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D23 Expo 2022: Celebrate the Magic of Disney & Pixar Studio Showcase Recap

September 13, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
D23 Expo 2022 - ELEMENTAL Image Credit: © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This year’s D23 Expo 2022 kicked off with a bang and a huge first day on Friday, September 9. The first major Studio Showcase of the expo was Celebrate the Magic of Disney & Pixar. At past D23 events, Disney would have a panel for its live-action productions from Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios together, while usually separating their animated film previews for an animated films showcase with Walt Disney Animation and Pixar. The deck was shuffled this year instead.

At this year’s expo, the Magic of Disney & Pixar Studio Showcase featured Walt Disney Studio’s live-action *and* animated slate, along with the upcoming offerings from Pixar.

Celebrate the Magic of Disney & Pixar Studio Showcase

Disney Live Action

This year’s studio showcase showcased a big sizzle reel for all the cinematic offerings of The Walt Disney Offerings, along with the new studio logo celebrating “100 Years of Wonder,” which is the major theme of this year’s convention. Cynthia Erivo was in attendance for a live rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

On the live-action side, the first film featured was the highly-anticipated Hocus Pocus 2. Stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy appeared in a prerecorded video to debut the official trailer for the film, which lands on Disney+ on September 30. They had some fun banter about coming back to their roles 29 years later after the original.

I think the original Hocus Pocus is a fun, little movie. It’s since gained an enormous cult following, and the fans in attendance were majorly excited to see the trailer for the upcoming sequel.

Next up was another sequel coming to Disney+ with Disenchanted. Most of the entire central cast was there. Maya Rudolph and Amy Adams had a fun introduction like they just came over to Hall D23 straight from Disneyland, with lots of merchandise and souvenirs in tow. Amy Adams also did a little bit of Giselle singing for the audience. The actors talked about what their characters are up to in the sequel, where Giselle accidentally creates havoc by turning her new suburban home into a fairytale-like land.

I enjoy the first Enchanted movie, so I’m a bit disappointed this isn’t getting a theatrical release. But I will give this one a look. I was also happy to see Pip the Chipmunk make a return.

A project I’m not sold on is a new adaptation of Peter Pan called Peter Pan & Wendy. This is a new streaming film directed by David Lowery and produced by Jim Whitaker. The first look at footage was also shown for the D23 audience. It stars Alexander Molony as Peter Pan, Ever Anderson as Wendy, Alyssa Wapanâtahk as Tiger Lily, and Jude Law as Captain Hook.

Jude Law as Captain Hook might be somewhat fun and interesting, but the footage didn’t really grab me. There have been multiple updates of Peter Pan in live-action over the years, and none of them have done particularly well. Hook from 1991 did well, but it’s not particularly beloved or viewed as a classic. Peter Pan in 2003 bombed, and Pan in 2015 also bombed. This is Disney doing one of their own, and they are clearly using some of the imagery and cues from their 1953 animated movie.

I’m generally not keen on many of Disney’s live-action remakes of their animated pictures. Peter Pan will debut on Disney+ later in 2023.

D23 Expo 2022 - Haunted Mansion Logo

Image Credit: Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I think Haunted Mansion remake was the real surprise and show-stealer of the studio showcase. Justin Simien is a talented filmmaker, but I was still rather cynical and skeptical about this production until I saw the footage. This movie looks like everything fans would’ve wanted the original Haunted Mansion film starring Eddie Murphy to be. It looks like the music of the theme park ride is actually going to be in the film, it looks to have a great cast, and it looks like it will have some genuine scares and thrills as well. Also, the footage had the first look at The Hat-Box Ghost in the film. The creatures actually looked like they jumped right off the ride.

Also exciting, during the showcase, Simien announced that Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis is part of the cast. She wasn’t in any of the footage, so her role still appears to be a mystery. She did appear during the showcase, riding out onto the sage in one of the ride carts from the Haunted Mansion attraction. I was not so interested in the movie before, but now I definitely plan on seeing Haunted Mansion next year. It’s due out on March 10, 2023.

Mufasa: The Lion King was announced during the studio showcase. Filmmaker Barry Jenkins directs this prequel to 2019’s The Lion King. What can best be described as a teaser trailer was shown. Essentially, it’s Rafiki from the remake telling the story of Mufasa to Timon and Pumba.

I wasn’t much of a fan of the 2019 remake of The Lion King, and I’m not too keen on a prequel either. I’m not really sure why it’s important to learn about Mufasa’s history and story, and why a prequel needed to be made. The CG animation for the trailer looked very rough. I’m not sure if this is meant to go straight to streaming or released in theaters, but it looked like visuals for a streaming film.

Based on the teaser trailer, Mufasa was born without any noble blood, so this will likely be the story of how he started his rivalry with Scar and became king of the Pride Lands. Hopefully, David Oyelowo will be back to voice Scar at least.

