The next few years for Disney seem to be focused on live action and the session at D23 on Saturday proved just how much. Judging by the preview clips of everything from the Muppets sequel to Maleficent and the mysterious Tomorrowland, Disney has something in store for fans of all ages.
Disney will be taking two of their classic animated features and turning them into live action features. Maleficent (due June 2014) re-tells the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of its iconic villain. Played by Angelina Jolie, who looks stunning in the costume, Maleficent will transition from a heroic young woman to a cold-hearted sorceress. The storyline will of course intersect with that of Aurora (Elle Fanning) as the little princess grows, and will even feature the climatic dragon fight from Sleeping Beauty.
The second Disney classic to get the live action treatment is Cinderella, opening March 2015. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Cinderella will retain many of the elements we know and love from the story but will present them in a new and exciting way. Starring in the feature are Lily James as Cinderella, Richard Madden as the Prince, Cate Blanchett as the stepmother, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother.
Coming this Earth Day from Disneynature is Bears, which follows a mother bear and her cubs as they grow and journey across the coastal mountains of Alaska. I doubt there was a single person who did not get a bit misty-eyed watching the trailer featuring the adorable cubs. In a show of support for our National Parks, opening-week ticket sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.
An exclusive clip of Muppets Most Wanted showcased the imposter Kermit - a French frog called Constantine - and Ricky Gervais singing a duet. The duo is internationally known criminal masterminds who plan to use the Muppets to steal the Crown Jewels. They also put on a great show. Cast member Ty Burell showed up in a tiny European car from the film to show a “live stream” of fellow stars Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Tina Fey.
Disney’s Into the Woods did not bring any footage from the film, which is set to hit theaters next December. Instead we learned a couple of casting notes, including Meryl Streep as the Witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf. Joining them will be Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt along with director Rob Marshall.
The presentation for the mysterious Tomorrowland gave little information on the film but piqued the interests of fans with the announcement of George Clooney playing an important inventor. Based in part on the contents of a box discovered in Disney storage, the film seems to chronicle the building of Tomorrowland in the Disneyland park but all the secrecy surrounding the production seem to indicate that the plot is not that simple.
Filmmakers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof showed off a few pieces found in the black box and announced that the contents would be out on the exhibit floor that afternoon. Joining Clooney in the film, set for December 2014, are Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy and Thomas Robinson.
Closing out the session was exclusive footage of Saving Mr. Banks, out this December. A few never-before-seen clips were shown of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) persuading Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to partner with him to bring her magical nanny to the big screen.
The entire cast looks perfectly at ease with their characters, including BJ Novak and Jason Swartzman, who portray songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman. The actors were joined by the real Richard Sherman for a beautiful and joyous rendition of “Go Fly a Kite” to conclude the presentation.