Anyone who ever said that the D23 Expo is not worth traveling for or there is nothing that the expo offers that makes it a definite must-do trip, hasn’t ever been through Day 2 of the 2013 D23 Expo. Saturday, August 10 was all about Walt Disney Studios Live Action Films, Disney Legends, more Disney Legends.
The D23 Expo has three stage areas for presentations. The main stage area is the D23 Arena, which is also the largest. The next area to hold the most guests is Stage 23 followed by Stage 28. The reason this is relevant is because it is commonly accepted that the major events take place in the D23 Arena and all other events will be split between the other two stages. On Day 2 of the Expo, there were three presentations taking place in the D23 Arena, making it nearly possible to experience all of the highlights.
One thing that everyone learns at a D23 Expo is to expect the unexpected. On Day 1, the highlight of the day was the Walt Disney Studios Animation presentation. One would think that the highlight of Day 2 would end up being the Walt Disney Studios Live Action Films presentation, but assuming the best was up front in this case is arguable.
The day did start extremely strong with ‘Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios’. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the presentation and was extremely lighthearted and open about his background working with other production companies. Horn didn’t mess around at all and jumped right into the first film property – Star Wars. Although the crowd was hoping for some more information on Star Wars Episode VII, Horn was adamant about not being able to present any details at the time and moved onto Marvel instead.
It is entirely possible for a room to be full of Marvel fans to also be die-hard Disney fans, and this room seemed to be this way. Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios President and Producer, took the stage and the energy in the audience started to build. The first film discussed was Thor: The Dark World. In this sequel, all of the main cast return in a story which sees Natalie Portman’s character become a fish out-of-water as she is transported to stay with Thor in Asgard. Several clips were shown including one exclusive clip to D23 and in a big surprise, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins joined D23 fan-favorite Tom Hiddleston on stage to tease the film.
Moving right along, the next film Feige introduced was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This dark sequel will see the return of some of the main cast with new faces as well, while Captain America continues to adjust to life in the present day. Chris Evans took the stage and surprised the D23 audience while tapping into his comedic side with Anthony Mackie, who will play the Falcon and professed it many times, and Sebastian Stan, who returns as Buckie Barns/The Winter Soldier in a shocking return after he was presumed dead in the first film.
Guardians of the Galaxy was the next film to be introduced and none of the cast were present at the D23 Expo, but the crowd was still treated to a hilarious extended trailer of the Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) starring vehicle that should be a great blend of Marvel action we have come to love with a lot of comedy. How can you not play to your comedic roots when two of the main characters are going to be a raccoon and a tree. Rounding out the Marvel line-up was a short teaser trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron that showed no details, but did confirm all characters will return for the 2015 release.
Alan Horn took the stage once again to briefly discuss Disneynature’s next endeavor, Bears. Like the rest of the Disneynature films, Bears looks to be a beautifully shot documentary that follows around a mother bear and her two cubs as she fights to protects them. Bears will be released on Earth Day 2014, and once again, like the rest of the Disneynature films, Disney will be donating part of the proceeds to help preserve nature if you see it in the first week.
Sean Bailey, Disney’s Live Action Production President, then took to stage to talk about the Disney specific line-up. The first film covered was Muppets Most Wanted. This highly anticipated sequel puts the Muppet gang in Europe as they get caught up in an international heist, involving a Kermit doppelgänger. Jason Segal does not return for the sequel, but Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell step up to fill his shoes. Ty Burrell represented the Muppets on stage as they are still in the UK filming. Miss Piggy, Kermit, and Tina Fey did connect via satellite to talk to the P23 Crowd (Miss Piggy thought the audience was there for the P23 Expo, P standing for Piggy and 23 standing for her age) and give away some more details of the movie.
Bailey moved on to the film Into The Woods based on the Broadway musical of the same name. Not a lot of details were given about the film, but the cast was announced including Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!), Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), Chris Pine (Star Trek), and Emily Blunt (The Five-Year Engagement). Disney’s live action Cinderella was the next film to be discussed. Director Kenneth Branagh talked about the film via video that looked at the set and costume designs, as well as the stars including Lily James (Wrath of the Titans), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland) in a surprise casting as the Fairy Godmother.
