Disney’s D23 Expo invaded Anaheim, California over the weekend, and we are still reeling from all the news dropped. The first day featured a star-studded onslaught of announcements about the insane amount of original programming coming to Disney+, while day two turned to the silver screen, with a steady stream of Hollywood royalty gracing the stage of the Anaheim Convention Center to shore up excitement for all the biggest films on the horizon.
Here are the latest details on the new Disney movies you won’t want to miss.
Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker
Taking the reins back from much-maligned The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams has fans hopeful that he’ll deliver a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga in the final episode, The Rise of Skywalker, out Dec. 20, 2019. At Saturday’s panel he welcomed the cast (including newcomer Keri Russell) onstage and released a new trailer that leaves us with So. Many. Questions.
Unfortunately for attendees, Scarlett Johansson was too busy filming Black Widow to make it onstage at the expo, but Marvel President and architect of the MCU Kevin Feige gave fans a solid dose of Scar Jo’s butt-kicking prowess in some epic fight-scene footage with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), whom Johansson refers to as “sis” at one point. Black Widow opens May 1, 2020.
The Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA
Disney pulled out all the stops to make a big splash (pun intended—it is Jungle Cruise, after all) at the panel with this one. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rolling in by boat; Emily Blunt by old-timey car; two versions (his and hers) of an awesome trailer; and an adorable showcase of the pair’s obvious chemistry have fans of this classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction counting down the days to the film’s July 24, 2020 release date.
Next up on Pixar’s docket is Onward, starring Chris Pratt and Tom Holland as elf brothers Barley and Ian Lightfoot, who live in a suburban fantasy world where magic is all but forgotten. When their mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives them a note from their dead father containing a magic spell that can bring him back for one day, it sets the brothers off on a desperate quest to harness the magic in their world. Eight minutes of the film were shared at the panel—enough to showcase that perfect mix of humor and emotion that Pixar does so well. Dan Scanlon ("Monster’s University") is writer and director of the film, out March 6, 2020.
Dreams came true for fans who worship at the altars of both “Game of Thrones” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s been confirmed that Kit Harington will join the The Eternals cast, along with Barry Keoghan ("Chernobyl") and Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians). The film, announced at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, comes out November 6, 2020, and also Stars Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”), Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Don Lee, Lia McHugh, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry and Lauren Ridloff.
Pixar was mum on the details when the studio announced that its next film Soul would be released in one year’s time on June 19, 2020. Now we know the film will star Jamie Foxx, who plays Joe Gardner, a high school music teacher by day, aspiring jazz performer by night. The movie operates on the premise that everyone comes with a pre-programmed soul trained at a cosmic place called You Seminar. A mishap sends Joe’s soul back to You Seminar, where he embarks on a thought-provoking journey with another soul, “22,” played by Tina Fey. The film features music by Jon Batiste and a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad and Questlove also join the cast of the film, which will be in theaters June 19, 2020.
The Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA
Black Panther 2
This one is a long way off, so we didn’t get many details, but Kevin Feige and Ryan Coogler, the acclaimed director of Black Panther, confirmed that we’ll be headed back to Wakanda for a sequel to the 2019 Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. The new film is slated for release May 6, 2022.
Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
Hollywood goddess Angelina Jolie is back to reprise her role as one of Disney’s most iconic villains. Fans were treated to a second appearance onstage by Jolie (the first was as part of the cast of The Eternals) along with Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and got a sneak peek at some footage where things got pretty dark, pretty quick. Word to the wise: Just don’t cross this mistress.
We’ve loving the Disney villain backstories, and after seeing an edgy teaser shot of a very punk-rock Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil, we are lining up for this one. Also starring Emma Thompson, this live-action 101 Dalmatians prequel set in 1970s London has begun filming and hits theaters in May 2021.
Here’s your first look at Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil in Disney’s Cruella. The film, also starring Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, and Joel Fry, comes to theaters May 28, 2021. #D23Expo pic.twitter.com/fvRntdIVar— Disney (@Disney) August 24, 2019
Raya and the Last Dragon
Anyone else ready for a Walt Disney feature film that isn’t a sequel or a remake? (Frantically waves arms.) Raya and the Last Dragon is a fantasy adventure story about Raya, “a lone warrior on a quest to find the last dragon.” With a script by Crazy Rich Asians writer Adele Lim, setting inspired by locations throughout Southeast Asia, and Awkwafina as the last dragon, Sisu, we have high hopes that this could become a new Disney classic.
We admit, we’re getting rather tired of the steady stream of live-action remakes, but after seeing the footage shared at the panel, we’ll stay the course for another one, because this looks good. From the matchmaker sequence we saw, the film appears to stay comfortably true to the realistic aspects of the animated film (goodbye, Mushu and musical components). With a strong story and top-notch cast (Yifei Liu, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Gong Li)—even if you’re not very familiar with the original, we think this one might just make a fan out of you (see what we did there?).
The stars of Frozen 2 brought down the house at the end of the panel with a give-the-people-what-they-want musical sendoff with new song “Some Things Never Change.” But first it was revealed that Evan Rachel Wood will play Anna and Elsa’s mother for a flashback scene and some music. Sterling K. Brown also joins the cast as Lieutenant Mattias, who has been leading troops in the enchanted forest which, judging from a new film poster, is going to play a significant role in the film’s setting.