Review: ‘Soul,’ starring the voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey

December 26, 2020

by Carla Hay

Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) in “Soul” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

“Soul”

Directed by Pete Docter; co-directed by Kemp Powers

Culture Representation: The animated film “Soul” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American and white, with a few Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An aspiring jazz musician has a purgatory-like experience where he fights to save his life while encountering a cynical soul that doesn’t want to be born in any body.

Culture Audience: “Soul” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in philosophical stories about the meaning of life that are wrapped in a bright and shiny package of a Disney/Pixar animated movie.

Counselor Jerry (voiced by Richard Ayoade), Counselor Jerry (voiced by Alice Braga), 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), Terry (voiced by Rachel House) and Counselor Jerry (voiced by Fortune Feimster) in “Soul” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

Pixar Animation Studios has long been the gold standard for groundbreaking and crowd-pleasing movie animation, with several Oscars and blockbuster films to prove it. Pixar launched in 1986, and was acquired by the Walt Disney Company in 2006. But it wasn’t until 2020 that Pixar released its first movie with an African American as the lead character. That movie is “Soul,” which does what Pixar does best: blend stunning visuals with sentimental, family-friendly messages. However, the movie isn’t quite the innovative cultural breakthrough that it’s hyped up to be.

“Soul” (directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers) follows a lot of the same thematic tropes that are in a lot of Pixar movies: Someone has to cope with death and/or find a way back home. In order to reach that goal, the protagonist encounters someone who usually has an opposite personality. For any variety of reasons, the two opposite personalities are stuck together on a journey. And they spend most of the story bickering and/or trying to learn how to work together.

In “Soul,” the main protagonist is Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle-aged, aspiring jazz pianist in New York City who hasn’t been able to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional musician. Instead, to pay his bills, Joe has become a teacher of band music at a public middle school called M.S. 70, where almost all of the students in his class are less-than-talented at playing music. Joe isn’t particularly happy with how his life has turned out, but he hasn’t lost his passion for playing jazz. It’s a passion that almost no one else shares in his life.

Joe tells his students about the life-changing experience he had as a boy when his father took him to a nightclub to see jazz performed live for the first time. It was the first time that Joe understood the joy of turning a passion into something that can be shared with others. Joe describes to his students how he felt when he saw the jazz musicians expressing themselves in their performance: “I wanted to learn how to talk like that. That’s when I knew I was born to play.”

Joe then says to a student, “Connie knows what I mean. Right, Connie?” Connie (voiced by Cora Champommier) deadpans in response: “I’m 12.” This won’t be the last time Connie will be in the movie, since she represents whether or not Joe has made an impact on any of his students.

Joe, who is an only child, is somewhat of a disappointment to his widowed mother Libba (voiced by Phylicia Rashad), who owns a custom tailor shop. Libba has grown tired of seeing Joe in a series of dead-end, part-time jobs that don’t pay very well. Joe’s father was also an aspiring musician, but he gave up his music dreams because of the financial obligations of raising a family. Joe is a bachelor with no children, so it’s been easier for him to not feel as much pressure to get a full-time job that pays well.

One day, M.S. 70’s Principal Arroyo (voiced by Jeannie Tirado) tells Joe that the school would like to offer him a full-time job as the band teacher. However, Joe isn’t all that excited about the offer, because it means that he’ll have less time to pursue what he really wants to be: a professional musician playing in a real band. Privately, he thinks about whether or not he should accept the offer.

When Joe tells Libba about this job offer, she thinks he’s crazy not to take the offer right away. Libba reminds Joe that a full-time job comes with insurance benefits and a retirement plan, which are things that she thinks Joe needs to have now that he’s reached a certain age. Joe reluctantly agrees to take the school’s full-time job offer.

But then, something unexpected happens that changes his life when he gets a chance to become a professional musician. A former student of his named Lamont “Curley” Baker (voiced by Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, also known as Questlove) calls Joe and tells him that he’s now a drummer for the Dorothea Williams Quartet, a famous group that is in the city for a tour performance. Curley thanks Joe for his mentorship and excitedly mentions to Joe that the band’s regular pianist suddenly “skipped town” and can’t be found.

Curley says that Joe would be the perfect replacement for this pianist for the band’s show that will take place that evening at the Half Note, a popular jazz nightclub. Curley invites Joe to go to the nightclub for an audition. Curley says that if Dorothea Williams likes what she hears from Joe, then Joe could become the permanent pianist for the Dorothea Williams Quartet. Needless to say, Joe is ecstatic but also nervous.

Dorothea (voiced by Angela Bassett) is a hard-to-please taskmaster. And she’s not impressed that Joe has been working as a school teacher, because she thinks it means he isn’t talented enough to be a professional musician. But once Dorothea hears Joe play, she changes her mind and says he can perform with the band that night. She keeps cool about it and doesn’t want to lavish too much praise on Joe.

Joe is so excited about this big break that he calls people on his phone to tell them the good news, while he’s walking down various streets. Joe is so distracted that he doesn’t notice several things that could get him injured. He narrowly misses getting hit by a car when he walks into traffic. He avoids getting hurt by construction work happening on a street where he walks.

But a misfortune that Joe literally falls into is a deep and open manhole that he doesn’t notice while he’s talking on the phone. Joe wakes up in a purgatory-like environment where he finds out that he “died” from this fall. His soul and other souls (which look like ghostly blue blobs) are headed to a place called the Great Beyond, which is implied to be heaven.

However, Joe doesn’t want to accept this fate, and he runs away and tries to hide. What he really wants to do is go back to Earth, have his soul reunited with his body, and recover from his injuries in time to make it to the Dorothea Williams Quartet performance. He believes that this performance is his only shot at fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional musician.

Joe tries to hide in the purgatory, but he’s quickly discovered by spirit-like entities called counselors that look like two-dimensional, bisected figures. Several of the counselors (with male and female voices) are named Counselor Jerry. Alice Braga and Richard Ayoade voice the two Counselor Jerry characters that have the most interaction with Joe. Braga’s Counselor Jerry character is empathetic and patient. Ayoade’s Counselor Jerry character is wisecracking and neurotic. Other actors who are the voices of Counselor Jerry characters include Fortune Feimster, Wes Studi and Zenobia Shroff.

Joe finds out that he hasn’t died yet, but his body is in a “holding pattern,” and he’s in a place called the Great Before, also known as the You Seminar. It’s a place where each soul is numbered and assigned a unique personality before being sent to Earth to inhabit a body. In addition to personality traits, each soul must have a “spark,” in order to be ready to be sent to Earth. In the You Seminar, each soul is assigned a mentor to inspire that spark. (The word “spark” in the movie is another way of saying a person’s biggest passion in life.)

Joe already knows what his spark is (playing music), but through a series of events, he ends up becoming the mentor for a soul whose name/number is 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), who is an especially difficult soul because she doesn’t want to be live in anybody on Earth and she wants to stay where she is. She’s very stubborn and likes to cause a lot of mischief. (Technically, 22 could be interpreted as having no gender, but since a woman was chosen to voice the character, 22 will be referred to as “she” and “her” in this review.)

Joe finds out that 22 has had several mentors who tried and failed to help 22 find her spark. The mentors include Mahatma Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Marie Antoinette, Nicolaus Copernicus and Muhammad Ali. There’s a brief montage sequence that shows how 22 aggravated and disappointed all of her famous mentors. And 22 is so insufferable, cynical and bratty that even Mother Teresa ran out of patience with her.

And so, the rest of the movie is about these two souls who have different agendas and have to find a way to work together. One soul desperately wants to go back to Earth to reunite with his body, while the other soul desperately does not want to go to Earth to avoid inhabiting any body. There’s also a running joke in the film about a very nitpicky, uptight spirit named Terry (voiced by Rachel House), who works as an accountant in the purgatory and notices that a soul (Joe) is missing from the expected Great Beyond population. Terry goes on the hunt to find this missing soul.

“Soul” has a lot of metaphors not just about life after death but also about life on Earth. There’s a subplot about “lost souls” on Earth. And during Joe and 22’s time together, they encounter a soul who’s an aging hippie type named Moonwind (played by Graham Norton), who is the captain of a ship of souls.

What works very well in “Soul,” as is the case of almost every Pixar film, is how the film looks overall. When Joe describes the elation he felt the first time he discovered his passion for music, the screen lights up with an engaging vibrancy of sights and sounds. There are also some almost-psychedelic representations of what the You Seminar looks like that give “Soul” an immersive quality. The human characters look very lifelike. And it all adds up to a very memorable animated film.

