Movies & TV / Columns

D23 Expo Day 1 Recap: Disney Legends Awards, Disney+ Showcase, Marvel Animation

August 24, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
D23 Expo 2019 - The Mandalorian

411mania was on hand for Day 1 of the 2019 D23 Expo. Every two years, the Walt Disney Company, celebrates all things Disney with its biannual convention. And considering Disney now encompasses Marvel Entertainment (MCU, Marvel Comics), Lucasfilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) and 20th Century Fox, there’s a lot for Disney to show off as of late. Here’s my overall recap of Friday’s events.

Disney Legends Ceremony

This was basically the opening ceremony for this weekend’s convention. It featured a massive opening video featuring a look at some of the things that would be showcased throughout the weekend. This included snippets of new footage for Marvel’s Black Widow and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. I thought it was notable that the opening video featured footage from Deadpool 2 and also The Simpsons. So yeah, Disney is making it clear they own these 20th Century Fox media properties now. I’m wondering if the new Episode IX footage means there will be a new trailer or clips shown at Saturday’s live-action panel.

I think the Awards ceremony is fine. All the recipients clearly deserved the honor. I will say that it could’ve been a little bit more evened out. The biggest names received the awards upfront. I would’ve had Robert Downey Jr. receive his award and deliver his speech last. His speech was probably the most memorable, sharing an anecdote for what sounded like almost getting arrested or detained for smoking pot at Disneyland when he was a kid. I think his speech did drive home that his time as Tony Stark/Iron Man is over, and the torch has been passed on.

Iron Man director Jon Favreau also had a great acceptance speech. I enjoyed his story about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia, which the awards trophies are modeled after. Sadly, Hans Zimmer, James Earl Jones, and Bette Midler were not in attendance to accept their awards. Bette Midler’s daughter was nice enough to read her mother’s speech for the event. Jones and Zimmer also both gave pre-recorded acceptance speeches, which was nice.

Ming-Na Wen also had a great speech, noting how she met her husband working on The Joy Luck Club, which was technically a Disney project. I’m not a huge Christina Aguilera fan, but she did sort of wing her speech and sounded genuinely excited and happy to be there and to receive the award.

Bob Iger basically acted as the host of the award ceremony. Not one to give up the opportunity, he did promote some of the content for Disney+ that will be available at the service’s launch: all 30 seasons of The Simpsons and also some comprehensive National Geographic documentary content. Disney putting in the hard sell for Disney+ was really driven home today.

Around the Floor: Star Wars and Marvel Studios

Between the Disney+ Showcase and the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, I didn’t have a tone of time to explore the show floor today, but there a few things I did want to take note of. First off, the troopers who were shown on display for Star Wars. There was a Sith Trooper on display from Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. There’s been a lot of speculation about the recently released Sith Troopers and their role in the film. A lot of fans have theorized or probably outright made up some vast fiction labeled as “secret insider leaks” regarding the Sith Troopers. But the costume display actually labeled some official information that I have not seen anywhere yet. If they have, it hasn’t been widely reported. The description reads as follows (also see the image provided): “In its ultimate push towards Galactic conquest, the First Order readies an army of elite soldiers that draw inspiration and power from a dark and ancient legacy.”

Now, if that description is accurate, this means a lot of the theories and things I’ve been reading about the Sith Troopers are wrong. They are simply an elite unit or division of the First Order Stormtroopers. They are another division of troopers such as the Deathtroopers or the Royal Guard for the Imperial Army. I’ve seen many suggest they are a rogue faction or army that’s been hiding out for decades, which never made any sense. Sometimes the actual answers are just the simplest ones. Not everything has to be “the bells made her become the Mad Queen” blah blah blah.

And it also appears we saw another new First Order troop variation called the Jet Troopers. The Jet Troopers have jet packs they can use to fly into battle. So, they are similar to Rocket Troopers or Jump Troopers. I do like the new Trooper designs. I’m still curious how the Sith Troopers will come into play, but I’m glad that a lot of the fan theories have been laid to rest.


Now, I did notice the mural over at the Marvel booth displayed some interesting figures in the artwork. There appeared to be a Watcher next to Doctor Strange. Also, there was what appeared to clearly be a Celestial figure. I’m not sure if this means we are going to see the Watchers again in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but we know Marvel can definitely use Uatu now, since Uatu is serving as the narrator for the What IF…? animated series on Disney+. So, this could simply be a singular Watcher, or it could be Uatu. We might learn more at the theatrical panel on Saturday.