The highly anticipated Maleficent was the next film up, and Angelina Jolie took the stage to discuss how she came to be the title character and how much she loved having the chance to tell the Sleeping Beauty story from the side of Maleficent, including her back story. In some of the exclusive clips shown, it is clear Jolie was made to play this role as she fits the look perfectly and has the exact personality of Maleficent. However, when she wasn’t on set making children cry (Jolie thought that children would enjoy meeting a Disney character, despite her being a scary looking character, and they weren’t so enthused), she was completely devoting herself to this role and the end result should see is cheering for Maleficent instead of the good side.
Next up, Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, and Damon Lindelof, co-writer of Lost, came out to discuss the film they are working on together – Tomorrowland. Not a lot of information was actually given on the film, but it was clear that this movie will have the spirit of Walt Disney throughout as it was “inspired” by a dusty box full of unknown treasures below ground, in the halls under the Walt Disney Studios. The film has already been marketing itself with the online game “The Optimist” that Disney fans have been playing leading up to the D23 Expo.
The final film to be presented was Saving Mr. Banks which sees Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers telling the story of how Disney worked to get the rights for “Mary Poppins” so he could make the film for his daughters. The crowd was treated to several exclusive looks at the movie and was given a great surprise at the end when B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman, who play Robert and Richard Sherman, took the stage to sing and play “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” and were joined by Richard Sherman himself. It was a great show stopping number, as Schwartzman truly displayed how well he took the time to learn to play exactly like Richard Sherman.
Normally, it would be impossible to see two D23 Arena events in a row, but shockingly the next arena event, ‘Disney Legends Award Ceremony’, had a small crowd and was open to anyone showing up at even the last minute. Those who did attend the ceremony were really in for a treat. The ceremony, hosted by ABC personality Tom Bergeron and Bob Iger, presented the prestigious Disney Legends Award to eight true Disney Legends. This year saw the induction of Tony Baxter, Ed Wynn, Collin Campbell, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Dick Clark, Glen Keane, and Steve Jobs. All living Legends (Baxter, Goodman, Crystal, and Keane) were on hand to accept their awards while family members were present to accept awards for Wynn, Campbell, and Clark.
The entire ceremony was a true testament to how important these figures are to Disney, but also showed how much these talents truly appreciate the opportunities and successes that Disney presented to them. Every acceptance speech was filled with emotion and in some cases laughter, specifically Billy Crystal, but the most emotional part of the event came when John Lasseter accepted Steve Jobs’ award on his behalf. Lasseter, who looked to Jobs as a brother after his own passed away, admitted right up front that he didn’t know if he would be able to get through the speech, but he managed to do so in a truly touching story about how he came to work with Jobs, while Jobs put all his trust in Lasseter and Pixar and it ended up developing a beautiful relationship that extended way beyond work. Closing out the event, Iger announced that D23 would be returning in 2015 for another expo.
The final D23 Arena event of the day, and probably the biggest hit, was a Richard Sherman/Alan Menken concert. Sherman was the first to sit behind the piano and play through his Disney Songbook for over an hour while talking about the songs in between. Some of the songs he played were: “I Wanna Be Like You”, “Feed The Birds”, “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room”, “One Little Spark”, and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Menken then sat behind the piano and took the audience through nearly all of the Disney Renaissance songs as well as some of the Disney Broadway songs he contributed. Some of the songs he played were: “Part Of Your World”, “Beauty And The Beast”, “Go The Distance”, “Out There”, and “That’s How You Know”. As an encore, both artists came out to play their “world” songs, so Menken played “A Whole New World” and Sherman played “It’s A Small World”. The concert ran around two and a half hours and perfectly ended Day 2 of the D23 Expo.
Some other events throughout the day included: ‘Inside the Ice: The Art of Disney’s Frozen‘, ‘ABC’s Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale’, ‘The Art of The Good Dinosaur‘, ‘Crash Course in the Force: Star Wars Saga 101′, ‘Broadcasts from Buena Vista Street’, ‘Charles Phoenix Presents’, ‘Voices of the Disney Parks’, ‘Disney Animated: An Inside Look at Walt Disney Animation Studios’, and ‘Toy Story of TERROR! and the Motivation Behind Pixar’s Short Form Content’.
Day 3 will end the entire D23 Convention and feature a Disney Interactive presentation along with Imagineering presentations all day long. The DIS Team will be there all day bringing you coverage and ending the night with a recap broadcast.
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