“Soul” is not without flaws, however. The movie has a few plot holes that aren’t really explained. For example, there’s a scene in the movie where 22 tells Joe that souls without a body do not have the use of human senses, which is why 22 doesn’t know what it’s like to smell, taste or touch. However, it’s never explained why 22 (and other souls without bodies) have the senses of sight and hearing. Why bother saying that souls in this story cannot have human senses, when the souls can obviously see and hear?

Docter won an Oscar for the 2015 Pixar film “Inside Out,” another existential movie with a plot revolving around the concept that people are unique because of personalities and interests. “Soul” has lot of philosophies about what makes someone human and what a human being’s purpose is in life. Both movies can be enjoyed by people of different generations. However, the storyline of “Soul” is riskier and potentially more alienating.

“Soul” is not a religious movie, but it’s literally a spiritual movie. Its plot and characters are based on spiritual beliefs that when people die, their souls go to another place that can’t be seen by living humans, or souls could be stuck on Earth as “ghosts.” Therefore, what happens in “Soul” won’t have as much of an emotional impact on atheists or other people who believe that death is final and who think that there is no such thing as a soul that can leave a body.

There’s a reincarnation subplot to the “Soul” that isn’t as funny as it could have been, mainly because one of the characters is reincarnated as a cat. There have already been plenty of movies that have over-used the gimmick of a non-human animal that can talk and think like a human. The world has more than enough “talking animals” movies.

As for “Soul” being touted as a racial breakthrough in Pixar animation, the movie falls short of many expectations that Joe’s life as an African American musician would be in the movie more than it actually is. This part of Joe’s identity is only shown as “bookends,” in service of a story that’s really about how Joe can help redeem 22, so that she will want to become a fully formed person with a “spark.”

In fact, Joe’s quest to go back to becoming a living, breathing human being often takes a back seat to 22 and her shenanigans. Joe doesn’t become completely sidelined, since he’s still the main character who’s in almost every scene of the movie. But there are many moments in “Soul” where it feels like the filmmakers deliberately made 22 the scene stealer, while Joe passively reacts to whatever 22 does or wants.

These creative decisions are a bit problematic when Disney and Pixar seem to have a self-congratulatory attitude in promoting “Soul” as the first Pixar movie to celebrate African American culture. Well, it’s not exactly a celebration. It’s more of a polite acknowledgement, because for most of the movie, Joe isn’t even in his own body.

It should be noted that “Soul” was written by Docter (who is white), Powers (who is African American) and Mike Jones (who is white). The vast majority of people on the “Soul” creative team are also white, including producer Dana Murray and chief composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Jonathan “Jon” Batiste,” who is African American, did the jazz compositions for “Soul,” but not the overall music score. The music of “Soul” is perfectly fine, but it just seems a bit “off” that the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to hire any of the numerous qualified African Americans to be the chief composers for this movie about an African American musician. Make of that what you will, but that’s why people say that representation matters.

And it seems like such a waste for “Soul” to not feature the singing talents of Foxx, who plays a musician but not a singer in this movie. (Foxx is a piano player in real life too.) He does a very good job in the role, as do the other “Soul” cast members. However, Joe is at times written as a sidekick to 22, when 22 should be the sidekick throughout the entire time that Joe and 22 are together. It isn’t until the last 20 minutes of “Soul” that the Joe character reclaims the spot as the central focus of the story.

“Soul” certainly meets Pixar’s high standards of a visually compelling film that tackles heavy emotional issues in an entertaining way. The movie has a lot of musing about the meaning of life and positive messages about self-acceptance. These themes in “Soul” are, for the most part, handled well for a movie whose target audience includes a lot of kids who are too young to have deep, philosophical debates. Just don’t expect “Soul” to have major representation of African American culture in the way that Pixar’s “Coco” celebrated Mexican culture.

Disney+ premiered “Soul” on December 25, 2020. The movies was released in cinemas in countries where Disney+ is not available.

Review: ‘Mulan’ (2020), starring Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, Ron Yuan, Gong Li and Jet Li

September 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

Yifei Liu in “Mulan” (Photo by Jasin Boland/Disney Enterprises Inc.)

“Mulan” (2020)

Directed by Niki Caro

Culture Representation: Taking place in ancient China, the fantasy film remake “Mulan” features an all-Asian cast representing the middle-class, the military and royalty.

Culture Clash: A young woman with superhuman athletic powers disguises herself as a man, in order to fight in China’s Imperial Army, and she experiences sexism as a woman and dangerous conflicts while in combat.

Culture Audience: “Mulan” will primarily appeal people looking for family-friendly movies with a message of female empowerment, but fans of the original “Mulan” might be disappointed by the remake’s lack of humor.

Jason Scott Lee and Gong Li in “Mulan” (Photo courtesy of Film Frame/Disney Enterprises Inc.)

Disney’s re-imagining of its numerous classic animated films has continued with the 2020 live-action version of “Mulan,” which is a very different take on the original 1998 animated “Mulan.” The 2020 version of “Mulan” should be commended for not doing an exact story replica of the original movie, which was the biggest criticism of Disney’s 2019 remake of “The Lion King” that basically did a more technologically updated animated copy of the 1994 classic “Lion King.” Does the remake of “Mulan” have anything groundbreaking? No, but that’s okay if you want to see an escapist film with a positive message about self-confidence and not letting bigotry get in the way of being who are and pursuing your dreams.

The 2020 version “Mulan” (directed by Niki Caro) took some creative risks by retooling the story into a serious action film instead of being a musical with comedic elements, which was the format of the original “Mulan.” But by changing the film’s tone, this “Mulan” remake ends up being a lot more generic than the original version, because the original “Mulan” depicted the characters as having much more distinct personalities. Although the “Mulan” remake is not a depressing movie, there’s very little humor to be found in the story. Much of the charm of the original “Mulan” came from the humorous characters (especially the miniature dragon Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy) and how they interacted with Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen in the original film) in her journey to becoming a warrior.

There are no musical numbers, wisecracking sidekicks or talking animals in the 2020 version of “Mulan.” However, the basic story is essentially the same: A young woman named Mulan in ancient China seems fated to follow a traditional life of being a wife and mother. But something happens that changes the course of her destiny: China is attacked by invaders and goes to war, so Mulan disguises herself as a man and enlists in the army so that her father (who has health problems) won’t have to fight in the war. (In the original “Mulan,” the Huns were the war villains; in the remake, the Rourans are the northern invaders.)

In the remake of “Mulan,” this heroine and her family have known about her “superpowers” or “chi” since she was a child, whereas in the original “Mulan,” it took a while for a fumbling and awkward Mulan to become skilled in combat fighting. Because this metamorphosis is removed from the remake, Mulan (played by Yifei Liu) essentially starts off as a superhero, who has to hide her “chi” powers in order to not be vilified as a witch. (In the original “Mulan,” the family surname was Fa, while the family surname is Hua in the remake.)

In the “Mulan” remake, Mulan has a younger sister named Xiu, who’s about four or five years younger than Mulan. Xiu’s only purpose in the movie is to show that Mulan now has a younger female who looks up to her from an early age, whereas in the original movie, Mulan was an only child. (In the “Mulan” remake, Crystal Rao plays the young Mulan, Elena Askin plays the young Xiu, and Xana Tang plays the adult Xiu.) A scene near the beginning of the film shows Mulan, at around the age of 11 or 12, dazzling Xiu with her graceful nimbleness and athletic abilities.

It’s also established early on in the movie that Mulan inherited her chi from her stern but loving father Zhou (played by Tzi Ma), a military veteran who wears a leg brace from an injury he got during a war. (In the original movie, Zhou’s health problems were from natural causes of old age.) Just like in the original movie, the “Mulan” remake has Mulan’s mother Wuwei (played by Rosalind Chao) as essentially a passive supporting character, because Mulan’s father is the parent who has more influence on Mulan.

The patriarchal sexism that Mulan battles against is still the main underlying conflict of the story, while the war is the obvious external conflict. In the movie, Zhou tells Mulan when she’s a child: “Your chi is strong. But chi is for warriors, not daughters … Soon, you’ll be a young woman, and it’s time to hide your gift away, to silence its voice. I say this to protect you. That is my job. Your job is to bring honor to the family. Can you do that?”

