By now Walt Disney Studios has garnered the enthusiasm and trust of its audience and that was no less evident at this year’s presentation for Cinemacon 2018. The crowd I was in was very vocal about its appreciation of their work. The beginning of the overall presentation was dedicated to basic numbers of attendance and profitability for the industry as a whole. Movies are bringing people in droves more than ever; and that is particularly true of the international audience where, this past decade or longer, there has been an increase of 5% in box office each year. Disney can take credit for a sizable portion of the $40.6 billion global box office last year, $6.5 billion to be exact. Marvel alone with its currently released 18 films over the last ten years has accumulated $14.8 billion. It can’t be understated that the acquisition of Lucasfilm and Marvel has been highly lucrative for Disney’s bottom line, but it should also be noted that their presence in the Disney empire has helped to foster creativity and diversity. Something Alan Horn(Chairman of Walt Disney Studios) and Kathleen Taff(Head of Distribution) made sure to point out. So with all the accolades of Walt Disney Studios out of the way, here is a brief rundown of their upcoming slate for 2018 and 2019.
Avengers: Infinity War
We were given an expanded scene of the Guardians of the Galaxy meeting Thor for the first time in outer space. The familiar James Gunn humor married well with Taika Waititi’s newly remodeled Thor. The interactions of all the characters were terrific and the chemistry remained strong throughout. The scene avoids the eventual drama of Thanos’ arrival by providing a momentary injection of delightful levity the Guardians are known for. Hopefully, the positive, fun vibes will not be misplaced and be a part of the overall story in bringing Thanos down, seeing as the only thing anyone is talking about now is who will die. Avengers: Infinity War, where the quest to identify and find the infinity stones comes to a conclusion, will be one of the biggest box office blockbusters of all time. Directed by the Russo Brothers, this film arrives in theaters this Friday.
Antman and the Wasp
A newly expanded trailer showed us Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly’s characters fighting side by side as they set out on a mission of some sort. That mission is not yet known, but the action scenes provided to us are unreal and unpredictable. Seeing objects and people shrink and expand in an instant gives each scene a jolt of excitement. The addition of Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne isn’t a bad thing either. There is a brief, hilarious scene involving Rudd, Fishburne, and Lilly that made me laugh. Also, Michael Pena is back and I’m sure will have a memorable moment or two. Antman and the Wasp, directed by Peyton Reed, should have no insecurities following the behemoth that is the Avengers because it is its own subgenre with a completely different personality. This film comes out July 6, 2018.
There was no mention of the Avengers 4 film coming out next year, but Kathleen Taff did bring up Captain Marvel. Other than a concept image of Brie Larson as the titular character, no other information was given since the film has yet to start production. Captain Marvel arrives March 6, 2019.
Disney Live Action
We were given brief behind the scenes images and scenes of Christopher Robin, Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mary Poppins Returns, Dumbo, Aladdin, and Lion King.
Christopher Robin looks terrific with an aged Christopher played by Ewan Mcgregor and his wife (Hayley Atwell). We were given a look at the entire crew of Winnie the Pooh this time, including Rabbit, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo. The digital animation of the characters is charming. Audiences will definitely enjoy this updated tale of a beloved literary teddy bear. It arrives August 3, 2018.
Nutcracker and the Four Realms looks to do for fantasy storytelling what Alice in Wonderland could not. While Alice in Wonderland in 2010 made a lot of money, I was underwhelmed by its appearance and execution. Nutcracker stars Morgan Freeman, Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, and several others. The imagery is colorful and eye-catching. The story is mysterious and covers an interesting terrain of four lands, one of which is in peril. Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy, looks to dive deep into this strange world and risk her life to solve its wonders. It arrives on November 2, 2018.
Additional footage of Mary Poppins Returns reveals the familiar animation and choreography we’ve admired of the original, but with a modernized appeal. At least in terms of filmmaking as it’s set in 1930’s London. Emily Blunt looks to light up the screen once more with this iconic character. The return of Dick Van Dyke as a new character was a surprise treat. Lin Manuel Miranda is starring as a lamplighter and also providing new music. Rob Marshall will be directing this sequel. None of the new music was presented to us, but I’m confident the songs will blow our socks off. They will at least get multiple replays in my car on long road trips. Mary Poppins Returns arrives Christmas Day 2018.
Dumbo footage was available to us for the first time ever. Directed by Tim Burton, this new live version looks to expand on the characters of the entire circus and not just the famed big-eared elephant. Danny Devito plays the ringmaster and we also got to see Michael Keaton, Eva Green, and Colin Farrell. The flying scenes were omitted from the footage to preserve some anticipation for next year. Dumbo arrives March 29, 2019.
Aladdin is a real wildcard. Bringing in director Guy Ritchie was a bold choice and the first images of Will Smith as the Genie are positive. He’s doing a good job separating his version of the character from Robin William’s so any comparison should be moot. He’s also not a flying blue ghost and that helps too. Most of the cast consists of relative unknowns so the crux of this film will rely on the story and whether Will Smith compliments that story. New music by Alan Menken and the songwriters of La La Land and The Greatest Showman give the soundtrack a leg up at the very least. The footage we saw included a lot of action from Aladdin, but some possible funny moments as well. Once we get an actual, full trailer, with a song maybe, my concerns will subside. Until then I remain cautiously intrigued. Aladdin arrives May 24, 2019.
The studio chose to surprise us at the very end of the entire presentation with impressive concept footage of the opening scene of the Lion King, including the Circle of Life song. It is directed by Jon Favreau. The animals look photo realistic, as they did in The Jungle Book. Simba looks ridiculously cute. Lion King arrives July 19, 2019.
Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
The only film in this category shown to us was Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet. Most of the footage was the same shown in earlier trailers, but we were given an almost entire scene of Vanellope Von Schweetz interacting with a room full of Disney princesses. Presumably, they were part of an online game program that a user accesses to summon them. The princesses were hilarious as they tried to determine what made Vanellope a princess herself. They eventually became friends, bonding over the fact they are all motherless children with the damsel in distress grievances. A brief cameo of C-3PO was interesting. The writing and imagery are sure to make this one of my favorite experiences at the movie theater this year. Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet arrives November 21, 2018.
We were lucky enough to get the first ten minutes of Incredibles 2. The entire Underminer sequence was shown with the Parr family using teamwork to take down the bad guy. While they were just getting their feet wet as a superhero family in the first film, this time they look perfectly in sync. Frozone also makes an appearance. So many more superhero movies have followed its franchise inception, but the unique chemistry of this family makes it stand out and we have been anxiously awaiting this sequel. Incredibles 2 arrives June 15, 2018.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
We not only got to see new footage of the Solo film, we were given an almost complete clip of the infamous Sabacc scene where Han Solo wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. The scene was exciting and well written. Any misgivings about a Solo film are unfounded based on this scene alone, but one scene does not an entire movie make. Donald Glover’s interpretation of Lando is excellent. Alden Ehrenreich does Han Solo proud in the title role. He embodies Harrison’s version but offers something of himself as well. A lot of that could be Lawrence Kasdan’s writing, but Ehrenreich’s acting talent cannot be ignored. We shall see how good he really is when Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard, arrives in theaters May 25, 2018.