D23 Expo Unveils Disney’s Upcoming Live Action Slate

thorThousands gathered in Anaheim, California this weekend for the third D23 Expo, which celebrates all things Disney. From previews of new theme park attractions to the latest merchandise there is nothing in the Disney realm that goes untouched at this three day event. One of the biggest attractions of the expo though is the previewing of Disney’s upcoming film slate. On Friday all attention was given to their animated products but Saturday belonged to their heavy hitting live action lineup introduced by Studio Chairman Alan Horn.

Naturally, one of the most anticipated movies to be discussed going into the Expo was J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII, but sadly no new information was unveiled. Horn confirmed that the script was indeed still in the works for a release in 2015 but any further updates will be coming at a later date.

Any disappointment on that front was quickly countered though by a visit from Marvel Studio’s head Kevin Feige who not only showed the same fantastic footage shown at San Diego Comic Con last month from Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy, but also came bearing brand new exclusive scenes from Thor and Captain America that really got the audience excited. I’m going to wade into some spoiler territory here so skip ahead if you don’t want to know anything BUT…in one shocking scene from Thor we see the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston – who was on hand for the event with Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins) cutting off Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) hand just before he can catch his famed hammer to defend himself. Curious to see how that plays out when the movie arrived in theaters November 8th.

There was also some very promising footage shown from the Captain America sequel which looks to have a much harder edge than the original film from 2011. Seeing a rough cut scene of Cap invading a freighter out at sea was particularly thrilling thanks to the whallop packed every time he kicked a bad guy. Seriously though, you really don’t want to mess with this guy. The Winter Soldier comes to theaters April 4, 2014.

The highlight of the Marvel section of the event though maybe had to be footage shown from Guardians of the Galaxy, which seems to boast a ridiculously fun script along with a notable cast playing the wild mix of characters. The scenes were chock full of humor and I really can’t wait to see how this turns out next August.

The presentation then carried on with the first trailer for DisneyNature’s Bears, which continues the company’s annual tradition of releasing a nature documentary with a portion of proceeds going to protect our national parks. Like the previous docs in the series this one will also open on Earth Day.

The audience was then treated to scenes from the upcoming Muppets sequel Muppets Most Wanted. I consider myself a fan of The Muppets and can readily enjoy just about anything they do but what was shown from this next film didn’t particularly sparkle. In fact, aside from a few funny gags the footage seemed to be a little stale. But with more than six months before it is released there is plenty of time to whip it into shape to give us the kind of quality Muppet movie we deserve.

Next up were the reinwintersoldierventions of two classic animated Disney tales being brought to life in live action. First was director Kenneth Branagh’s version of CinderellaThe film is only just now about to start shooting so no footage was available but gorgeous pieces of production design sketches were shown that promised a beautifully lush visual treat. The film boasts a cast that includes Lily James as Cinderella, Richard Madden from Game of Thrones as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett as the evil Stepmother, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Look for this one in March of 2015.

The other classic animation getting the live action upgrade is none other than Sleeping Beauty but for this telling of the story we’ll be seeing events from the perspective of the evil Maleficent to be played by Angelina Jolie who was on hand to help unveil the first footage from the film. From a visual perspective the film is shaping up to be a knockout with Jolie looking particularly awesome as one of Disney’s most memorable villains. Maleficent will be released in July of next summer.

Next on the lineup was a major mystery project starring George Clooney called Tomorrowland. Up until now precious little has been known about the plot of the movie and that mostly remains to be the case but director Brad Bird and writer Damon Lindelof were on stage to present their inspiration for the project – a dusty old box that was found in the basement of the Disney Studios. In the box were a bunch of seemingly random relics for a project relating to Walt Disney’s initial ideas for Tomorrowland in Disneyland including a mysterious short animation hinting at rebuilding a better world following nuclear war. We can’t yet say how much that will actually influence the plot of the movie but either way it was refreshing to see a wholly original film being touted so proudly after the long line of sequels and adaptations that came before it. Tomorrowland will reveal its mysteries to audiences in December of 2014.

And finally, the presentation came to a close with the preview of a film that Disney Studios obviously holds very dear to their hearts: Saving Mr. Banks. Starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself, the movie looks at the long journey to make Mary Poppins despite protesting from the character’s creator P.L. Travers played by Emma Thompson. Many extended scenes from the film were shown which promises a fun, endearing story sure to make any Disney or film fanatic giggle with glee.

And to top things off Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak who play legendary Disney songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman in the film were onstage to perform “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins but were joined by the real life Richard Sherman to finish the song. Disney magic indeed.

Saving Mr. Banks hit theaters this year on December 20.


Images courtesy of Disney.

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