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D23 Expo: Disney Shows No Force But Plenty of Films

Disney offers up no 'Star Wars' news, but eagerly shows off footage for upcoming releases like 'Maleficent,' 'Saving Mr. Banks' and Marvel's lineup

Star Wars” fans were left empty handed during Walt Disney Studios’ live action panel at the D23 Expo, Disney’s version of Comic-Con.

Lucasfilm was welcomed to the Disney family by studio chairman Alan Horn, saying “Star Wars” is a priority for the studio. But J.J. Abrams, who is directing the seventh film in the franchise, was not present, nor were any plans discussed.

“I wish I could tell you more but it will come soon,” Horn said.

Instead, Disney eagerly promoted a slate of other films already scheduled for release through 2016, with footage or concept art to show for “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” from Marvel; Disneynature’s “Bears;” “Muppets Most Wanted;” the musical “Into the Woods;” “Cinderella;” “Maleficent,” “Tomorrowland,” and “Saving Mr. Banks.”

SEE ALSO: D23 Expo: Disney Fanfest Starts Off Strong with Animation Lineup

Celebs on hand to take the stage to promote the films were Angelina Jolie, Chris Evans, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Mackie, Natalie Portman, Sebastian Stan, Ty Burrell, Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak. Jolie and Hopkins received standing ovations from the crowd.

The presentation was essentially a slick, well-produced live action sizzle reel, with talent briefly describing their experiences while working on a Disney film.

“She had this elegance and grace and she was so deliciously cool,” Jolie said of the evil witch in Maleficent. “I miss them,” she said of the horns she wears in the film, an iconic part of the character’s design. “I love them.”

On his first day on set of “Muppets Most Wanted,” “it was absurd,” Burrell said. “I got mesmerized by the whole thing, and I got told I had to stay focused on the Muppets.”

For Marvel’s presentations of its films, the comicbook company turned mostly to clips it showed at Comic-Con with new scenes shown at D23 for the “Thor” and “Captain America” sequels. That presentation was led by Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.

In his opening remarks, Horn, who now has been in the top post of Disney’s studio arm for 14 months, said he was “stunned” by the size of D23. “I had no idea it was this size, this scope. It’s quite amazing.”

He warmly thanked the thousands of Disney fans in the audience and their loyalty to the company. “It is deeply appreciated by all of us,” he said. “Without you we don’t have a company.”

During his years at Warner Bros., Horn was a pro at giving presentations that made the audience feel warm and part of the act. During his first D23 appearance, Horn was no different, regaling the Disney faithful will stories of his time at the Mouse House so far.

Horn said his one year anniversary at the Disney was rewarded by a pin from Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger. “I had to poke a hole in my jacket, but it’s OK,” Horn joked.

Horn also was quick to point out he has long been a fan of Disney, and told a story of how he proposed to his now wife with a pewter Bambi with a ring tied to the figure’s neck.

“If it could happen to Bambi, it could happen to me,” Horn said. “So thank you, Disney.”

He also felt the transition from Warner Bros., the home of Looney Tunes, to Disney wouldn’t too much of a stretch to go from a bunny to a mouse.

“I have some experience managing powerful mammals,” Horn said.

Horn has spent time learning about each division of Disney, comparing Pixar’s headquarters to a college campus, and Marvel to “Sparta,” where “people can lift very heavy things.” He looked forward to 6,994 more movies Marvel will produce based on the vast library of characters it owns.

At Lucasfilm, “it’s not uncommon for someone to say, ‘May the Force be with you,” to which he replies, “And to you, my brother.”

As for the missing “Star Wars,” Disney clearly took a page from what studios have learned at Comic-Con: if you have nothing to show, don’t waste time talking about it.

The film presentation was made Saturday to a packed house of over 7,500 inside the Anaheim Convention Center at D23 Expo, Disney’s version of Comic-Con. The three-day event wraps up Sunday.

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