I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Outlaw loves his Disney. In fact, minus a few recent films here and there, I’m one of those people who might argue the mouse-eared company can do little wrong. From the magical child-like sensation one gets from walking through their theme parks (often times to a greater degree as an adult), to uplifting movies which instill a genuine sense of pleasure in audiences, Disney is a pop-culture phenomenon that has ingrained itself into the neural pathways of just about everyone with a pair of ears.
Hence, earlier this year when I discovered Disney organizes its own version of a comic book convention called the D23 Expo, I knew I had to attend. When I found out what the admission prices were, I knew I had to attend as press. (That, or start harvesting my own body parts earlier than usual.) Luckily, Disney spared me the hassle of selling my kidneys on eBay and provided me with a press badge to the event.
For those unfamiliar, as I was, with this fairly brand new Disney-con, I will try to describe in brief. D23(the 23 represents the year Walt Disney arrived in Anaheim and the D should hopefully not need to be explained to my highly intellectual followers of three), is a convention held every two years to provide a sort of state-of-the-union update to the fans as a teaser of what to expect over the course of the next 24 months.
I can’t attest to the three past expos before this year’s celebration – the first having been held in 2009 – but based on my experience alone, I must say I’m thoroughly impressed. Although not nearly the size, nor delivering quite the quantity of Comic-Con (or the Anaheim-based WonderCon for that matter), D23 makes up for it in spectacle. Even though the show was only three days in length, Disney put on quite a visually immersive display on the convention floor and their panels were presented in an extremely engaging fashion – full of fanfare and surprises.
We are talking about Disney of course, and for many, anything less would have probably been interpreted as the company falling apart at the seams.
Enough about the generalities, it’s time to talk turkey; specifically, the kinds of trouble the Outlaw managed to get into. Regrettably, my schedule only allowed me one day at the event, but what a day it was.
Here are the highlights:
WORLDS, GALAXIES & UNIVERSES MOVIE PANEL
Considered the “must see” shining jewel of the D23 panel lineup, the “Worlds, Galaxies and Movie” panel covered all of the live action films set for release under the Disney umbrella of studios. This includes entries from Lucasfilm and Marvel. The notable announcements are listed below.
The Jungle Book
For the Outlaw’s limited amount of money, this was the surprise of the entire panel. This animated classic turned live action film features a brand new level of CGI technology never before used on screen, Add to that a bevy of big time voice actors like Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Bill Murray (as Baloo), and this could prove to be a blockbuster in the making.
Beauty and the Beast
Another animation-to-live-action conversion, the timeless tale will feature the likes of Emma Watson as Belle along with an entire cast of popular names filling the shoes of the characters from the 1991 musical hit. Based on the very early behind-the-scenes footage and a song sample with Josh Gad and Luke Evans belting out a chorus of Gaston, many film-goers may want to be Disney’s guest in 2017 as well.
Captain America: Civil War
For many going through with Marvel withdrawal, this was the sole purpose for attending the D23 Expo, due to the lack of an official panel at San Diego Comic-Con. The introduction of Anthony Mackie and Chris Evans started things off with a bang, and the first revealed footage looked impressive as always, especially the Paul Rudd kidnapping scene. We even got our first brief 0.32 second look at the Black Panther, but sadly, everyone’s friendly neighborhood web-crawler was MIA from the teaser.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
The revelation that Orlando Bloom was making his way back to the series had the walls shaking from the screaming. Having Johnny Depp walk onto the stage in full Jack Sparrow outfit and makeup sent the roof into another zip code. The place went so crazy from Depp (as Sparrow) throwing grapes at the audience, that no one even remembered (or cared) it was too early for footage of the film.
Star Wars: Rogue One & Han Solo Prequel
Overshadowed by its sequel big brother, Disney reminded everyone that their Star Wars prequel is in production, and it’s going to be good (at least better than past prequel attempts). The other semi exciting news was the confirmation that everyone’s favorite nerf-herder will indeed be getting a “Solo” film (see what I did there) which will also take a look at how the space scoundrel came to be.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It was all but confirmed by J.J. Abrams before D23 there would be no new footage or trailers played at the Disney Expo; however, that didn’t stop Disney from pulling out the big guns, literally. After introducing some of the new cast members made infamous by the first trailer, J.J. Abrams personally invited Harrison Ford on stage, proving to everyone the man who is Han is still in one piece (physically anyway).
Star Wars Land @ Disneyland & Disneyworld
Who needs movies when you can experience the real thing? That was Bog Iger’s sentiment as he personally graced the stage to announce the new Star Wars-based theme lands which will be built at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The 14-acre lands will feature Star Wars-themed restaurants (including a famous cantina), interactive experiences, employee actors who never step out of character, and new rides – including a Millennium Falcon simulator that gives everyone the ability to steer the fastest ship in the known galaxy.
COSPLAY DONE DISNEY
As has become a staple at any pop-culture convention, costumes were in full force and it was all Disney (or Disney owned in some respect.) Interestingly enough, Geek Outlaw was the only notable person dressed up in any type of non-Disney regalia with the exception of a few Toy Story and Marvel figures dangling about the wardrobe. Despite the surprisingly limited number of attendees who dressed up, those who did blew the doors off the convention center roof in the quality department. Below is just a sampling of what crossed the Outlaw’s path.
DISNEY ON DISPLAY
Some more shots from the floor of the event. If there is anything Disney has mastered the art of, it’s the presentation.