Disney+ made its D23 Expo debut with its first-ever showcase presentation, announcing six new series in development and revealing key details about the highly anticipated streaming service to an enthusiastic audience at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim. The event showcased the sweeping array of talent with in-person and video appearances from the stars of Disney+’s slate of originals from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic and included sneak peeks, trailer premieres, and exclusive news about the service and its upcoming projects. Actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who stars in the Disney+ original film “Lady and the Tramp,” hosted the lively presentation, welcoming Kevin Mayer, chairman, Direct-to-Consumer & International, to the stage to kick off the show.
“With less than three months until launch, Disney+ will soon entertain and inspire audiences of all ages for generations to come, and we’re excited to preview some of the amazing original content being created for the service exclusively from our world-class brands today at the D23 Expo,” said Mayer. “Storytelling is the cornerstone of The Walt Disney Company and we’re thrilled to unveil a new slate of original shows from the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes, along with popular television franchises set to return with all-new series streaming only on Disney+.”
New Series Revealed
As part of the presentation, some of the creative minds behind Disney+’s content slate including Sean Bailey, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production; Kevin Feige, president, Marvel Studios; Kathleen Kennedy, president, Lucasfilm; and Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channel Worldwide, gave fans a first look at the service’s upcoming originals and announced exciting new titles:
● Ewan McGregor made a surprise appearance to announce his return as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new untitled series from Lucasfilm.
● Kevin Feige announced that Marvel Studios is developing three new live-action series: “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight” and “She-Hulk,” all derived from Marvel comics.
● Hilary Duff surprised the audience when it was announced she will reprise the role she made famous in an all-new Lizzie McGuire series from Terri Minsky.
● Forty years after leaving the swamp in his big screen debut in “The Muppet Movie,” Kermit the Frog is heading upstream with Miss Piggy, and the gang, bringing a new kind of mayhem and laughter to Disney+ with their first-ever unscripted short-form series, “Muppets Now.”
World Premiere Launch Content Previews
During the 90-minute presentation, a parade of celebrities, filmmakers, and creatives treated the 6,800-person audience to the first public preview of Disney+’s original movies and shows set to stream when the service launches on November 12:
● For Lucasfilm’s “The Mandalorian,” executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni joined series stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers and Giancarlo Esposito, along with Taika Waititi, who brings the droid IG-11 to life, to premiere the teaser trailer for the first Star Wars live-action series. Earlier in the day at the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer, The Walt Disney Company, announced that new Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen will join the cast of the series. Set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, “The Mandalorian” follows the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic. Watch the trailer here.
● The talented up-and-coming cast of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” brought down the house with a live performance of the multi-platinum hit song, “We’re All In This Together.” Immediately following the presentation, cast members Joshua Bassett, Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Julia Lester, Larry Saperstein, Dara Reneé, Frankie A. Rodriguez, Kate Reinders, Mark St. Cyr, and Showrunner Tim Federle invited 3,600 fans to watch the first episode in the D23 Expo Arena and revealed the series’ teaser trailer. The 10-episode scripted series, set at the real-life East High, where the original movie was filmed, follows a group of students as they countdown to opening night of their school’s first-ever production of “High School Musical.” Watch the trailer here.
● Host Yvette Nicole Brown joined fellow “Lady and the Tramp” cast members Rose (“Lady”) and Monty (“Tramp”)—the canine stars of the film—to premiere the first trailer from the film. In the timeless re-telling of the 1955 animated classic, a pampered house dog and a tough but lovable stray embark on an unexpected adventure and, despite their differences, grow closer and come to understand the value of home. Watch the trailer here.
● “Noelle” stars Anna Kendrick and Billy Eichner joined Sean Bailey to announce their film will premiere on Disney+ on November 12 before sharing a new trailer. In the upcoming holiday comedy, Kris Kringle’s daughter is full of Christmas spirit and holiday fun, but wishes she could do something “important” like her beloved brother Nick, who will take over from their father this Christmas. When Nick is about to crumble like a gingerbread cookie from all the pressure, Noelle suggests he take a break and get away…but when he doesn’t return, Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas. Watch the trailer here.
● Jeff Goldblum, who stars in and hosts “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” from National Geographic, gave fans a peek inside the series including a new trailer for the show. Through Goldblum’s always inquisitive and highly entertaining mind, nothing is as it seems in this new 12-episode series. Watch the trailer here.
● Executive Producer Kristen Bell shared a first look trailer and a taste of what’s to come in the unscripted series, “Encore!” that brings together former castmates of high school musicals, tasking them with re-creating their original performance years after they last performed it, in a high school reunion like no other. Watch the trailer here.
● Tony Hale, who reprises his craft project turned toy role from “Toy Story 4” in the new collection of Pixar animated shorts “Forky Asks A Question,” premiered the first short (“What is Money?”). In the 10 shorts, Forky explores important questions about how the world works, such as: What is love? What is time?
Disney+ also rolled out the red carpet for its titles set to premiere after the service launches, inviting stars to share new details for their upcoming projects:
● The audience was treated to a scene from the Disney+ original film “Togo,” an untold true story set in the winter of 1925 across the treacherous terrain of the Alaskan tundra. An exhilarating and uplifting adventure, “Togo” stars four-time Oscar® nominee Willem Dafoe and is directed by Ericson Core. The film also stars Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Richard Dormer, Michael Greyeyes, Michael McElhatton and Michael Gaston. Kim Zubick is the producer and Tom Flynn wrote the screenplay. “Togo” will launch on Disney+ in December.
