D23: James Cameron unveils ‘Avatar 2,’ Harrison Ford retires from ‘Indiana Jones’
Exclusive footage, major announcements and surprise guests are some of the ways Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Studios excited fans about the future of their respective franchises during Walt Disney Studios’ second panel presentation at D23 Expo on Saturday.
Among the marquee presentations of Disney’s celebration of everything Disney, the studio showcase at the Anaheim Convention Center saw the current creatives behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Star Wars” and more take center stage to tease upcoming film and TV projects.
After pandemic delays, closures and financial burdens, the Walt Disney Co. has been working its way back to normalcy, a moment reflected by the return of its typically biennial fan convention the D23 Expo to the Anaheim Convention Center.
Disney already kicked the fan convention off in style Friday with its first studio showcase. In a presentation that opened with a performance of “When You Wish Upon A Star” by “Pinocchio’s” Cynthia Erivo, Disney live-action, Pixar and Disney Animation shared news and footage from films including “Hocus Pocus 2,” “Disenchanted,” “Mufasa: The Lion King,” “The Haunted Mansion,” “Snow White,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Elemental” and “Strange World.” Among Pixar’s announcements were its next feature, “Elio,” an extra-terrestrial adventure about a young boy who makes first contact with aliens, as well as the return of Riley and her emotions in “Inside Out 2.” Not to be outdone, Disney Animation announced that it will celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary with a new animated musical inspired by the studio’s signature wishing star. Then Ariana DeBose, who will voice the lead Asha in “Wish,” closed out the presentation with a performance of a song from the upcoming film, which will hit theaters in 2023.
Saturday, the attention turned to Marvel’s portion of the presentation, which hyped the remaining projects of Phase 4 of the MCU, namely “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” But since the studio laid out its plans for Phase 5 and 6 during its panel at San Diego Comic-Con in July, its part in the morning’s festivities was relatively muted.
In Hall H, Marvel Studios gave a glimpse of what’s next for the MCU — in Phases 4, 5 and 6. Here’s what we learned.
Similarly, new footage of much-anticipated projects such as “The Mandalorian” Season 3 and “Ahsoka” were shown at Star Wars Celebration in May, and the premiere of “Andor” is coming up later this month — so the most news to come out of the Lucasfilm portion of the presentation focused on its upcoming “Willow” series and the fifth “Indiana Jones” film, which Harrison Ford announced would be his last in the franchise.
As for 20th Century Studios, all eyes were on anything and everything “Avatar 2,” which closed the presentation with a bang. Below, find our moment-by-moment updates and analysis from the Marvel, Lucasfilm and 20th Century presentations at D23 Expo.
12:35 p.m. With no updates on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” holiday special, the panel moves on to the highly anticipated, long-awaited “Avatar 2.” James Cameron, beamed in via video from New Zealand, says, “Hopefully you’ll see something today and decide whether it’s all been worth it.”
Stars Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington are among those present, and when asked about what it’s like to play parents now that they are parents, Worthington says, “The whole movie is about family... protecting a family love.” (A fine sentiment, but this panel could use more Sigourney Weaver.)
3D glasses are passed out for a first glimpse at “Avatar: The Way of Water,” in theaters Dec. 16. Multiple scenes from the film are screened, attempting to show its breadth — starting with a patient exploration of a coral reef that provoked audible “oohs” as puffy, blue and white fish swam out toward the audience. The footage then segued to a family scene and a vision of war, offering glimpses of new characters and hints at old foes. Even gunfire erupts in multicolored orange hues in Cameron’s world.
Cameron unveiled about eight minutes of footage from the long-awaited ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ during Disney’s expo Saturday. Here’s what to know.
11:32 a.m. As for the rest of the Marvel Studios lineup? There’s lots to report.
- A teaser for “Ironheart” introduces RiRi Williams, played by Dominque Thorne, and her relationship to the Hood, played by Anthony Ramos. Feige says they’re not even halfway through filming.
- Paul Rudd appears with Evangeline Lilly and Jonathan Majors in support of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumMania” (but spend a not-small amount of time talking about Rudd’s title as the sexiest man alive). In a teaser, we learn that a device built to communicate with those in the quantum realm leads (not unsurprisingly) to trouble, namely being sucked into the quantum realm and meeting Bill Murray and Kang (Majors), among others.
- Halloween special “Werewolf by Night,” from first-time director (and longtime composer) Michael Giacchino, hits Disney+ next month. Giacchino and stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Laura Donnelly have brought the very first trailer for it — which promises a black-and-white, old-school TV special. We also see a trailer for “Secret Invasion” and hear how it will tee up “Armor Wars.”
- Marvel newcomer Ke Huy Quan, recently seen in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” joins Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson and Sophia DiMartino to present “Loki” Season 2, now filming in London, and kicks off with a joke: “I’m so confused right now. Is this not the Indiana Jones panel?” the “Temple of Doom” star asks. Owen Wilson compares Season 2 of “Loki” to the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime,” noting that David Bryne’s questions and panic — “How did I get here?’ — capture the vibe.
- Feige confirms that “Fantastic Four,” directed by “WandaVision’s” Matt Shakman, is at least two years away: Nov. 8, 2024.
- Speaking through a sign-language interpreter, “Echo” star Alaqua Cox, joined onstage by Devery Jacobs, Vincent D’Onofrio, and others, marvels at the fact that this is only her second role. The hearing members of the cast say that learning ASL for the series has been an incredible experience. Feige gets the audience to cheer for Cox in ASL too. D’Onofrio stays on stage, joined by a different Cox (Charlie), to mark the return of “Daredevil.”
- While Florence Pugh is not on the press tour for “Don’t Worry Darling,” she did beam in to D23 via video for “Thunderbolts,” which also stars Sebastian Stan — just after Stan’s “Falcon and Winter Soldier” costar Anthony Mackie teased “Captain America: New World Order.”
- The first time all of the Marvels — Iman Vellani, Teyona Parris, Brie Larson — are on stage together, for (you guessed it) “The Marvels,” has Vellani plenty excited: “I’m having trouble breathing today, it’s great,” the “Ms. Marvel” star says.
11:21 a.m. Ryan Coogler takes the stage to discuss “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” saying he’s heading back to the cutting room after this to finish the film.
In an exclusive look at the movie, we see Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), mother of T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), talking about vibranium — and how she knows the rest of the world wants it and thinks now is the time to strike Wakanda to get it. (The footage also highlights the Dora Milaje warriors as a force to be reckoned with as they beat the soldiers that raid a lab to try to steal vibranium.) Even Feige himself says Bassett kicks ass in the clip.
Cast members present are Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett and Tenoch Huerta. “We are back,” says Duke.
“I’m most excited about you guys seeing the beautiful story that Mr. Ryan Coogler has put his heart into,” Wright adds, noting how excited she is that the Wakanda family has expanded. And she expects “my bro [Boseman] to look down on us” all the while.
At D23, “Black Panther Wakanda Forever” actors Tenoch Huerta and Winston Duke talk about Namor and how the character can help bring more reality and representation to the MCU.
11:14 a.m. Kevin Feige, he’s just like us! The Marvel Studios honcho begins his presentation by saying, “I’m shell-shocked, we just saw ‘Indiana Jones’ footage.”
Before launching into any announcements, though, “Rogers: The Musical” — a Captain America gag from Marvel’s “Hawkeye” series — breaks into a full-on musical number on stage, with more than a dozen actors singing a song based around a chorus of “Avengers assemble.” It’s rock musical schmaltz, with wailing guitars and larger-than-life Andrew Lloyd Webber-like choruses. And the audience eats it up.
11:06 a.m. The “Indiana Jones” logo appeared on the screen to D23 Expo roars, with director James Mangold, who shouts out his collaborators on the project, including Steven Spielberg (who he calls one of his “all-time favorite” directors), George Lucas, Harrison Ford and John Williams. The film is being scored at this moment, according to Mangold.
“I found myself living out a fantasy I had in high school, wondering what it would feel like to direct one of these pictures,” Mangold says.
The audience cheers throughout a teaser for the film, cresting with the iconic “Indiana Jones” theme and reaching fever pitch with the appearance of stars Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “I’m very proud to say that this one is fantastic,” Ford says, “and this is one of the reasons” — as he points to Waller-Bridge.
The trailer focuses heavily on action sequences with Ford and Waller-Bridge — car jumping, running atop trains and a scene in which Ford on a horse is dodging an oncoming train. The clip ends with a callback to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when Ford, whip in hand, stares down a gunman.
“Indiana Jones movies are about mystery and adventure but they’re also about heart,” Ford says, before announcing that this will be his last “Indiana Jones” film. “We have a really human story to tell as well a movie that will really kick your ass. … This is it. I will not fall down for you again.”
10:48 a.m. Do you remember before Baby Yoda? We do not. And “The Mandalorian” Season 3 is up. Whether you call him Grogu, Baby Yoda or the Child, get ready for more of your favorite space dad/kid adventures. Rick Famuyiwa, director turned “Mandalorian” EP, says, “This has been a dream of mine since I first saw the film, the first film I ever saw in a movie theater … ‘Star Wars’ has shaped my life as a person, as a filmmaker … this has been an incredible full-circle moment to be able to tell stories in this world.”
