If you want Disney news, you have to head to the D23 Expo because that company always over prepares.
The first studio showcase, which was titled "Celebrate the Magic of Disney and Pixar," brought exclusive news and first-looks from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios upcoming directly to the Disney fans. Things kicked off with Cynthia Erivo's live performance of "When You Wish Upon A Star" from the live-action Pinocchio that debuted on Disney+ Day (Sept. 8), and then kicked into even higher visual gear.
The panel was so jam-packed with special guests, announcements, and footage it ran almost a full two hours, but the energy in the room didn't seem to wane once as fans cheered and clapped for every truly new announcement aven simply hearing about how much fun casts had working with each other.
Read on to learn what's coming next from Disney and Pixar.
The trio of stars from Hocus Pocus (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) were not out in Anaheim Calif. in person, but they recorded a special video message that featured Midler attempting to do some magic of her own before pitching to a new trailer for Hocus Pocus 2 for the room's eyes only (at least for now).
The entire cast of Disenchanted was on stage, although it took a minute for Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph to arrive because they joked they spent the day in the theme park — and they were decked out in gear to back up that claim. Rudolph joked about how in-character as Giselle from that film franchise Adams stays, including singing in the park, while Adams sprayed a bubble wand on stage and handed Idina Menzel a Frozen toy.
While giving a little taste of what their characters were up to since the original film in the franchise (Enchanted) — including Menzel joking that she and James Marsden have been in "couples counseling," they introduced the first teaser trailer for the film and announced it would premiere on Nov. 24 on Disney+. Click here to watch the teaser.
Although Peter Pan has gotten live-action reimaginings before, the upcoming film is notably expanded in title and in scope to allow Wendy (played here by Ever Gabo Anderson) to be more fully fleshed out. "Disney worked really hard to bring a lot more depth and a lot more character so her and Peter are equals in this film, which I found really amazing," she said on stage.
And similarly, the relationship between Peter (Alexander Molony) and Captain Hook (Jude Law) is getting a bit more richness, as well. "We got to mine their backstory a little more. We understand about their past — and a past where they were possibly once friends," Law explained.
But their rivalry is still there, including a "cat-and-mouse game," "in-jokes that they have," and, of course, a lot of tense fight sequences, Molony said.
"For me playing the good guy, it was particularly nice to layer in that understanding of who and why Captain Hook is so iconic," Law added.
Justin Simien directs the upcoming theatrical adaptation of the beloved theme park ride, but his history with Disney goes way farther back. He actually used to work at the theme park when he was young.
"It was the best summer job I ever had. Anytime I wasn't working on the ride I was supposed to, I would go over to Disneyland and ride Pirates and Haunted Mansion," he said as a copy of his old ID badge was projected on the screen behind him.
Needless to say, he's a "fanboy" of the story of the ride, and he also feels the "responsibility" to make sure his version of the story is filled with Easter eggs. And that's not just true for nuggets for fans of the Haunted Mansion, but Hollywood as well. While the stars of the film include Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto, Tiffany Haddish, LaKeith Stanfield, Owen Wilson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, who was announced as Madame Leota live on stage as she rolled out in a doom buggy. But the film also features cameos from everyone from Winona Ryder to Dan Levy.
The next tale from The Lion King won't be a remake, but rather an origin story. Barry Jenkins is onboard to direct MUFASA: The Lion King feature film that goes back in time to explain how Mufasa rose to royalty.
"We assume he was born into lineage but Mufasa was actually an orphaned cub who had to...find his place in the circle of life," Jenkins explained. "Mufasa is who he is because of the family and the friends he has with him."
The story will be narrated by Timon and Pumbaa, along with Rafiki.
The stars of the upcoming live-action Snow White, Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot were on-hand at the expo to offer a very quick glimpse at their film and explain why this time around, Snow White is a woman for the modern age.
As Zegler explained, the film will really look at what it means to be the fairest of them all. Snow White has to come to terms with herself, as well as find "some agency so she can be a just ruler because there's another one in town who's not so much like that," she said.
"I'm used to playing the other end of where the heart should be, and she is the first [and] most iconic villain, and stepping into her shoes was so delightful and I enjoyed it so much that the first week of work people actually came to my assistant and said, 'If you need anything, I'm here for you' because I was so much in character," Gadot added.
Disney fans in the audience at the D23 Expo got to watch the full performance of "A Part of Your World" from Halle Bailey's Ariel in the live-action The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall, well ahead of its May 2023 release. The two also came out on stage to talk about the film, with Marshall noting the relatability of a character who is "displaced" but "wants something more." Meanwhile, Bailey called the three days it took to film "A Part of Your World" "the most beautiful part of my life," in part because of how she was "feeling all of the feelings," from Ariel's passion to discomfort, but also because she was "getting to sing a song I loved ever since I was a child."
Although the in-room audience got the whole sequence for that iconic musical number, Disney did release a teaser to the public that includes a snippet of Bailey's vocals at the end. Watch that below.