Disney+ Showcase – Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Jim Henson’s The Muppets, More

Begun the Streaming War has. The Disney+ Showcase was really the main event, hot ticket panel for Friday. This panel was a very hard sell for the Disney+ service and app. All things being equal, I think Disney did a fairly good job of pushing the service. Beforehand, my main interest in the service was mainly The Mandalorian, but there were some announcements today that definitely will keep my attention for a while. This is considering I wasn’t very excited about the previous Marvel TV announcements for Disney+ including Hawkeye, Loki, Wanda Vision (Still not hot on the title), and The Falcon and Winter Soldier. Some of the new announcements today definitely have me more excited.

Now, I won’t be going over every announcement that happened today. It was a long panel, and there were a ton of new shows announced. This is mainly going to be my highlights, main thoughts, and quick hits. First off, the scope of the content. While I definitely have some concerns and questions, it certainly appears the service will have a great deal of content to keep fans interested and occupied. Besides the original, premium programming, the Disney+ service will feature classic Disney animated shorts from its historic library and vault, classic Disney Channel programming, and classic movies. So, besides the entire Star Wars and MCU libraries, I’m under the impression you will be able to watch tons of classic Disney animated and live-action shows, animated cartoons, and movies.

However, while Kathleen Kennedy made it clear that all the Star Wars films will be available on the app, it wasn’t made clear if the theatrical cuts would be available in some form. We can likely assume it’s the special editions, but if Disney were to actually promise the theatrical cuts in high quality presentation for the service, that would be a huge way to entice more Star Wars fan to buy into it.

I didn’t get a huge look at all the older shows that will be available. Now, while the whole history of The Simpsons will be on there, what about classic DuckTales or Darkwing Duck? What about classic Marvel cartoons such as X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series from the 1990s, and then the more recent ones, such as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It shouldn’t just be Disney Channel originals. If you really want to put this service over the top, I’m going to want pretty much every classic cartoon and show I can think of that’s related to Disney or a Disney IP. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of this service and starting an all out Streaming War with Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros., HBO, etc.

For old school Star Wars, yes I want the Ewoks TV films and animated series, and I want Droids. This might seem silly to some, but these are also notable parts of the franchise’s history. Having this content available is also useful for research purposes. And for Lucasfilm, I also want things like the Indiana Jones movies and The Young Indiana Jones chronicles to be included. Has The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles ever even been available on a streaming platform like this? Not to my knowledge. Now, I realize some of this content might still have rights tied up elsewhere, but these are just some thoughts on things I want to see implemented for the app.

Now, from what I saw on the floor for the actual Disney+ app, the navigation does look strong and fairly intuitive. It looks like users will be able to search for films and shows by brand. So, you can search for Pixar films under the Pixar logo, Marvel under the Marvel logo, etc. Hopefully, I will get some more hands-on time with the app this weekend.

OK, onto the actual panel portion. So, starting with Marvel, I was really amped up to see Moon Knight and She-Hulk get announced. That’s fantastic news. I’ve wanted something to happen with Moon Knight for years, and I’m honestly glad it’s going to be a TV series (limited miniseries?) over a movie. It means we will get more time with Marc Spector.

While, I initially had high hopes for the Marvel Netflix line, it sort of all limped to a dead finish instead of going out with a blaze of glory. Don’t get me wrong, there was some great stuff to be found throughout the Marvel Netflix line, but it never reached the heights and glory that I hoped it would. The Defenders miniseries was sort of a bust by the end of it. Iron Fist and The Punisher never quite lived up to their potential. Not to mention, their integration and acknowledgement in the wider MCU was non-existent by the end. It’s not that I expected the Defenders to show in Infinity War, but more definitely could’ve been done that was not.

Since Moon Knight is in the hands of Kevin Feige, I hope it means we will get more of that epic scope and style of the MCU, while also maybe mixing in some more of those darker, edgier elements of the Netflix line. I realize that they probably can’t go too super-edgy on Disney+. But if Feige and Marvel Studios are producing this, let it be known: I want my Moon Knight to have a bloody costume and a cape! I will be curious to see who is cast as Marc Spector.

D23 - Marvel's Moon Knight

She-Hulk getting her own show is fantastic news. Now, the drawback here is that if they are using She-Hulk, she won’t be starring in her own solo movie. I think if you were to make another female-led solo Marvel superhero movie, She-Hulk would be a top candidate. I have no idea if there are rights issues there, similar to The Hulk with Universal. The premise for She-Hulk sounds like Marvel is on the right track here. I avidly await to see who gets cast as Jennifer Walters. I think this will also be a nice test for the Marvel Disney+ line to see how far they go with the visuals and special FX. No disrespect to the other Marvel TV shows, but they almost always had to cut corners and skimp on the really big, epic ideas. I hope that’s not the case here.

