Friday, December 8, 2023

CinemaCon 2023 Recap: Disney

Disney Co-Chairman Alan Bergman wasted no time when he came on stage for Walt Disney Pictures’ presentation at CinemaCon 2023. To this crowd of theater owners, Bergman celebrated the massive box office success of “Avatar: The Way of Water” at the end of 2022 and showcased 2023 releases he hopes will repeat those numbers. “I wanted to personally thank you for your support,” Bergman said, “It’s so gratifying to see the business coming back.” Bergman thanked the theater owners for their support before introducing Tony Chambers, Disney’s head of Theatrical Distribution, for the rest of the show.

Chambers noted that this was a big year for Disney. In addition to this being Disney’s 100th anniversary, 2023 is the first time since 2019 that Disney has films coming out from all of the seven labels under the Disney brand: Walt Disney Pictures, Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight Pictures. Sure enough, Chambers teased movies from all of those labels, beginning with the picture that releases in just a week and a half: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” We saw an exclusive clip featuring the Guardians in brightly colored spacesuits, in which Peter tried to have a personal conversation with Gamora. The footage looks great, as we’ve already seen from the numerous released trailers. Similarly, Chambers introduced the already-released trailer for the next Marvel film, “The Marvels,” coming to theaters on November 10th.Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3Also arriving this November is the latest animated feature from Disney, titled “Wish.” Chambers announced for the first time that Chris Pine would join the film, voicing King Magnifico, alongside the already-announced Ariana DeBose. Disney also debuted the first clip for the film, a song sequence titled “This Wish.” It’s classic Disney fairy tale stuff, with Asha (DeBose) singing about wishing for something more and longing to break out from the world she’s in. The animation looked more stylized than the typical Disney movie, emulating a storybook feel. We’ll see more when the trailer releases tomorrow.

Another animated project teased today was Pixar’s “Elemental.” The crowd at CinemaCon got to see the first 20 minutes of the film, which went over very well. The animation is gorgeous, and Disney even showcased it in 3D to highlight the beautiful imagery. This is a clear immigrant story, with excellent world-building that we’ve seen in the trailers. Earlier this year, Next Best Picture got a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes of the movie, which you can read more about here. The film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival before its release on June 16th.

Moving away from animation, Disney brought out only one star during this presentation, Melissa McCarthy, to promote the upcoming release of “The Little Mermaid.” “It was truly an honor to play one of Disney’s most delicious and iconic villains,” McCarthy said of Ursula. “She’s a conniving broad!” McCarthy introduced an extended clip from the movie featuring the full performance of Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” The song was great, and McCarthy seemed to be having a thrilling time chewing the scenery as Ursula. “The Little Mermaid arrives in theaters on May 26th.

In teasing the latest Disney film based on a Disneyland ride, Chambers says that “Haunted Mansion” has “a mythology to rival ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean.” An extended clip and trailer showcased the funny, spooky vibe of the Justin Simien film. Like “Pirates,” this could be a great entry point for younger viewers into slightly horror-esque elements. It looks like a fun film.

Elsewhere, Disney showcased the similarly titled “A Haunting In Venice,” the latest entry in Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot franchise. Chambers debuted the trailer for the first time to the CinemaCon crowd, which leans surprisingly heavy on the story’s horror elements, a contrast to the more stately, dramatic tones of the earlier films. Another trailer debut excited the crowd, this time for Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins.” This true story stars Michael Fassbender as a football coach who takes the position of coaching the legendarily bad American Samoa team. The trailer was full of all the comedy that’s worked so well in Taika’s smaller-scale comedies. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser in theaters this November.Next Goal WinsOne unexpected trailer was shown for a film called “The Creator.” Formerly titled “True Love,” this sci-fi drama hails from Gareth Edwards, his first film since 2016’s “Rogue One.” The footage in the trailer was stunning and teased an emotional journey. There were many audible “wows” throughout the room, and this was easily the biggest surprise of the presentation—John David Washington and Gemma Chan star in the movie, and is coming to  theaters on September 29th.

Finally, Disney ended the presentation with an extended chase sequence from “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” The chase was thrilling, funny, and so exciting. James Mangold’s direction creates so much tension with creative camera movement and blocking while still making room for laughs. While some have worried about the onslaught of CGI that could happen with a legacy sequel like this, this sequence looked stunning. It hits theaters on June 30th, after its Cannes premiere.

One element was conspicuously missing from Disney’s presentation, in contrast to earlier CinemaCon presentations from Sony and Warner Bros. Both studios went out of their way to highlight their strong stance in favor of theatrical releases prioritized over streaming. While Bergman opened by celebrating the immense success of the theatrical release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the studio didn’t make as strong of a stance for theaters as their competitors, something the theater owners in the crowd may have noticed. Maybe it’s because of films like “Peter Pan & Wendy,” releasing this Friday exclusively on Disney+, that Disney couldn’t make such a commitment.

What was your favorite piece of news from the Disney panel at CinemaCon this year? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howat
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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