We brought you on-site cover of D23 Expo, which included news about Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and Alice Through The Looking Glass, amongst many others, bringing Disney fanboys and fangirls news of some of the Mouse House’s biggest announcements. The weekend rewarded thousands of eager attendees (and millions of those standing by online) for their patience with some incredible pieces of “breaking Disney news.”
Here are 10 of D23 Expo 2015’s best reveals (in order of “wow factor”).
#10 Star Wars Episode IX snags its director
Colin Trevorrow, hot off of the roaring blockbuster Jurassic World, has landed one of the most exciting gigs for an up-and-coming director: Star Wars Episode IX. That Trevorrow was announced as director does not come as much of a shock to watchful movie analysts, who have long suspected his involvement in the project. But this news still piques the interest of many who await observing how this December’s Force Awakens reinvigorates the brand.
#9 Orlando Bloom returns to the Pirates franchise
The swashbuckling star of the first three installments of the Pirates of the Caribbean film brand has been rumored to star in the fifth movie for many, many months. But no official word came out about Bloom’s participation… until now! His career sadly never took off to A-list level (outside of major roles in the Pirates and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit franchises), but this move is wise for the actor. Perhaps he could experience a minor professional resurgence through coming back to his Will Turner character. Pirates fans like me are on board!
#8 Toy Story receives its own land at Hollywood Studios
Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Paris each possess a space for the Pixar pals. It was only a matter of time until a United States park would get a similar treatment. Now it is official. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, undergoing a monumental change in scope and theme, will add a few new areas dedicated to the company’s most enduring brands. One is, of course, Toy Story. Toy Story Mania, the 4D interactive adventure, continues to attract several-hour lines eight years after its debut. Toy Story Land will likely sit adjacent to that ride in the space formerly occupied by the Studio Backlot Tour.
The Slinky Ride-based roller coaster and Green Alien-themed flying saucer attraction differ from attractions found in the international versions of the land, which encourages me, as I originally thought the land would consist of clones of the other rides. The “shrunk down to the size of a toy” line makes me think this environment will be akin to the atmosphere of “a bug’s land” in Disney California Adventure, but with the level of detail of the park’s hit Cars Land.
#7 The Incredibles 2 releases a teaser poster
An understated teaser poster for The Incredibles 2 featuring the iconic “i” of the Incredibles logo, but split down the middle to represent a “II,” is the epitome of an artistic treat. The teaser poster generated buzz on social media with its debut at D23 Expo. For good reason. Though the main Disney/Pixar Animation Studios panel did not delve into the long-awaited project, which will likely not hit theaters for at least another three years or so, this poster’s release hints at heightened anticipation and the company’s investment in the film.
#6 Big Hero 6 breaks into Kingdom Hearts III
Baymax may meet Sora in a matter of speaking. The inflatable star of Disney’s Big Hero 6, accompanied by his band of superheroes, will appear in the forthcoming Kingdom Hearts III video game. This only seems natural, as the soaring vistas of San Fransokyo, complete with Japanese influences, matches the style of the game series developed by Square Enix.
#5 Disney develops new take on Jack and the Beanstalk with Gigantic
Giants, as the project had been referred to for several years, has been in the works for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Following the “adjective-based name trend” of Tangled and Frozen, Disney’s Gigantic will take place in Spain and trace the bond of ginormous Inma and little Jack. Add the Frozen songwriting duo and you have a major hit. Odds are, this will land in theaters on March 9, 2018, a date Disney has slotted for an animated feature.
#4 Soarin’ Around The World flies into the spotlight
A departure date has been set for the next era in Soarin‘s history. For nearly 15 years, various points around the great state of California have been the only spots for the hang gliding simulation at both Disney California Adventure and Epcot. Now guests will be able to hover above the Great Wall of China and Monument Valley, in addition to other impressive locales, starting in 2016. One of each of the park’s most popular attractions, Soarin’ has long deserved a makeover. You can justify even lengthier lines once these overhauls are ready to take flight next spring.
#3 Toy Story 4 to mark return of Bo Peep
Screenwriting team Will McCormack and Rashida Jones team up in developing the storyline for Toy Story 4, to be directed by Pixar pioneer John Lasseter. We have known that the “romantic” storyline would be in place for this new entry, but many of us believed it would perhaps focus on Jessie and Buzz Lightyear. So it turns out, Woody will be the lead with none other than Bo Peep. The legendary cowboy companion will search for his beloved Bo in this adventure inspired by Nancy Lasseter, John’s wife. Each of the Toy Story films has elements of a different genre, the creators proclaim. I can see it, too. The first is a buddy comedy. The second has themes of lacking invincibility and experiencing loss. And the third is as much a prison break film as it focuses on impending death. I’m pumped up for Toy Story 4 when it hits theaters in June 2017!
#2 Johnny Depp Gets Disney Legend Award | Comes to D23 as Captain Jack Sparrow
It’s kind of a funny story, because I was in the process of developing a column on how frustrating it has been that Johnny Depp has not yet been awarded a Disney Legend award. Then news came out that he garnered a surprise accolade at D23 Expo. Finally, the genius performer, whose contributions for The Walt Disney Company span more than two decades (although most prominently in the past 12 years since starring as Captain Jack Sparrow), obtained the special honor. His appearance wowed guests at D23 Expo. Who wouldn’t be? Just as he dressed up as the Captain the following day during the Studios presentation – similar to his stunt from D23 Expo back in 2009 when talking about the fourth Pirates film – Johnny Depp knows how to play to his audience. Likewise, in accepting the Disney Legend award, he displayed his inimitable wit and silliness. Very much deserved, Johnny Depp now belongs in the same company of fellow honorees from this year, such as George Lucas, Susan Lucci, and Danny Elfman.
[Images courtesy of Disney. Photos by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney. Used with permission.]
#1 Star Wars Land to enter two theme parks
The wait is over for the biggest announcement for Disney theme parks in a decade. Star Wars Land will come to both Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida after years of speculation by many including myself for the “Envisioning Disneyland Resort’s Next 60 Years” edition of Disney In Depth. Now another wait begins as further development unfolds and eventually construction takes place. Covering 14 acres, each of the lands will feature attractions that immerse guests into the intricate settings (and vehicles) inspired by the Star Wars films, such as the Millennium Falcon. The spaceport-designed land will also have dining, shopping, and other interactive experiences with Star Wars characters and thematic elements. I can only imagine this will not come to fruition (opening) for at least another five years.
But Disney knows it must appease fans in the duration, thus amounting to the opening of Star Wars Launch Bay, a “preview center” of sorts for the land, which may also contain exhibits and character appearances. This will open in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, along with the event-based Season of the Force. Disneyland’s Space Mountain will also transform into Hyperspace Mountain for the purpose of the Force celebration. Even more, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue will contain new scenes based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m set for light speed for ultra excitement with all of these announcements!
Which reveal most appealed to you? Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month.