Nostalgia+ Interlude: Disney Says “Hold My Mouse Ears Mug”
Last week I called my shot so hard in a blog post about what to watch on Disney+ that I called it “Part 1”. A few hours later, Disney hosts an investors meeting where they announce the original content they are working on from now until 2024!
Clearly, they read my blog and went out of their way to make me look foolish. That’ll teach me to try to counter the perception that Disney+ lacks original content. The announcement that all of Warner Bro’s 2021 movies would release simultaneously to theatres and HBO Max may have also influenced Disney’s decision to make the biggest content announcement ever.
Let’s look at some of the announcements, what’s exciting, what’s a surprise, and what’s concerning.
After a critically mixed new trilogy and commercially mixed support movies, a Disney+ original Star Wars series salvaged fan excitement for the potential of a Disney-helmed Star Wars.
A lot of the upcoming Star Wars projects took something successful elsewhere and carried it over to an original series. A lot of media describes Ahsoka as a Mandolorian spinoff, but c’mon. Ahsoka Tano went from shoehorned apprentice-to-an-apprentice in the terrible Clone Wars movie to beloved centerpiece of the modern Extended Universe.
The Bad Batch continues the adventures of the mutant clones from the first arc of the last season of The Clone Wars. Set between episodes III and IV, this series has the potential to be a more hardcore fan-focused version of The Mandalorian. Our ragtag band of heroes could bump into young Original Trilogy characters, old Prequel trilogy favourites, characters from either series that take place during those timelines, and even characters previously established in this between period, like Galen from the Force Unleashed.
Although anime never appealed to me, Star Wars Visions does. I love the idea of modern creators who grew up with Star Wars getting a chance to reinterpret famous scenes from the timeless franchise can be as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.
A Droid Story isn’t exactly new, since it seems to have a similar premise to the 80s Droids animated series, I am still looking forward to it. Once upon a time, George Lucas said that C-3P0 and R2-D2 would be the only characters to appear in all 9 episodes of the Star Wars Saga. That opened my eyes to the importance and potential of these two characters. Unfortunately, their roles in the sequel trilogy did not live up to this potential. Hopefully A Droid Story fixes that.
We’ve known about the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for a while, and rumours of it have been around for even longer. Hearing that Hayden Christensen returns as Darth Vader was a surprise, although I’m more interested in the role Vader plays in the Kenobi series than I am to see Christensen back in the role.
A Quiet Good-Bye
We’d heard Disney planned at least two Star Wars spin-off trilogies, one directed by Rian Johnson, another directed by Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and DB Weiss. We knew Disney cancelled the Benioff/Weiss project. While Disney did not officially cancel the Johnson trilogy, the fact that it did not get any mention means it is either a top secret project they will spring on us, or they quietly cancelled it.
As much as I would love more Star Wars movies in the style of The Last Jedi, a lot of Star Wars fans disliked it. The same goes for Rise of Skywalker. Cutting ties with Johnson and JJ Abrams may disappoint fans of what they brought to Star Wars, but it makes sense for the health of the brand.
One Star Wars Series Worked
When Disney acquired Star Wars, they announced movie projects left and right. Han Solo’s body wasn’t even cold yet when they announced a young Han Solo movie. If the above trilogies had been produced, the number of Disney produced Star Wars trilogies would outnumber independent Lucasfilm Star Wars trilogies.
Then reception to each subsequent Disney Star Wars movie got rockier, with no course correction in sight. Enter The Mandalorian, an original series that has been credited for saving Star Wars. And now, nine out of the ten Star Wars projects they discussed are series.
Individually, all of these series look at least interesting. Taken all together, it feels like Disney took all of their star Wars eggs out of one basket and put them in another.
I may have argued against the idea that Ahsoka was just a Mandalorian spinoff, but there’s no denying that her Mandalorian episode was a backdoor pilot for an Ahsoka series. Her motivation in the episode was to find the location of another famous Extended Universe character. The Mandalorian would lose focus if it followed her pursuit of that character as a subplot.
The Bad Batch episodes of Clone Wars played out similarly. At the time, I thought those episodes were interesting but an awkward fit. Why introduce a new idea into the last the series with no room to pay it off? Because there were payoff plans all along.
In both cases, the backdoor pilots entertained in their own rights. I just hope Disney uses this trick sparingly. Ideally these kinds of series setups play out more like the name drops and cameos that the Marvel Cinematic Universe employed so successfully.
Speaking of the MCU…
We knew more of what was coming from Marvel, so many of these are updates rather than announcements. And the updates look good. The three in-continuity series in development each adapt the MCU in different ways.
