Carl Weathers. Tessa Thompson. Octavia Spencer. Yvette Nicole Brown. Jamie Foxx. Giancarlo Esposito. Brian Tyree Henry. Anthony Mackie. Lauren Ridloff. Kiersey Clemons. Naomi Ackie. Billy Dee Williams. John Boyega. Lupita Nyong’o. Daveed Diggs. Janelle Monáe.
These are just a handful of the actors revealed at Disney’s D23 Expo who are starring on the big and small screens with content ranging from animation, live-action, streaming series and features being released between now and 2022. The D23 Expo, which has been a staple for diehard Disney fans, has been revealing never before seen feature trailers and exclusives since 2009.
Since #OscarsSoWhite, major studios have attempted to go beyond and above as a means to rectify diversity issues within an industry where people of color aren’t adequately reflective of our society. Producers and talent have been told for decades that content with African Americans doesn’t translate overseas. Films produced here in America are generally relegated to limited runs and very few screens. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians flipped the script on that myth though once and for all. Studio execs are now realizing what people of color have known for decades: If there is content produced and released with folks that look like us, we will spend the money, support and watch.
At the 2019 Expo, Disney literally rolled out more content featuring, starring and being produced by more people of color than I have ever seen by any studio ever! D23 Weekend kicked off paying homage to James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars sagas) as he was inducted as a Disney Legend along with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, Actress Ming Na Wen, legendary Disney architect Wing T. Chao, Bette Midler, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Barnette Ricci, Diane Sawyer, Hans Zimmer, Kenny Ortega and Christina Aguilera (who gleefully exclaimed this event “…was way cooler than the Grammys”).
Not only do they own (or have a majority stake in) Hulu, 21st Century Fox, ESPN and National Geographic, Marvel and Pixar, Disney is launching their streaming service, Disney+. Beginning on November 12 in the US, Canada and the Netherlands, Disney fans will be able to stream the entire Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe libraries, as well as classic content from Fox. A week later on November 19, the streaming giant will additionally launch in Australia and New Zealand. If that weren’t enough, Disney also dropped that beginning September 26, Disney Movie Rewards will now be known as Disney Movie Insiders, allowing members to be able to watch trailers, special content about upcoming movies, buy movie tickets directly, have more ways to earn and redeem points for amazing rewards, get Insiders access to special perks and sweepstakes and play various interactive experiences on the new mobile app.
Some highlight announcements and reveals included the release of a new Pixar animated feature, Soul, which centers around Joe, a middle school band teacher who loves jazz voiced by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx. Tony Winner Phylicia Rashad voices Joe’s mother and Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs voices Joe’s nemesis. The film touts music Jon Baptiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Aisha Tyler as Millie takes fans back to Monstropolis with Monsters at Work, a new series inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Oscar-winning feature film Monsters, Inc. Pixar also dropped details about Onward, which introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Members of the voice cast include Oscar-winning actress/producer Octavia Spencer.
Gina Rodriguez executive produces (and is a recurring guest star) on a half-hour single-camera that follows a 12-year-old Cuban American girl’s journey through middle school, which sets her on the path to ultimately become the President of the United States. Starring Tess Romero and Selenis Leyva, it premieres January 2020. The beloved and highly popular title High School Musical is back in the form of a new series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which will star Dara Renee and Sofia Wylie.
Marvel Cinematic Universe is not only blessing us with Anthony Mackie as the Falcon for a new Marvel series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but is hitting us with The Eternals (starring Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff and more) hitting theaters on November 6, 2020. And don’t forget Teyonah Parris will star as Monica Rambeau with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in Marvel’s WandaVision. For Star Wars fans, The Mandalorian (starring Giancarlo Esposito, Pedro Pascal, the legendary Carl Weathers and Ming-Na Wen) is coming to Disney+ on November 12.
The Force was definitely in Hall D23 when Kathleen Kennedy announced some fantastic news from the Star Wars film franchise, with Billy Dee Williams reprising his role for the final episode of this legendary saga – Episode Nine: The Rise of Luke Skywalker (opening December 20, 2019). Williams, who is returning to the Millennium Falcon for one last adventure, told fans, “Lando has never left me, and being here all these years, these 40 years, is a very special experience for me.” Diego Luna will reprise his role from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in a second live-action series from Lucasfilm for Disney+. The series, currently under development, follows Andor’s adventures as rebel spy during the formative years of the Rebellion, before the events of ‘A New Hope.’
More live-action remakes are on the way in the form of Mulan and The Lady and The Tramp. Yvette Nicole Brown, who fantabulously hosted the Disney+ presentation, also co-stars as Aunt Sarah in The Lady and The Tramp, shared that all the dog actors were rescue animals. Harley, The dog double for ‘Lady,’ made a doggie Mom out of Brown when she adopted him and now showers him with unconditional love. Starring Tessa Thompson (Lady), Kiersey Clemons (Jim’s wife) and Janelle Monae (Peg the Pekingese), the details of the original songs aren’t available right now, but trust and expect the music to be funky from Monae including the iconic song like ‘He’s a Tramp’ and a reworking of the Siamese Cat song. The tune needed to be replaced due to the problematic tone of the song and nature of the cats’ portrayal.
One of the biggest movie stars of the moment made the biggest entrance, Dwayne Johnson sailed into Hall D23 on a Jungle Cruise boat. “We wanted to make a movie that was big, that was epic, that had romance, big comedy, big action, but—most importantly—it’s got me,” Johnson said, then surprised fans with a “trailer” for Jungle Cruise showing off his character, riverboat captain Frank Wolff. Other sneak-peeks included Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Connal, leader of the dark fey who becomes Maleficent ally in an all-new Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. There were also previews of Mulan and Raya and The Last Dragon.
Wakanda Forever was solidified when director/co-writer Ryan Coogler hit the stage to thunderous applause and cheers, revealing Black Panther 2 hits us in 2022. Black Panther broke box office records made history winning three Oscars for Costume Design for Ruth E. Carter, Best Original Score and Best Production Design.
With all this on the horizon, Disney is taking streaming to an all-new level giving Netflix and Amazon Prime a run for their money and virtually making it impossible for us to never leave our sofas again. Get your snacks, grab some friends and get ready for all the chocolacity about to hit a movie screen, computer and television set near you!
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