His presentation focused heavily on live action and CGI remakes of Disney’s most beloved animated films, delighting nostalgia-seeking fans with early looks at movies like “Snow White,” “Peter Pan and Wendy,” and “The Little Mermaid.” The enthusiastic reception to the star-studded event was a reminder that Disney’s pairings of classic material with A-list talent remains a very profitable formula. Keep reading for a roundup of all the live action projects previewed on Day 1 of the fan event (those interested in our animation coverage can find it here).
“Hocus Pocus 2”
Bailey kicked off the event by giving fans a look at some highly anticipated direct-to-streaming sequels, starting with “Hocus Pocus 2.” Picking up 29 years after the “occult classic” left off, the film reunites Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy for more Salem-set hyjinx with the Sanderson Sisters. The three actresses appeared in a pre-taped video expressing their excitement about reprising their iconic roles, before dazzling fans with a new trailer for the Halloween-themed sequel, which begins streaming on Disney+ on September 30.
15 years have gone by since “Enchanted” first hit theaters, but if the thunderous applause that the cast received is any indicator, enthusiasm for the musical has only grown. A new sequel, “Disenchanted,” drops on Disney+ this Thanksgiving, and the cast came out in full force. Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Idina Menzel, Gabriella Baldacchino, Jayma Mays, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Maya Rudolph (who joins the franchise as the sequel’s villain) were all on hand to promote the film, with Rudolph joking about how difficult it is to be mean to Amy Adams. A new trailer, which reveals Gisele and Prince Edward adapting to life in the suburbs, promises another charming musical that blends fairy tale magic with the mundanities of modern life.
“Peter Pan & Wendy”
After the success of “Pete’s Dragon,” “The Green Knight” director David Lowery returns to the Disney stable to adapt another beloved animated film. Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson, who play the titular couple, made an appearance alongside Jude Law, who plays Captain Hook. The film is said to explore the backstory that led to Peter Pan and Captain Hook becoming sworn enemies, with Law joking that the film will explain to audiences why the villainous pirate is actually “the good guy.” “Peter Pan & Wendy” is set to premiere on Disney+ in 2023, though no release date was revealed.
The most original live action project discussed on Friday was “Haunted Mansion,” Justin Simien’s new horror comedy based on the iconic theme park ride. The New Orleans-set film boasts a star-studded cast that includes Danny DeVito, Winona Ryder, Jared Leto, Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Dan Levy, and Jamie Lee Curtis, just to name a few. Simien charmed the crowd with stories of his time working at Disneyland as a teenager, before showing an exclusive trailer that was not released to the public. The footage reveals that the eponymous mansion was never built, but simply emerged fully formed one day, and weird stuff has been happening there ever since. The cast of characters investigating the mansion eventually find a hidden seance room (after Wilson accidentally breaks a wall sconce that he thought was a lever), and fans were treated to glimpses of the paranormal entities that haunt the house (including Leto’s Hatbox Ghost). Simien wrapped up his presentation by announcing that “the queen of scary movies” had joined the cast, before welcoming Jamie Lee Curtis onto the stage in a Doom Buggy from the Haunted Mansion ride. The two of them rode offstage together, saying they had to get back to work on the film.
“Mufasa: The Lion King”
Barry Jenkins’ sequel to Jon Favreau’s “The Lion King” has been one of the more mysterious projects on Disney’s film slate for quite some time, but Jenkins made an appearance to offer the D23 Expo crowd some new details. As it turns out, his film is actually a prequel that tells the story of Mufasa’s rise to power, appropriately titled “Mufasa: The Lion King.” Jenkins spoke about his passion for the original film and his desire to tell the “origin story of one of the greatest kings in the history of the pridelands” while sending a message about the power of friendship. He then showed some brief footage, which features Aaron Pierre and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as young versions of Mufasa and Scar, in the same style of CGI animation that Favreau utilized in his remake.
In 2024, Disney fans will finally get to see a live action remake of the first feature-length animated film ever made. That’s some serious pressure, so Disney and director Marc Webb enlisted some serious star power in the form of Rachel Zegler, who plays Snow White, and Gal Gadot, who is playing the Evil Queen. Though no footage was shown, Gadot and Zegler appeared on stage to discuss the “surreal” experience of bringing the iconic film back to life, with Zegler promising that her character is “still the girl you remember, but she’s made for the modern age.” She added that the film will dig into what it really means to be “the fairest of them all” as Snow White tries her best to become a just ruler.
“The Little Mermaid”
The presentation concluded with a segment on one of Disney’s most anticipated remakes, Rob Marshall’s upcoming reimagining of “The Little Mermaid.” The live action remake is an A-list affair, with the likes of Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, and Daveed Diggs surrounding Halle Bailey, who plays Ariel. Marshall revealed that the film will feature four new songs co-written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, in addition to the classic music from the original film. And if that wasn’t enough, they wowed the crowd by revealing the full clip of Ariel singing “Part of Your World” from the new film. The footage is essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the same scene in the original film (albeit beautifully rendered), but Bailey demonstrated the undeniable vocal talent that earned her the coveted role in the first place.