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Disney D23: the highlights from this year's Expo

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This year's Disney D23 Expo unleashed a host of fan-pleasing highlights, from Star Wars to Pixar.

D23 is Disney's official fan club and the Expo has now reached its 10th year. Here's what we learned.

1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The finale of the Skywalker saga reaches us on 19th December, and Disney D23 presented us with a minute's worth of new footage.

Read our breakdown of the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker D23 footage.


2. Tom Holland

Just days after it was announced Spider-Man would be separating from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, actor Tom Holland showed up in front of emotional crowds. Quoting the words of Spidey's late mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), he announced, "I love you 3000".

This was Holland's first public appearance since the heart-breaking MCU news, and although it doesn't make it any easier to bear, it's good to know he has the fans' backs.


3. Soul

The second of Disney-Pixar's 2020 releases, Soul has been cloaked in mystery... until now. At D23, details of the plot and voice cast were revealed by producer Dana Murray, co-director and writer Kemp Powers and writer Mike Jones.

Actors Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey lead the voice cast, in a story that journeys from the streets of New York City to the fantastical You Seminar, where souls learn everything and ensure babies are born with a personality.

"Each one of us was born with a soul. That soul didn't just come into the world not prepared. They were all trained at the You Seminar. Their souls are given their quirks, their abilities, their interests and some would say your passions and your dreams. It's all the things that make you, you," the creative team explained.

"Once ready, their soul graduates on to join the world and live a life of purpose. At least, that's how things are supposed to go, but in the case of Joe Gardner, there has to be a mistake. His life hasn't gone the way he expected."

Band teacher Joe Gardner (Foxx) seems like he's set for his big break, only for an accident to see him land at the You Seminar, which is filled with pavilions that give souls personality traits, such as the self-absorbed pavilion.

There, he meets fellow soul 86,783,123,522, or 22 (Fey) for short. She thinks Earth is terrible and has spent "hundreds of years" at the You Seminar. But the two must team up to help Joe find his way back to Earth.

The movie will feature original jazz music from Jon Batiste and a score from Trent 'Nine Inch Nails' Reznor and Atticus Ross. Soul reaches us on 19th June 2020.

Disney-Pixar Soul movie poster

4. Black Widow

Given her tragic fate in Avengers: Endgame, the only way for Black Widow's story to go forwards is to go backwards. Scarlett Johansson's character Natasha Romanoff has a shadowy Soviet past that has been teased in Avengers Assemble and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but never explicitly explored... until now.

At D23, a brand new poster was unveiled teasing Johansson and the rest of the cast: Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. The poster was accompanied by a trailer that's yet to be unveiled to the general public – nevertheless, descriptions of said footage are doing the rounds, in which it's revealed Harbour plays a Soviet character known as Red Guardian.

Pugh's character is referred to as Romanoff's sister and the villain is identified as the Taskmaster, who is capable of mirroring Romanoff's fighting abilities. The movie occupies a Cold War landscape with prominent shots of Budapest cited in the footage description. Black Widow is released on 1st May 2020.

Black Widow movie poster revealed at Disney D23

5. Onward

Ahead of Soul's release in June 2020, we're getting Onward, another Pixar adventure in which two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, set off on a road trip. They're aiming to discover if magic still exists in the world, but there's also a personal motivation – they want to use said magic to spend one final day with their late father.

When Ian turns 16, their mother hands them a present from their father, which turns out to be a staff and a magic phoenix gem, which are supposed to be able to bring him back from the dead for one day so he can properly meet his sons.

The brothers are voiced by the MCU duo of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, and the movie premiered two new clips at D23. The footage saw the excited Barley trying to use the staff to no avail, until Ian later picks it up and gives it a whirl. But while the spell starts to work, Barley accidentally interrupts the process, leaving their father as just a pair of living legs and hips, with the rest of his body trapped in the afterlife and the gem smashed.

Which leads to the brothers setting out on a quest to find a replacement so they can bring the rest of their father back. The stage is set for a hilarious road trip (with dad disguised in a Weekend At Bernie's-style setup and along for the ride). The second scene shown found the brothers encountering problems with an empty petrol tank and Ian trying to use the staff to make a can of fuel grow in size, which backfires in comic fashion.

