Ever since its establishment in 1987 the Disney Legend Awards honored people whose works have been integral to the success of the House of Mouse. Whether they were animators, theme park designers, musicians, film/TV production personnel, and artists, many have been named Disney Legends. Now, the 2019 awardees are revealed.
Disney announced the ten names that make up this year’s class of Disney Legends on May 16. Two are from the company’s theme park arm, two are from ABC News. The rest made their marks in Disney films and television. Some of them however, are from the MCU film franchise.
It’s perhaps appropriate that following the decade-one culmination of the MCU storyline, some of its stars will be honored. Some of them will continue with the franchise’s future installments and shows. One however, may have taken his final bow for the MCU. Becoming a Disney Legend makes a proper sendoff.
Here’s a list of the honorees for Disney Legends 2019:
Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark/Iron Man, Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-2019)
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan, MCU; also film director for “Iron Man” 1-2, “Jungle Book” and “Lion King” remakes (2016, 2019)
Ming-Na Wen – voice of “Mulan” (1998); also Melinda May in ABC-MCU series “Agents of SHIELD”
Hans Zimmer – composer for “Lion King” (animation and remake) and the first four “Pirates of the Caribbean” films
James Earl Jones – voices of Darth Vader (“Star Wars”) and Mufasa (“Lion King”)
Kenny Ortega – film director; currently famous for Disney Channel originals (“High School Musical” and “Descendants”)
Bette Midler – film star for Disney (“Hocus Pocus” and Touchstone label
Robin Roberts – ABC journalist
Diane Sawyer – ABC journalist
Barnette Ricci – Walt Disney Studios President/Show Director
Wing Chao – Disney Parks and Resorts Asia Pacific VP (Development); Disney Imagineering Executive VP
Enough time has passed, perhaps, for the hype of “Avengers: Endgame” to subside. The MCU film has broken box office records and is gunning to become all-time highest-grosser by beating James Cameron’s “Avatar.” And it had all the superhero-vs.-super-villain action sequences audiences worldwide could ever want or need for years.
But blockbuster as “Endgame” may be, it’s not perfect. One qualm viewers had with it – especially if they liked “Captain Marvel” – was that the character’s screen-time was short. It may have been to hold back the powerful Captain (Brie Larson) until the critical moment in the Thanos fight. But audiences also noted her colder personality compared to her earlier solo.
“Avengers: Endgame” co-screenwriter Steve McFeely explains why that is. Owing to the “assembly-line” method of making films at Marvel Studios, the “Endgame” scenes with Larson/Carol Danvers were actually shot before work on her “Captain Marvel” film even began. Feeling confused?
“We shot [Brie Larson] before she shot her movie,” notes McFeely. Since filming for “Endgame” and its predecessor “Infinity Wars” was rather close, that meant Captain Marvel was being shot on camera before her origin story (set in the 1980s-90s) was even finalized on script.
Brie Larson could act a bit more in “Captain Marvel” (despite detractors claiming otherwise) because the script was centered on her character’s development. Her jaunt in “Avengers: Endgame,” while happening later story-wise, was produced earlier behind the scenes. That Larson had to act as if her character development was complete instead made her wooden and necessarily absent most the time.
“Endgame” is still running in theaters, but “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is coming in July.
Disney may have had done a media masterstroke with its exclusive content streaming platform, Disney+. Offering their massive media library (within reason) is an attractive proposition for binge-watchers. But Disney films and series are under the blanket impression of being family-friendly. What about any content that doesn’t fit the mold?
For that, Disney has Hulu, the subscription video-on-demand service they established as a joint venture with fellow media giants. But that was 2007. In recent months Disney increased its 30% stake by acquiring Fox media assets (and their 30%), then AT&T/Time Warner’s 10%. Only Comcast retained 33%, but it’s moot.
That’s because Comcast announced Tuesday, May 14, that they’ve reached a deal with Disney for eventually selling their stake. Their 33% can be purchased by Disney come the year 2024. While everyone waits, the conglomerate that owns NBC and Universal Pictures is giving up its operational control of Hulu now.
So while their stake remains 70% until years from now, Disney already has full control over the whole Hulu platform. It’s being touted by Disney boss Bob Iger as the third leg of their over-the-top options including Disney+ and ESPN+. This will also be the platform of choice for their non-Disney-“compliant” content films and shows.
Iger has proposed the bundling of ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu. Consumers can then choose to avail of any or all of them as they want. While not as impressive as Netflix’s regular users, Hulu still has 27 million subscribers, a solid foundation to build on.
In 2014, Disney fans were caught by surprise when “Maleficent” premiered. This alternate telling of the “Sleeping Beauty” story, but with the titular witch as the protagonist was a hit. The fact that Angelina Jolie owned and mastered her role as Maleficent was a bonus. Now the “evil” fairy returns.
