Saturday, August 31, 2019

The 2019 D23 Expo: Highlights, Part 3

The second day of the Expo was a busy one; the first part of the day is recounted here.

As the day wound down, I made the decision to skip The Musical Journey of Disney's Aladdin to see Leonard and Jessie Maltin discussing favorite Disney films to watch on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service. I'd only learned about their talk after the Expo began; my daughter loved the ALADDIN concert but I likewise had a wonderful time listening to the Maltins "talk movies"!

Attending seemed especially fitting as Leonard Maltin's THE DISNEY FILMS was one of the first film books I owned as a kid, after wearing out a library copy with repeat check-outs! Here are Leonard and daughter Jessie at the Disney+ stage:

Many classic Disney films will be available on Disney+ at the time of its November launch; D23 has posted a partial list here. The Maltins recommended some of their favorites, including some relatively lesser-known titles such as THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941)...

...and THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952). Jessie also put in an enthusiastic plug for one of her childhood favorites, the animated ROBIN HOOD (1973).

They also mentioned 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954)...


...and, of course, Walt Disney's masterpiece, MARY POPPINS (1964).

In each case they mentioned some of the things which made each film special, such as Walt's willingness to spend extra money getting special effects right in 20,000 LEAGUES, the skilled use of perspective to effectively film the "little people" in DARBY O'GILL, and Walt's tenacity in getting MARY POPPINS made after negotiating with author P.L. Travers over many years.

At one point they asked who in the audience had seen a multi-plane camera and many hands shot up, prompting the comment that they were definitely speaking to a "D23 audience"!

The most important point the Maltins made is that they hope Disney+ will "dig deep" and make available the things many Disney fans want to see, including animated shorts, MICKEY MOUSE CLUB serials, and Leonard Maltin's introductions from the terrific Treasures From the Disney Vault limited edition DVDs.

At present it is unclear when or if this kind of programming will be available, and they emphasized that it's very important for viewers to let Disney know what they'd like to see on the service.

And for those who might be wondering, the buzz I've seen online is that while virtually the entire Disney feature film library will be on the service, it will not include SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946). Disney's paranoia regarding that title is tiresome, and I hope that one day they'll change their mind, perhaps providing it with an introduction by Mr. Maltin.

On the up side, the channel will have a documentary on the women of Ink & Paint, inspired by Mindy Johnson's great coffee table book, as well as programs on film props and Imagineers. There will be many things of interest to classic film fans on Disney+, along with newer films and brand-new shows; I've previously shared information about the latter.

The Maltin panel was the conclusion of a great second day at the D23 Expo. Coming soon, a look at the third and final day, along with posts on two costume exhibits.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The 2019 D23 Expo: Highlights, Part 2

The excitement of Friday's Disney+ panel continued with the Behind the Scenes with the Walt Disney Studios panel on Saturday morning.

All phones and cameras were required to be sealed in plastic bags during this program, so no photos from this one. D23 has a three-minute highlight reel with shots of some of the filmmakers who were present to discuss their upcoming films.

It was quite the event, opening with the entire cast of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019) and concluding with a live musical performance of new music from the cast of FROZEN II (2019)

Stars we saw at this presentation included:

*Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Keri Russell, and (most importantly for this child of the '70s), Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels; you can see the special "sizzle reel" we saw here.

*Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and the cast of Marvel's ETERNALS (2020)

*Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Elle Fanning of MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

*Ryan Coogler, who will be directing BLACK PANTHER II (2022)

*Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Emily Blunt of JUNGLE CRUISE (2020); The Rock entered on a Jungle Cruise boat, as seen in these pics

*Tom Holland and Chris Pratt of Pixar's ONWARD (2020), along with costar Julia Louis-Dreyfus; seeing Spider-Man and Star-Lord from the Marvel films was another treat for me!

*Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, and Phylicia Rashad of Pixar's SOUL (2020)

*Awkwafina and Cassie Steele of RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON (2020) which looks very good

*Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff of FROZEN II, along with Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown

We also saw clips from BLACK WIDOW (2020), MULAN (2020), and CRUELLA (2021).

Here's an overview with photos from Attractions Magazine.

After that it was time to hit the show floor, starting with the Pixar pavilion and its ONWARD display:

The Disney Parks pavilion is always a highlight of the Expo.

A model of the future STAR WARS hotel coming to Walt Disney World; guests will take a two-night "cruise" into outer space. Looks fun, but it's also going to be highly expensive so it seems unlikely I'll be visiting.

One of the TRON ride vehicles coming to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Art work for Disney resorts around the world:

I loved this display of Epcot posters! A MARY POPPINS poster was added after Sunday's reveal of a new ride (more on that in the next post).

And, as always, we hit the Disney Dream Store for Expo-branded merchandise.

This terrific book, due out September 3rd, was originally published in 2016 before being pulled from shelves for unknown reasons. It's been updated and is now back out, and I was thrilled to purchase a copy signed by author Becky Cline of the Walt Disney Archives at the Disney Publishing booth.

Coming soon: A recap of the final event I attended on Day 2, Leonard and Jessie Maltin's panel on Disney films coming to Disney+, plus a look at the final day of the Expo and two posts on costume exhibits.

TCM in September: Highlights

The end of summer is on the horizon, but happily there are great things to look forward to on the Turner Classic Movies September schedule.

Sidney Poitier is the September Star of the Month. This is Poitier's second time as Star of the Month; he was previously honored in July 2002.

21 of Poitier's films will be shown spread across Tuesday evenings this month. There will not be a separate Star of the Month post for September.

Noir Alley returns in September following a month off for Summer Under the Stars. September's titles are THE BIG CLOCK (1948) on September 7th and 8th, NOCTURNE (1946) on the 14th and 15th, THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947) on September 21st-22nd, and THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956) on the 28th and 29th.

I particularly recommend THE BIG CLOCK, a stylish, engrossing film which I've enjoyed on multiple occasions. (And if the plot seems familiar, it inspired the 1987 Kevin Costner film NO WAY OUT.) Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, and Maureen O'Sullivan lead a great cast, directed by John Farrow.

Treasures From the Disney Vault makes its quarterly appearance on September 2nd with a marvelous slate of films including FUN AND FANCY FREE (1947), THE LOVE BUG (1968), THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (1967), and SNOWBALL EXPRESS (1972).

Disney fans will be interested to know there's a brand-new book, THE MAKING OF WALT DISNEY'S FUN AND FANCY FREE, by a top Disney historian, J.B. Kaufman.

With the Disney+ streaming service launching this November, I wouldn't be surprised if these special Disney evenings on TCM come to an end, but here's hoping they will continue! I'll be watching for news on this issue.

Also ahead this month: The TCM Spotlight focuses on college football every Friday evening. A celebration of the centennial of United Artists on Wednesdays and Thursdays includes James Bond movies on Thursdays. The Saturday morning lineup of "B" films, cartoons, shorts, and serials will include Ruth Roman in the serial JUNGLE QUEEN (1945) beginning September 21st.

Below are just a few of this month's TCM highlights. Please click any hyperlinked title to read my corresponding review.

...The marvelous classic THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937) airs on September 4th. The peerless cast includes Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., David Niven, Mary Astor, and Raymond Massey. Anyone who's never seen it before has a particular treat in store.

...Later on the 4th the United Artists tribute kicks off with silent films including BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919) with Lillian Gish, LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY (1925) starring Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) in THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1921), to name a few.

...UA's James Bond films will be shown every Thursday evening beginning on September 5th, when five Sean Connery 007 films will be shown, starting with DR. NO (1963).

...THE CARTOONS OF WINSOR MCCAY (2014) on September 6th sounds like interesting animation history. It's a collection of cartoons dating from 1911 to 1921.

