Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We’re Looking For at D23

As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith.

From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — plenty of news will be spilling out of the massive convention center dressed in mouse ears, superhero capes and stormtrooper garb.

One bullet already dodged — an early Friday panel surrounding “Dancing With the Stars,” which airs on Disney-owned ABC. In the days leading up to D23’s kickoff, social media snowballed with backlash against ABC’s decision to cast former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on its latest season. While Spicer’s inclusion could well provide a short-term ratings fix for the declining dancing show, the amount of negative press and allegations of political naivete being volleyed likely won’t sit well with a company that famously tries to steer clear of the political.

On the plus side for Disney, its streaming platform us set to launch in November at a competitive initial price point of $6.99 per month with a slate of new and old content ready to go.

The rapid expansion of the “Star Wars” galaxy appears to be going full steam ahead, and one of the most eagerly anticipated first looks expected to come out of D23 is a first trailer for Jon Favreau’s Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian.” Fans and critics will be intrigued to see how the galactic “Star Wars” budget will be applied to a live action TV series for the first time.

Another major “Star Wars”-related Disney Plus announcement, which the company would have likely preferred to keep as a surprise, is the return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi for a series centered around the wisdom-spouting Jedi master. Variety reported earlier this week that McGregor was in talks to reprise the role and expect him to be rolled out in the parade of stars during the Disney Plus presentation Friday afternoon.

Other Disney Plus projects being unveiled at D23 include the “High School Musical” revival series, which picks up nearly 15 years after the first movie aired, and a “Monster Inc.” reboot series “Monsters At Work,” which sees John Goodman and Billy Crystal return as Mike and Sully.

After gobbling up Fox earlier this year, one of the former Murdoch controlled company’s biggest properties in “The Simpsons” is being wheeled out at D23 for the first time for a panel featuring creator Matt Groening and longtime cast member Nancy Cartwright. It remains to be seen if whether “The Simpsons” team, which has from shied away from expressing its views in the past, will tow the Disney party line about how wonderful it is to be under the Mouse House umbrella.

The film studio is as blockbusting and productive as ever. Fans should expect to see looks from the Angelina Jolie sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the new and mysterious Pixar project “Soul,” as well as a peek at the franchise hopeful “Artemis Fowl.” Also expect plenty of chatter out of the Saturday studio panel about “Mulan,” the live-action reboot that has made international headlines thanks to its involvement in a contentious political struggle between mainland China and Hong Kong. Crystal Liu, cast as the flesh-and-blood Mulan for the 2020 release, was one of dozen Chinese stars to tweet in favor of the Chinese government in the conflict — making her a lightning rod for both fevered support and criticism.

Another potential landmine in the studio lineup is Spider-Man. The webslinger is departing the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Disney and Sony Pictures failed to come to an agreement that would allow Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige to remain on board. Fallout has been considerable, from the bruised egos of studio executives to devastated global fans. Early social media posts from Anaheim said Spider-Man is visible in signage and sizzle reels, though Sony will now go it alone to produce films about the heroic teen.

All in all it’s been a busy few months for Disney to say the least.

Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.

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