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Hollywood's A-listers turn out for Disney's latest film announcements

Dwayne Johnson was one of the stars spotted at the event. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters California Aug 26, 2019, 08.13 AM (IST)

'Star Wars' actors teased an epic sendoff, the cast of 'Frozen' sang, and action movie star Dwayne Johnson rolled out in a riverboat as Walt Disney Co-promoted its upcoming film slate to devoted fans on Saturday (August 24).

New footage from 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' showed heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) wielding a red, two-sided lightsaber, generating thunderous applause from roughly 6,000 people in the Anaheim Convention Center for the company's D23 Expo fan event. Ridley said later backstage that the clip demonstrated "the clearest indication that there's a big old emotional story arc happening and there's a lot of character development"

The movie is the ninth instalment in the space saga that was started 40 years ago by George Lucas. It debuts in theatres in December.

Speaking backstage, director JJ Abrams told Reuters "I think for a decades-long story that is 9 movies long, my guess is that there will be people saying, you know, 'I wanted this, I wanted that'. You know you're not going to please everyone all the time but I do know that for me it was very important that if some kid years from now is watching all 9 movies, that you want the story to have a beginning, middle and end so it was very important for us to tell a story that has a satisfying conclusion to these trilogies."

Disney is dominating movie box offices this year, generating more than $8 billion in ticket sales from 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'The Lion King' and other mega-hits.

Saturday's presentation looked to the future and featured a parade of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Recently-married Dwayne Johnson made his entrance on a makeshift boat to promote 'Jungle Cruise,' an action-adventure movie based on the Disney theme park ride. Johnson explained that the film was modelled after some of his favourite films such as the 'Indiana Jones' series and 'Romancing the Stone.'

Speaking backstage, Johnson told Reuters "It's been a great week. Yes, I'm very lucky - with the marriage and certainly here at D23 delivering our first footage to the world of 'Jungle Cruise' and that reaction."

He also reacted to the fact he topped Forbes' rich list for actors. "Ah I made a nice penny. Tequilas on me," Johnson joked.

In addition, Disney revealed scenes from Marvel movie 'Black Widow' and a live-action re-telling of 'Mulan,' brought Angelina Jolie on stage to talk about 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,' and announced 'Game of Thrones' star Kit Harington was joining the cast of superhero flick 'The Eternals,' which also stars Jolie.

Executives at Pixar explained the plot of the upcoming film 'Soul.' The movie tells the story of a middle-school music teacher who dreams of being a jazz musician and explores big questions such as "Why am I here?" they said.

Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell sang alongside 'Frozen' co-stars Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff, who crooned into a stuffed reindeer.

Chris Buck, co-director of "Frozen," said the November sequel to the animated fairy tale, which adds Evan Rachel Wood to the cast, will start in the past and raise questions such as how Elsa got her powers.

Kristen Bell has no qualms about whether the sequel will be as big as the original, telling Reuters "There's not a single word or verb tense in this movie that is not been chosen with great care and this recipe has already been proven to work and these storytellers came together and told a wonderful, meaningful story so maybe I should be nervous, but I'm not nervous in the slightest."

Angelina Jolie did double duty, appearing for the showcases of 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' as well as Marvel's 'The Eternals'.

Salma Hayek stars alongside Jolie in the superhero movie and said "We're part of a new universe that is coming your way from Marvel - although they had the things - but it's also like a new era when you can have a movie that's so big and that embraces all the different ethnicities and the director is a woman that has a different sensibility from other directors that they chose in the past."

The bi-annual D23 ran until August 25. 

Story highlights

Disney is dominating movie box offices this year, generating more than $8 billion in ticket sales from 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'The Lion King' and other mega-hits.