But it’s not just Mando himself, Pedro Pascal, in attendance. Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) is here! Bo-Katan Kryze
(Katee Sackhoff) is here! Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) is here! The Armorer (Emily Swallow) is here! Swallow just met Sedaris 10 minutes ago and says she is freaking out inside and just wants a scene between the Armorer and Peli Motto — get the fanfic presses warmed up!
Swallow discusses pulling on her family history to get into her character: “My father was a military man ... the thing that was most frightening to me was when I had done something wrong” and he knew it and he “did nothing at all.” She said, “That made me look inward and have self-reflection and think about what I needed to learn ... That’s one of the ways the Armorer functions.”
Sedaris cuts in: “So you’re saying she has daddy issues?”
Sedaris also addresses the humor her character brings to the series. “I’m getting laughs and I don’t even know why I’m getting a laugh,” she says. (When she’d ask if she could improvise, she’d be told, “Amy, they don’t say that in space.”)
Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is the presence of Babu Frik, and the tantalizing possibility of Babu Frik/Grogu scenes together.
Here’s the teaser for Season 3, coming in February 2023.
10:44 a.m. In case you didn’t know already: Jude Law is in a “Star Wars” project! The Jon Watts-helmed “Skeleton Crew,” in fact, “about a group of kids who get lost in the Star Wars galaxy.” Law comes out on stage to greet the audience. “I can’t quite believe I’m a part of this universe,” he says.
10:40 a.m. It’s time for “Ahsoka,” starring Rosario Dawson. Filoni brings out director Jon Favreau, who notes that the last time they were here for D23, Disney+ hadn’t launched yet — nobody had seen any of “The Mandalorian.” Favreau explains that the idea of introducing Ahsoka through “The Mandalorian” was a way to see how the audience would react.
According to Filoni, a lot of people on the “Ahsoka” crew grew up watching “Clone Wars,” so it’s been fun for him to see their reaction to “Ahsoka, and how much they care about the character.
10:36 a.m. Master “Star Wars” storyteller Dave Filoni is introduced, in all his cowboy-hatted glory. The franchise’s animated offerings are first up, including Season 2 of “The Bad Batch” (premiering Jan. 4, 2023) and “Tales of the Jedi,” a collection of six shorts — three about Ahsoka, three about Dooku — out Oct. 26. (Filoni goes out of way to express his love of Ahsoka.)
Charles Murray, who worked with Filoni on “Clone Wars,” was a contributing writer on “Tales of the Jedi,” and Kennedy compares the quality of animation in the series to that of famed Japanese artist Hayao Miyazaki. The trailer is here, so you can judge that for yourself:
10:25 a.m. Kennedy calls “Willow,” the forthcoming TV adaptation of Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy film an “amazing, magical adventure,” before introducing actor Warwick Davis, who plays the title character. “The force is strong in here,” quips Davis, who brings out the “Willow” cast. “Sorry, that’s one of my other franchises.” The cast, including Ruby Cruz, Erin Kellyman and Ellie Bamber, promises an abundance of sword fights and emphasizes the aggressive pluckiness of their characters. Cruz, for instance, describes her character Kit as “defiant, angsty” and “trying to figure it out.”
Christian Slater, who also appears in the series, comes out on stage and calls Davis a “legend.” “I love the fantasy, the sci-fi, just getting to be a part of this show was an absolute dream come true,” Slater says. He adds that “we came up with stuff on the spot,” noting he was allowed to improvise quite a bit in his role. He and Davis joke that the words of the writers weren’t always treated as sacred.
The trailer teases magix, swordfighting, and the group journey.
10:13 a.m. Lucasfilm is first up. President Kathleen Kennedy has taken the stage to “share what’s ahead for ‘Star Wars’ and beyond” — starting with “Andor,” one of our most anticipated TV shows of the fall, premiering Sept. 21 on Disney+.
After a recap of what the rebellion was up against before hope was found (a highlight reel of “Rogue One”), “Andor” cast members Diego Luna, Genevieve O’Reilly, Kyle Soller and Adria Arjona hit the stage. “It’s about the awakening of a revolutionary. … It’s about bringing change,” Luna says. Soller says it’s great to join the line of “Star Wars” villains you love to hate, and Arjona teases Andor and her character Bix’s “complicated” past. Luna then introduces the final trailer for “Andor” — it’s the first time even the cast is seeing it.
10:08 a.m. After blasting “Hooked on a Feeling” — a sign of “Guardians of the Galaxy” news to come? Or Ally McBeal’s entry into the MCU? — the morning’s panel kicks off with a Disney 100 sizzle reel and opening remarks by Alan Bergman, chairman of Disney Studios Content: “The biggest films ever released have come from these three studios here today.”
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