup is huge, and I’ve got all the details below…
DUMBO (March 29, 2019)
Filmmaker Tim Burton, sent a video greeting from the set of his next project—a live-action reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic DUMBO. “’Dumbo’ was always one of my favorite Disney films,” said Burton. “We’re trying to give it the same heart, feeling and emotion that we all loved about the original.”
The film stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, a former circus star and war-veteran charged with the care of a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock of an already struggling circus. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins were cast as Holt’s children, who discover that Dumbo can fly. Danny DeVito portrays circus owner Max Medici who tries to capitalize on the novelty. And Michael Keaton is persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere who swoops in with aerial artist Colette Marchant, portrayed by Eva Green, to make Dumbo a star. Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer are producing from a screenplay by Kruger. 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.
We also got a look at a life-sized maquette being used to represent DUMBO during the production.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (December 15, 2017)
The latest chapter in the Skywalker saga will soon hit screens, and Writer/Director Rian Johnson took the stage alongside talent from the film, including Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro. The crew presented a behind-the-scenes featurette, following a tradition of pulling back the curtain, first established during the ramp-up to THE FORCE AWAKENS, and continuing ahead of last year’s ROGUE ONE.
Additionally, the official synopsis for the film has been released:
“In Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of THE FORCE AWAKENS join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.”
The movie stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman are producing, with J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers.
A WRINKLE IN TIME (March 9, 2018)
Cast members Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine along with newcomer Storm Reid and director Ava DuVernay took to the D23 stage to unveil the film’s teaser trailer and teaser poster. The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic, takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love.
Directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee based upon the beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A WRINKLE IN TIME is produced by Jim Whitaker and Catherine Hand with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. The film also stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, André Holland and Rowan Blanchard, with Zach Galifianakis.
The Official Synopsis: Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides—Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)—who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are soon transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them.
THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS (November 2, 2018)
I’m a big fan of the holiday season, and an equally big fan of THE NUTCRACKER. That said, my interest has been piqued with Disney’s all-new take on that classic story in THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, newcomer Mackenzie Foy as Clara, Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger, Morgan Freeman as godfather Drosselmeyer, and featuring a special performance by Misty Copeland, the movie is inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale. THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS is directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Mark Gordon and Larry Franco.
The film largely takes place in a strange and mysterious parallel world—home to Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. But it’s the ominous Fourth Realm where Clara must take on a tyrant called Mother Ginger as well as a gang of mice who’ve stolen a coveted key from Clara.
Los Angeles-based dancer Lil Buck hit the stage at D23 Expo 2017 to demonstrate the kind of street dancing—called jookin—that informed the way his character – The Mouse King – moves in the film.
THE LION KING (July 19, 2019)
With the movie set for release in two years, it was a big surprise when director Jon Favreau arrived to show off a sneak-preview of his new live-action take on Disney’s 1994 classic animated film THE LION KING. Favreau, who was playing “Gutter” in the cult classic PCU the year the original LION KING was released, has come a long way in his career, being one of my personal favorites on the multi-hyphenate front (actor/writer/director) for years (I recall my wife and I going out of our way to catch 2001’s MADE on opening weekend), and becoming the force behind 2016’s smash-hit, THE JUNGLE BOOK.
“This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film,” said Favreau. “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.”
The live-action (CGI) version of the iconic “Circle of Life” opening is shockingly beautiful, bringing with it goosebumps, tears and cheers throughout the arena. It’s something that must be seen to be believed, and I hope you won’t have to wait a full two years to get a glimpse.
THE LION KING will star Donald Glover as Simba, with James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS (December 25, 2018)
This is another one in which it’s probably going to be quite awhile before you get a look at it, and I almost feel bad for having seen footage that you can’t. Emily Blunt stars as the title character in this sequel to the 1964 film, MARY POPPINS, and she and director/producer Rob Marshall introduced a first look at the film, in which Mary and her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, embark on entirely new adventures with the next generation of the Banks family to help them find the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
With production having just finished last month, we were treated to a trailer that was devoid of dialog (sans the ending), but accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by composer Marc Shaiman.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS is inspired by the books of P.L. Travers, also stars Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks, Julie Walters as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen, with Colin Firth as Fidelity Fiduciary’s William Weatherall Wilkins and Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy. Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (May 4, 2018)
Depending on your personal tastes, they may or may not have saved “the best” for last, but the grand finale of the live-action presentation was undoubtedly the BIGGEST as a host of AVENGERS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY assembled on-stage to give the audience their first-look at Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
Marvel’s Kevin Feige unveiled the Marvel Studios’ official 10th anniversary logo to the audience, along with promise of a year-long celebration of the first decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then, Feige welcomed to the stage an incredible array of talent including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff. The cast joined fans in getting an exclusive early look at footage from the movie, introduced by Joe Russo, one of the directors.
Official Synopsis: An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
Anthony and Joe Russo direct the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.
With so much to look forward to, you’ll want to stay tuned to THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine for more news on these films in the days, weeks, months – and even years ahead!