In this Chinese society, girls and women are told that they bring honor to the family by finding the right husbands to marry. In the original “Mulan,” there was a feisty and humorous grandmother who was desperate to see Mulan get married. As is the Chinese tradition, Mulan had to see a matchmaker to assess her qualities as a future wife and to discuss possible suitors who would be a good match for her.

There’s no grandmother in the “Mulan” remake. Instead, there’s an uptight, judgmental and humorless matchmaker (played by Pei Pei Chang) who tells Mulan that a good wife must be “quiet, composed, graceful, elegant, poised, polite, silent and invisible.” At first, the matchmaker gives Mulan her approval, by saying that Mulan has all of these qualities. But then, a wayward spider ends up on the table during the meeting, thereby causing a mishap that leads to Mulan’s extraordinary athletic ability becoming exposed.

The matchmaker is horrified that Mulan isn’t a demure and weak young woman, and so she humiliates Mulan by declaring to the family in full view of people in the town square that Mulan has brought dishonor to her family. Soon after this debacle, representatives from China’s Imperial Army come to the area to declare that each family must volunteer an adult male to serve in the war.

Zhou volunteers, since he is the only adult male in the family, but Mulan is worried that because of his leg disability, he won’t be able to survive the war. When she expresses her concerns to her father, Zhoe shows his patriarchal ego when he lectures Mulan: “It is my job to bring honor to this family. You are the daughter. Learn your place!”

The original “Mulan” had a somewhat iconic scene of Mulan cutting off a lot of her hair in order to disguise herself as a man. There’s no such hair-cutting scene in the “Mulan” remake, which is the movie’s subtle but feminist way of saying that this version of Mulan isn’t going to cut her hair for anyone. Instead, the movie abruptly shows Mulan with her hair in a bun, and she’s already disguised in her armor and taking her father’s lucky sword before she leaves home without her family’s knowledge or consent. The family figures out what happens when they find out that Mulan and the sword have disappeared.

Since the remake doesn’t have any scenes of Mulan fumbling her way through learning combat skills as a new soldier, her discomfort mainly comes from trying to hide her superpowers and her real gender, as well adjusting to being in an all-male environment for the first time in her life. In the original “Mulan,” Mulan used the name Ping as her male alias, whereas her male alias in the “Mulan” remake is Jin.

Mulan/Jin is immediately picked on by a soldier named Honghui (played by Yoson An), who wants to be the alpha male of the new recruits. Honghui’s bullying tactics are a way to test people on their physical and emotional strength. And because he’s singled out Mulan in their first encounter, it’s the obvious cue that he’s going to be Mulan’s love interest when he founds out her real gender. (It’s not a spoiler that Mulan’s true identity is eventually revealed, since it’s in the movie’s trailer and it’s a well-known part of the movie’s plot.) However, people looking for a romantic love story won’t find it in this movie.

Mulan/Jin and Honghui eventually become part of a tight-knit clique of other soldiers that includes macho Yao (played by Chen Tang); romantic Ling (played by Jimmy Wong); mild-mannered Po (played by Doua Moua); and goofy Cricket (played Jun Yu), who’s sometimes the butt of the group’s jokes. Other members of the Imperial Army are Commander Tung (played by Donnie Yen) and Sergeant Qiang (played by Ron Yuan). Commander Tung tells the soldiers that stealing, desertion and consorting with women are punishable by death, while dishonesty is punishable by expulsion.

The “Mulan” remake has definitely more of a female focus than the original, not just because it does away with Mulan having a male sidekick but also how it portrays the movie’s villains. The head of the Rouran invaders is Böri Khan (played by Jason Scott Lee), who gets a lot less screen time than his (literal) wing woman Xianniang (played by Gong Li), a powerful “witch” who can shapeshift into a hawk.

The purpose of Xianniang (a character that wasn’t in the original “Mulan” movie) is to show a parallel between her experiences of being an outcast in China because she’s a powerful woman and the similar experiences that Mulan could go through if it’s revealed that she’s a woman with superpowers. One of the movie’s most memorable scenes is when Xianniang and Mulan cross paths as enemies, but Mulan finds out that they have more in common with each other than Mulan would like to admit.

Mulan thinks Xianniang is foolish for aligning herself with a “coward” like Böri Khan. But Mulan is also in service of men who are in charge, so is Mulan’s situation all that different? The decisions made by the men in charge of the Imperial Army, including the Emperor (played by Jet Li), ultimately decide whether or not Mulan will be accepted for who she is or if she’ll be vilified and cast out from society. The outcome is extremely predictable, but this is a fantasy film that’s not trying to pretend to be historically accurate.

The screenplay for the 2020 remake of “Mulan” was written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, and was inspired by the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” Some people might say that the “Mulan” remake is more “feminist” than the original “Mulan,” because Mulan is aware of her superpowers from an earlier age, she doesn’t have a “Prince Charming” type of romance, and because the movie has the addition of the powerful female character Xianniang. The filmmakers of the “Mulan” remake seem to understand that feminism isn’t about male-bashing but about people of any gender not being discriminated against because of their gender.

The real world doesn’t always work in a fair and unbiased way, but the message of the movie that’s very realistic is that people can’t overcome gender discrimination obstacles by themselves. In order for real change to be made, enough people (include the right people in power) must make those changes. And if a woman can fight in an army of men, there’s no reason for her to not be able to rescue them too.

Visually, the “Mulan” remake is not a masterpiece, but it gets the job done well in all the right places. The main way that the movie lags is how the personalities of the characters are watered-down from the original “Mulan” movie. All of the actors in the movie do the best with what they’ve been given, but there doesn’t seem to be much depth to any of the predictable characters of the film, except for tormented soul Xianniang.

It’s implied that Xianniang pledged allegiance to Böri Khan because he was the only person who offered her a sense of belonging and family after she became an outcast. He uses her insecurities about being alone in the world to continue to manipulate her emotionally and maintain her loyalty. The “Mulan” remake obviously wanted a more serious tone than the original “Mulan,” so the movie could have benefited from a deeper exploration of this complicated alliance between Böri Khan and Xianniang.

The “Mulan” remake delivers exactly what you would expect from this type of Disney film. The inspirational story, engaging visuals and well-choreographed action sequences are good enough to make this a crowd-pleasing movie for the intended audience. However, many scenes in the remake of “Mulan” look derivative of better-made war movies that have been filmed in a much more majestic way. And if you’re looking for a movie worthy of several Oscar nominations, then this “Mulan” remake is not that movie.

Disney+ will premiere “Mulan” on September 4, 2020. From September 4 to December 3, 2020, the movie has an additional, one-time fee that allows Disney+ subscribers in the U.S. to see the movie on demand for an unlimited time during the Disney+ subscription. As of December 4, 2020, Disney+ subscribers in the U.S. do not have to pay this additional fee to see the movie. Information on additional fees for “Mulan” might vary in countries where Disney+ is available.

Review: ‘Black Is King,’ starring Beyoncé

July 31, 2020

by Carla Hay

Beyoncé in “Black Is King” (Photo courtesy of Disney+/Parkwood Entertainment)

“Black Is King” 

Directed by Beyoncé, Kwasi Fordjour, Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch and Jake Nava

Culture Representation: This visual album of Beyoncé’s original songs for the 2019 “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack features a predominantly black cast (with a few white people, Asians and Latinos) primarily representing life in Africa in a musical format.

Culture Clash:  Many of the songs’ lyrics and the movie’s narration are about pushing back against fear, bigotry and self-doubt.

Culture Audience: Beyoncé fans are the obvious target audience for this movie, but “Black Is King” should also appeal to people who like to see visually stunning musical numbers set to contemporary R&B music.

Beyoncé (center) in “Black Is King” (Photo courtesy of Disney+/Parkwood Entertainment)

People already know that Beyoncé is capable of making a collection of memorable an impactful music videos, so it’s not too much a surprise that she has done it again with “Black Is King,” a visually intoxicating and emotionally empowering movie that celebrates self-confidence and Afro-centric culture.

Whereas Beyoncé’s visual collection for her critically acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was her feminist response to issues going on in her personal life at the time, “Black Is King” is more of a rousing anthem directed at generations of people, especially those whose ethnic roots are in Africa. There are no conversations in “Black Is King,” but the messages are loud and clear.