...Later on the 6th, a "bug"-themed lineup includes HIGHLY DANGEROUS (1950), an enjoyable thriller with Margaret Lockwood as a British entomologist sent behind the Iron Curtain to uncover plans for germ warfare using bugs. She's aided by an American newspaperman played by Dane Clark. It doesn't turn up on TCM often, so be sure to check it out. This film is also available on DVD from VCI.

...The Saturday morning Western on September 7th is Tim Holt in COME ON DANGER (1942). Though my favorite Holt Westerns are those he made in the late '40s and early '50s, a Holt film is always worth watching!

...A day of MGM musicals on September 9th includes treats such as Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen in THE BELLE OF NEW YORK (1952) and Peter Lawford and June Allyson in GOOD NEWS (1947), both directed by Charles Walters.

...HIGH WALL (1947) is an excellent psychological murder mystery starring Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter, and Herbert Marshall. It's on September 10th.

...The outstanding SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957), about a nasty New York gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster) and those in his orbit, is on September 11th. Tony Curtis, Martin Milner, and Susan Harrison costar. For those who might have missed the news, Harrison passed on in April.

...One of my favorite days on the September calendar is the 12th, which features a parade of delightful '60s romances and rom coms, including LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962), WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960), and COME FLY WITH ME (1963), to name just a few. A marvelous day of thoroughly entertaining films.

...A day of Ruth Chatterton films on September 13th includes one of my favorite pre-Codes, FEMALE (1933). It costars Chatterton's then-husband, George Brent. Besides being a fun, fast-paced film, the set design is fantastic!

...One of my all-time favorite Westerns, Budd Boetticher's RIDE LONESOME (1959) is on September 14th. Randolph Scott, Pernell Roberts, Karen Steele, Lee Van Cleef, and James Coburn star. A gem which tells a great story with terrific characters in a compact 73 minutes. I rewatch this one regularly.

...Tim Holt's RIO GRANDE PATROL (1950) is on in the early morning hours of September 17th. This is a good month for Holt fans -- worth noting that you can also catch him in the classic THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948) on September 2nd.

...September 17th's lineup also includes another "darn good Western," FLAME OF THE WEST (1945) starring Johnny Mack Brown and a solid cast. This is a superior "B" film which I really enjoyed.

...There are some good pre-Codes showing on September 19th, including Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent in THE PURCHASE PRICE (1932), the story of a mail order bride, directed by William A. Wellman.

...I love George O'Brien, and his next-to-last film was GOLD RAIDERS (1951), costarring...the Three Stooges?! It's on Saturday morning, September 21st.

...Sunday, September 22nd, provides examples of Joan Bennett in both her incarnations: Blonde '30s Joan costars in the classic LITTLE WOMEN (1933), followed later in the morning by brunette '40s Joan in the Noir Alley showing of THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947), costarring Robert Ryan.

...I don't seem to recall Frank Capra's STATE OF THE UNION (1948) airing on TCM with great frequency. It's on September 22nd, starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Van Johnson, and Angela Lansbury. It's been many years since my last viewing, and I'm curious to see it again.

...5 AGAINST THE HOUSE (1955) is an interesting heist film set in Reno, directed by Phil Karlson and starring Kim Novak, Guy Madison, and Brian Keith. It's part of a day of "robbery" films on September 24th.

...DANGEROUS PARTNERS (1945) on September 26th is the kind of "B" film I enjoy checking out: "A young couple's accident could make them rich, if they can evade a Nazi spy ring." Well, okay then! James Craig, Signe Hasso, and Edmund Gwenn star.

...Be sure to check out the short WOMEN IN HIDING (1940) on the morning of the 28th. This "Crime Doesn't Pay" short about expectant mothers stars Marsha Hunt and was directed by Joseph M. Newman.

...A six-film birthday tribute to Deborah Kerr on September 30th includes the enjoyable MGM drama THE HUCKSTERS (1947). Clark Gable and Ava Gardner also star in this film about the advertising business.

For more on the TCM schedule for September 2019, please consult TCM's complete online schedule as well as my Quick Preview of TCM in September.

Happy movie viewing on TCM in September!

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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