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D23 Expo: The STAR WARS Report

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Disney’s D23 Expo has come and gone for 2015, leaving in its wake tons of news for the various Disney endeavors. Of course, that includes quite a bit of Star Wars news.

The Force Awakens

Perhaps the most notable item from the weekend is this one-shot poster from artist Drew Struzan:

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This poster was done specifically for D23, and Struzan has also said this is not the only piece of art he’s doing for The Force Awakens. Likely, he’ll do the main poster art as well. For those who weren’t around back then, Struzan was the artist on so many of our favorite movie posters from the 80s and 90s: all of the Indiana Jones films, the Star Wars trilogies, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, and so many more.

Many fans were anticipating Struzan’s return from retirement to create new Star Wars art, and it seems Lucasfilm and Disney have coaxed him into the light once again.

Revealed with the poster is John Boyega’s character, Finn, wielding Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber, which figures into the plot of the movie we know not how. The poster — and early story art leaks — suggests that at some point in the film, Finn will take up the Jedi weapon. Defending Rey? Attacking Ren? Taking on a Jedi master?

For his part, Boyega took over the Walt Disney Studios Snapchat account to share the poster with fans. He attended the event along with Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, J.J. Abrams, and Harrison Ford.

Also, while the D23 Expo was going on, a leaked photo of Mark Hamill in full Jedi regalia surfaced online. It’s since been pulled down from the original site. The photo shows Hamill dressed in a light-colored Jedi robe, and he’s standing inside what looks to be an image capture rig — he’s surrounded by cameras. This could either be to capture his image for an action figure reference, or to use in some CG element at some point.

We also have photos of LEGO sets from The Force Awakens, courtesy of Brick-Brothers:

Note that BB-8 is included in Poe Dameron’s X-Wing kit. Could they be connected somehow?

 

Rogue One

Disney and Lucasfilm also announced the start of production on Rogue One, and shared this photo of the cast:

Click here for a larger version of the cast photo.

We also got an official cast list (by no means complete, of course) that includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed — and two surprises in Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk.

Tudyk posted that he’d been under a social media gag order for some time. He’ll be portraying a motion capture character.

And a fan theory has surfaced regarding Diego Luna’s character, who hasn’t been named yet.

Online discussion is already heating up, with some pointing out that the events of Rogue One — the theft of the Death Star plans — take place prior to Biggs jumping ship while assigned to the Rand Ecliptic. However, since this was never established on-screen, it’s entirely possible that this piece of the original film’s storyline has gone the way of the Expanded Universe. It’s also been pointed out that in at least one of the video games, Darklighter’s biography has him participating in this mission. So is Diego Luna stepping into Garrick Hagon’s boots?

Also, the Star Wars Anthology movies are being rebranded. Rogue One will now be the first “Star Wars Story” instead.

 

Episode IX

Disney’s Bob Iger also confirmed that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow would take the helm of Episode IX, the last entry in the new trilogy. With Rian Johnson set to direct Episode VIII, this completes the set after the departure of Josh Trank in June.

ComicBook.com has a photo gallery from the event. You can see that by clicking here.

 

Star Wars Land

Disney has also announced the addition of a new 14-acre “Star Wars Land” theme park section to be added to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, FL. Disney’s Bob Iger calls it a “jaw-dropping new world.”

Star Wars Land” will include two signature rides. One drops you in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance, while the other lets you pilot the Millennium Falcon for a “customized secret mission.” Iger’s use of the word “customized” may imply that you can select elements of the mission to personalize the experience.

Mention of “the Resistance” may be a clue as to the political state in the new Star Wars universe. As detailed in Aftermath, the fall of the Empire wasn’t so cut and dried, so could it be that the Rebels are still the Rebels, after a fashion? Were they forced to go underground to work as a resistance movement within the First Order?

What we do know is that the park will feature a new planet, described as “a remote frontier town, one of the last stops before wild space.” The environment will include both familiar and new aliens, plus humans and droids. “Every store and restaurant will be operated by local inhabitants making each experience deeply immersive,” says Iger.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts chairman Bob Chapek says that “every single thing will be in story.” That likely means the food options, too — so… blue milk, anyone?

The customized “secret mission” has some thinking it might be similar to Star Tours, which also got a little attention over the weekend:

 

Scott Trowbridge, the lead engineer on the project, talked about the new plans to update Star Tours with a new destination (and new characters) from The Force Awakens, as well as new additions to the Jedi Training Academy.

Trowbridge also announced the new Star Wars Launch Bay, a new location that will have exhibits of props and costumes, as well as opportunities to interact with designers and characters. And you’ll get to play the latest games to hit the market — as well as custom content available only at the Launch Bay.

Star Wars Season of the Force will be a new limited event at both locations. Similar to Star Wars Weekends, Season of the Force will give guests a new way to experience the existing parks. For example, Space Mountain will become “Hyperspace Mountatin” with new features and effects for the duration of the event.

 

Playstation

Sony and Playstation have also gotten into the act, announcing a Darth Vader-skinned Playstation 4 to hit the market in November. The special PS4 will include special edition bundles, one with Disney Infinity 3.0 (which will have Rey and Finn as playable characters soon), and one with Battlefront.

You can read more about it on Sony’s Playstation blog.

 

George Lucas, Disney Legend

George Lucas was inducted into the Disney Legend roster, along with composer Danny Elfman, former ESPN chief George Bodenheimer, and actress Susan Lucci.

Inside the Magic was at the event, and they posted video of the ceremony:

 

 

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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