Wandavision takes two underutilized Avengers and spotlights their relationship, a subplot told in 5 minute snippets across four films. Loki takes a popular character whose character arc, while completed and satisfying, changed the fundamental appeal of the character. Getting the Lokiest of adventures as a final farewell to the character (or not, we’ll see how it plays out) gives us more of the character we loved without taking away from the story they already told. And finally, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier flat out continues an Avengers A-List plotline. OK, B-list fits Falcon and Bucky better, I inflated their importance because I put the Captain America movies up there with the Avengers movies for importance to the metaplot.
More Plot Advancement
One of the headscratchers about the MCU Phase 4 slate was how it didn’t seem to address any dangling plot threads. The biggest one: Nick Fury on a Skrull space station in the Spider-Man: Far From Home after credit scene. Ends up, that’s getting addressed in a series. Similarly, the first two Iron Man movies setup a fun world that the third film and subsequent Avengers movies ignored. We got a lot of Tony, but his relationships with Pepper and Rhodey developed off screen between movies, and we never saw Justin Hammer or AIM in any other movies. We don’t know much about Armor Wars, but it looks like it’s catching up on the world of Iron Man in a post-Iron Man world.
The last 10 years of Marvel comics introduced a lot of young heroes adjacent to older established characters. Now that the actors who brought those characters to the big screen over the last twelve years aged out of their roles or fulfilled their contracts, the spotlight moves to these younger characters. The timing feels so organic, but it took forethought and quality execution to build fanbases for characters like Ms Marvel, Ironheart, and Kate Bishop. She-Hulk is a much older character, but she’s being brought into the MCU in a similar way.
Fantastic Fourth Time’s the Charm!
This won’t hit theatres for years (here’s hoping we have movie theatres for years!), but we know it’s coming. The fact that Marvel announced this so far in advance and yet still played it so close to the vest suggests to me they want to build hype early while they take their time getting it right.
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Filming alongside Guardians of the Galaxy 3 means this special gets to piggy back on a blockbuster’s budget and we get movie quality CGI and make-up in what will probably be two hours of making fun of the Star Wars Holiday Special. I hope this copies the Star Wars Holiday Special’s variety show format, giving us musical numbers and animated segments. Maybe bring back Kurt Russel to watch an inappropriate hologram of a lady living planet doing a sexy dance.
Phase Four Originals
Hey, remember Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals? Two movies about obscure Marvel characters who could definitely use the hype? Hopefully you do, because if Disney mentioned them, no media outlet picked up on it. Hopefully it’s because their trailers will release soon. It’s possible, given they are both 2021 releases.
Black Panther :.(
Not Disney’s fault, but between Chadwick Boseman’s death and Shuri actress Letitia Wright’s recent anti-vax and transphobic Tweet, it’s hard to think about Black Panther II without getting sad. And since Disney won’t be recasting T’Challa, the movie will either be about replacing a beloved character because of its actor’s heartbreaking death, or that character’s death will be addressed quickly in the first act so we can move on. It’s sad either way.
And The Rest
There’s more to Disney than just Star Wars and Marvel!
Pixar went from all original ideas to a lot of sequels. They’ve managed the juggle of the two better in the last few years. The next few years look like a return to developing new ideas, with movies Turning Red and Luca, and original series Win or Lose. The minds and hands behind Pixar have changed since its heyday. Hopefully the legacy of quality carries on.
More Mighty Ducks
Catching up with the Mighty Ducks went from one of Disney Investor Day’s biggest shrugs to a reboot I keep thinking about. So much so, I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to it in the near future.
Aliens is one of my favourite movies. Even though it’s become a sad franchise failing at repeated attempts to recapture its glory days, I’m a sucker for every new attempt! Bring on an Alien TV series!
The Real Buzz Lightyear
A Buzz Lightyear origin movie would be fine on its own -I love the Toy Stories, and felt bad for Buzz’s journey from buddy movie co-buddy to “let’s give Buzz some subplot to deal with while we focus on Woody.” But what makes this movie stand out is the premise. This is the movie that the Buzz Lightyear action figure in the Toy Story universe is based on. I am curious to see how this plays with the premise, whether it will be subtextual, or if there will be a framing device. Or maybe the movie won’t acknowledge it. A lot of possibilities.
It’s easy to forget how much Disney acquired in the past decade, and the Investor Day announcements did not help. Granted, “Investor Day” says “this makes us money,” but it clearly doubled as press releases for Disney’s 2020 recovery plan. Still, once they moved past Star Wars and Marvel, the quantity and depth of announcements narrowed quickly.
Now you know,