Because “Black Is King” is a visual representation of Beyoncé’s 2019 soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift,” the songs themselves (and some of the music videos) were made available a year before the full “Black Is King” movie was released. But seeing all of these songs together as musical numbers in “Black Is King” puts the soundtrack in a whole new light.

“Black Is King” is not a traditional movie, since there is no real plot. Rather, it’s an atmospheric journey of eye-catching sights, sounds and philosophical thoughts. The choreography? Spectacular. The hair and makeup? Gorgeous.  The costumes? Unforgettable.

Folajomi “FJ” Akinmurele portrays Beyoncé’s fictional son Little Simba throughout “Black Is King.” At the end of the film, this dedication appears on screen: “Dedicated to my son Sir Carter. And to all our sons and daughters, the sun and the moon bow for you. You are the keys to the kingdom.”

The movie has narration that includes lines from the 2019 “The Lion King” movie, which had Beyoncé as the voice of warrior lioness Nala. But the most intriguing narration comes from a script whose credited writers are Beyoncé, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Clover Hope and Andrew Morrow, featuring poetry by Warsan Shire.

James Earl Jones provides the opening voice narration as he intones in “Balance (Mufasa Interlude)”: “Everything that you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling creatures to the leaping antelope. We are all connected in the circle of life.”

Beyoncé also voices several messages of Afro-centric pride, including “Black is the color of my true love’s skin” and “Let black be synonymous with glory” and “Black is king. We were beauty before they knew what beauty was.”

There are also calls of empowerment, such as “Life is a set of choices. Lead or be led astray. Follow your light or lose it.” And she also speaks about the importance of representation: “To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist.”

It wouldn’t be a Beyoncé visual album without cameos. They include members of her immediate family: husband Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter); their children Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi; and Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles Lawson. “Brown Skin Girl,” with Saint Jhn and Wizkid featuring Blue Ivy Carter, celebrates inner and outer beauty and includes visual appearances by Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland, who is one of the original members of Destiny’s Child with Beyoncé. Jay-Z, Knowles Lawson and Rowland can also be seen in “Mood 4 Eva.”

And several artists on the audio soundtrack can be seen in “Black Is King,” including Jessie Reyez (“Scar)”; Nija, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and Moonchild Sanelly (“My Power” ); Shatta Wale (“Already”); Tiwa Savage and Mr Eazi (“Keys to the Kingdom”); and Salatiel and Pharrell Williams (“Water”).  Meanwhile, Beyoncé hands over the spotlight to Lord Afrixana, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi, who perform “Don’t Jealous Me.”

Noticeably absent from “Black Is King” are Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer and Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover, the voice of adult Simba in 2019’s “The Lion King”), who are featured artists on the audio soundtrack’s songs but don’t make visual appearances in the “Black Is King” movie. Lamar can be heard on the duet track “Nile,” while Major Lazer is featured on “Already.” Childish Gambino/Glover is a featured artist on “Mood 4 Eva.”

Speaking of “Mood 4 Eva,” it’s one of the highlights of “Black Is King” and it has explosion of beauty that’s both raw and luxurious. (And there’s also a scene of Beyoncé and Jay-Z holding hands that’s reminiscent of their famous 2018 “Apeshit” video that was filmed in the Louvre Museum.) “Don’t Jealous Me,” another standout segment, conjures up African tribal imageries that includes giant yellow python around the neck of certain people, including Beyoncé. “Water” is pure glam, with Beyoncé in outfits ranging from a stunning magenta gown to flared ’70s-styled denim with Rapunzel-length hair.

Although “The Lion King” takes place in Africa, and “Black Is King” is very Afro-centric, “Black Is King” was actually filmed around the world: Africa, New York, Los Angeles, London and Belgium. However, the movie prominently several African actors in the story segments, including Folajomi Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze, Nandi Madida, Warren Masemola, Sibusiso Mbeje, Fumi Odede, Stephen Ojo and Mary Twala.

Not everyone likes Beyoncé’s music. Not everyone likes the 2019 movie version of “The Lion King.” However, “Black Is King” is a perfect example of why Beyoncé is a superb entertainer who’s a major influence on pop culture while speaking out on issues that are important to her.

Disney+ premiered “Black Is King” in July 31, 2020.

Review: ‘Onward,’ starring Chris Pratt and Tom Holland

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) in “Onward” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

“Onward”

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Culture Representation: Taking place in a magical world (where almost everyone has an American accent), the main characters of the animated film “Onward” are mythical creatures, but there are some human characters with minor supporting roles.

Culture Clash: A recurring theme in the movie is the conflicts between modern customs versus the magical customs.

Culture Audience: “Onward” is a family-friendly movie that will appeal to anyone who likes an adventurous and heart-warming story.

Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) in “Onward” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

“Onward,” the first original film from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios since 2017’s “Coco,” won’t be winning any Oscars as “Coco” did, but it’s a solid animated film that will be a crowd-pleaser for people of various generations. The movie (directed by Dan Scanlon who wrote the screenplay with Keith Bunin and Jason Headley) spends most of the film as a Pixar version of a video game. The story is simple and straightforward, involving the main characters doing a series of challenges to get to a coveted treasure item. It isn’t until the last 15 minutes that “Onward” packs an emotional punch that shows the movie is a little deeper than a typical animated film.

In the beginning of the movie, which is narrated by teenage elf Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland), viewers learn that the world he lives in used to be filled with magic. But then modern technology took over, and magic became a antiquated custom that has been forgotten by numerous people in the world.

Ian lives with his kind and loving mother Laurel Lightfoot voiced by Julia-Louis Dreyfus) and his goofy older brother Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt). Laurel, who is a widow, has a “good guy” boyfriend named Colt Bronco (voiced by Mel Rodriguez), a centaur police officer. Ian and Barley’s father Wilden Lightfoot (voiced by Kyle Bornheimer) died when Ian was a bay and Barley was about three years old. Ian is about to turn 16, while Barley is 18 or 19. (His mother Laurel mentions that Barley is taking a “gap year.”)

Barley isn’t in school and he doesn’t seem to have a job, so he spends a lot of time at home being the kind of brother who often annoys Ian, who is studious and socially awkward. The two things that Barley is passionate about the most are his beat-up purple van that he’s named Guinevere and his encyclopedic knowledge of historical traditions in magic that hardly anyone around him seems to care about.

Barley also seems to be living in a “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”/”Wayne’s World” time warp, because he dresses and acts like a playful metalhead, just like those movies’ characters of Bill and Ted and Wayne and Garth. Guinevere is also decked out like something out of the late ’80s/ early ’90s, with the bumper stickers to prove it. Ian is often embarrassed by Barley, because he thinks of himself as intellectually superior to Barley, whose behavior is sometimes like a hyper puppy.

In one scene that shows the tension between the two brothers, Ian has worked up the nerve to ask some of his classmates to his upcoming 16th birthday party. He’s delighted when they say yes. But when Barley shows up at Ian’s school, he embarrasses Ian so much that Ian tells his classmates that the party has been cancelled. What Ian doesn’t tell his classmates is he doesn’t want them to be around Barley, who would be at the party.

For Ian’s birthday, he gets a wizard’s staff that his father Wilden had set aside for Ian to get specifically when Ian turned 16. He uses the staff to make a wish to bring his father back to life for 24 hours. But something goes wrong during the spell, and only the lower half of Wilden’s body (from the waist down) has come back to life. The upper half of his body exists but is invisible.

And so begins Ian and Barley’s race against time to find the magical item that will fully transform Wilden Lightfoot back to his normal self. The item that has the power to do that is a rare, mystical gem that’s hidden. For most of the film, Ian and Barley go off on a frantic quest to find the gem in time before their father disappears when the sun comes up. Just like a video game, they have to complete a challenge to get to the next level in the puzzle that will led them to the gem.

Along the way, they meet a lively group of characters, most notably the sassy Manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer), also known as a restaurateur named Corey. She’s the owner of Manticore’s Tavern, where she has gone to reinvent herself as a “respectable” member of society after having a wild past. Ian and Barley also encounter a biker gang of pixies that clash with the two brothers.

Meanwhile, the story takes on a “Weekend at Bernie’s” vibe when Ian and Barley have to dress the upper half of their father’s body, including making him wear sunglasses, so that they can see him better. Ian and Barley lead him around by a leash-like belt that’s wrapped around his waist. At times it looks a little creepy, but it’s all played for laughs. In his half-body state, Wilden can’t see or talk, but apparently he can hear sometimes. It’s a plot hole that has to be overlooked in order to enjoy this movie.

The visual effects in “Onward” are perfectly fine and much better than most animated films. But compared to other Pixar movies (such as the Oscar-winning “Toy Story” movies, “Up,” “Finding Nemo,” “Inside Out” and “The Incredibles”), “Onward” is on the lower end of the quality scale. And although “Onward” covers a lot of the same ideas that other “race against time” fantasy/adventure stories have done before, near the end of the film, one of the brothers does something slightly unpredictable that affects how he feels about his family. It’s a tear-jerking moment that a lot of viewers won’t see coming. And it wouldn’t be a Pixar movie if there isn’t a scene that’s meant to make people cry.

Disney/Pixar Animation Studios released “Onward” in U.S. cinemas on March 6, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Disney will make “Onward” available on digital and on Movies Anywhere, as of March 20, 2020, and on the Disney+ streaming service, as of April 3, 2020.

Disney Cruise Line announces Star Wars Day at Sea details for 2021

January 23, 2020

Disney Cruise Line's Star Wars Day at Sea
Disney Cruise Line’s Star Wars Day at Sea (Photo by Matt Stroshane)

The following is a press release from Disney Cruise Line:

With more than a dozen of the galaxy’s most formidable and heroic characters onboard, guests can meet with the best of the Resistance including Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2; come face-to-face with Darth Vader; and be on watch as Stormtroopers, Bounty Hunters and Jawas roam the ship.

Force-sensitive children learn the ways of the Jedi and use their new-found skills in a face-off against Darth Vader and Kylo Ren in Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. The whole family can celebrate the greatest moments from the Star Wars galaxy with the “Summon the Force” deck party, complete with a fireworks show of galactic proportions.

Costume celebrations, movie screenings, trivia sessions, the Star Wars Drawing Academy and a ship-wide Porg-themed adventure are more of the ways families can feel the Force on Star Wars Day at Sea. Unique food and beverage and special merchandise are also available on these sailings in early 2021.

Star Wars Day at Sea Itineraries

With cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, guests can celebrate their love of the Star Wars saga and enjoy tropical destinations, coupled with classic Disney magic and entertainment all week long onboard the Disney Fantasy. All Star Wars Day at Sea sailings make a stop in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests, home to pristine beaches, crystal blue waters and fun-filled leisure and recreational activities for all ages.

Star Wars Day at Sea will be offered on nine Disney Fantasy seven-night Caribbean cruises sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Departing Jan. 2, Jan. 16, Jan. 30, Feb. 13 and Feb. 27, the Western Caribbean itinerary includes Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.

Departing Jan. 9, Jan. 23 and Feb. 20, the Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay.

Departing Feb. 6, the Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, guests can visit http://www.disneycruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line at 888-325-2500 or contact their travel agent.

 

2019 D23 Expo: Photos and Videos

The 2019 edition of D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event took place August 23 to August 25, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Here are the star-studded  photo and video highlights from the event:

Disney Legends Awards

Robert Downey Jr. at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Diane Sawyer at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Robin Roberts at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Jon Favreau at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Christina Aguilera at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Ming-Na Wen at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Kenny Ortega at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Wing T. Chao at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Disney+ Preview

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” star Ewan McGregor and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“The Mandalorian” team Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Taika Waititi at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” stars Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp and Wyatt Russell at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Wanda Vision” team Matt Shakman, Jac Schaeffer, Kevin Feige, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Kat Dennings, Randall Park and Kathryn Hahn at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Diary of a Female President” co-star Gina Rodriguez, Disney+ showcase host Yvette Nicole Brown and “Diary of a Female President” co-star Tess Romero at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Encore!” host/executive producer Kristen Bell at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Noelle” star Anna Kendrick, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production president Sean Bailey and “Noelle” star Billy Eichner (pictured at right) at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“The World According to Jeff Goldblum” star Jeff Goldblum at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Lizzie McGuire” star Hilary Duff at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“High School Musical: The Series” stars at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Walt Disney Studios Movie Presentation

“Jungle Cruise” stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” team Billy Dee Williams, R2-D2, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Eternals” team Kevin Feige, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Angelina Jolie and Barry Keoghan at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Raya and the Last Dragon” stars Cassie Steele and Awkwafina at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Frozen 2” stars Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Frozen 2” stars Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Soul” stars Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad and Questlove at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Soul” stars Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“Onward” stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Miscellaneous Photos

Cast members from “Black-ish,” “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish”: Gary Cole, Jordan Buhat, Trevor Jackson. Toka Sumpter, Diggy Simmons, Miles Brown, Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Williams Childress, Christina Anthony, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jenifer Lewis, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Yara Shahidi, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Francia Raisa and Arica Himmel at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

“The Simpsons” team members Mike B. Anderson, Al Jean, Matt Groening, Nancy Cartwright and Matt Selman at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

2019 D23 Expo: Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and other Disney-owned movie studios announce updates

August 24, 2019

Walt Disney Studios co-chairman/chief creative officer Alan Horn at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The following is a press release from Walt Disney Studios:

The Walt Disney Studios—including studio leaders and filmmakers from Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Disney live action, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios—wowed an audience of nearly 7,000 this morning at D23 Expo 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. Alan Horn, cochairman and chief creative officer, The Walt Disney Studios—joined by Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige, Disney live action’s Sean Bailey, Pixar’s Pete Docter and Disney Animation’s Jennifer Lee—offered guests a captivating look at Disney’s upcoming film slate, including never-before-seen footage and a host of stars, plus a spectacular performance from “Frozen 2” voice cast members Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.

“You’re not just fans, you’re family,” said Horn to the packed room. “It’s because of you that we keep working so hard to make great movies, and we love D23 Expo because it’s where we can share them with you first.”

The presentation included the following highlights.

LUCASFILM

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and  director/producer/screenwriter J.J. Abrams  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” director/writer/producer J.J. Abrams showcased the riveting conclusion to the Skywalker saga. Kennedy and Abrams revved up the audience, introducing nine stars from the film —many of whom marked this as their first D23 Expo appearance: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams, plus special appearances from R2-D2, BB-8 and the new droid D-O. A brand-new poster was revealed—and gifted to the entire audience. And all were given a look back at the incredible legacy of Star Wars storytelling and treated to a sneak peek of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.

Billy Dee Williams, R2-D2, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

MARVEL STUDIOS

Director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, kicked off his presentation with a surprise visit from “Black Panther” director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. Together, they revealed that “Black Panther 2” (working title) will hit U.S. theaters on May 6, 2022.

Feige segued to next year’s “The Eternals,” inviting cast members from the muchanticipated film to the stage: Richard Madden, who portrays the all-powerful Ikaris; Kumail Nanjiani, who plays cosmic-powered Kingo; Lauren Ridloff, who portrays the super-fast Makkari, the first deaf hero in the MCU; Brian Tyree Henry, who plays the intelligent inventor Phastos; Salma Hayek, who plays the wise and spiritual leader Ajak; Lia McHugh, who portrays the eternally young, old-soul Sprite; Don Lee, who plays the powerful Gilgamesh; and Angelina Jolie, who stars as the fierce warrior Thena. Feige revealed concept art images of each character, and announced three new cast members and their characters: Gemma Chan, who plays humankind-loving Sersi; Kit Harington, who was cast as non-Eternal Dane Whitman, and Barry Keoghan, who portrays aloof loner Druig, and was on hand for the event. Directed by Chloé Zhao, who helmed the critically acclaimed Sundance film “The Rider,” “The Eternals” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 6, 2020.

Kevin Feige, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Angelina Jolie and Barry Keoghan at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Feige concluded with “Black Widow,” the Cate Shortland-directed first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which hits U.S. theaters on May 1, 2020. Feige shared a pre-recorded greeting featuring stars Scarlett Johansson, who reprises her role of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow; David Harbour, who was cast as Alexei the Red Guardian; and Florence Pugh, who plays Yelena. The audience was also treated to an exclusive look at the upcoming film.

