Mark our words: 2018 is going to be just as profitable and thrilling for Walt Disney Studios as 2016 and 2017 have been. Today at D23, Walt Disney Pictures unveiled their spectacular roster – and the crowd went nuts. Presented to a bevy of press and Disney superfans, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey wowed the crowd with footage, trailers, brief cast and crew talks and music and dance performance numbers.
Here’s the breakdown of what went on.
First out of the gate was the highly anticipated A WRINKLE IN TIME. The film, an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved novel, is directed by Ava DuVernay (from a screenplay by FROZEN’s Jennifer Lee), whose incredible vision is brought to life by cast members in attendance Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who), Chris Pine (Dr. Alex Murry) and newcomer Storm Reid (Meg). Those who couldn’t make it were: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard and Zach Galifianakis.
“We wanted a cast that looked like you – all different kinds,” DuVernay said of her diverse group of actors. When asked what made him sign on, Pine answered, “Ava.” He later went on to describe his relationship with her, stating, “It’s about chemistry and alchemy.” Kaling let slip that some of her dialogue has been modernized from L’Engle’s book. “What Ava and (screenwriter) Jennifer Lee wanted to do was update a lot of quotations in the book. I quote Jay-Z.”
Oprah relished playing an all-knowing, all spiritual being. She also enjoyed playing to her benevolent image, giving away the new teaser poster to the crowd, hollering, “Everybody gets a poster!” While Reid expressed much gratitude towards her castmates, it was an absolutely giddy Witherspoon who was just as excited as the fans in the crowd to see the new trailer.
Set to a cover of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” the new teaser shows off DuVernay’s incomparable, mind-bending aesthetic. One thing’s for sure, at future D23’s, there’s gonna be some sick cosplay coming out of this one.
Here’s 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.
A WRINKLE IN TIME opens nationwide March 9, 2018.
Next up was THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS. Directed by Lasse Hallström and inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale, the new take follows star Mackenzie Foy as “Clara,” journeys into a magical parallel world – home to the home to Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. The conflict arises in the Fourth Realm where Clara must take on tyrannical villain Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) and a crew of mice who’ve stolen a key out of Clara’s care. Morgan Freeman also stars as godfather Drosselmeyer, and it features a special performance by Misty Copeland.
Said Bailey, “The Mouse King is made up of thousands of mice—a cutting-edge CG creation. But we wanted him to move in a way that would be wonderfully surprising and incredibly cool, so we called on Lil Buck to provide the style of dance that defines the character. He is so talented and the way he makes this character move is unbelievable.”
The footage screened was absolutely dazzling and in line with the same gorgeous work we were spoiled with on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. This clearly is NOT your grandmother’s or mother’s version of The Nutcracker, however, it’s clearly going to be YOUR version that you hold dear for years to come.
After the footage screened, we were given a special treat with Los Angeles-based dancer Lil Buck hitting the stage to demonstrate the kind of street dancing (“jookin”) that informed the way his character moves in the film. It was poetic art in motion.
THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS will open in U.S. theaters on Nov. 2, 2018.
Next up: MARY POPPINS RETURN. As iconic and catchy as The Sherman Brothers’ songs were in the original 1964 film MARY POPPINS, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s songs will assuredly be as well. It was “the wonder, the joy and the music” of the original that first lured director Rob Marshall into the original, so when Disney came knocking on his door to direct a sequel, he was game. “I was incredibly honored to be approached by Disney about directing a sequel. This is a brand-new original film musical from top to bottom, which is very rare, and it is a wonderful opportunity to create something specifically for the screen.”
Emily Blunt, who plays the titular, practically-perfect in every way nanny was equally excited by the prospect and making the role her own. She said, “I needed to try to pay homage to Julie Andrews, but carve out a new space for myself – and we were very loyal to the books.”
We were then given an exclusive first look at the film, accompanied by a live orchestra – and of course the crowd went bananas.
Here’s the official synopsis:
In this original musical sequel to the 1964 “Mary Poppins,” 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 (with a grown up Jane and Michael) to help them find the joy and wonder missing in their lives. The story is drawn from the pages of the other seven books by author P.L. Travers.
It 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.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS will be released in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, 2018.
Bailey then took a minute to update us all on a few other films in the studio’s pipeline: the live-action MULAN, directed by Niki Caro, and live-action ALADDIN directed by Guy Ritchie, which will star Mena Massoud (of Nickelodeon’s OPEN HEART), Naomi Scott of 2017’s POWER RANGERS) and Will Smith (COLLATERAL BEAUTY) as “the Genie.” JUNGLE CRUISE will be a live-action nod, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to the popular theme park ride.
No stranger to the Disney family, director Tim Burton (FRANKENWEENIE) greeted us from England to talk about DUMBO, his re-imagining for Disney’s 1941 animated classic. Being that it was his favorite Disney film, the auteur is taking great care with the project, stating he and screenwriter/ co-producer Ehren Kruger are, “trying to give it the same heart, feeling and emotion that we all loved about the original.” They’re utilizing state-of-the-art visual effects to portray the big-eared elephant and many of his animal counterparts.
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.
DUMBO will be released on March 29, 2019.
And last, but certainly not least, Horn and Bailey surprised us all with a tantalizing, gut-punch of the shot-for-shot opening to director Jon Favreau’s THE LION KING. As the monumental “Circle of Life” number played, the audience was enraptured. Safe to say there were more tears shed than during any other part of this presentation.
“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.”
Donald Glover plays “Simba,” and James Earl Jones returns as “Mufasa.”
THE LION KING will open in theaters on July 19, 2019.