Everything We Learned About Disney's Upcoming Movies: Frozen 2, Cruella, Pixar's Soul, And More

Emma Stone’s Cruella de Vil is your new queen. (Image: Disney)

Holy cow. There was more than just Marvel movies and Star Wars at D23 Expo’s Disney movie panel this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know from the broader Disney umbrella.

We started with Jungle Cruise, the upcoming Dwayne Johnson vehicle based on the classic Disney ride and costarring Emily Blunt. Johnson introduced it by riding onto the stage in a literal, actual boat. We learned that the film will be inspired by classics like Indiana Jones, and will be an old-school adventure romp. Or, as Johnson put it, “We made a movie about men kicking arse and saving the girl.”

We also saw some footage, which was big on effects, adventure and dad jokes. Think Pirates of the Carribean in the jungle.

Next, Angelina Jolie talked briefly about Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to her somewhat underrated turn as the villain in live-action from 2014. Jolie explained that this film will explore the experiences of an older Maleficent and Aurora, as they struggle with the world’s definition of family, which tries to keep the two apart.

We also caught glimpses of Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Queen Ingrith in the film, Elle Fanning, who plays Princess Aurora and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays another winged hybrid like Maleficent. There was also some new footage, which featured Pfeiffer and Jolie chewing the scenery fighting over the love of Aurora.

After that, we saw more of Mulan, which is, all things considered, in sort of a rough place lately. Director Niki Caro took the stage, discussing her excitement for the project and the way in which the film will draw from both the Chinese source material and the previous animated adaptation. There was also some new footage, which our man on the ground Germain Lussier said was quite impressive.

Also, Cruella, a live-action film about the early days of Cruella de Vil, who presumably was named Nice-ella before her heel turn, has just started filming, but we got some details. Listen to this: 1970s. Punk rock. And, yes, there are dalmatians. Uh. Uh. I don’t even know what to say about that. But Emma Stone is serving looks in this sneak peak.

That’s enough for live-action. How’s about Pixar? We heard about two Pixar films, neither of which, excitingly, are a sequel, and both of which are coming in 2020.

First, Soul, directed by Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out). Pixar has taken on toys, the ocean, and the human mind. Next up: metaphysics!

Soul seems like a very Pixar-y take on the process of becoming a person, starring Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher whose true passion is jazz, and who gets his big break to play at the NYC’s The Half Note club. But it also features a “You Seminar,” where the human soul is trained to become an individual, which sounds like a very Inside Out-style conceit.

Honestly, I’m a little confused by it. The jazz teacher dies, maybe, and goes on an adventure across cosmic reality to come back? Whatever it all means, you’re definitely going to cry.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (!) are doing the score, with Jon Batiste also contributing music. The cast will include Curly, a drummer played by QuestLove, Joe’s mother, played by Phylicia Rashad, Joe’s nemesis, played by Daveed Diggs, Joe himself is played by Jamie Foxx and 22, the soul helping him in his quest, is played by Tina Fey.

The second Pixar movie coming is Onward, directed by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University). Onward, which we’ve already heard a little bit about, stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland as Barley and Ian Lightfoot, two young elves who go on a journey to see if there’s still magic left in their now-mundane world. At the panel, we saw the first eight minutes of the film. More on that to come.

As Holland left the panel, he said, “It’s been a crazy week, but I wanted to say I love you 3,000.” Fan pandering aside, yeah, I imagine he’s had a rough one.

Finally, some classic Disney Animation. Disney announced the brand new feature Raya and the Last Dragon, directed by Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins (both Disney animators debuting as directors here), written by Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), and produced by Osnat Shurer (Moana). It’ll be out Thanksgiving 2020, and that title already has our interest piqued.

The film, which draws inspiration from Southeast Asian culture, is being made by the creative teams behind some of Disney’s best multicultural efforts, Big Hero 6 and Moana. Scholars and researchers from Bali, Cambodia, and Vietnam are contributing to the film, which Disney is calling an epic fantasy adventure with the vibe of a Hong Kong action movie.

Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in a country called Kumandra and follows the journey of Raya, a woman who goes on a quest to save Kumandra by finding the world’s last dragon. Raya will be voiced by Cassie Steel (Degrassi: The Next Generation), and the dragon, named Sisu, will be played by Awkwafina. Sisu, however, will be in human form when she first meets Raya, and will need Raya’s help to reclaim her true power.

Finally, we got another glimpse at Frozen II, which endeavours to answer many of the open questions left by the original. Where did Elsa get her powers? Where were their parents going? Are there more people with powers like Elsa’s out there? The two films, Disney says, will tell one complete story.

Speaking of Anna and Elsa’s parents, they’ll be featured in a flashback scene, with their mum, Queen Iduna, voiced by Westworld’s Evan Rachel Wood. The scene also features Lt. Mattias, a character voiced by Black Panther’s Sterling K. Brown. There were a few clips shown, featuring the gang playing charades, Anna comforting Elsa, and some foreboding hints at a voice calling to Elsa while she sings a song called “Into the Unknown.” The cast also showed up to perform another new song, which was, unsurprisingly, gorgeous.

Well, that sure was a lot, huh?

Additional reporting by Germain Lussier.

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