D23 - Marvel's She-Hulk

The Falcon and Winter Soldier had not much new shown or revealed here. I did like seeing Emily VanCamp make an appearance. She had an amusing exchange with Feige where he actually asked her, “Where has Sharon Carter been in the MCU,” and she replies, “You tell me!” Considering I’ve been a huge Sharon Carter fan, and Carter’s minimized role in the MCU has been one of my bigger disappointments, I did find the joke amusing. Alright, so VanCamp will be back as Sharon Carter here. I’m glad Wyatt Russell has been cast as John Walker. I hope he gets to fully become US Agent in the series, though I imagine some corrupt government officials will push Russell’s Walker as the new replacement Captain America. Russell is an underrated talent, and I’m glad to see him in a role like this.

D23 - The Falcon and Winter Soldier

The What IF…? animated series had its first reveal trailer during the panel. This was our first real look at the series and its animation. Uatu is in the show and serves as the narrator. He sets the stage in the trailer showcasing how there are infinite possibilities and multiple realities, and those will be explored in this show. It looks very much in the spirit of the classic What If comic series, along with Uatu’s narration, and I’m glad Uatu is now officially joining the MCU.

D23 - Marvel's What IF...?

The animation is a CG cel-shaded style. It’s not my most preferred style, but the designs and character models looked OK. The trailer showed familiar and iconic moments from throughout MCU history, but things have been slightly altered. You see Star-Lord going to retrieve the Infinity Stone on Morag, but instead of Peter Quill under the Star-Lord mask, it’s T’Challa. Peggy Carter gets the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers and ultimately becomes Captain Britain, complete with a British flag costume and the vibranium shield with the British flash emblazoned on it. At one point, the trailer shows Bucky/Winter Soldier what is most definitely a Zombie Captain America. And when I say Zombie Captain America, this looks like a full-on Marvel Zombies Captain America. Close to the end of the trailer, you see a suit reminiscent of the Mark I suit, but more finished and with American military colors in what is clearly World War II. Skinny Steve Rogers emerges from the suit greeting Captain Britain. That looks like it could be an interesting twist. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Marvel What If stories, but the trailer did get me a little more interested in wanting to watch it.

WandaVision is one show I’m still not completely sold on. Feige and the showrunners sold it as a classic Dick Van Dyke sitcom mixed with the epic scope of the MCU. A sort of proof of concept video played showing footage of Vision and Scarlet Witch from the previous MCU films mixed with voice-over from what I believe was The Dick Van Dyke show. I’m not sure how well this idea will work out, but we shall see. Hopefully, Vision’s death and resurrection isn’t something that just gets hand-waived or lamp-shaded away.

Also, I forgot to mention this on the Twitter feed earlier, but Kat Dennings is returning in WandaVision as Darcy Lewis. Additionally, Teyonah Parris has been cast as the adult Monica Rambeau. I’m glad we will find out what Monica Rambeau has been up to, but I’m not sure Darcy Lewis is something the show needed. Randall Park returning as Jimmy Woo makes sense, since the government will probably want a handler or an FBI agent keeping an eye on Wanda and Vision. I’m not understanding why Darcy is there, other than to maybe push the sitcom wackiness.

It seems like what should be happening here instead of Hawkeye and WandaVision is a West Coast Avengers show. Or maybe that’s a spinoff Marvel Studios might want to lead into later on. I’m fine with seeing Wanda and Vision again and more of what happened to Vision after Infinity War, but this looks like one of the shows I can take or leave for the Disney+ service, along with Hawkeye.

Disney has confirmed that WandaVision, What If…?, and Loki will all debut on Disney+ in 2021. If that’s the case, I’m guessing we won’t be seeing Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk until 2022 at the earliest. That’s just a guess on my part. The Falcon and Winter Soldier will be available first in 2020.

OK, now over to Star Wars. The Mandalorian was definitely the star of this panel, and it looks utterly fantastic. I was already onboard for Disney+ pretty much by Mando alone, and this trailer only cemented that. Considering that this is meant to be a “family” service, it looks like it will be darker and edgier than a lot of the family fare that was promoted on Friday for Disney+. The show looks reminiscent of Rogue One, Mad Max, classic spaghetti westerns and samurai films. The production values look feature-quality level.

This looks like the new Star Wars story I’ve been waiting to see for years. We are finally getting into that post Return of the Jedi period that as Jon Favreau noted has gone fairly unexplored for years. It looks like a lot of the action, stunts and creature work is done in camera. But again, the CG and production values that are there look topnotch. Pedro Pascal’s character looks like he’s using his gauntlets and Mandalorian gear like we always wanted to see Boba Fett do but never really pull off in the original trilogy.

There’s all sorts of homages to the classic original trilogy vehicles and aliens. There’s a new Twi-lek character, who I believe is appearing in a scene with Bill Burr in the show. There’s an Ugnaught named Kuiil who appears to be riding a Dewback like creature. There’s a scene involving an AT-ST Imperial Walker. There are victims who have been incased in carbonite. You see a village where Stormtrooper helmets have been stuck on pikes. This trailer definitely did its job.

Now, I understand a lot of Star Wars fans are jaded as of late. Some if the anger is justified. Some of it is valid. Some of it isn’t. But if you are going to continue being so angry and unhappy that you won’t even give this show a chance, maybe Star Wars just isn’t for you anymore. Maybe you absolutely hate the Sequel Trilogy. OK, fine. I generally find the prequels to be poorly written and acted. I can recognize some of their stronger points, but I still think they are fundamentally flawed. Maybe you dislike the newer Disney iterations of Star Wars. But between the return fo Clone Wars, The Mandalorian, a Cassian Andor/K-2SO Rogue One prequel spinoff, an Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor, I mean there’s got to be something you can like in there, right? Even if you hated The Last Jedi, The Mandalorian looks like a show that all Star Wars fans can love and appreciate. I can move on from what I dislike about the prequels and cans till enjoy new Star Wars products if they are good and well done.

The show looks brilliant and it actually explores the darker side and nature of a post-Empire galaxy. There’s a power vacuum. There’s no central government. The Outer Rim is lawless, and it looks like crime bosses and warlords are taking over. Not to mention, Favreau and Dave Filoni have assembled what appears to be a brilliant cast and crew for this series. I will give major league props to the show if Pedro Pascal goes throughout the whole show without ever taking his mask. Then, you have the great Carl Weathers, and Taika Waititi as the new droid character IG-11, who looks super-cool. This is IG-11, FYI, not IG-88.

But if Star Wars fans who are still angry over Last Jedi to maybe put aside their anger for five minutes and watch what is clearly looking to be an epic series, then I just don’t know what else to say at this point.

I think bringing back Ewan McGregor in a TV series as Obi-Wan Kenobi over a movie is the right play. There’s less pressure for it to perform as a series. Also, as a series, it can likely be more experimental with its storyline than a movie would be. My problem is with a movie for Obi-Wan, how do you come up with a two-hour story that makes sense for Obi-Wan when at that time, he’s supposed to be staying on Tatooine to be watching over Luke from afar? I guess that issue is still there for a TV series, but again, a TV show can be more experimental. It also doesn’t have involve McGregor going off-planet either.

Again, it seems a lot of fans wanted McGregor back to play Kenobi. You are getting that now. So, let’s at least wait to get a trailer until we start raging out over it.

Elsewhere, I’m glad Jim Henson’s Muppets will be back with a new show called Muppets Now. A clip was shown featuring Kermit the Frog and a new Muppet character named Joe from Legal. Joe looked like he was supposed to be an otter or some type of weasel acting like a corporate weasel executive giving Kermit a hard time about the terminology preview for the show. The new Muppet show, Muppets Now will debut on Disney+ sometime next year.

Marvel Animation

I finished out the day with the Marvel Animation panel in the evening. While it appears Disney and Marvel are on the outs with Sony Pictures right now over Spider-Man, it appears utilization of the Wall-Crawler will continue for Marvel Animation. The animated Spider-Man series will feature an adaptation of the Superior Spider-Man, with Doctor Octopus taking possession of Peter’s body. A clip was shown with “Superior” Spider-Man getting into a fight with Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, and Black Widow.

Another big storyline that was pushed was Maximum Venom. The writers pushed how everything that’s happened involving the symbiotes in the previous Marvel animated shows will play into this storyline, which sounds promising.

The new Marvel Rising special was screened. It looks like Gwen Stacy is having trouble adjusting to life as a superhero with the Secret Warriors while also fulfilling her other extracurricular activities. This special featured a rendition of Screaming Mimi and the Thunderbolts as rivals for Spider-Gwen and the New Warriors.

Marvel Animation also announced Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends. Before you get too excited over the title, it’s a new animated series aimed at preschoolers and their families. It’s due out in 2021. This will mark the first full-length Marvel series aimed at the Disney Junior audience.

That’s all for my main hits for Day 1 of the 2019 D23 Expo. Be sure to tune into more for Days 2 and 3.