The 2019 edition of the D23 Expo is in the books, having taken place from August 23–25, 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Just like the previous 5 expos, a lot of announcements were made, celebrities were celebrated, and basically a whole lot of Disney fans were excited to be Disney fans. With so many instant takes appearing on social media in reaction to every small detail released - be it for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney+, Disney Cruise Line, live action and animated movies, etc. - I wanted to take a moment to highlight what continues to excite me after having a bit of time to process it all.
1. Disney+: Something for Everyone
While there are already many options for streaming services, I was excited when Disney first announced they would be launching their own, just due to the back catalog of amazing classic shows and movies. This feeling was amplified when more information came out about some of the new original programing being developed for the service. Following the Disney+ panel at the D23 2019 Expo, I am more convinced than ever that the service will be amazing - and not just for "die hard" Disney fans. It really does seem like it will have something for everyone.
For Star Wars and Marvel fans: While we knew one of the first new shows to appear on the service would be "The Mandalorian," a Star Wars series created by Jon Favreau, with Dave Filoni as executive producer, I don't think we were fully prepared for the quality that it will be until the trailer for it dropped at the Disney+ panel. Hello there ... one of the biggest news items from the panel was the return of Ewan McGregor to play the title role of an upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. On the Marvel side, we got some more color around a number of series that we already knew were coming, but we also received the announcement of three additional series: Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She Hulk.
For people that grew up with the Disney Channel: We got more information and footage of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," and then the big news that Hillary Duff will reprise her role as Lizzie McGuire in a new show that will feature Lizzie as an adult living in NYC, but still with the 13-year old animated version of herself in her head. On top of this, we will be getting an all new Phineas and Ferb movie titled Phineas and Ferb – The Movie – Candace Against the Universe. For Families: Tony Hale will be reprising his role of Forky from Toy Story 4 in the series "Forky Asks a Question." We also gained new information on the "Monsters at Work" series which will premiere in 2020 and will be focused on Tylor and Millie and a changing world in which the monsters are shifting away from generating power from children screaming and into one where power it is generated by children’s laughter. A live action Lady and the Tramp will be coming to the service, along with a new original holiday movie, Noelle, starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, and Billy Eichner. The service will also contain an unscripted Muppets series entitled "Muppets Now," as well as "Encore," which will see Kristen Bell bring classmates together to re-create the productions they originally put on in high school.
Those who want a behind-the-scenes look at Disney: One Day at Disney was the surprise project that Disney teased before the expo and will be a documentary style show giving you an inside look at the lives of cast members from around the world. The "Walt Disney Imagineering Documentary Series" "looks at the more than 65-year history of Walt Disney Imagineering through parallel storylines focused on the people, the craft, and the business ... [and will] feature exclusive interviews and never-before-seen footage from Disney parks around the globe.”
For everyone: "The World According to Jeff Goldblum." Who doesn't want to listen to Jeff Goldblum talk about, well, anything?
2. Star Wars Rises
It has been a time of uncertainty for Star Wars fans. While there have been some high points since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, there has also been a mixed response to many recent offerings. This this all went away for many during during a few moments of the D23 2019 Expo when, at least temporarily, we all became enchanted Star Wars fans again.
A poster and clip from the upcoming movie Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was revealed, and it reminded all of us what we love about the Star Wars films, but it also teased a pretty big event for the final act in the Skywalker saga. Was it a red herring or a view of what truly is to come? I don't know, but it has me way more excited for this film than before seeing this clip. In addition, footage was shown of the second attraction in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Rise of the Resistance, which is scheduled to open December 5, 2019 in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, and January 17, 2020 at Disneyland. What is depicted in this footage is awe inspiring, and, if the actual, daily experience can deliver what was shown, this looks to be a true game changer in the theme park industry. For Star Wars fans, December cannot come soon enough!
3. Original Animation
Of late is has felt that Disney films have relied a bit too much on "live action remakes" and sequels. Given this, it was really exciting to see that after Frozen 2, the next 3 animation releases from Disney Animation and Disney-Pixar will all be original stories.
From Disney Animation, coming in November 2020, will be Raya and the Last Dragon, starring Cassandra Steele (Raya) and Awkwafina (Sisu, the Last Dragon). From the little we saw, it looks to be visually stunning, and I am excited to see a film that takes place in a land inspired by Southeast Asia. From Disney-Pixar, we are getting Onward (March 16,2010) and Soul (June 19, 2020). The former is set in a fantasy world where two teenage elf brothers (voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic in their world. The later is perhaps the most conceptual film Pixar studios have ever done, and focuses on Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle school teacher, who suffers an accident which causes his soul to be separated from his body and transported to the "You Seminar," a center in which souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. There is certainly no way that anyone can say there is nothing original in animation coming from Disney in 2020!
4. A New Future for Epcot
Going into the D23 2019 Expo, it was anticipated that we could get updates about changes to Epcot - and, well, we got them (even if not the specific announcements many were expecting). Some of the more significant announcements include the somewhat surprising addition of Cherry Tree Lane and an attraction based on Mary Poppins being added to the United Kingdom Pavilion in World Showcase, details around the Play Pavilion (replacing what was the Wonders of Life pavilion), and a significant update coming to Spaceship Earth which will shift the focus from the development of communications methods to that of storytelling.
But an even bigger shift is happening to the park overall - particularly the front half. Gone is the name "Future World," in its place are three "neighborhoods" - World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature - to be paired with the existing World Showcase. World Celebration will bring about the most signification changes to the look and feel of the park as Innoventions West will be demolished and replaced with a significant increase in green space. Part of this will include Dreamers Point with new statue of Walt Disney, a Wishing Tree, and a new interactive fountain. At the end of Dreamers Point will be the newly constructed World Showcase Plaza which will have three levels, the top of which will be a park setting that will provide amazing views of Epcot's nighttime show.
While there are a lot of changes coming to Epcot, the future of this area looks to be a welcome update for all who love this park.
5. Rohde Island
One piece of news related to Disney Cruise Line was the reveal of the name of the first of the three new ships to come, the Disney Wish. Bigger than this, perhaps, is the official announcement from Disney that they will have a second private tropical destination, Lighthouse Point, on the island of Eleuthera. What truly excited many Disney fans was the fact that it is a team led by famed Imagineer Joe Rohde that will be designing and developing the project.
Joe and team want this to be an authentic experience inspired by the actual culture and nature of the Bahamas - and seeing the realization of past projects led by Joe (Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in particular), expect the end result of this to be nothing short of spectacular and truly unique among cruise line destination. Construction will not start until a full "Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are reviewed and accepted by the Government of The Bahamas and public consultation has occurred. Construction could begin in 2020 with completion in late 2022 or 2023" (source: Disney Parks Blog).
The D23 Expo is always such a thrilling time for Disney Fans. While the 2019 edition perhaps didn't feature the same level of major parks announcements as in 2017, there was still a plenty of new information and details that did come out to get us all excited. What are you most looking forward to?