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D23 Expo announces new projects

This past weekend, the biennial D23 Expo occurred at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California from Sept. 9-11.

The event was originally planned for 2021, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed back to 2022. It was also pushed back to highlight Disney’s plans for the 100th anniversary of the company on Oct. 16. 

The D23 Expo stems from the D23 Official Disney Fan Club, which was founded in 2009. D23 refers to “D” — which stands for Disney — and “23” for 1923, which was when Walt Disney founded the Walt Disney Company. The expo contains panels and events very much like San Diego Comic-Con as well as a ceremony for the Disney Legends, a Hall of Fame program that recognizes individuals who made an extraordinary contribution to the Walt Disney Company. 

The 2022 D23 Expo kicked off with the 2022 Disney Legends ceremony. Notable members who were inducted into the Hall of Fame include Anthony Anderson (“black-ish,” “Law & Order”), Kristen Bell (the “Frozen” films), Ellen Pompeo (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Josh Gad (also the “Frozen” films). Posthumously, Chadwick Boseman (“Black Panther”) also received an induction, which was accepted by his brother Derrick. 

Following the ceremony, Disney CEO Bob Chapek took the stage, with many people in the crowd booing him. Chapek has garnered a lot of attention in the media for making questionable changes to the Walt Disney Company; in recent news, he was called out for his commencement speech at Indiana University this past May when he switched up the nicknames of Disneyland California and Walt Disney World in Florida.

Chapek announced that many of the parks across the world are expanding and many new attractions were announced. In particular, the heavily anticipated TRON Lightcycle Run at the Magic Kingdom was announced, set to open in the spring of 2023. 

As is the case with Disney in general, the D23 Expo announced a ton of new movies and TV shows that are under the Disney mantle. One film that is especially anticipated is the live-action remake of the classic 1989 film “The Little Mermaid,” starring Halle Bailey in the main role of Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as the sea witch Ursula. The film is set to be released on May 26, 2023.

In addition to the live-action “Little Mermaid,” many interesting projects are also coming out. Because there are so many, here are just a few that are the most anticipated. One project that fans of Disney are waiting for is “Disenchanted” from Walt Disney Pictures, the sequel to the 2007 film “Enchanted.” That movie is set to be released on Nov. 24 of this year. Another Walt Disney Pictures project that has been announced to join the live-action remakes is “Snow White,” starring Rachel Zegler in the titular role and Gal Gadot as the Evil Queen. The film is set to be released sometime in 2024. 

From Pixar, the biggest project that was announced is “Inside Out 2,” set to be released on June 14, 2024. In addition to the massive list of projects from Marvel announced several months back, the biggest that is set to be released is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” With a Nov. 11, 2022 release date looming, the film should carry on the legacy that Chadwick Boseman created with the character. Marvel also announced two new “Avenger” movies that are set to be released in 2025, titled “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars.”

Overall,the D23 Expo made many announcements that should satisfy all Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel fans.

Contact Nicole Bilyak at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu

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2022: The year of the prequel

The trend of endless movie sequels is by no means a recent one. Ever since the 70s and the birth of summer blockbuster franchises like Jaws or Star Wars, the sequel has been a staple in yearly releases to the joy of some fans and the detriment of others. Indeed, the market dominance of big-budget sequels has always been contentious, with some arguing that they are lazy and unnecessary additions to already completed stories. While the sequel tradition stands strong even today, 2022 has seemingly marked a shift in Hollywood’s mindset, with more and more prequels being released as opposed to straight-up sequels.

“Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore,” “Rings of Power,” “House of the Dragon” and “Obi-Wan” are only a few of the prequels that have already premiered this year, all to great commercial success but mixed fan reception. This is especially interesting as in the past, prequels have not always had the best history, with films like the Star Wars prequels and the Fantastic Beasts movies being widely derided by critics. So why is Hollywood so determined to turn back the clock this year and what could be its consequences for the film industry as a whole?

As always context is necessary, as the last few years saw the ending of some of the most famous and lucrative franchises on film and television: Game of Thrones, Star Wars and the Marvel Infinity saga all ended in 2019 to varying degrees of success. Another important event was the rise of Cinematic universes popularized by the immense success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Suddenly every studio wanted to have their own MCU by investing in their more recognizable IPs, even ones with finished stories like HBO with Game of Thrones and Amazon with the Middle Earth universe. But this doesn’t explain why prequels specifically; why not just expand on preexisting stories? 

The advantage that prequels have over sequels is that they are inherently safer for studios to produce because they can distance themselves from the ending of their original works no matter how good or bad they were. The original Star Wars trilogy, for example, was beloved by fans, especially for its ending, so for George Lucas making the prequels was the obvious choice. While they are controversial to this day, they did not affect anyone’s enjoyment of the old movies because they can still be watched without the prequels. When Disney made the sequels, however, they failed to justify continuing a finished story, needing to make retroactive decisions about the characters and plot of the Original Trilogy which “ruined it” in the eyes of many fans.

Another reason why prequels are safe is that they are by nature easier to write than a continuation. Writers must come up with an entirely original story that builds upon previous entries. Prequels, however, have the luxury of already knowing where a story will end. We know that Bilbo is going to find the One Ring and return to the Shire in the Hobbit trilogy because we have seen Lord of the Rings and for those who don’t know, prequels also serve as great entry points for new fans because they don’t rely on the knowledge of previous movie’s events like a sequel.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also undoubtedly influenced Hollywood’s current paradigm as studios lost billions in potential revenue with cinemas closed, so investing in what’s already popular and familiar to consumers guaranteed to turn a profit rather than betting on something new and untested.

But in the end, prequels contribute to the monopolization of the industry in the same way that sequels do because it seems Hollywood’s money and attention are evermore drawn to the same few brands and universes. When was the last time that an original movie or show has the same garnered popularity or success as a franchise like Marvel or Game of Thrones? The average moviegoer seems to be more and more limited in their options, as every year the same IPs dominate box offices and cinema spaces.

Contact Matheus Herndl at mherndl@nd.edu.