With all the focus on the amazing announcements about the Disney parks, the D23 Expo animation and live action panels have kind of been left behind. We’re here to fix that. This week we do a little recap on what we think are the four biggest movie stories that came out of D23.We talk about the return of the Disney Princesses, the new documentary that celebrates Disney songs, the only trailer that was publicly released from D23, and the casting decisions of the live-action Aladdin. Plus, we talk a little about the parks for good measure. That and much, much more. For the week of July 24, 2017, this is Episode 141 of The Disney Movie Review. Listen to the full episode below:
Kristin – Wreck-It Ralph 2 and The Return of the Disney Princesses
Whether you were on the show floor or in the comfort of your home, you know that Wreck-It Ralph 2 has already done its part to break the internet. Fans in hall D23 were treated to exclusive clips of the film, including one where all of the Disney princesses show up to talk about whether Vanellope is really a Disney princess.
Kristin loved that all of the original voices that are still living are returning to voice their respective princess characters. It was certainly the highlight of the show for people who were following the news and we can’t wait to see this in theaters.
Ed – Howard
Howard Ashman was the creative force behind some of the greatest hits from the movies in the Disney Animation Renaissance – The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Ashman and Alan Menken created the soundtrack for an entire generation. In 1991, Ashman passed away, but his legacy continues to impact the Disney company.
At D23, producer Don Hahn released a trailer for his new documentary on Ashman titled, “Howard.” The film takes viewers into the mind of the man who created musical magic for so many. Hahn expects to release the film before the end of the year.
Ken – A Wrinkle In Time Trailer
A Wrinkle In Time received the only major trailer that was widely released from the D23 Expo. (It turned out that Marvel was saving a new Thor: Ragnarok trailer for San Diego Comic-Con.) Directed by Ava DuVernay, this star-studded cast features Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine.
The trailer feels very reminiscent of Tomorrowland, which doesn’t make me feel nervous because I actually enjoyed that movie. Still, this feels like it will be much better.
Cameron – Live-Action Aladdin Casting of Will Smith as The Genie
The live-action Aladdin has barely gotten up and running and already it is drawing the ire of many fans. Disney announced that Mena Massoud will take up the title role as Aladdin, Naomi Scott will be playing Jasmine, and Will Smith will be The Genie. This set off fireworks on two levels.
The obvious controversy comes over Will Smith being cast as The Genie. Robin Williams was so iconic in that role that many fans would have a hard time accepting anyone else. Personally, I don’t feel like Smith is right for the role, but I am keeping an open mind. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight showed that actors aren’t limited by the fans’ perception of them. Still, I wish we could have seen James Monroe Iglehart take up the mantle on the big screen.
The second controversy is over the casting of Naomi Scott to play Jasmine. Scott is of British and Indian descent, whereas Jasmine is typically thought of as a middle-eastern princess. I always try to champion as much diversity as possible and I don’t like the idea of Disney taking away a potential role for an underrepresented group of actresses. (See Casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One.)
That said, Naomi Scott isn’t exactly a household name and Disney reportedly went through thousands of auditions to cast her. I’m a little more inclined to trust them on this one, especially since Massoud is of Arab descent.
Is the war between Universal and Walt Disney World over?
The Dis unplugged did a great show wrapping up the news about all of the changes that will be coming to the domestic Disney parks over the next few years. (Take a listen to that show here http://www.disunplugged.com/2017/07/18/dis-unplugged-podcast-071817-disney-world-show/). During the show, the question about whether the “war” between Disney World and Universal Studios is over.
It’s an interesting question to look at. With the announcement of an immersive Star Wars hotel, new experiences in every park, and a completion goal of 2021, Disney has certainly pulled out all the stops. However, I don’t think Universal has even scratched the surface of its potential to attract guests, increase revenue, and create lifelong customers.
Since 2013, all of Illumination’s movies have made more than $500 million globally. Seven of Universal’s ten highest grossing films of all time were released within the past five years, according to Box Office Mojo. That shows a definite upward trend for the company and one they can take advantage of by using that intellectual property inside the parks.
Universal can create more character experiences, focus on customer service and make other moves to continue to chip away at Disney’s lead. I don’t think Universal will actually win, simply because they don’t have enough space to compete with Disney’s ability to handle large crowds. That said, the war is far from over.
P.S. Here is Marvel’s NEW trailer for the Inhumans.