Joachim Rønning takes over from Robert Stromberg in directing “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” due later this year. It follows up sometime after the first film. Maleficent and Queen Aurora (Elle Fanning) are unofficial co-leaders of the combined kingdom of men and fairy creatures. When diplomacy with a neighboring realm threatens the inhabitants of the Moors, fairy and queen might yet see themselves on opposite sides.
Walt Disney Pictures has already brought out the first trailer. Let’s look over the scenes:
Voiceover by Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) telling the story between Maleficent and Aurora. Only this time, it’s the traditional “Sleeping Beauty” narrative instead of what actually happened in-film.
Some human hunters find their way into the Moors. Then they run into Maleficent. Guess what happens.
Prince Philip (now played by Harris Dickinson) seems to have proposed to Aurora.
Aurora, Philip and Maleficent engage in diplomacy with Queen Ingrith and King John (Robert Lindsay). A heated exchange between Ingrith and Maleficent leads to trouble.
Maleficent attacks Ingrith’s soldiers and flees, leaving Aurora aghast. Why did she do that?
A giant flock of birds fly towards Ingrith’s castle.
Cue magical red explosions and Maleficent in the midst of them.
There are only two weeks left before Disney releases its live-action remake for their 1992 animated classic “Aladdin.” By now most of the sticking issues for fans have been resolved. The Genie has gone past its bad blue CGI. Its actor Will Smith has also made the role his own.
Aside from “improvements” in past trailers and TV spots, it’s also time for Disney to intensify the promotion for “Aladdin.” What bigger way to drum up more interest and support than to unveil the theme song? The pop version of “A Whole New World” is now up for viewing online.
One of the things fans didn’t like about the “Beauty and the Beast” promotion in 2017 was its pop theme. Performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend, audiences thought the sweeping percussion-filled version in the trailer was it. Hearing the actual, more poppy song number came across as a letdown.
Disney doesn’t appear to have made that mistake for “Aladdin.” Only the in-movie version of “A Whole New World” by stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scot is heard in the trailers. The pop version is all its own. Former One Direction member and Pakistani-British singer ZAYN (Malik) sounds awesome alongside Zhavia Ward in this number.
ZAYN and Zhavia’s duet synergy is also helped by the instrumentation for this version of “A Whole New World.” Middle Eastern acoustics introduce and end the song. Disney’s sure going for as much cultural accuracy as they could. Comments on YouTube have praised the music video, alongside some light-hearted grousing that ZAYN should’ve been cast as Aladdin instead of Massoud.
It was expected, but still it was a heavy feeling. The ending of “Avengers: Endgame” really did feel like the closing of 10 years of MCU storyline. And there’s still “Spider-Man: Far from Home” serving as an epilogue. But that’s not stopping Marvel Studios from further adapting other comic stories.
We’ve once offered a potential list of these upcoming MCU films late last year. They were all speculation at the time (and “Far from Home” was actually the last of Phase 3). But pretty soon we might get a good – official – picture of upcoming movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Just this Wednesday, May 8, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that Marvel Studios will be making a public announcement of their future MCU lineup. He offered no specific details other than that hints of what the franchise setting will be like after “Endgame” were show all throughout the film’s runtime.
The most certified of these probable MCU installments are “The Eternals,” which has already cast Angelina Jolie and (possibly) Richard “Robb Stark” Madden. The same case could be made for the martial arts hero “Shang-Chi.”
Marvel Studios once held a memorable press event where they outlined the first few movies of MCU Phase 3. Memorable highlights then included the introduction of Chadwick Boseman as “Black Panther,” and the trick reveal of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” When the film was initially shown, it was subtitled “Serpent Society” after a super-villain team that Cap repeated fought in the comic books.
December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was touted as the end of the stories involving this family of Force-users. We wondered what would come after that. Disney-Lucasfilm was insistent on continuing the sci-fi film franchise despite subpar reception of the two non-Skywalker spinoffs. By that we mean “Rogue One” and the unfortunate, unprofitable “Solo.”
Recently Disney released a timetable of their major releases from their various studios over the next several years. Naturally that includes more “Star Wars” film installments. But they’re no longer the episodic trilogy adventures of Force-users called Skywalker. And another thing, they’re more distantly spaced.
Following “The Rise of Skywalker” this year, Lucasfilm is holding back on a new “Star Wars” movie until around 2022. If a studio is looking for a way to address franchise fatigue, like with what happened between “The Last Jedi” and “Solo,” and “Rogue One,” a multi-year hiatus works great.
