Studio’s upcoming live-action slate.
By Jim Vejvoda
The Walt Disney Studios showcased more than just Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios at today’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. The studio’s many other notable upcoming live-action projects were presented there.
First up was The Finest Hours, the true story of the most daring rescue mission in U.S. Coast Guard history. The movie’s star Chris Pine was on hand to promote the film, wherein he plays Bernie Webber, the captain of the rescue boat.
The Finest Hours is directed by Craig Gillespie and also stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz and Eric Bana. The movie will be presented in the fully-immersive formats of Digital 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D.
Iron Man director Jon Favreau came out to show off his live-action retelling of Disney’s The Jungle Book. He was joined by actors Neel Sethi, the newcomer who plays man-cub Mowgli, as well as Oscar winners Ben Kingsley (the voice of the panther Bagheera) and Lupita Nyong’o (who voices Mowgli’s protective mother wolf Raksha).
The footage shown, while incomplete, nevertheless showcased the movie’s cutting edge visual effects that will bring a talking Baloo (Bill Murray), Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), Shere Khan (Idris Elba), and King Louie (Christopher Walken) to life. The Jungle Book opens in 3D and IMAX 3D on April 15, 2016.
Next up was actress Mia Wasikowska, who presented attendees with a preview of the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass. The footage, while definitely boasting plenty of green screen, definitely had more concrete, real world elements than its much derided, but nevertheless billion dollar-grossing predecessor Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton is just producing this one, with Muppets director James Bobin taking the helm this time.
In this sequel, Alice (Wasikowska) returns to Underland and then travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). He is literally growing darker, appearing nearly black and white at one point in the footage. Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter are back as the White Queen and Red Queen, respectively, as are voice cast members Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. New characters include Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans), the Mad Hatter’s father, and Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), a peculiar creature who is part human, part clock. Alice Through the Looking Glass opens domestically on May 27, 2016, and will be presented in Digital 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D.
Jurassic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard was up next to talk about starring in Pete’s Dragon, a reimagining of the classic Disney family film. The adventure follows an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon. Pete’s Dragon is directed by David Lowery, and also stars Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford. Pete’s Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016. It should be noted that the brief sizzle reel for the film didn’t actually reveal the look of the dragon, only a shot of Pete’s hand reaching out to touch its back.
The presentation then steered away from genre fare to a true life drama, Queen of Katwe, which saw Lupita Nyong’o return to the stage to talk about the Mira Nair-directed film. Queen of Katwe is about a girl (Medina Nalwanga) from the poverty-stricken slums of rural Uganda who dreams of becoming a champion chess player.Selma’s David Oyelowo plays the missionary who discovers this young chess prodigy.
Disney also touted their upcoming remake of their animated musical classic Beauty and the Beast, which will feature a hybrid of live-action and CG-animated characters. The Bill Condon-directed movie is still shooting in the UK, but cast members Emma Watson (Belle), Josh Gad (LeFou) and Luke Evans (Gaston) sent a pre-recorded greeting to D23 attendees. Gad and Evans even sang a bit of the “Gaston” song. Alas, no footage or images of Dan Stevens as the Beast.
The cast also includes Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald and newcomer Nathan Mack. Alan Menken, who won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Song for the original film, provides the score, which will include new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Tim Rice, as well as several new songs. Beauty and the Beast opens stateside March 17, 2017.