Monday, August 17, 2015

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Disney Rollout

This past weekend, all eyes of the cinema world turned towards the Mouse House, as Disney rolled out their impressive lineup of upcoming films and projects at their biennial exposition event known as D23. Disney wowed audiences and dominated social media for the weekend as they revealed footage from their upcoming Marvel super-flicks DR. STRANGE and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, along with news and tidbits from their upcoming Pixar slate which includes this year’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR, along with FINDING DORY, TOY STORY 4, COCO, CARS 3, and THE INCREDIBLES II. Other cake-toppers included news from the fifth entry in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, along with ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and the formal announcement of a STAR WARS theme park headed for Disneyland and Disneyworld. 

Even with such a flood of material to swim through, the most interesting news out of the expo concerned two of Disney’s prime properties; one of which is new to the company, the other an oldie but a goodie…


Footage was shown of Disney’s new live-action version of the Rudyard Kipling classic. This take, which is said to be a blending of the book and the 1967 animated version, stars the voice talents of Bill Murray (as Baloo the Bear), along with Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, and Lupita Nyong’o (12 YEARS A SLAVE). The film will be taking advantage of the photo-realistic technology pioneered by James Cameron for AVATAR, and is slated for a 2016 release. 

This new version is being directed by Jon Favreau, whose directing credits have ranged from excellent (IRON MAN, CHEF), to just-ok (ELF) to ho-hum (COWBOYS AND ALIENS). Favreau is in good hands with Disney, who should have a very good grasp on the material by now after over 40 years of films, books, and TV adventures. The usage of the AVATAR tech promises an eye-popper, and Bill Murray as the Bear is a nice touch. 


No matter what Disney does these days, the conversation will always come back to their newly acquired mega-franchise, perhaps the biggest of them all…STAR WARS. The first big announcement concerning that beloved far, far away galaxy is that director Colin Trevorrow is set to direct STAR WARS EPISODE IX, which is set for a 2019 release. Trevorrow’s most recent directing credit is this year’s box office monster JURASSIC WORLD; which as of this weekend is the third highest-grossing film of all time in the both North American and the world…as well as the highest-grossing film of the 2010’s. 

Trevorrow’s success in JURASSIC WORLD cannot be measured on the box office numbers alone, no matter how impressive they are. The film was good but didn’t present much new, but that really isn’t Trevorrow’s fault; after all, when humans and dinosaurs get together there’s only one thing can happen. But JURASSIC WORLD, for as redundant as it was, was a great deal of fun with a lot of energy; by far it was never boring to watch…and that is an essential element to making a STAR WARS film. 


The last bit of STAR WARS news concerns the first stand-alone film, sub-titled ROGUE ONE. The film, which takes place before the events of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE, is set for a 2016 release. The news revolved around the announcement of the full-cast, which includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, and Forest Whitaker. A cast-photo was released: 

Observant fans may recognize those stone walls. The film is said to set up the events in EPISODE IV; specifically, the stealing of the Death Star plans. It is in essence a prequel, and this is the type of storytelling which tends to be met with a collective groan from certain factions of fans. An argument can be made there’s no fun in the telling of a story in which the ending is already known, but a better argument can be made that it is the journey that counts over the destination. 


Learn more about Disney’s D23 here 


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