● Executive Producer and recurring guest star Gina Rodriguez joined “Diary of a Female President” lead Tess Romero to announce the series will premiere on Disney+ in January. Told using the narration from her diary, this half-hour single camera comedy follows 12-year-old Cuban-American girl Elena’s journey through the trials of middle school, which set her on the path to ultimately become president of the United States.
● Kathleen Kennedy announced that the highly anticipated new season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will stream on Disney+ in February 2020. The Emmy® award-winning animated series will be returning with twelve all-new episodes and will mark the return of classic characters Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and fan-favorites Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex.
● Sean Bailey shared a first look at the original film “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” Directed by award-winning filmmaker Tom McCarthy with screenplay by McCarthy & Stephan Pastis and based on the best-selling book series by Pastis, the film follows the hilarious exploits of our quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency. “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” will launch on Disney+ in early 2020.
● The stars of “Stargirl,” Grace VanderWaal and Graham Verchere, were welcomed on stage to help introduce the coming-of-age film based on the critically-acclaimed, New York Times’ best-selling young adult novel. “Stargirl” is directed by Julia Hart from a screenplay by Kristin Hahn and Julia Hart & Jordan Horowitz based on the novel by Jerry Spinelli. The film also stars Karan Brar, Maximiliano Hernandez, Darby Stanchfield and Giancarlo Esposito. “Stargirl” is produced by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lee Stollman and Kristin Hahn. “Stargirl” will launch on Disney+ in early 2020.
● Director Kari Skogland introduced Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, the stars of Marvel Studios’ ”The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” which finds Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up after “Avengers: Endgame.” Emily VanCamp came on stage and Feige revealed that she will reprise her role as Sharon Carter. Then, he introduced the crowd to Wyatt Russell who will play John Walker—a character from the comics coming to the screen for the first time. Head writer Malcom Spellman was also on hand to greet the crowd. “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” will launch on Disney+ in 2020.
●“Monsters At Work” stars Ben Feldman and Aisha Tyler unveiled the latest design of their characters Tylor and Millie. Inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award®-winning feature film “Monsters, Inc.,” the new series from Disney Television Animation returns to Monstropolis and follows a new cast of monsters with special appearances from Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman).
● Stars Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were on hand for their new series, Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision.” Bettany returns as Vision and Olsen as Wanda Maximoff—two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. Kevin Feige surprised the audience by bringing to the stage Kat Dennings and Randall Park who will reprise their roles from “Thor” and “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” and then he introduced Kathryn Hahn who has been cast as a new character in the series. Director Matt Shakman and head writer Jac Schaeffer joined everyone on stage to reveal that the streaming series will blend the style of classic sitcoms with Marvel Cinematic Universe. “WandaVision” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
● Kevin Feige welcomed the director, Kate Herron, and head writer, Michael Waldron, of “Loki” to the stage. In Marvel Studios’ new Disney+ series “Loki,” Tom Hiddleston returns as the mercurial Loki, the god of mischief and everyone’s favorite villain in stories that take place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” “Loki” debuts on Disney+ in 2021.
● For Marvel Studios’ “What If…?” Hayley Atwell was on hand to greet the audience. Atwell will voice Peggy Carter in Marvel Studios’ first animated series that focuses on different heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and imagines what would happen if the events in the films worked out differently. Kevin Feige also introduced director Bryan Andrews and head writer Ashley Bradley to the crowd. “What If…?” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
● Stars Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk joined Kathleen Kennedy to introduce the audience to the second Lucasfilm live-action series for Disney+, which is now in development. Both actors are reprising their roles from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and the stories follow Cassian Andor’s adventures as a rebel spy during the formative years of the Rebellion, before the events of “A New Hope.”
World-Class Product Experience
Additionally, over on the Expo show floor the Disney+ app made its debut, complete with features and functionality confirmed for the global launch dates in November.
For a monthly price of $6.99 or an annual rate of $69.99 in the U.S. (pricing varies outside U.S.), Disney+ offers viewers of all ages a compelling price-to-value proposition, with a consumer-friendly experience that’s easy-to-navigate with personalized recommendations, high-quality and commercial-free viewing, up to four concurrent streams, and unlimited downloads with no up-charges.
The Disney+ app experience, available to consumers on November 12, will feature:
● Unlimited Downloads: Subscribers have access to unlimited downloads of shows and movies on the Disney+ app to watch offline later on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded per year. Once downloaded, subscribers can watch on the go and without an internet connection. The number of titles stored at one time on a device is dependent upon the available storage space on a subscriber’s device.
● High-Quality Viewing: Subscribers will enjoy an ultra-high-definition viewing experience with up to 4K Ultra HD video playback in Dolby Vision ultra-vivid imaging, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio on supported devices for available programming.
● Commercial-free Viewing: Subscribers can access unlimited viewing of Disney+ content without having to watch a single commercial.
● Profile Customizations: Subscribers can set up to seven different profiles and choose an avatar tailored to their favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars characters, with over 200 avatars available.
● Concurrent Streaming: Disney+ allows subscribers to concurrently stream video content on up to four registered devices with no up-charges.
●Multiple Languages: At launch, Disney+ will offer support for English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages, including both user interface as well as audio support and/or subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney+ Originals.
● Accessibility: The app offers support for closed captioning, descriptive audio, and navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities discover and enjoy their favorite stories.
For the latest from Disney+ and its upcoming originals, follow @DisneyPlus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @TheMandalorian on Twitter, and Instagram, @HighSchoolMusical on Facebook and Instagram, @LadyandtheTramp on Facebook and Instagram, @DisneysNoelle on Instagram, or register your email at DisneyPlus.com.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.