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WE sang, we fantasized, and we bawled our eyes out while watching films at the Disney Content Showcase at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands on Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, where the Walt Disney Company unveiled its slate of upcoming theatrical and streaming movies and series for 2023.
The showcase featured an expansive slate of global titles from Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Walt Disney Pictures.
Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter spoke about the studio’s purpose of entertaining and connecting with audiences.
“These stories allow us to step outside of ourselves and live from someone else’s eyes. And when they celebrate unfamiliar people and cultures, it may also help us understand a bit more about each other,” Mr. Docter said. “That’s why we ask our filmmakers to pull from their own personal experiences when their crafting stories, so that our audiences can better connect when they see a version of their own lives up there on screen,” he said.
“Movies that are impactful today, will hopefully also be watched a few years from now.”
ELEMENTALPixar Studios is set to release its new animated film, Elemental, about two elements who meet and discover how much they have in common, on June 16. The film was inspired by the story of director Pete Sohn’s parents who migrated from Korea to the United States in the 1970s.
“Just like my parents, many people and families have left their homes to come to a new land with hopes and dreams to do the same thing [to create a life in their chosen land],” Mr. Sohn said during the showcase.
“So, when we decided to make a new film, [we wanted] to tell a story about anyone who has had to ever make a sacrifice or taken a risk…,” he said.
The film features elementally opposed characters: Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) who is a hot-tempered young woman; and Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a go-with-the-flow sensitive guy. Ember wants to take over her father’s business and struggles to burn bright in a city surrounded by water.
“We wanted to make sure that she was made of fire instead of being on fire,” Mr. Sohn said.
Wade, meanwhile, is made of water with wavy hair like the ocean. His body is transparent, so his emotions are also evident all the time.
The film focuses on appreciating our differences and loved ones.
“A big theme of this movie is thanking our parents for the sacrifices they made for us,” said Mr. Sohn.
Other upcoming Pixar titles include Win or Lose, Elio, and Inside Out 2.
WISHIn line with Walt Disney Studios’ 100th anniversary in October next year, Disney Animation Studios will release the commemorative film Wish next November.
The story explores the legend of the wishing star. It follows 17-year-old Asha and her goat Valentino as they navigate Rosas, the kingdom of wishes where wishes can literally come true.
Wish merges the company’s original illustration style with the new animation technology.
“I am excited about honoring Walt Disney with the feature,” the film’s director Fawn Veerasunthorn said.
“Our art and technology team would come together to figure out how to combine the 20th century illustration look that inspired Walt [Disney] with the CG technology we have now,” she said.
IWÁJÚThe Disney Animation Studios will also release the streaming series Iwájú, co-produced by African entertainment company Kugali.
“Iwájú” is a Yoruba word that loosely translates to “future.” Set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria, the series will deal with issues of inequality, innocence, and defying the status quo.
“I have been saying since I took on this role that I was in search of the stories of the world to be told by the people of the world,” Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee said.
“We didn’t know what it would be. We thought maybe a small series of sorts and they presented us with a new powerful long-term series…,” Ms. Lee said.
THE LITTLE MERMAIDMeanwhile, Walt Disney Pictures will release its 20th live action adaptation of an animated film, The Little Mermaid, which premieres in May. It isbased on Disney’s 1989 animated film of the same title.
“We started with a broad search to find who should be Ariel for this generation,” Walt Disney Studios president Sean Bailey said. By the end of the casting search, the film’s director, Rob Marshall, presented actress Halle Bailey to the studio.
“That was a little unusual but we had incredible trust in Rob, so we screen tested, and we all immediately felt the same thing,” Mr. Bailey said. “She (Halle Bailey) just was the part.”
Other upcoming Walt Disney Pictures titles include Haunted Mansion which will be released in August, and Peter Pan and Wendy. Snow White and Mufasa: The Lion King will premiere in 2024.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIAFor Marvel Studios, next year marks the beginning of Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, set for release on Feb. 17.
In the third Ant-Man film, Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Hope van Dyne/Wasp, along with Hope’s parents and Scott’s daughter Cassie, explore the Quantum Realm that pushes their limits and pits them against Kang the Conqueror.
“They have to face one of the most formidable villains [that] Marvel has, Kang the Conqueror (played by Jonathan Majors). I think it’s a really exciting story coupled with the family dynamic that’s really interesting,” Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito said.
“From the very beginning, we knew that the two Iron Man (films), the first Captain America, and first Thor (films) were [going to] culminate in an Avengers movie,” Mr. D’Esposito said.
“When that plan worked out and was successful, we started introducing more and more characters, where they were not only being introduced for the upcoming Avengers movies,” he said, adding that superheroes would merge or make special appearances in individual superhero movies.
Regarding representation and diversity, Mr. D’Esposito borrowed a quote from Marvel Universe creator Stan Lee: “Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window.”
“Our films and streaming shows have to reflect that,” Mr. D’Esposito said. “We are an entertainment company. We set out to entertain, but when you couple that with diverse people in front and behind the camera, and they bring their respective point of view and ideas, that is magical…”
Marvel Studios’ other titles for 2023 include the films The Marvels (to be released on July 28) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5). Streaming on Disney+ soon are Secret Invasion, and Loki Season 2. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman