Disney movie previews released at 2015 D23 Expo

During the biennial D23 Expo held in Anaheim, CA from August 14-16, several new Pixar and Disney animation movies were announced and previewed, as well as plans for new additions to the Disney theme parks.

First looks of upcoming Disney and Pixar animated films The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory, Zootopia, Moana, and Toy Story 4 were given, as well as the announcement of the brand new Gigantic. New footage of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and stills from Dr. Strange were also released, along with a preview of Lucasfilms’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

From Walt Disney Pictures, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Pete’s Dragon, The Finest Hours, and The Queen of Katwe were all previewed throughout the expo.  Sequels, such as Alice and the new Pirates of the Caribbean are highly anticipated, while live-action remakes of animated classics, such as The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, also proved to be a recurring theme. True stories The Finest Hours, based on the story of the Pendleton rescue mission attempt by Coast Guard ships in 1952, and The Queen of Katwe, about the life of Phiona Mutesi, a female Ugandan chess player also made an appearance.

When is comes to animation, Disney and Pixar have had a long history of competition and partnership. When Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Disney Animation was said to be in decline, considered “creatively exhausted” and “overtly commercial”, while Pixar was referred to as the golden standard of children’s animation. Now, the role seems to be almost revered. Buzzfeed went so far to call Pixar a “sequel factory” based on their new announcements, while Disney is sticking more to originals.

Disney previewed many new original (meaning not a sequel/prequel) films during the expo, including Gigantic, Zootopia, and Moana. Gigantic is a musical reimagining of the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairytale, set in Spain during the “age of discovery”. Zootopia, set to be released this fall, features anthropomorphic animals living in a world where the Burrows are where the rabbits live and the DMV is run by sloths. Moana centers on the titular Polynesian princess and her journey through the Pacific Ocean to reclaim her culture’s prowess for exploring. Sequels to Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph were also announced to be in the works.

If Disney mostly focused on new material, Pixar spent the same amount of focus on sequels to previous projects. Although Cars 3 and The Incredibles 2 are reportedly in the works, Pixar focused on sequels Finding Dory and Toy Story 4, along with originals The Good Dinosaur and COCO. Finding Dory, set to be released in 2016, will feature the popular sidekick Dory from the 2003 film Finding Nemo setting out on her own adventure. Starting out as a journey to find her parents, Dory soon gets lost and ends up in the Monterrey Bay Aquarium where she meets a motely assortment of a whale shark, a beluga whale and an octopus. John Lasseter claimed he would not make Toy Story 4 until he came up with a good enough idea, but it is now in the works. It will mainly be a love story between Woody and Bo Peep, with Buzz and Woody setting out on a journey to find her.

Pixar originally claimed that they would make two originals to every sequel film, however, that now is reversed. Of the next six films announced, only two are originals. One of the originals, The Good Dinosaur, features the dinosaur Arlo and a preverbal boy he bonds with over their devastating losses. The other, COCO, will be set in Mexico and based on Dia de los Muertos.

Along with new movies, new plans for additions to the Disney theme parks were announced. A new Star Wars themed land for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando was the largest announcement by far. \

“We are excited about making more Star Wars films, obviously”, CEO Bob Iger said, “But we are also excited about bringing Star Wars to just about every corner of the Walt Disney Company. We wanted the greatest stories and characters to come alive not only on screen, but in real life.”

The land will be represent a “whole new planet” in the Star Wars universe and will feature two new attractions, one centered around the battle between the First Order and the Resistance, and other based on the Millennium Falcon.

At Epcot and California Adventure, the classic ride Soarin’, which currently only features scenes from California, is set to be updated to Soarin’ Around the World. Hollywood Studios also plans to open a Toy Story Land.