D23 Expo Recap – LucasFilm


Alright, time to wrap up my recap of the Worlds, Galaxies and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios panel at the D23 Expo. 2015 has actually been a pretty big year with movies.  So it makes sense that it will end with a return of one of the biggest franchises ever, Star Wars. Here’s how much folks are anticipating Star Wars The Force Awakens: About a week before the expo, it was announced that there would be no new footage shown from the movie at the Expo. That still didn’t stop folks from waiting overnight and sitting on pins and needles for this presentation. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn mentioned the Guinness World Record the second trailer for the movie set with 30.65 million views in a day on Youtube.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Up next, Horn confirmed some news that has been rumor up to this point. He confirmed that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow would in fact be the director of Star Wars Episode IX. This explains why Trevorrow isn’t going to be directing the sequel to Jurassic World. Disney really isn’t messing around with the Star Wars property. I remember when it was first reported that Disney was buying LucasFilm and folks were a bit skeptical. But that was the same type of skepticism we had when they bought Marvel and look how that’s turned out. I’ll be honest, the acquisition of LucasFilm from George Lucas by Disney might be the best thing for the Star Wars franchise ever. George Lucas received a Disney Legend award at the Expo and everyone on stage during this panel gave him high praise for his vision. And I do too. Without Lucas, Star Wars wouldn’t exist. However, when it comes to the details of the franchise and actually making the movies live up to their potential, I could not be happier that George Lucas is out of the creative loop. He’s a legend and an icon and deserves the recognition for what he’s done but when I look at the lineup Disney has coming up for the Star Wars franchise, I can’t help but think that we’re FINALLY going to see Star Wars films that live up to the imaginations we all have. Between now and 2019, Disney is looking to release the following:

  • Star Wars The Force Awakens - JJ Abrams
  • Rogue One -Gareth Edwards  (Godzilla)
  • Star Wars Episode  VIII - Rian Johnson (Looper)
  • A Star Wars Story Han Solo prequel - Chris Miller & Phil Lord (The Lego Movie, 21 Jumpstreet, 22 Jumpstreet)
  • Star Wars Episode IX - Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World)

That’s a pretty solid line up of films and an even more solid lineup of directors. Also, I think Disney is doing something smart by having a different director for each film. It allows them to keep a pretty tight schedule without having to worry about burning out a director (JJ Abrams looked very stressed over finishing the film at the panel).

Gareth Edwards sent a video message from set. He said they just finished shooting the first scene of Rogue One and he was literally on location about to go shoot the second scene (a desert location). I think Rogue One is going to be a pretty interesting film. It covers the mission of the rebels to steal the plans for the first Death Star, the ones that Princess Leia is delivering in Episode IV. This supports what I said about Disney finally giving us Star Wars films we really want.  A lot of time in Episodes 1 - 6, we’re told about these awesome things that have happened in the iconic scrolling opening credits, but we’ve never actually seen them. Disney now has an opportunity to show us these things we’ve missed while also using the main Episodes to tell us new stories. It’s very ambitious and exciting and I think we’re in for a real treat. We got our first look at the cast for Rogue One as well as the first official picture of them in costume on set.

Star Wars: Rogue One..L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen..Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley..?Lucasfilm 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One..L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen..Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley..Lucasfilm 2016

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

We then got JJ Abrams and some of the cast of The Force Awakens to come on stage. We got Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o and Daisy Ridley. With this being her third time on stage at this event, JJ Abrams makes a joke that is more truth than joke. Abrams joked about how she’s contractually obligated to be in every Disney film. But it’s not far from the truth. I know a lot of people thought that Lupita would disappear after her Oscar win but the truth is, Disney is keeping her busy. She has an animated role in The Jungle Book, she plays a CG space pirate in Star Wars The Force Awakens and then she has a role in Queen of Katwe. At this point its not a matter of if Marvel will bring her into the MCU (I've realized that some people don't know what MCU stands for, it means Marvel Cinematic Universe) but when and for what role. She honestly seems like the perfect Shuri for Black Panther and since Marvel is in the Disney family and Disney can’t stop gushing over her, it’s gotta be on someone’s mind. Disney seems to love her (who doesn’t) and they seem to have her booked through 2016, would would be about when we’d start hearing about casting for Black Panther. So…just keep that in mind.

star-wars-7-struzan-poster-fullOne of the cool things about being at D23 Expo and going to the panels is the opportunity to come away with free stuff. In this case, every person in the audience got a Drew Struzan The Force Awakens poster. One of the first things noticed on it is that John Boyega’s character Fin, is holding a Lightsaber (possibly Luke’s?). Now I’ve seen some folks say that maybe this is just misdirection by JJ Abrams and that Fin isn’t really force sensitive. While anything is possible and Abrams is known for misdirection, this would be a pretty big misdirection even for Abrams. Its one thing to play coy about the identity of a character (Think Khan in Into Darkness) but its another to have a poster with a character in a Jedi stance holding a lit lightsaber. A lightsaber is a Jedi weapon and a big deal is made about how only Jedi (or Sith) are capable of using them. Only two characters I know of have used lightsabers and not been Jedi: Han when he (clumsily) used a lightsaber to cut open a Tuantaun and General Grievous (an android/cyborg). So I think it’s a bigger long shot to say that Fin isn’t force sensitive and is wielding a lightsaber. But we’ll see won’t we?

The loudest applause of the whole presentation was when Harrison Ford made a surprise appearance. Just about everyone was on their feet and you could tell Ford was moved. The thing about cons and expos like this is that they’re really fan events and when the talent shows up, they’re usually greeted with a response that catches them off guard. Ford seemed humbled and thanked the fans saying that without them, his career wouldn’t be possible.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

As was mentioned leading up to D23 Expo, there wasn’t any new footage or trailer shown for Star Wars The Force Awakens. To be honest, I’m glad. Sure, I love seeing new footage but i also love the fact that as big as this movie is, we haven’t really seen much of it yet. The shock I had when I saw John Boyega’s character holding the lightsaber in the exclusive poster they handed out to fans is exactly the kind of surprises I like being hit with. The less I know, the better.

The big announcement for Star Wars fans was about done by Walt Disney Company Chairman & CEO Bob Iger who talked about two new land expansions for both Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim. More details were given at the Parks and Resorts presentation later on that evening but it seemed like a pretty ambitious project. I’ve been to a few themed park experiences, most notably the Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios Orlando. What Disney seems to want to do with Star Wars would make that look like nothing.  It’s hard to gauge just how far Disney is going to go with this but if they do even half of what they seem to be suggesting its going to be an experience no one is going to want to miss. They showed a teaser video of a concept but again, I’m just not sure how much of that they can pull off (They definitely can’t pull of the Tie Fighters flying overhead…can they?). This will be a 14-acre, $1billion expansion that is set to start in 2017 and be completed in three years. There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered about this but it’s going to be interesting to see how it all turns out. Iger mentioned two of the attractions would be piloting the Millennium Falcon and a mission with the First Order from the new movie. Again, light on details but big on potential.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

There you have it, that wraps up my coverage of the entire Worlds, Galaxies and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios panel. You can check out Part 1 & Part 2. Next I’ll be giving my recap and impressions of the entire D23 Expo so keep an eye out for that.



Charles (Kriss)

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.