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Best and worst of Disney’s announcement: New ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Encanto,’ more
That plus is turning out to be an understatement.
As Disney proved Thursday during its Investor Day meeting, its year-old streaming service Disney+ is fast becoming as important as the studio’s theatrical releases — and even more prolific. The service now has more than 80 million subscribers and its stock took a leap Friday with all the good news.
Driving that home, the company announced 10 new “Star Wars” TV series debuting in 2021. That makes Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” dramas on NBC look restrained and coy.
Marvel and Pixar also unveiled a tranche of brand new shows and movies.
The announcement, which also covered films hopefully headed to theaters, is intimidating, but there are a few projects to be excited about and some deserving of your unreserved scorn.
- “Untitled Taika Waititi ‘Star Wars’ movie” (TBD)
- “Encanto” (TBD)
- “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (2021)
- “She-Hulk” (2021)
- “The Acolyte” (2021)
- “Luca” (June 2021)
“Untitled Taika Waititi ‘Star Wars’ movie” (TBD)
A “Star Wars” feature film for the Oscar-nominated director of “Jojo Rabbit” was first announced back in May, but given the frequency with which Hollywood projects fizzle out, it was a relief to hear the studio bring it up again. This movie remains the most exciting — and mysterious — item on Disney’s docket. Waititi, remember, not only directs prestige movies, but also helmed “Thor: Ragnarok,” one of Marvel’s best films so far, and a terrific Season 1 episode of “The Mandalorian.”
While Disney’s “Moana” was just OK, its middle-of-the-road-ness had nothing to do with the lovely songs Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) composed, including the soaring ballad “How Far I’ll Go.” He’s back to write tunes for “Encanto,” a new animated movie set in Colombia that’s currently in development.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” (2021)
A few “Star Wars” fans just angrily chucked their phones at the pavement. That’s because the oft-mocked Hayden Chistensen is reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker (a k a Darth Vader) in a new TV show about Obi-Wan Kenobi alongside Ewan McGregor, once again the title Jedi knight. Yes, Christensen, 39, overacted in the lovey-dovey “Attack of the Clones,” but he was also infamously handed the line, “I don’t like sand.” He didn’t write it! The actor was actually very good in “Revenge of the Sith,” which is a much better movie than you whiners remember.
Marvel Studios has developed a strong strategy of bringing acclaimed actors, rather than traditional action stars, into their movies — Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others. For their upcoming Disney+ series, “She-Hulk,” they’ve cast Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) in the title role.
“The Acolyte” (2021)
Not too much is known about this “Star Wars” show except that it takes place during the High Republic era. However, it’s created by the fantastic Leslye Headland, the mind behind “Russian Doll.” She wrote several scorching off-Broadway plays, such as “Bachelorette” and “Assistance,” and has a keen, uncompromising eye for humanity’s darkness. So, that will also hopefully extend to droids and Ewoks.
“Luca” (June 2021)
“Luca,” Pixar’s next film, is about an Italian boy and his best friend going on adventures during the summer. That’s pretty vague, but I can’t help but fondly think back to the studio’s other sublime Europe-set movie, “Ratatouille,” which took place in Paris. Pixar’s animation has never been better than right now, and they’ll definitely go all-out for beautiful Italia.
“Lightyear” (Summer 2022)
With four movies in 25 years, “Toy Story” is Pixar’s Old Faithful. But the last film, other than adding a funny plastic spork called Forky, petered out on originality. “Lightyear” is said to be a prequel origin story about Buzz Lightyear (now voiced by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen). Meh. I’d rather see Pixar focus on bold, innovative, new stories rather than wade into retreads and prequels.
“Indiana Jones 5” (July 2022)
This piece of news gets trotted out once every couple of years with great fanfare and a lot of raised brows. Harrison Ford, who looked out-of-it in the awful “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2008 is now 78 years old — not an ideal age to lead an action movie. In the last film, Disney tried — and failed — to set up a father-son dynamic with Ford and Shia LaBeouf. Are they really going to pull the same move again? Perhaps it’s time to hang up the fedora.
Too much “Star Wars”
We used to have to wait 15 years or more for a new “Star Wars” film, while biding our time with LaserDiscs of the originals and the “Star Wars Holiday Special.” So, it was a shock when they created the “Star Wars Story” films — “Rogue One,” “Solo” — alongside the main saga for a “Star Wars” movie ever year. Next, we got “The Mandalorian,” an excellent TV show about a masked bounty hunter and a baby Yoda. But, whoa Nelly, 10 shows in a year is too much. Disney would be wise not to dilute an iconic American brand into irrelevance.