• Festivals

CinemaCon 2023: Disney / Fox Presentation

The Walt Disney Company, which is celebrating its centennial in 2023, threw a bit of a low-key commemorative revelry during its CinemaCon presentation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Instead of cake and champagne, the Burbank-based Mouse House instead chose to let their upcoming slate of films, which for the first time presented product from all seven of their main studios, do the toasting.

Alan Bergman, co-Chairman of Disney Entertainment, began the program by unveiling the new studio logo in honor of the 100th anniversary, thanking theater owners for their help in bringing in over $2.3 billion for Avatar: The Way of Water and touting the historic success of the studio, which now claims six spots in the all-time box-office top ten. He then turned the floor over to Tony Chambers, head of Theatrical Distribution, who enthusiastically began a comprehensive tour of the varied studios’ scheduled releases.

First out of the gate was Marvel, which will unspool Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 on May 5th. Judging from some selected clips, Peter Quill and company look to be in for another extraterrestrial adventure, complete with a killer soundtrack. The film also marks the return of James Gunn, who was initially dropped from the franchise before his cast pressured the studio to have him back. (He is now in charge of DC Films at Warner Brothers, so his allegiance only went so far).

Marvel continued with The Marvels, a return of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), this time joined by a few new friends, including Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan, whom many got to know via her television introduction in Ms. Marvel.

Next up was Disney Animation with the Thanksgiving release Wish, their 62nd animated film. Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, the musical tells the tale of a young girl named Asha, voiced by Golden Globe and Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, who wishes on a star and gets a more forceful answer than she had bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her. A surprise clip showed one of the musical numbers, So I Made This Wish, written by Grammy-nominated Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice.

Chambers then turned to Disney and their live-action adaptation of the 1989 Golden Globe winner The Little Mermaid. After he had been joined on stage by Melissa McCarthy, who will be receiving the CinemaCon’s Cinema Vérité Award, the duo unveiled the full-length clip of Ursula’s comedic tour-de-force, Poor Unfortunate Souls, from the film. Never has an octopus looked so menacing yet so utterly charming.

“Ursula is everything,” laughed McCarthy. “She’s dishy, she’s a conniving broad, maybe that’s why I relate to her.”


Twenty years after Disney’s less than well-received attempt to turn their theme park attraction The Haunted Mansion into a hit film, they dip back into the well with a new version, starring Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson and Tiffany Haddish. With the film this time looking much more impressive with its special effects, and staying on point with key elements of the ride, audiences enthusiastically received the clip during the presentation.

The fourth studio entity up was Pixar, which brings to the table Elemental, from which the first twenty minutes of the film was screened, with 3D glasses required. Cleverly using the four elements of fire, water, earth and air to represent this world’s population, the story centers on two elements who are not meant to be together falling in love and navigating the complicated road between families and friends.

Searchlight presented their new trailer for Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins, which was filmed pre-pandemic, and finally gets its theatrical release this fall. The Michael Fassbender comedy is based on a true story of a disgraced soccer coach who gets sent to the South Pacific to coach the world’s worst team, one that has never scored a goal in competition.

Fox teased their sci-fi John David Washington-led The Creator, showing a few scenes that were impressive yet disjointed in terms of story, keeping the plot a closely guarded secret. Next up was the first trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice. Set in post-World War II Venice on All Hallows’ Eve, it serves up a terrifying mystery featuring the return of the celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot. The studio would go on to end the presentation by delivering an early screening of The Boogeyman, a ninety-minute horror feature set to be released in June.

And saving the big crowd pleaser for last, Lucasfilm served up a teaser for the fifth and final installment of their historic franchise Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Introduced via clip by Harrison Ford, who has emphatically stated that this will be his final turn as the noted archeologist, the now 80-year-old icon welcomed the attendees, described how much the role has meant to him over the years, and touted the movie’s dedication to heart and adventure….and snakes. “Why did it have to be snakes?”

With that, an extended action scene, played out along the narrow streets of Tangiers, showed Ford, along with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in a terrific old-fashioned typical Indy chase sequence that teases how much fun the final product could be.

Looks like turning one hundred isn’t such a bad thing after all.