Man oh man, what a day. We laughed. We cried (with joy). We lost our voices shouting to the heavens about every announcement. The “Worlds Galaxies and Universes” live action presentation at D23 Expo Saturday morning gave all present a new hope (ha!) for the future of Lucasfilm and its treatment in the accomplished hands of Disney.
First, let’s discuss the current slate of Star Wars features in varying levels of production. As of this article, Episode VII: The Force Awakens will premiere in 124 days for a majority of the planet. Next on the agenda is Gareth Edward’s A Star Wars Story: Rogue One, set to premiere December 16, 2016. Rian Johnson will helm Episode VIII and be released May 26 2017. The next Star Wars Story (currently untitled) is the controversial young Solo origin tale, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and scheduled for release on May 25 2018. Lastly, Episode IX will finalize the new trilogy in 2019, helmed by Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow.
The first series of exciting news focused on the inaugural film of the anthology series, Rogue One. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn divulged the impressive cast assembled for this intriguing venture into the Star Wars universe. As accounted via press release:
The filmmakers have assembled a stellar cast, including Felicity Jones, nominated for an Academy Award® for her leading role in “The Theory of Everything”; Diego Luna, who was featured in 2008’s Oscar®-winning “Milk” and the critically acclaimed “Killing Them Softly”; Ben Mendelsohn, recently nominated for an Emmy® for his leading role in “Bloodline” and co-starring in the upcoming “Mississippi Grind”; Donnie Yen, Hong Kong action star and martial artist who starred in “Ip Man” and “Blade II”; Jiang Wen, who co-wrote, produced , directed and starred in the award-winning “Let the Bullets Fly” and “Devils on the Doorstep”; Forest Whitaker, recently featured in the critically-acclaimed Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and winner of an Academy Award® for his leading role in 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland; Mads Mikkelsen, who starred in “The Hunt” and was the memorable villain from 2006’s “Casino Royale”; Alan Tudyk, who plays a performance-capture character in “Rogue One,” stars in the soon-to-be-released “Con Man” series and “Trumbo,” which releases this November; and Riz Ahmed, who was recently featured in “Nightcrawler” and starred in the BAFTA-winning film “Four Lions.”
Impressive, no? Shut up and take my money already! The addition of Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker instantly bolsters the gravitas in the project, no matter what roles they assume. Given Alan Tudyk’s superb motion-capture work in I Robot, Rogue One has all the potential to become a dark, well-rounded addition to Star Wars canon.
Possibly for the final time until the world premiere, a majority of the main cast of The Force Awakens were on stage to thank the dedicated fans at D23 for their continued zeal; this same enthusiasm as one may recall set a Guinness World Record for the most viewed clip in 24 hours. Jon Boyega (Finn) was especially exuberant and rewarded those in the audience with an exclusive Drew Struzan The Force Awakens poster. Still, that paled in comparison to the enduring ovation given to Harrison Ford as he joined his fellow castmates.
Disney CEO Bob Iger joined the cast before making one final announcement that many of us have anticipated for months… Star Wars will indeed have a larger presence at Disney Parks. Much, much larger. How does 14 acres sound? The tentatively titled Star Wars Land will be at both Anaheim and Orlando, however will not directly be part of Disneyland and Disney World.
Rather, guests will be transported to this new planet that’ll feature the most cutting edge technology from their Imagineers and ILM. Aliens will be abundant, creatures will lumber before you. Yes, you will be able to spend time in a cantina (among other exotic locales). Additionally, there will be two rides in Star Wars Land: one will focus on you joining the Resistance and combating the First Order. The other will put you in the pilot’s seat of the Millennium Falcon for a customized adventure! What an amazing time to be alive.
Three years ago, there was considerable concern for how Disney would handle such a celebrated franchise like Star Wars. It was a legitimate response as media corporation has its fingers in many pies. Based on the reception Disney received for their grand plan on Saturday, many fans across the world will be thoroughly fulfilled by the next series of films and shows based on the beloved space opera.