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D23 Recap: Star Wars Lands, New Films & More

D23 Recap: Star Wars Lands, New Films & More

Disney took Anaheim by storm last weekend with a host of announcements and updates about upcoming film projects, new theme park additions and new consumer products at the D23 Expo. 

Major announcements include theme park features for Star Wars, Toy Story and Avatar as well as new film based on Jack and the Beanstalk.

Disney took Anaheim by storm last weekend with a host of announcements and updates about upcoming film projects, new theme park additions and new consumer products at the D23 Expo.

Here's a recap of the major announcements that were made at the event, which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center in California from Aug. 14-16.

Parks Ready for Star Wars, Avatar, Toy Story

Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of the The Walt Disney Company, announced plans for the addition of new Star Wars-themed lands, a Toy Story land at the Hollywood Studios Park, Avatar additions to Disney's Animal Kingdom and Iron Man's upcoming stay at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Ambitious plans are in place to bring Star Wars to life at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Plans for the two parks include creating Disney’s largest-ever single-themed land expansion at 14 acres each.

"I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars,” said Iger. “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”

The lands will have two signature attractions–a battle experience and an attraction that puts guests behind the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon.

Other Star Wars additions will include:

  • Star Tours–The Adventures Continue–Later this year, the ride will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars Launch Bay–Opening later this year, this interactive experience will take guests at both parks into Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the first six films in the Star Wars saga.
  • Season of the Force–This new seasonal event, beginning in early 2016, will let guests explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment, themed food locations and Hyperspace Mountain, a re-imagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will also feature a new fireworks spectacular set to the score of the Star Wars movies on weekend nights.
  • Jedi Training Academy–A favorite of younger fans is re-imagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the Disney XD series "Star Wars Rebels."

Another new addition is also in the works at Disney’s Hollywood Studios featuring Toy Story. A new 11-acre land will transport guests into Andy’s backyard where guests will feel as if they've been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz. The new Toy Story Land will also feature a family friendly roller coaster where fans will ride on the back of Slinky Dog, an Alien Saucers attraction and Toy Story Mania! play area.

Additionally, as part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will immerse guests into the world of Pandora from the film Avatar, with the entire park transforming after dark. Attractions will include:

  • Rivers of Light–Expected to open next spring, Rivers of Light will combine live music, floating lanterns, water screens and animal imagery.
  • Pandora–The World of Avatar–This new Avatar-themed land will feature floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and the winged creatures known as Banshees.
  • Avatar Flight of Passage–This attraction, the centerpiece of Pandora, allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world.

Finally, the studio also highlighted the upcoming Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland, which, when it opens in 2016, will be the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park in the world.

Studio Details Massive Film Slate

The studio revealed a slew of updates and new plans for its upcoming live-action and animated film slate:

  • Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow has been tapped to direct Star Wars: Episode IX, which is set for release in 2019. Star Wars: Episode IX will conclude the third trilogy of Star Wars movies that will begin with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Dec. 18. Production won’t begin for a few years, but Trevorrow is heading to Lucasfilm this year to begin working with artists and fellow Star Wars directors.
  • Rogue One–The cast was announced for the first standalone Star Wars movie, which will tell the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. Among the actors slated to participate are Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn. “Rogue One takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films, but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe,” says producer Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm. “It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know.”
  • Untitled Han Solo film–Part of the new Star Wars stories series, this standalone film is slated for release May 25, 2018.
  • Gigantic–Walt Disney Animation Studios' unveiled plans for a new take on the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, featuring music from the songwriters of Frozen. Set in Spain during the Age of Exploration, Gigantic will follow adventure-seeker Jack as he discovers a world of giants hidden within the clouds. The film is slated for 2018. 
  • Marvel’s Doctor Strange–The film, which is now in pre-production, will star Benedict Cumberbatch when it open in the U.S. Oct. 26, 2016.
  • Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War–The film will pick up where Avengers: Age of Ultron left off, as Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, a new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain. The film will open in the U.S. on May 6, 2016.
  • The Finest Hours–This newly announced film is based on the true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the Coast Guard and will star Chris Pine. The film will open in the U.S. Jan. 29, 2016.
  • The Jungle Book–Newcomer Neel Sethi, who was selected from thousands of candidates to play the character of Mowgli, was introduced. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s 1967 animated classic, the live film will hit theaters April 15, 2016. 
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass–A preview was given of this sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, which will arrive on U.S. screens May 27, 2016.
  • Pete’s DragonBryce Dallas Howard talked about her starring role in the upcoming reimagining of the classic Disney film, which will open in the U.S. Aug. 12, 2016.
  • Queen of Katwe–Lupita Nyong’o introduced the this new movie, which is based on the true story of a girl from the slums of rural Uganda who dreams of becoming a champion chess player. 
  • Beauty and the Beast–This live-action musical, a retelling of the studio’s animated classic, will include fresh recordings of the original songs as well as several new songs when it arrives in theaters March 17, 2017.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales–Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance to preview the next film in this franchise, which will open in the U.S. July 7, 2017.
  • Zootopia–Shakira will lend her Grammy-winning voice to Gazelle in this animated film, which will also star Ginnifer Goodwin (ABC’s “Once Upon a Time) and will debut March 4, 2016.
  • Moana–Dwayne Johnson, who will voice to the mighty demi-god Maui in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana, shared early test footage and revealed plans for the film’s music.
  • The Good Dinosaur–New sequences were unveiled for the upcoming Disney·Pixar film, including never-before-seen footage of a trio of T-Rexes in action. The film hits theaters Nov. 25, 2015.
  • Finding Dory–new details were revealed about the plot of this, which reunites Dory with friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. The film arrives in theaters June 17, 2016. 

New Gaming Products in the Works

Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media revealed new details of upcoming gaming products including Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, Playmation and "Kingdom Hearts III," plus two new limited edition Star Wars PlayStation4 hardware bundles.

“We have the most exciting slate of upcoming game titles in our history, and we’re also focused on new platforms and technologies that enable us to develop experiences we would never have dreamed possible just a few years ago,” said Jimmy Pitaro, co-chairman, DCPIM and president, Disney Interactive.

On Nov. 17, fans will be able to purchase two limited edition Darth Vader-inspired PlayStation4 Star Wars bundles–Star Wars: Battlefront and "Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars." The bundles include a fully customized PS4 featuring an image of Darth Vader, a controller inspired by Darth Vader’s suit and more.

Other character reveals included Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Zootopia, Spot from Disney•Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and a limited edition set of Light FX Star Wars character figures that light up when placed onto the Disney Infinity Base. New Disney Infinity integrations with Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line were also unveiled.

Coming this fall will be Playmation Marvel’s Avengers Gamma Gear inspired by Hulk that lets kids smash into battle using motion-sensing technology.

Disney Interactive announced "Disney Magic Kingdoms," a new mobile game in partnership with Gameloft that lets players build the Disney theme park of their dreams by recreating and placing iconic attractions in an animated landscape.

Additionally, Square Enix and Disney Interactive revealed that Baymax and other characters from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Big Hero 6 will make their debut in the ever-expanding narrative of "Kingdom Hearts III."

In other consumer products news, The Walt Disney Company, Chase Card Services (a division of JPMorgan Chase & Co.) and Disney are putting The Force in cardmembers’ wallets with the introduction of three exclusive Star Wars designs to the Disney Visa Credit Card family.

The cards, which mark the first Star Wars brand collaboration of its kind, will feature new and exclusive Star Wars perks for all Disney Visa Credit Cardmembers.

The double-sided cards will feature Darth Vader, Yoda or R2-D2 with C-3PO and give members access to the exclusive Star Wars Imperial Meet ‘N’ Greet at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as savings on select Star Wars merchandise and upcoming Star Wars-related limited-time offers. 

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