Directed by Monsters University film-maker Dan Scanlon, Onward is released on 6th March 2020. And in the absence of a new trailer, here's a brand new poster.

Onward Pixar movie poster revealed at Disney D23

6. Mulan

The slew of Disney remakes continues apace with Mulan, the studio's live-action take on their 1998 classic. The original animation drew on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, in which a young woman disguises herself as a male warrior to fight the invading Huns.

And the remake looks to be following suit, albeit in slightly more serious-minded fashion with greater emphasis on battles, no songs (booo) and no comic relief in the form of Eddie Murphy's dragon Mushu.

The remake, released on 27th March 2020, is allegedly the most expensive of the Disney reboots so far, and stars Liu Yifei in the title role (although the actor was absent from D23 owing to controversial comments about the recent Hong Kong protests).

Disney premiered five minutes of footage from the movie including the amusing Matchmaker scene, and a reveal of the phoenix character that's said to be replacing Mushu.


7. Cruella

One of Disney's most enjoyably hissable villains gets a punk rock makeover in live-action origin story Cruella. The fur-sporting fashionista is portrayed by La La Land Oscar-winner Emma Stone, who steps into the live-action shoes previously made famous by Glenn Close.

Scheduled for release in December 2020, Cruella takes place in the 1970s and is helmed by I, Tonya film-maker Craig Gillespie.

Emma Stone revealed as Cruella de Vil at Disney D23


8. Black Panther 2

It's official: we're returning to Wakanda in Black Panther 2 on 6th May 2022. That means the Marvel title lands at the outset of the MCU's Phase Five stage – no pressure then, especially given its predecessor grossed $1.3 billion worldwide.

"We’re really hard at work on it trying to give you something special," director Ryan Coogler told the D23 crowd. "We’re gonna take our time; we want it to be right."

Although no title was revealed, expectations were raised significantly. The first Black Panther proved as much a critical and artistic hit as a commercial one, landing an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and paving the way for diverse representation in comic book cinema.


9. Kit Harington

Banish that controversial final season of Game of Thrones from your mind. There's only one Kit Harington role you need to occupy yourself with, and that's the one he occupies in forthcoming MCU title Eternals.

Due for release in November 2020, Eternals is one of the key titles in Phase Four of the MCU. It focuses on a group of all-powerful celestial beings, with the cast including the A-list likes of Angelina Jolie.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Harington would play non-Eternal Dane Whitman (aka 'The Black Knight') making for a reunion with Game of Thrones alum Richard Madden (who portrays the all-powerful Ikaris). Harington joins new cast members Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) and Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel).

10. Frozen 2

The details of Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood's Frozen 2 characters were revealed at Disney D23.

They're playing Lieutenant Destin Mattias and Queen Iduna – the latter is in fact the mother of sisterly duo Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel).

Director Jennifer Lee described the story as a quest undertaken by Elsa to discover more about her powers. Footage was also screened teasing Queen Iduna's new song 'All is Found' and Elsa's sure-to-be-earworming new number 'Into the Unknown'.

And of course, there was a brand new poster teasing the film's irresistibly wintry atmosphere. Frozen 2 is released on 22nd November.

Frozen 2 unveils new Disney D23 movie poster

11. Raya and the Last Dragon

Crazy Rich Asians' Awkwafina further cements her A-list status with her debut Disney role. She voices the eponymous dragon in Raya and the Last Dragon, a sweeping adventure infused with the colour and mysticism of the Far East.

It's the latest movie from the Disney Feature Animation label, and is set in the fantastical kingdom of Kumandra, home to an ancient civilisation that venerated dragons for their power and their wisdom. The land's people are made up of five clans, but they're under threat since dragons are long gone and a dark, sinister force has invaded.

Raya (Steele) is on a mission to find the last dragon, a creature she believes has the power to save her world. What she finds is the quirky dragon Sisu, a white, pink and teal dragon who also appears in human form.

Raya and the Last Dragon is due for release in 2020.

Ray and the Last Dragon debuts first look at Disney D23

Which bit of D23 news are you most excited about? Let us know @Cineworld.