DISNEY LIVE ACTION

Dwayne Johnson at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Emily Blunt at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Sean Bailey, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, took the audience through upcoming releases for the studio, including next summer’s “Jungle Cruise,” a rousing adventure inspired by the classic theme-park attraction. Star Dwayne Johnson, who plays riverboat captain Frank Wolff, entered Hall D23 aboard an original Jungle Cruise boat, introducing a “trailer” that showed off his character—so much so, that co-star Emily Blunt, who portrays Dr. Lily Houghton, arrived via classic car to share with fans her own “trailer,” offering a different perspective—Bailey laughingly informed Johnson and Blunt that neither trailer was official. Directed by Jaume ColletSerra, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” hits U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Bailey welcomed Angelina Jolie back to the stage to present exclusive footage and details about Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the exciting follow-up to the hit 2014 film. Maleficent, portrayed by Jolie, and her goddaughter Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and new dark forces at play. Aurora’s imminent marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration—however, Prince Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, challenges Maleficent’s role as Aurora’s mother figure. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Connal, one of the leaders of the dark fey who becomes Maleficent’s ally. Ejiofor, Pfeiffer and Fanning were all welcomed to the stage by an enthusiastic audience. Directed by Joachim Rønning, who co-helmed 2017’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” arrives in U.S. theaters on Oct. 18, 2019.

Director/screenwriter Niki Caro and Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production president Sean Bailey at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Bailey next introduced acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro, director of “Mulan,” the upcoming live-action reimagining of the 1998 classic animated film. Caro expressed to fans her passion for the project, sharing several minutes of footage from the epic adventure inspired by one of China’s fiercest warriors. In Disney’s “Mulan,” which opens in U.S. theaters on March 27, 2020, the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders. So, the eldest daughter of an honored but ailing warrior masquerades as a man, transforming into a heroic warrior to ultimately earn her the respect of a grateful nation and a proud father.

Emma Stone in “Cruella'” (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

Next up, Bailey shared details about “Cruella,” an all-new feature film starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. Stone, who plays the iconic “Cruella,” sent D23 Expo fans a greeting from the London-based set with help from a spotted, four-legged co-star. Fans also got a glimpse of an image of Stone in full costume with Cruella’s signature black-and-white hair. Director Craig Gillespie, who helmed “I, Tonya” and “The Finest Hours,” brings “Cruella” to the big screen on May 28, 2021, with a fresh, 1970s, punkrock approach.

PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS

Mike Jones, Kemp Powers, Dana Murray and Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer Pete Docter at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Pixar Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter guided the audience through Pixar’s upcoming film slate of originals. Docter began with next summer’s release, “Soul,” which he directs. The film journeys from the streets of New York City to the never-before-seen cosmic realms and “The You Seminar,” the fantastical place where we all discover our unique personalities. Producer Dana Murray, co-director/ writer Kemp Powers and writer Mike Jones joined Docter on stage, and together they set up the film for the audience and shared a sneak peek.

Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad and Questlove at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The team revealed members of the voice cast who joined them on stage, including Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx. Foxx lends his voice to Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. Fey plays 22, a soul-in-training who has an unexpected encounter with Joe when he accidentally finds his way to the “You Seminar.”

Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Together, the two are going to find a way to get Joe back to Earth, making him think again about what it truly means to have soul. Filmmakers also revealed that globally renowned musician Jon Batiste will be writing original jazz music for the film, and Oscar®-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”), from Nine Inch Nails, will compose an original score that will drift between the real and soul worlds. Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” opens in U.S. theaters on June 19, 2020.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, director Dan Scanlon, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt and producer Kori Rae at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Docter next introduced director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae, who shared details and more than ten minutes of exclusive footage from Pixar’s upcoming feature film “Onward.” The movie, which opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020, stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left in the world. Set in a modern fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” is inspired by Scanlon’s personal experiences with his brother. Holland, Pratt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus —who voices Mom in the movie—joined the filmmakers on stage—much to the delight of the audience, who all received an exclusive “Onward” poster.

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS

Dean Wellins, Osnat Shurer, Adele Lim and Paul Briggs at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee presented an overview of the studio’s next two features, beginning with the Thanksgiving 2020 fantasy-action-adventure, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Directors Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins (“Big Hero 6,” “Frozen”), producer Osnat Shurer (“Moana”) and writer Adele Lim (“Crazy Rich Asians”) joined Lee on stage to set up the film, which introduces Raya, a lone warrior from the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra who teams up with a crew of misfits in her quest to find the Last Dragon and bring light and unity back to their world.

Cassie Steele and Awkwafina at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The D23 Expo crowd was the first to get a look at the new film, viewing an exclusive three-minute piece. They also met two newly announced members of the voice cast: Awkwafina lends her voice to Sisu, the Last Dragon, who was left on Earth in case dark forces return to the world, and Cassie Steele voices the lead character, Raya. Exploring themes of community and hope, and inspired by the beautiful and diverse cultures of Southeast Asia, the fantasy-action-adventure “Raya and the Last Dragon” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 25, 2020.

Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Lee, who directs “Frozen 2” with Chris Buck, and wrote the screenplay, invited Buck to join her on stage as the Oscar®-winning duo revealed new details about the upcoming film, which opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22. Lee and Buck introduced two new “Frozen 2” cast members: Sterling K. Brown, who voices Lieutenant Destin Mattias, and Evan Rachel Wood, who voices Queen Iduna, Anna and Elsa’s mother.

Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The crowd— who received an exclusive D23 Expo “Frozen 2” poster—saw never-before-seen footage of the new characters, including a scene that featured Wood as Iduna singing to young Elsa and Anna. The song, “All Is Found,” is one of seven all-new original songs by Oscar®-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The audience also saw a sequence from the movie that showcased Elsa’s yearning for answers about the past, culminating in another song, “Into the Unknown.” And a climactic performance of the song “Some Things Never Change” by Menzel, Bell, Groff and Gad brought the audience to its feet, capping off the studio presentation in extraordinary style.

About The Walt Disney Studios
For more than 90 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company was built. Today, the Studio brings quality movies, music, and stage plays to consumers throughout the world.

About D23 Expo 2019
D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.
About D23 The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.
Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Family Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at D23.com. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

2019 D23 Expo: Walt Disney Studios, Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm programming announced

August 8, 2019

“Aladdin” (Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

The following is a press release from D23:

The Walt Disney Studios presents an exclusive look at its unparalleled film slate at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, taking place August 23–25.
At a marquee Hall D23 presentation hosted by The Walt Disney Studios Chief Creative Officer and Co-Chairman Alan Horn on Saturday, August 24, fans will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the Studios’ upcoming theatrical releases, including animated films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios and live-action projects from Disney, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm.

These studios are responsible for some of the world’s biggest movie hits, and past D23 Expos have been the site of some of the first-released details on blockbusters such as Disney’s Aladdin; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana and Zootopia; Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story 4; Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War; and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, along with unforgettable moments like the debut of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” sequence, live musical celebrations of Coco and Mary Poppins Returns, and a sprawling cast of Avengers assembling onstage.

Saturday’s showcase will feature never-before-seen footage, surprise appearances, and more. While the films to be featured in Hall D23 will remain under wraps until showtime, the Studios’ upcoming slate includes Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Mulan, and Jungle Cruise; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen 2; Pixar originals Onward and Soul; Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and The Eternals; and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and more.

HALL D23 PRESENTATIONS:

Go Behind the Scenes with The Walt Disney Studios
Saturday, August 24, 10 a.m., Hall D23

The Walt Disney Studios presents a behind-the-scenes look at its blockbuster collection of upcoming films. Fans will glimpse what’s on the drawing board for the acclaimed filmmakers at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios and get a peek at the exciting slate of live-action projects, from Disney to Marvel Studios to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars. As always, attendees will be treated to exclusive footage, special guest appearances, and more! Cell phones, cameras, and all recording devices will be checked for this presentation.

Disney on Broadway: A 25th Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, August 24, 3:30 p.m., Hall D23

Disney on Broadway is thrilled to return to D23 Expo to celebrate its 25th anniversary with an exclusive concert. Hosted by Tony Award®-nominee Gavin Lee (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast), the 75-minute concert will feature Heidi Blickenstaff (Freaky Friday, The Little Mermaid), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, On The Record), Kissy Simmons (The Lion King), Josh Strickland (Tarzan), and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King). A six-piece band, led by Jim Abbott, will accompany performers as they lead the audience through Disney on Broadway’s Tony Award-winning catalogue. The performance will feature songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aida, Tarzan®, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, Aladdin, Freaky Friday, and Frozen. (Talent is subject to change.)