The Disney live-action portion also announced the big-screen, live-action remake of Snow White; Disney’s first animated feature and the first animated feature-length film in history. The new film stars Gal Gadot as The Evil Queen and Rachel Zegler as the titular Disney princess. Some early footage was shown, showing both Gal Gadot and Zegler in costume.

I think Gal Gadot looks very well cast as The Evil Queen. I’m not a big fan of most of the Disney live-action remakes of the animated features, but it has a good cast and director. We’ll see how this one turns out. Marc Webb directs Disney’s Snow White, which arrives in theaters in 2024.

Director Rob Marshall came out to introduce some new footage for next year’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The footage included the film’s rendition of “Part of Your World” by Halle Bailey. We saw a little bit of Flounder here. I’m personally not crazy about how Flounder looks. It’s once again that style of The Lion King of making the animals look mostly photorealistic. Flounder now looks like a real fish, and he just doesn’t look like Flounder anymore, making his design a little off-putting.

D23 Expo 2022 - The Little Mermaid Still

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I think the way some of the musical number was staged was a bit lacking. Halle Bailey is a good singer and has a good voice, and she’s able to hit the high notes. However, parts of the sequence have Ariel speaking in a sort of speaking sing-songy voice. I do think the CG and lighting looked impressive. A teaser trailer for the film was also shown, which you can see below:

Disney’s The Little Mermaid arrives in theaters in May 2023.

Pixar Animation Studios

From there, the studio showcase transitioned to the Pixar section. I think the most impressive-looking work of the Pixar offerings was most definitely Elemental from director Pete Sohn. For this film, think Zootopia, but instead of a world of anthropomorphic animals, it’s a world of anthropomorphic “elemental” beings. So beings made of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water are sentient, intelligent beings. However, it’s tough for fire beings to interact with everyone.

The story is about Ember and Wade. Ember is a fire being, and Wade is a water being. They meet and form a connection, even though they are two opposites who could likely extinguish one another. The visuals and animation style for this film are incredible. This does not look like any other Pixar film ever created before. The footage that was shown was not even all completed animation. Some of it was still rough and unfinished, and some were still in animatic form.

What was finished looked amazing. It looks like Pixar’s animators are pushing themselves like never before to achieve the world and characters of this story. Not to mention, this looks to be a very personal story for director Pete Sohn, as this was inspired by his parents moving to New York from Korea. Elemental looks like it will be a very emotional, poignant, and iconic film for Pixar.

Pixar also revealed the animation studio’s first-ever long-form television series that will stream on Disney+. The new series is called Win or Lose. The series will follow a co-ed middle school softball team, The Pickles, in the weak leading up to the team’s championship game. Each episode will take place over the same week, showing the perspective of a different character, including the parents, and even the umpire.

Also, each episode will have its own unique visual style. The production team showed a clip from a scene in the show where the introverted umpire is trying to get coffee at a shop and tries to ask the barista out on a date. He gets rejected, and his response is to put up his “emotional armor,” which looked hilarious. So, the show looks like it will visualize all the crazy emotions that are going inside the characters’ heads from their perspectives.

D23 Expo 2022 - Win or Lose Still

Image Credit: Disney/Pixar

Will Forte stars in the show as the voice of Coach Dan. He appeared in a prerecorded video talking about the project during the showcase. This looks like a great idea for Pixar’s first original episodic TV series. The Pixar style and humor look like they are there, and it also looks like they are trying some fun and unique things with the story and animation.

Pixar’s Pete Docter also announced an upcoming theatrical animated feature for Pixar, Elio, from Coco director Adrian Molina and producer Mary Alice Drumm. The story follows the 11-year-old Elio, a creative and artistic young boy who has trouble fitting in. Elio unwittingly makes first contact with an alien race and is mistaken as the Ambassador for Earth. It’s now up to Elio to overcome his self-esteem issues and self-doubt to represent the human race while meeting the aliens.

Olga’s smart and super-confident mother, Olga, who runs the top-secret military project in the film, is voiced by America Ferrera. Yonas Kibreab voices Elio. Both appeared live for the presentation. This looks like it will be another theatrically released film for Pixar. I like the concept and premise, so I hope it’s a fun watch. The film releases in theaters in Spring 2024.

D23 Expo 2022 Inside Out 2 Logo

Image Credit: Disney/Pixar

To close out Pixar, Amy Poehler made a live, surprise appearance onstage to announce Inside Out 2. The whole gang will be back, but this time there will be new emotions inside Riley’s head. Also, Riley is a teenager now. The original Inside Out is a classic, and I’m glad Pixar is making a sequel. Riley getting older and the gang meeting new emotions creates a lot of fun possibilities. I’m looking forward to it.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Walt Disney Animation Studios CEO Jennifer Lee introduced the animation studio portion of the showcase by talking about the eve of Disney’s 100th anniversary and the importance of the studio and how much of a privilege it is to be stewards of the studio started by Walt and Roy Disney.

Lee stated, “At Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio that started it all, on the eve of our 100th anniversary, we see today as a moment of privilege and promise.” She continued, “A privilege to be stewards of a studio and a dream that Walt and his brother, Roy, started a century ago. And a promise to continue to take risks in our storytelling—and to explore and expand and turn the possible into the actual, just as Walt did.”

