What D23 tells us about the future of Disney

Hannah Bickom, Arts & Entertainment Editor

On September 9-11, Disney held its biennial convention where the company announced all of the upcoming projects which they have planned for 2023. The convention also served as a way for Disney to get fans excited about the future of the Walt Disney Company and its projects.

Some of the corporate conglomerate’s biggest announcements were those made by the Marvel franchise. This year, Disney gave special looks into their upcoming projects, including “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Ant-Man: Quantumania,” “Echo,” “Ironheart,” “Daredevil: Born Again,” “Captain America: New World Order,” and the second season of the popular show “Loki.” All of the stories except for “Echo” and “Ironheart” are continuations of past stories introduced earlier in the Marvel franchise in some way. “Ant-Man: Quantumania,” and “Daredevil: Born Again” are particularly exciting because of the popularity of each title’s respective titular characters. It seems Marvel, as always, has a lot to offer in terms of interesting storylines and compelling characters.

Several Lucasfilm projects were also announced. Firstly, both “The Mandalorian” and “The Bad Batch” gave first looks into their new seasons. A preview for the “Rogue One” prequel “Andor” was shown, only a few weeks before it was released on Disney+. Lucasfilm also announced two non-Star Wars projects: “Indiana Jones 5” and “Willow.” I was a bit skeptical when I heard there would be another Indiana Jones movie, considering both the negative reception of the franchise’s most recent addition and Lucasfilm’s recently acquired reputation for poorly written sequels, but hopefully what they create will be better than what I am expecting. “Willow” is a remake of a 1988 fantasy adventure film that Lucasfilm also produced. As of now, none of the current Lucasfilm projects contain stories that aren’t based in some way on a past project, which was a trend seen throughout the D23 convention.

In fact, the majority of the announcements surrounded the rehashing of beloved classics from T.V. and cinema. Besides the Lucasfilm projects, all of the company’s live-action projects are remakes or sequels. Some make sense, such as the “Snow White” and “The Little Mermaid” remakes, which align with the company’s recent move towards making classic Disney movies more “realistic” to varying degrees of success. However, some of these projects seem a bit random, including an “Enchanted” (2007) sequel, a “The Santa Clause” (1994) T.V. show, and a “National Treasure” (2004) T.V. show. I’m sorry, but did anyone ask for this? I loved “Enchanted” as a kid, but that movie is older than some of the students here at Mepham, and the other two movies are even older than that. And the originals, especially “National Treasure” and “The Santa Clause,” are so well known and iconic that it feels silly to do anything other than leave these movies as they are, lest we damage their reputation through mediocre remakes and spin-offs. While I don’t agree with most of the remakes Disney has pumped out recently, these three in particular feel like poor attempts at money grabs. It seems that the company is focusing a lot more on rehashing old material rather than creating original stories for the sake of profits, which is a tad disappointing. Disney has always been depicted as the land of magic and creativity, but recently “Disney magic” has mostly consisted of watered-down classics repackaged and regurgitated back to consumers who are guaranteed to hand over their money for the sake of “nostalgia.”

However, there are two re-interpretations of past material which are promising. For example, “Zootopia+,” a TV show which focuses on the lives of characters within the world of “Zootopia,” is an amazing opportunity to expand on the imaginative world built in the original movie. I am also hopeful about “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” and while this may partially be because the original movies were infamously horrible and you can’t fall much farther than the floor, the choice to hire a younger cast more aligned with the age of the characters in the book is enough to boost my confidence in the project. 

There were also several original projects announced and previewed by Disney, the vast majority of them Disney+ animations or Pixar productions. The most anticipated of these seem to be “Wish,” an animated musical exploring the origins of the star that beloved Disney characters have wished upon, and “Elemental,” a Pixar animation about a world where different elements are represented as people. Both of these movies have inventive premises, and I’m excited to see what the artists behind these movies do with these concepts. Other interesting projects which you should look out for in the next few years include “Iwájú” and Pixar’s “Elio.” While not too much information about these movies has been released, I am excited to see what comes of them in the future.

Overall, Disney’s announcements unfortunately aligned with the recent trend of unneeded remakes and sequels. However, there is still hope to be had for the future of the company. I think the animation sector of Disney is once again becoming the heart of its creativity and magic like it was when it created the classics which are now being reproduced as lifeless “live-action” movies.