Disney Character Voices, Inc: The 30th Anniversary Celebration
Sunday, August 25, 4:15 p.m., Hall D23

For 30 years, Disney Character Voices has kept the voices of Disney characters alive and well for fans through toys, games, apps, theme park attractions, and much more. Take a journey with Rick Dempsey, SVP of Character Voices, and many of those beloved voices—including Tony Anselmo (“Donald”), Jodi Benson (“Ariel”), Bill Farmer (“Goofy” and “Pluto”), Bret Iwan (“Mickey Mouse”), and Linda Larkin (“Jasmine”), with more special guests to be announced—as they step out from behind the microphone to celebrate this joyous anniversary through stories and amazing voices!

CALENDAR OF KEY EVENTS:

Great Moments with Walt Disney
Friday, August 23, 10:30 a.m., Archives Stage

Grammy®-winning producer Randy Thornton, Disney Music Group’s Supervising Producer and Music Historian, will present audio recordings of Walt Disney recalling the development of the first cartoon with synchronized sound, creating Disney’s first hit song, and meeting Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

“Vader Immortal” (Image courtesy of Lucasfilm)

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode II First Look
Friday, August 23, 2 p.m., Stage 28

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series lets you become the hero of your own personal adventure as you step into the role of a Force-sensitive smuggler recruited by Darth Vader himself. Director Ben Snow, Senior Experience Designer Jose Perez III, and Lucasfilm Story Group Creative Executive Matt Martin take the stage for an in-depth discussion about the upcoming second episode, including an exclusive sneak peek that will be available only to those at D23 Expo.

A Musical Celebration of Aladdin
Saturday, August 24, 5:30 p.m., D23 Expo Arena

To celebrate the in-home releases of the all-new live-action Aladdin and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Aladdin Walt Disney Signature Collection, hosts Scott Weinger (“Aladdin”) and Linda Larkin (“Jasmine”) take us on a musical magic-carpet ride through your favorite tunes from Aladdin both on stage and on screen. Special guests include Brad Kane (“Aladdin” singing voice), Deedee Magno Hall (“Jasmine” in Disney’s Aladdin—A Musical Spectacular), Jamal Sims (Choreographer, Aladdin live action), Clinton Greenspan (“Aladdin” on the North American tour), Lillias White (Hercules), and Norm Lewis (Scandal, The Little Mermaid on Broadway). You never know what surprises the Genie may conjure up.

The Little Mermaid: The 30th Anniversary Celebration!
Sunday, August 25, 10 a.m., D23 Expo Arena

Fans of the classic film are invited to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Little Mermaid, recognized around the world as one of the greatest animated films of all time. Hosted by the voice of Ariel herself, Jodi Benson, it will be an unforgettable “Under the Sea” celebration. Presented by H2O+.

Hidden Gems of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library: Preserving and Inspiring the Disney Legacy
Sunday, August 25, 12 p.m., Walt Disney Archives Stage

Fans will discover what it’s like to hold Disney history in their hands in this informative panel. The talented team at Walt Disney Animation Research Library (ARL) preserves millions of pieces of original Disney animation art from Steamboat Willie to the films of today. Attendees will learn how the ARL shares these hidden gems, inspiring artists and audiences alike.

The Art of Disney Storytelling
Sunday, August 25, 3 p.m., D23 Expo Arena

John Stamos hosts this panel of master storytellers—including Disney Legends Tony Baxter and Floyd Norman, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Paul Briggs (head of story, Frozen and Big Hero 6), and legendary producer Don Hahn—who will discuss Walt Disney’s impact on their careers and the entertainment industry, highlighting the ways they leverage those lessons to spark creativity today.

World Premiere: Walt Disney Animation Studios Presents Short Circuit
Sunday, August 25, 4 p.m., Stage 28

In this exciting panel, Walt Disney Animation Studios will debut Short Circuit, an experimental short film program that will debut in Spring 2020 on Disney+. Talented artists and filmmakers will share their films for the first time anywhere and give behind-the-scenes insights.

Two Worlds, One Family: The Making of Tarzan
Sunday, August 25, 5:45 p.m., D23 Expo Arena

Twenty years later, the team who brought the animated classic to life “swings” into the D23 Expo to give a behind-the-scenes look at how the Walt Disney Animation Studios film came to be! Guests include directors Chris Buck (Frozen 2) and Kevin Lima (Enchanted); animators Bruce W. Smith, Ken Duncan, and Disney Legend Glen Keane; and producer Bonnie Arnold, as well as a very special performance by Matthew Morrison (Glee) from his forthcoming Walt Disney Records album.

ALL WEEKEND ON THE D23 EXPO SHOW FLOOR

Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios

Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) and Pixar will once again team up for an immersive animation experience at D23 Expo. The studios’ upcoming slate of films, which include WDAS’ much-anticipated Frozen 2 and Pixar’s brand-new original feature film Onward, will be highlighted, including opportunities to meet the teams behind the movies and autograph signings of exclusive art and promotional item giveaways. Pixar Animation Studios will also introduce fans to a real-life version of Guinevere, the van from Onward. Decked out with crescent moon windows and a “Pegacorn” (part Pegasus, part unicorn) painted on her sides, Guinevere will offer guests a taste of the adventure that two teenage elf brothers will embark upon in the movie.

Disney on Broadway

Fans can celebrate Disney on Broadway’s milestone 25th anniversary by visiting the VR (virtual reality) theatre on the D23 Expo floor. The brand-new VR experience puts you center stage in Aladdin, Frozen, and The Lion King’s biggest Broadway production numbers, featuring Broadway’s Caissie Levy (Elsa), Major Attaway (Genie), Telly Leung (Aladdin), and Tshidi Manye (Rafiki).

Lucasfilm Pavilion

For the first time at D23 Expo, Lucasfilm will host a pavilion on the show floor with an impressive display showcasing the evolution of the Star Wars stormtrooper. The exhibit will include several of the screen-used costumes seen throughout the iconic movie series. From the classic stormtrooper to new designs featured in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, this stunning display is a rare opportunity to examine these production costumes up close and study the many unique styles deployed throughout a galaxy far, far away. Also featured in the Lucasfilm pavilion will be a special section for young Padawans that will include Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures video shorts, along with multiple interactive activities for kids.

Marvel Studios Pavilion

Inside the Marvel Studios Pavilion on the show floor, fans can step inside the action of Avengers: Endgame via a D23 Expo-exclusive video experience, and tour the costume gallery to see costumes worn by characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Throughout the weekend, Marvel Studios will host panel conversations with filmmakers and artists, as well as special talent signings inside the Pavilion. Fans can test their encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with daily trivia games for prizes.

Inside the World of Avatar

“Avatar” props (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

The astonishing world of Avatar is one of the most indelible ever created in film and a celebration of all that is possible in cinema and storytelling. Avatar’s visionary director, James Cameron, has created a spellbinding, immersive world that transports audiences to a never-before-imagined place inhabited by jaw-droppingly original characters. At D23 Expo 2019, the spectacular world of Avatar comes to life once again with rarely seen props, costumes, and models used in the making of Cameron’s groundbreaking film, paired with the iconic movie moments where they are brought to life. Fans will also get a glimpse at the making of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Walt Disney World Resort, making this one-of-a-kind exhibit, located on the second floor of the Anaheim Convention Center, a must-see stop for anyone who appreciates the very best in movie and theme park storytelling.

Disney Music Emporium – Album Signings and Exclusive Products

Disney Music Emporium, the online destination for collectible Disney music products, returns to D23 Expo 2019 with a pop-up store on the show floor. Over the three-day Ultimate Disney Fan Event, the Emporium will feature album signings by artists and award-winning composers. Limited quantities of a wide assortment of music products will be available, including new releases from Marvel and Lucasfilm, vinyl albums, die-cut picture disc vinyl, cassettes, Crosley turntables, cassette players, posters, and more. Additionally, visitors to Disney Music Emporium will be able to pre-order the Matthew Morrison Disney album. Album signings at the Disney Music Emporium shop include Oscar®- and Grammy®winning composer and Disney Legend Randy Newman (Toy Story films, The Princess and the Frog, Cars films); composer Tyler Bates (Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy); actor Anthony Gonzalez (voice of Miguel from Coco); singer-songwriter, actor, and dancer Matthew Morrison (Glee); plus Hollywood Records artist JD McCrary (voice of young Simba in The Lion King). Scheduled artists subject to change.