The studio showcased revealed some of Disney Animation Studios’ upcoming shows that are coming to Disney+, which include Zootopia+. A new trailer for the upcoming series was shown. I was a little saddened to hear that this is only a short-form series. It will focus on the other characters in the world of the original film and showcase what they were doing while the main story took place.

This is a short-form rather than a full episodic series. I’ll discuss more on this show later. It’s not exactly the sequel series or follow-up to Zootopia that I wanted. However, it does look like it will be cute and fun. I love Zootopia, so this looks like a supplemental companion piece to the original film. It premieres on Disney+ on November 9.

Another new animation project coming to Disney+ later in 2023 is the original, long-form animated series Iwájú. Jennifer Lee said this project came about after hearing that the Pan-African comic book entertainment company Kugali wanted to “kick Disney’s you know what,” and Disney became intrigued as a result. Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, Hamid Ibrahim, and Tolu Olowofoyeku appeared onstage to showcase Iwájú, which looks like a mix of sci-fi, comic book-style, and action-adventure elements.

The story follows Tola, a young heiress from a wealthy island. She forms an unlikely relationship with Kole, a self-taught tech expert and loving son from the more impoverished mainland. They are thrust together on an adventure and fight for their lives. Tola also has an android lizard friend, who is very cute but is also armed to the teeth with weapons and defense systems.

D23 Expo 2022 - Iwaju artwork

Image Credit: Disney

Some character images and animation clips were shown. The influence of western comic books is seen in the show. The animation and visuals look impressive, and it has a unique setting.

Jennifer Lee also announced Disney Animation’s 61st feature film, which is Strange World. The upcoming film is directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, who also wrote the script. The story follows Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is recruited by the ready-for-ractionPresident Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to save the world by investigating a strange realm filled with strange phenomena and various creatures.

Searcher Clade was always in the shadow of his father, the elder Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), who was lost on an expedition. Father and son are reunited on this journey, and they must overcome their differences to save the world.

This looks like an old-school sci-fi, an action-adventure-heavy story with a Disney coat of paint. Fans of Disney’s Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire would likely want to give this one a look. The world and overall look of the film have a pulpy, sci-fi literature type of feel, but it’s combined with the Disney family movie and story aspect.

D23 Expo 2022 - Strange World Still

Image Credit: Disney

A trailer/sizzle reel for the film was shown, along with an extended clip. The clip shows Searcher, Yaeger, and Search’s son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) trying to run away from some feral, predatorial tentacle creatures in this alien world. From the sound of the dialogue, Searcher and Jaeger have recently reunited, and it’s not the most harmonious reunion. Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and President Mal show up to help the group with their escape.

I’m looking forward to this one. Disney Animation Studios hasn’t made a movie like this in a long time, and the visuals look fantastic. The setting and various alien creatures look stunning. Strange World is due out in theaters on November 23, 2022.

Last but not least, Jennifer Lee introduced the final film showcased for the studio showcased, which is the upcoming new, original feature film Wish. this will be an animated musical inspired by the idea of how the wishing star of so many Disney stories that characters wished upon come to be. The project is directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, who appeared to outline the story.

Wish is set in the fantasy kingdom of Rosas, where wishes can literally come true. The story follows Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose), a young optimist who has her plea to the stars answered in the form of a young cosmic being called Star. Star appears to be a young wishing star, who Asha befriends.

D23 Expo 2022 - Wish Logo

Image Credit: Disney

Actor Alan Tudyk also appeared live to talk about the film. He voices a pajama-wearing goat character named Valentino. A clip was shown where Valentino interacts with Star and grants him the ability to speak, which is cute.

The real attraction of Wish is its animation style. If anyone remembers the 2012 Disney Animation short, Paperman, the movie looks to be the evolution of that style. It’s like a mix of traditional Disney Animation style, but also CG. Some various animation tests were shown, offering a view of the Kingdom of Rosas and the camera moving through some buildings. I’m glad Disney is trying some new and different things with their animation techniques, and it looks like this could be a potential classic.

D23 Expo 2022 - Wish artwork and still

Image Credit: Disney

DeBose closed out the showcase with a live performance of one of the songs from Wish called “More for Us.” The film does not have an official release date.


If I were to give a single standout for each studio, it would be Haunted Mansion for Disney Live Action, Elemental for Pixar, and Strange World for Walt Disney Animation, but I’m very intrigued by Wish. There actually looked to be a fairly good mix of offerings here.

If I have only one major criticism for the studio showcase, it ran a little bit on the long side. This was basically three panels in one. For the next D23, I would maybe consider separating the live-action slate from the animated slate, so the showcases can flow a little bit better. I believe this showcase was slotted for two hours, and it ended up running about two-and-a-half.

Regardless, this was a good first-day showcase for the D23 Expo, and there are some promising offerings ahead from Disney and Pixar that I’m very much looking forward to.