Disclosure: Mama Smith was provided with an all expenses paid trip to cover this event. All opinions expressed are 100% her own.
I am such a Disney, Marvel, and LucasFilms geek – which I am sure most of you know by now. So attending the Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios panel was like a dream come true. I was dying to hear about upcoming films like Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, and of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I walked in holding my breath and hoping for some visit looks at scenes, trailers, and maybe even some celebrity guests. I could not have even imagined the amount of awesomeness I was about to witness. There were a lot of laughs, and a lot of tears. Just being in the same room as some of these celebrities was a complete honor. I cannot wait to tell you all about what I found out!
Captain America: Civil War
I am a huge comic book reader and so I have been waiting for the Civil War story line to come to the big screen for a while now. I know that some things will be different, but there is sure to be a lot of action! I could not believe that not only the producer, Kevin Feige came out to introduce the footage – he brought Anthony Mackie and Chris Evans with him to talk about the film! Falcon and Captain America himself! They flew in from filming in Germany and then were heading right back out – talk about dedication to their fans! I love that this did not stop them from appearing at D23. I was so excited that we were able to see the extended trailer as well as a scene featuring Paul Rudd as Ant-man. It did not disappoint. Paul is hilarious and his banter with Chris Evans had me laughing so hard I was crying! Oh, and spoiler alert – they showed Bucky getting his memory back! That scene gave me goosebumps! It was amazing! Feige then revealed that there was a special “Easter egg” in the footage and it was aptly a nod to D23 EXPO. Love it! The movie stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, Tom Holland, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl. Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is directed by Anthony & Joe Russo and produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee serve as executive producers and the screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR opens in the U.S. on May 6, 2016.
Another Marvel movie that I have been looking forward to is Doctor Strange. He is a favorite of mine from the comics. Benedict Cumberbatch has been announced as Doctor Strange and I think he will play him well. He fits the character. We got to see a video that he sent it (he even joked at the beginning by giving the Star Trek fingers – tisk tisk) and we were even shown some pre-production images. I can tell that this movie is going to be incredible and I cannot wait to see what they do with it. Doctor Strange will open in U.S. theaters on October 26, 2016.
The Finest Hours
My husband, who was in the Navy, has been really excited for The Finest Hours since he heard it was coming to theaters. This movie is based on a true story about a famous Coast Guard rescue. I can’t wait to see it either. The cast is amazing (Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Ben Foster, etc) – Chris Pine even showed up to talk about it! That was awesome and trust me, the crowd went wild. We got to see a scene from the movie where Holliday Granger is asking Eric Bana to call back the rescue crew which Chris Pine is part of. Just seeing her on screen saying “Please call them back” over and over was heart-wrenching. I know that this movie is going to be intense, but also super amazing. It is at the top of my must see list! The film is based on the book by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman and the screenplay is by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson. The Finest Hours storms into U.S. theaters on January 29, 2016.
The Jungle Book
Ever since I heard that Disney was going to take on The Jungle Book as a live action movie – I was thrilled! Not only did I grow up watching, and loving, this movie, it is something that I have shared with my girls. When Jon Fabreau was called out on stage to discuss it, I was so excited. I am a huge fan of his – Sean Bailey said it best, “He has the rare talent of being as good behind the camera as he is in front of it”. Jon talked about how they wanted this movie to be a perfect mix of the book and the animated feature. Then the stars of the film, Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Lupita Nyong’o (Rakisha), and of course Mowgli (Neel Sethi) came out on stage. They discussed how it was working together and on this film. We were then shown some footage of the movie that even the actors hadn’t seen yet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Neel exclaimed “That was me!”. You could tell he was in true aw of what he had seen. We also got to see Christopher Walken as Kind Louie in the footage – it was incredible. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s 1967 animated classic, the film features state-of the-art technology that immerses audiences in the lush world like never before. The Jungle Book hits theaters in stunning 3D and IMAX 3D on April 15, 2016.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
I have been really excited for information an Alice Through the Looking Glass because I loved the first one. I also think that Johnny Depp makes an incredible Mad Hatter – as a matter of fact, all of the actors/actresses are brilliant. I was thrilled when Mia Wasikowska who plays Alice was welcomed to the stage! She talked about how it was fun to be working with everyone again. We were also let in on the fact that the character Time is being introduced and will be played by the amazing Sacha Baron Cohen. We got a look at some footage and I have to tell you, it is incredible! The story taking place in this film is that Alice is going back in time to find out what made the Mad Hatter so mad. She wants to help him and I cannot wait to go on the journey with her. We were all given a tow sided movie poster on our way out which was really cool! ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS opens in U.S. theaters on May 27, 2016.
I grew up watching Pete’s Dragon. It is a movie I have seen so many times, I can’t even count. So when I heard that it was going to be reimagined, I was super excited. Bryce Dallas Howard stars in this movie – and she even came out on stage to talk about it. I love her so this was a very cool experience for me. We got to see some footage and even got a quick glance at the back of the dragon. I cannot wait to see what they do with this film. It is going to be special. PETE’S DRAGON also stars Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford and opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.
Queen of Katwe
Bailey, with the help of Lupita Nyong’o, introduced the crowd to the upcoming film QUEEN OF KATWE, which is based on the inspirational true story of a girl from the poverty-stricken slums of rural Uganda who dreams of becoming a champion chess player. We were told that the cast and crew went to Uganda to do research to be sure that this film would be very accurate. Lupita talked about how this really touched her. Directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler based on the book by Tim Crothers, QUEEN OF KATWE stars Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and newcomer Medina Nalwanga. I am really excited for this film.
Beauty and the Beast
Introduces as “The Tale as Old as Time” – everyone cheered. We all knew that we going to be talking about the live action veriosn of Beauty and the Beast which will be staring Emma Watson as Belle. We were even let in on the rest of the cast which includes Luke Evans (Gaston), Josh Gad (Le Fou), and Dan Stevens (Beast). While they could not be there in person, Emma, Luke, and Josh sent in a video. Josh and Luke even sang a little bit of “Gaston” – which was so good and super funny. I think this film is perfectly cast and I cannot wait to see the final product. We were even told that while there will be new recordings of the original songs – there will also be several new songs! BEAUTY AND THE BEAST will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
One of my favorite parts of the panel was the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dean Men Tell No Tales part. I have been a fan of the Pirates movie since the first one came out. There is something about Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) that I cannot help but love. I was thrilled to hear the announcement that Orlando Bloom would be back and Will Turner in this film! I cannot wait for this! The crowd went crazy when we were told that. But then, the most amazing thing happened. Johnny Depp himself came out on stage! Not just dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow – he was fully in character! It was incredible. He was munching on grapes and even started throwing them in to the audience. He claimed to have never heard of Johnny Depp when it was mentioned that he became a Disney Legend just the day before (well deserved!). I am pretty sure this is the moment that I lost my voice – and it is still gone, for those of you wondering. I absolutely cannot wait for this film! PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES releases in U.S. theaters on July 7, 2017.
And then it happened. The moment everyone was waiting for – Alan Horn took the stage again to present the Lucasfilm slate and timeline to the D23 EXPO fans. Horn told the audience that there were only 124 days to the release of Episode VII, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, on December 18, 2015 and added that there have been record-breaking trailer views and fantastic fan response. Touching on STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII, Horn reminded the audience that Rian Johnson will be directing the film slated for release on May 26, 2017. Then in a surprise announcement, Horn informed everyone that Colin Trevorrow (“Jurassic World”) has signed on to direct STAR WARS: EPISODE IX, which is scheduled for release in 2019. Moving on to the new Star Wars stories series, Horn touched on the “Untitled Han Solo” stand-alone film, slated for release on May 25, 2018 by reminding everyone that it will be directed by Christopher Miller & Phil Lord, with Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon Kasdan writing the screenplay. The crowd was cheering uncontrollably for every single one of these announcements. It was so amazing to be a part of it all.
Star Wars Rogue One
We were all excited when we were told we would find out the cast of Rogue One at this panel. The filmmakers have assembled a stellar cast for this movie, including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, and Riz Ahmed. Rogue One will tell the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star and I, for one, cannot wait for it. I know it is going to be amazing. The crowd was excited to also be shown a cast photo (see above). Star Wars Rogue One is slated for a December 16, 2016 release.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Then it was time – time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We were shown an extended trailer and I am pretty sure the entire crowd got goosebumps when Han Solo said “Chewy, we’re home” at the end. Mostly everyone (if not everyone) had seen that before because it ends the teaser, but there is nothing like seeing it in a room filled with 8,000 Star Wars fans. It brings tears to my eyes now just remembering it. Then the unthinkable happened. J.J. Abrams was introduced to talk about the film. Just the fact that I was in a room with such talent had me shaking. Oh, but it got better. He started listing off the stars of the film and they were joining him on stage – John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nong’o…. we were told we would be getting a special Drew Struzan D23 Expo poster that they showed on the screen. The poster was shown on the screen and then (even typing this now, I have tears running down my cheeks guys), Han Solo came into view. Harrison Ford was then introduced and came out on stage. HARRISON FORD. The crowd was immediately on their feet. I could barely tweet it out because my hands were shaking so much. To see such talent right in front of me – I was in shock, as I am sure many others were. I can’t even fully describe how it felt to be in that room, to be a part of it all – watch the recap video below to see. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS releases in U.S. theaters on December 18, 2015.
The entire panel was closed out with the announcement that Disney would be building a Star Wars Land in Disneyland as well as at Hollywood Studios in Disney World. You can read more about the park expansions here.