Single-day tickets for Sunday of D23 Expo 2019 are available for $89 for one-day adult admission and $69 for children ages 3–9. Gold Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club can purchase tickets for $79 for a one-day adult admission and $59 for children ages 3–9. Single-day Friday and Saturday tickets, as well as three-day passes, are sold out. For more information on tickets and D23 Expo 2019, visit D23Expo.com.

About The Walt Disney Studios
For more than 90 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company was built. Today, the Studio brings quality movies, music, and stage plays to consumers throughout the world.

About D23 Expo 2019
D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities.

For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.

About D23
The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.

Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Family Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at D23.com. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

2019 D23 Expo: ABC Entertainment announces programming lineup

July 25, 2019

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Henry Simmons, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge and Jeff Ward. (Photo by Matthias /ABC)

The following is a press release from ABC Entertainment:

Fans will laugh, cry and be tempted to bust a move when ABC brings their biggest stars of comedy, action and dance competition to D23 Expo 2019 this August. Be among the first to learn the secrets of what’s ahead on ABC’s hit series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; take a peek behind the curtain of the now-iconic Disney Night on “Dancing with the Stars”; travel to the “ish” universe, centered around groundbreaking comedy “black-ish”; and meet some of your favorite ABC stars inperson during special meet & greet/photo op sessions at D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event, Aug. 23-25, at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Presentations:

“Dancing with the Stars” and Disney!
Friday, Aug. 23, 10:00 a.m., D23 Expo Arena 

“Good Morning America”’s Ginger Zee hosts a behind-the-scenes peek into the most magical night in the ballroom: Disney Night! Join Ginger, show host Tom Bergeron, show judge Carrie Ann Inaba, Mirrorball champions Rashad Jennings and Jordan Fisher, and “Dancing with the Stars” executive producer Andrew Llinares for a celebration of the “Dancing with the Stars” and Disney connection. There may even be a hint at what’s to come on “Dancing with the Stars” 2019 this fall on ABC.

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Friday, Aug. 23, 3:00 p.m., D23 Expo Arena

Stars and executive producers from ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” come together to honor the past six seasons of the show while looking forward to the forthcoming thrilling conclusion of the series in summer 2020. Executive producer and head of Marvel Television, Jeph Loeb, will host the presentation with cast members Clark Gregg, new Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, and Jeff Ward as well as executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeff Bell.

The “ish” Universe: “black-ish,” “grown-ish” and “mixed-ish”
Saturday, Aug. 24, 3:00 p.m., D23 Expo Arena

Headlined by Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi and Tika Sumpter, the stars from ABC’s “black-ish,” Freeform’s “grown-ish” and ABC’s newest spinoff “mixed-ish” come together to highlight the expanding “ish” universe. Fans won’t want to miss this star-studded panel where anything could happen!

Following is the full schedule* of stars making special appearances in the Walt Disney Television booth throughout the weekend:

Friday, Aug. 23

2:00-3:00 p.m.
“Dancing with the Stars” stars past and present Ginger Zee, Carrie Ann Inaba, Tom Bergeron, Rashad Jennings and Jordan Fisher

5:00-6:00 p.m.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons and Jeff Ward, and executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jeff Bell and Jeph Loeb

Saturday, Aug. 24

1:00-2:30 p.m.
“black-ish,” “grown-ish” and “mixed-ish” stars to be announced.

*Schedule and participants subject to change.

Single-day tickets for Friday and Sunday of D23 Expo 2019 are available for $89 for one-day adult admission and $69 for children 3-9. Gold Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club can purchase tickets for $79 for a one-day adult admission and $59 for children 3-9. Single-day Saturday tickets and three-day passes are sold out. For more information on tickets and D23 Expo 2019, visit www.D23Expo.com.

About ABC Entertainment ABC Entertainment airs compelling programming across all day parts, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” the longest-running medical drama in prime-time television; riveting dramas “The Good Doctor,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “A Million Little Things” and “Station 19”; the Emmy® Award-winning “Modern Family” and trailblazing comedy favorites “American Housewife,” “black-ish,” “Bless This Mess,” “The Conners,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Schooled”; the
popular “Summer Fun & Games” programming block, including “Card Sharks,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Holey Moley” and “Press Your Luck”; star-making sensation “American Idol”; reality phenomenon “Shark Tank”; “The Bachelor” franchise; long-running hits “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”; “General Hospital,” which has aired for more than 55 years on the network; and late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”; as well as the critically acclaimed hit special ”Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons.’” The network also boasts some of television’s most prestigious awards shows, including “The Oscars®,” “The CMA Awards” and the “American Music Awards.”

ABC programming can also be viewed on ABC.com, the ABC app and Hulu.

About D23 Expo 2019 D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.

About D23 The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.   Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Family Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at D23.com. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

2019 D23 Expo: National Geographic annouces its first D23 programming

July 15, 2019

Alex Honnold in “Free Solo” (Photo by Jimmy Chin/National Geographic)

The following is a press release from National Geographic:

National Geographic joins Disney’s D23 Expo show floor for the first time, delivering unique experiences that inspire curiosity and exploration for fans of all ages. From free solo climbing to the top of El Capitan to exploring the “why” behind the “wow” behind our gray matter, National Geographic will immerse fans in adventure, ignite their curiosities about the world, and surprise them with stories unlike any they’ve seen before, harnessing the spirit of the iconic yellow border.

For the first time at D23 Expo, guests will engage with National Geographic’s wildly popular series, talent, explorers, and some very special guests—cuddly four-legged friends! National Geographic will also be supporting its Disney+ originals at D23 Expo. Details on experiences, talent appearances, and special signings in the National Geographic pavilion will be made available on the D23 Expo app and include the following:

• National Geographic is reaching new heights to accomplish the impossible. Kicking it off on Aug. 23 from 1 to 2 p.m., get inspired at a book signing with legendary rock climber Alex Honnold, featured in the Academy Award-winning film Free Solo, which documented his achievement of his lifelong dream: to climb the face of the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without a rope.

• Then, on Aug. 24 from 3 to 4 p.m., the doctor will see you now! His day isn’t complete unless he’s checked a cow for pregnancy or helped a goat with pneumonia. But it’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Jan Pol from Nat Geo WILD’s No. 1 series, The Incredible Dr. Pol. Hear his amazing animal stories, and cuddle up with his surprise guests—his cutest, furriest, four-legged friends!

• Chill out on Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to noon with Sue Aikens from multiple-Emmy-awardwinning series Life Below Zero, and hear about her jaw-dropping lifestyle in the remote corners of Alaska. Get a little taste of the subzero temperatures of Alaska while she signs autographs, takes pictures, and shares her incredible tales. • Throughout the weekend on the show floor, National Geographic is also creating a unique fan experience—Beneath the Blue—a breathtaking underwater world that will take you on an incredible journey to explore the oceans and learn more about the impact of singleuse plastic on marine life.

In addition, National Geographic will present incredible panels during D23 Expo, including WOMEN OF IMPACT: Meet the Nat Geo Explorers Changing the World on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 to 11 a.m. on Stage 28, featuring women on the front lines of exploration, conservation, and storytelling. They pilot submarines, get up close with lions, tigers, and bears—and even breakdance! Join submersible pilot and founder of a girls’ underwater camp Erika Bergman; multimedia storyteller and Planet or Plastic ambassador Lilly Sedaghat; and large-carnivore expert Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to become the next game-changing explorer!

Then, on Sunday, Aug. 25, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the D23 Expo Arena, fans will get a first look at the reboot of Brain Games, National Geographic’s wildly popular series, during Power Up Your Brain With Keegan-Michael Key. Ignite your brain power and play some fun, mindbending, interactive challenges with Brain Games host Keegan-Michael Key (Toy Story 4, The Lion King) as he shows you the “why” behind the “wow.” Joining him on stage will be top-class mentalist Lior Suchard, who will no doubt deliver fans an engaging and mind-blowing experience. Explore your mind’s mad skills during this workout of your 3-pound slimy blob!

Single-day tickets for Friday and Sunday of D23 Expo 2019 are available for $89 for one-day adult admission and $69 for children ages 3-9. Gold Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club can purchase tickets for $79 for a one-day adult admission and $59 for children ages 3-9. Singleday Saturday tickets and three-day passes are sold out. For more information on tickets and D23 Expo 2019, visit D23Expo.com.

National Geographic Partners LLC
National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between Disney and the National Geographic Society, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure, and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 131 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation, and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

About D23 Expo 2019
D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.