Thursday, August 29, 2019

The 2019 D23 Expo: Highlights, Part 1

Our first day at the 2019 D23 Expo on Friday, August 23rd, began like every other Expo day -- in line! We were in the Show Floor queue a little before 7:00 a.m., with the Show Floor scheduled to open at 9:00.

The Imagineering store Mickey's of Glendale, which specializes in "Expo exclusive" shirts and other items with Imagineering and Disneyland ride logos, is always our favorite place to shop at the Expo. Since had been unable to obtain a Shopping Pass reservation for Mickey's, our game plan when the show floor opened was to head straight there.

We successfully entered the store to shop after a little over an hour in line and, as always, bought quite a bit! From there we went to our first panel of the Expo, The Music and Sounds of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

The panel was enjoyable although our seats near the very front ironically turned out to be less than optimum in terms of the sound system; the overhead speakers were a little behind us, aimed toward the back of the arena, and consequently we didn't catch everything that was said. Still, we heard enough to find it worthwhile, learning about where John Williams' music is used, various sound effects heard throughout the land, and more.

A summary of some of the key points discussed at the panel may be read at The Galaxy's Edge presentation concluded with a live performance by one of the groups heard in Oga's Cantina, and we were all given the Oga's Cantina playlist (above).

From there we went straight line up for our reservations for the Disney+ Showcase in the big Hall D23. We had thought this panel would be interesting, hoping we might see some of our favorite Marvel stars along with learning more about Disney's new streaming service, but the entire experience exceeded our expectations.

When I first heard about the complicated title and plotting for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES (2019), a reboot of Disney's HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006), I rolled my eyes; students at the high school where the original movie was filmed put on a HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL stage production. However, the live musical performance by the cast (seen above) was infectious, and I was pleasantly surprised by the trailer; it looks as though it may be rather clever and amusing, so I'm now keeping an open mind.

Hilary Duff appearing (above) to announce a 2020 reboot of her 2001-2004 Disney series LIZZIE MCGUIRE thrilled those in the audience who watched the original; Lizzie will now be 30 and living in Brooklyn, but the voice of the younger Lizzie lives on in her head. I may have to pull my daughters' copy of THE LIZZIE MCGUIRE MOVIE (2003) off the DVD shelf and finally get up to speed on this one!

It's safe to say the highlight of this panel for me was Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige appearing to introduce the Marvel programming, beginning with the cartoon series WHAT IF...? A wide variety of Marvel stars will voice their familiar characters in this animated "alternative reality" series which will explore roads not taken in the movies, such as "What if Peggy Carter became a superhero instead of Steve Rogers?"

As a huge fan of Hayley Atwell and her iconic character Agent Carter, I couldn't have been more thrilled to see her in person! Having seen literally hundreds of actors at events over the course of my lifetime I'm usually pretty low-key about it, but that was a special moment for me.

Also appearing in person were Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, who will play the title roles in THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER (2020). Emily Van Camp will also appear in the series, reprising her role as Peggy Carter's niece, Sharon, from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016). Van Camp was greatly underused in those films so it will be nice to see her character fleshed out via the series.

The Marvel series I'm most excited about is WANDAVISION (2021), starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff (aka The Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany as the human-like robot, Vision. It promises to be the "trippiest" show in the MCU. Filming has not begun, but we were shown a "tonal trailer" to show the vibe the show is going for, which mashed up clips of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW with clips of Wanda and Vision from the movies. It's supposed to be part funny sitcom, part spooky horror; one theory I've heard is that Wanda creates an alternate reality to comfort herself after the loss of her love in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018).

Olsen and Bettany were on hand to introduce the show, and fellow cast members were announced; Randall Park will reprise his role as Agent Jimmy Woo from ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018), and Kat Dennings returns as Darcy Lewis of THOR (2011) and THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013). I love the way these series are pulling together some of the best yet lesser-known characters from the MCU and giving them a chance to be front and center.

Tom Hiddleston appeared via video to promote his series LOKI (2021). The only previously announced series which didn't get a promo push at the showcase was Jeremy Renner's HAWKEYE (2021). The titles of three additional upcoming Marvel series were announced to heavy applause: MS. MARVEL, MOON KNIGHT, and SHE HULK.

Here's the lineup for Marvel Phase Four. (Click on this or any photo to enlarge for a closer look.) We were told that the series would be connected to the theatrical films, and some new characters, including Ms. Marvel, will also appear in the movies.

Also appearing on stage to promote their new shows: Jeff Goldblum (THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JEFF GOLDBLUM, trailer here), Kristen Bell (ENCORE!, trailer here), Anna Kendrick (NOELLE, trailer here), and the dog "actors" from the live-action remake of LADY AND THE TRAMP (2019), which will be available on Disney+ when it debuts in November (trailer here). Documentary subjects on Disney+ will include Imagineers, the women of "Ink and Paint," and ONE DAY AT DISNEY (trailer here).

The grand finale came when STAR WARS President Kathleen Kennedy came out to discuss the various STAR WARS shows to appear on Disney+. Diego Luna will reprise his role as Cassian Andor in a prequel to ROGUE ONE (2016), and Alan Tudyk is also returning as the voice of K-2S0. Both actors were on hand to discuss the show, which is not yet titled.

The biggest Disney+ buzz is for THE MANDALORIAN (2018), written and directed by Jon Favreau of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Set in the "Wild West" days after the fall of the Empire in RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), THE MANDALORIAN seems very much like a Western or samurai film. Pedro Pascal plays the title role, with John Wayne's grandson, Brendan Wayne, costarring. Ming-Na Wen of AGENTS OF SHIELD was also just announced as a costar. THE MANDALORIAN will be available in weekly installments when Disney+ goes "live" in November. The trailer is here.

But wait, there's more!

Many of us would say that the only good things about the STAR WARS "prequels" (THE PHANTOM MENACE, etc.) were Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. For the last few days there had been a rumor that McGregor might return to the role of Obi-Wan.

Despite the McGregor buzz, I think it was widely expected that the trailer for THE MANDALORIAN would be the capstone of the Disney+ presentation. When Kennedy announced she had one more announcement and McGregor took the stage, the arena absolutely erupted, in what was probably the most exciting moment of the weekend.

Parks and Cons has video of the moment. Variety has a higher-caliber 19-minute video of many of the panel highlights mentioned above; scroll forward to about 16:45 for the McGregor moment.

Here's a timeline showing how the new STAR WARS shows, including the return of the animated CLONE WARS series, fit in with the theatrical films:

Disney offered Expo attendees a three-year Disney+ subscription for the cost of two years. (The same deal is available to D23 members online through September 2nd.) There were kiosks set up at the Disney+ pavilion to subscribe, and those signing up received a Founders Circle pin. I'd love to know how many people signed up during the Expo; I'm guessing it was at least several thousand as the area was always busy.

And yes, I have subscribed!

I'll have more on Disney+ and its classic film catalogue in a post in the near future.

I had a reservation for a SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON Treehouse presentation to end the day but by the time we finally got out of the Disney+ event, it would have been difficult to make it on time so we decided to call it a day and finally eat a meal!

Still to come: Recaps of Days 2 and 3, plus two posts on costume exhibits.

Update: Here's more from D23 on the Lucasfilm and Marvel titles which will be available on Disney+.


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