It’s not like the Disney umbrella would stumble over one film franchise taking a rest. Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Disney’s own studios themselves can handle the slack. And it’s not as if “Star Wars” will temporarily halt entirely. There are still the various animated and streaming spinoffs airing or coming.
The release of these future “Star Wars” films from 2022 on will also alternate with a new franchise from Fox. A movie about the Galaxy Far, Far Away will alternate with a sequel for the more recent sci-fi masterpiece “Avatar.” This one has four sequels.
It seems Marvel has been hitting on the idea of casting actors from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Fox had gotten Maisie “Arya Stark” Williams for its “X-Men” spinoff film “New Mutants.” Iwan “Ramsay Bolton” again got to play a scheming villain in the panned one-season MCU-set ABC series, “The Inhumans.”
Now another veteran of the dark medieval fantasy is being courted by Marvel Studios. Richard Madden, who portrayed Robb Stark on the first three seasons of “Game of Thrones,” is being tapped to join the cast of “The Eternals.” Madden has remained a hot star on TV thanks to his lead role in BBC/Netflix’s “Bodyguard.”
Marvel Studios has yet to comment on casting, which may have already secured Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani. “The Eternals” is one of the MCU films being developed after the 10-year, 22-film and 3-phase “Infinity” saga. Matthew and Ryan Firpo are writing the script, with Chloe Zhao set to direct.
“The Eternals” in Marvel are another ancient race of super-humans, created by comic creator Jack Kirby in 1976. They came to be when primitive men millions of years ago were experimented by cosmic entities called Celestials. One Celestial has already appeared in the MCU. He is the “living planet” Ego (Kurt Russel), father of Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
Before work on “The Eternals” proceeds, Richard Madden will be appearing on film this year in the Elton John biopic “Rocketman.” No date on the release of “The Eternals” has been set. Meanwhile, the Maisie Williams Fox starrer “New Mutants” has been delayed until 2020.
It was bound to happen, that when Disney acquired the 20th Century Fox studio, some film production pruning was necessary. But even then, the expanded umbrella of the House of Mouse has a dominant film slate for several years. For their existing subsidiaries the MCU continues on, while for Fox they have a mind-boggling four sequels for James Cameron’s “Avatar.”
There are a lot of “untitled” movies on that timetable shared by Disney. But at least the year 2020 has finalized the names of the films airing by then. Here’s a chronological list of what Disney fans can expect on the big screen next year:
Onward (Disney Pixar) – March 6, 2020
Mulanlive-action remake (Walt Disney Pictures) – March 27, 2020
“untitled” (Disney Pixar) – June 19, 2020
Jungle Cruisetheme-park ride adaptation (Walt Disney Pictures) – July 24, 2020
The One and Only Ivan (Walt Disney Pictures) – August 14, 2020
“untitled” (Walt Disney Animation Studios) – November 25, 2020
Cruellalive-action “101 Dalmatians” spinoff a la “Maleficent” (Walt Disney Pictures) – December 23, 2020
It’s interesting to note that Pixar has two films slated for next year, more than the expected offering of Walt Disney Animation. Furthermore, no MCU productions have been finalized for 2020 either. Time will tell if these will change, and what the titles of the two mystery films will be.
In this day and age when political correctness has become a prominent part of life, even Disney toes the line. One of their past movies that they treat as an old shame is “Song of the South,” which has never been released wholly for home media.
A more recent change is “Dumbo,” which will remove the crows (and their leader Jim Crow) that befriend the elephant in the film, at least on its Disney+ streaming version. They already don’t exist in the live-action remake by Tim Burton, premiered this year.
Now there’s another upcoming production that will be given the PC treatment. Also appearing on Disney+, it’s the live-action adaptation of “Lady and the Tramp.” The alteration will be the removal of “The Siamese Cat Song,” a ditty that’s been criticized in more recent times as an offensive Asian stereotype.
This was revealed following the casting of Janelle Monae, who will voice and sing for the dog character Peg. Peg’s original animation voice actor was Peggy Lee, who also voiced and sang for the antagonistic Siamese cat twins. Monae will not only cover the song “He’s a Tramp” by Lee as Peg, she will write a different musical track to replace the “Siamese Cat Song.”
Such policing of content and themes from older films (and their remakes) by Disney is relatively new. They certainly didn’t think “Siamese Cat Song” as too offensive back in 2004. That was when it showed on “Disneymania 2” album, covered by Hillary and Haylie Duff.
The “Lady and the Tramp” remake is expected to be a possible launch title for the Disney+ streaming service on November 12. It will star Tessa Thompson as pet-dog Lady and Justin Theroux as stray-dog Tramp, along with Sam Elliot, Ashley Jensen and Benedict Wong.