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
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 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.
By now, the acquisition and merger by Disney of media assets from the former 21st Century Fox is old news. But even though said assets led by the 20th Century Fox film studios are now under the Disney umbrella, the whole process hasn’t finished yet due to some loose ends.
By that we mean Disney is still on a timetable to divest itself of several regional sports networks from Fox. That’s to pass antitrust regulations. Just over a month after the acquisition was finalized, Disney has somebody to buy those sports networks. It’s the largest broadcast owner in the US.
The Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group has inked a deal with Disney to take on the 21 sports networks from Fox. Their negotiations, made public this Friday, May 3, had the deal price pegged at about $10.6 billion. While the Department of Justice must yet approve, it should solve the potential antitrust problems Disney would have had if it retained the regional sports channels alongside ESPN.
Adjusted for minority equity interests, Sinclair only has to pay Disney $9.6 billion. The acquired sports networks will be packed under a new Sinclair subsidiary, Diamond Sports Group. Disney already sold another sports-regional, YES Network, this March to the NY Yankees whose games it broadcasts. That amounted to $3.5 billion.
With that proviso soon to be done, Disney can now return to integrating the former Fox media companies to its organization, and streamlining Fox productions to synergize with its own.
Guess what, it’s May! And three weeks from now Disney’s second live-action adaptation of their Renaissance-phase classic will hit cinemas worldwide. The “Aladdin” remake’s promised us a whole new world for its storyline. We can believe that with the plot tweaks we’ve seen so far in the trailer and TV-spots.
Speaking of which, two more TV spots for “Aladdin” have come out since our last update. They’re remarkably short compared to what’s already come before. Still, they pack some more new scenes, new dialogue, and new fragments of the song number that would establish the Genie’s character for the audience.
These will be short lists, but vital for those who want to dissect every preview before the actual movie premieres:
New scene of Genie (Will Smith) teaching Aladdin how to use his lamp to make wishes on: there are three wishes, and they must each begin with Al rubbing the lamp and starting his request with “I wish”
We got snippets of “A Friend Like Me” from two previous TV spots; now we hear Smith singing the refrain portion (“Mister Aladdin sir, one wish or two or three”)
I supposed it’s obvious now that rather than the straight Broadway-esque treatment by Robin Williams, Smith will be rap-singing his way through “A Friend Like Me”
Genie’s instructions on the limits of his power, though we only catch the second and third; rather than channeling Peter Lorre like Williams!Genie did, Smith!Genie does something else to illustrate “Can’t bring back the dead”
Mena Massoud’s Aladdin apparently has a short attention span; apparently after the song number he again asks how wish-making works; an exasperated Genie exclaims “The whole song was the instructions!”
Remix of earlier scenes that we’ve already experienced in the trailer and other TV spots; some diamonds in the rough/unseen footage is there however
More shots of Aladdin’s entrance into Agrabah as Prince Ali
On what appears to be the welcome banquet for Prince Ali at the palace (we saw him briefly dancing with Jasmine in the trailer), Aladdin impresses the assembly with his parkour-influenced dancing style: even Jasmine can’t help herself but smile
Another snippet from the Cave of Wonders has Abu with a drum rig on his back, cymbals and a kazoo in his mouth; apparently the “A Friend Like Me” sequence just finished and he retains his instruments; interestingly, he somewhat resembles his form as a toy after Jafar zapped him in the original animated film
Genie: We’re gonna need to talk about that monkey later
A month ago we finally got a good-length trailer for the newest live-action adaptation of a Disney Renaissance animated classic. Said trailer for “Aladdin” did a lot to restore some confidence in this remake by showing a better CGI rendition of Genie, plus live-action performance by Will Smith. The snippets of “A Whole New World” didn’t hurt the presentation either.
Since then, a number of short TV spots have been released to continue hyping Disney’s “Aladdin” for its premier next month. Here’s an outline list of the storyline-relevant ones, with points of discussion for each:
As the original 1992 animated film had a narrator (Robin Williams doubling as Genie and the peddler), so it seems this remake does too (Will Smith?)
New sequences involving the “A Friend Like Me” segment…
The parade from the “Prince Ali” segment (flower camel statue)
Rajah attacking Iago (Alan Tudyk)
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) talks to Genie (Will Smith) about his love, a Princess (“Aren’t they all?”)
Genie tells our hero, “Prince Ali got you through the door. But Aladdin has to open it.”
Will Smith makes the Genie role his own by channeling his character in “Hitch.”
More details from “A Whole New World”
Aladdin and Jasmine on the carpet are being pursued by (a giant?) Iago
Aladdin tells Jasmine (Naomi Scott), “Sometime Princess, you just have to take a risk.”
Rags to Wishes
Original scene of Aladdin sneaking into the palace of Agrabah and into Jasmine’s room, pretending to be a servant
Jasmine: “You cannot just break into a palace like you own the place.”
Aladdin: “If you don’t have anything, you have to act like you own everything.”
Possible “A Friend Like Me” segment where Genie beats up the Forty Thieves (lyrics “A brand of magic never fails…”)
Genie showing off his human form; Aladdin asks, “Do we need the topknot?” to which Genie replies, “That’s my little cherry on top!”
For quite some time now, iconic reality singing competition “American Idol” has had a fruitful partnership with Disney. From 2009 to 2014, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Disney World ran the American Idol Experience that helped participants get into actual “Idol” season auditions. When the show moved from Fox to ABC in 2018, “Disney Night” became a standard episode song theme.
So it was that on Sunday, April 21, the 17th season of “American Idol” had its own Disney Night episode. The 10 contestants sang songs from Disney movies, alongside two non-competition performances. Even Idol judge Katy Perry dressed up as Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.”
That said, here’s the list of songs performed by the contestants and guests for “American Idol” season 17 Disney Night: