7 Things We Learned About Star Wars At The D23 Expo

By  · Published on August 17th, 2015

Walt Disney Pictures

The live-action presentation at this weekend’s D23 Expo was huge (yet surprisingly, ran an hour shorter than yesterday’s Disney/Pixar animation presentation). Marvel. Star Wars. A whole mess ‘o movies that are neither Marvel, nor Star Wars (still neat, though).

But for right now, we’re talking Star Wars, and everything we just learned in the fabled convention halls of Anaheim.

1. Colin Trevorrow is Officially Directing Star Wars: Episode XI

Umberto Gonzalez actually broke this news a month ago, originally claiming Disney would announce it at this year’s Comic-Con. Well, they didn’t. They announced it at the D23 Expo, instead.

Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, hosting the Star Wars portion of the presentation, even admitted that last month’s scoop made this news kind of a softball. Still, it’s nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth (“he knocked our Avengers off number three… we hired him anyway,” Horn quips).

2. Bob Iger and Alan Horn Have Already Seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Here’s a quick tidbit- Star Wars: The Force Awakens might be nowhere near complete (we’re still four months out after all), but J.J. Abrams already has his first cut completed, and he’s screened it for Horn and Disney CEO Bob Iger. According to Horn, it’s super amazing. Although even if it wasn’t, Horn would still say it was super amazing.

3. Drew Struzan Painted A D23-Exclusive The Force Awakens Poster (And I Got One)

It’s been rumored that legendary poster-master Drew Struzan would be coming out of retirement to create a piece of artwork for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And here it is:

There’s no official image via Disney, so here’s a quick photo of the one I got. (they gave ’em to everyone in the presentation hall in one of those Oprah-esque you get a poster! YOU GET A POSTER!! moments).

Potential art-points of note: John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are pictured, but not Oscar Isaac. Ditto for Harrison Ford and not the other two members of the classic Star Wars triumvirate. Could mean something about which characters are the most story-crucial. Or maybe Struzan just likes their faces the most.

Also, Finn has a lightsaber. That’s something we certainly haven’t seen before.

4. Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk Have Joined Star Wars: Rogue One

Hands down, my favorite announcement of the entire expo. Horn, now discussing Star Wars: Rogue One (and showing a brief Hi, we’re filming now! clip of Gareth Edwards in a Tatooine-looking desert), announced Rogue One’s full cast for the first time. Mostly it’s names we’ve heard before, like Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, etc.

But two names at the end of the list were new: Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk.

Even at conventions, I’m kind of a quiet guy, but the idea of Mads Mikkelsen in Star Wars (and the instant Star Wars-Hannibal mashup that was birthed in my brain in that moment) nearly caused me to scream OH MY GOD YES during this otherwise quiet moment in Horn’s talk. Even now, I kind of want to scream it. I also texted it to several people, in all caps. I’m just so happy.

Also, according to a press release, Tudyk will be playing a motion-capture character.

Courtesy of Lucasfilm

5. Here’s Our First Picture of the Star Wars: Rogue One Cast

The very next Star Wars tidbit that Horn premiered was the first-ever photo of the Rogue One cast, assembled together in official Star Wars dress.

There’s Jones, front and center, Luna to her left, Riz Ahmed under him with the goggles and gizmo, Yen on the far right holding some kind of space staff, and… Jiang Wen, maybe, in the back with the dreads? Hard to tell. Also three others in the background too hidden to really recognize.

6. Harrison Ford Merits Five Minutes of Standing Ovation

Once the presentation moved on to actual The Force Awakens talk, Horn ushered Abrams to the stage, followed by Boyega, Isaac and Lupita Nyong’o. And then, to add a little old-school credibility: Harrison Ford.

Have you ever heard 7,500 people begin screaming simultaneously? It’s like a people explosion. And it was followed by just about every single audience member leaping to their feet and applauding for quite a while. After a minute or two, everyone quieted down… only for some guy behind me to cry out YEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!, causing the crowd to roar right back up.

Eventually we all sat down for real, Ford said a few quick “thanks for having me’s,” and was promptly met with another solid minute of standing, screaming, thunderous applause.

Totally insane. But hey, it’s not like I wasn’t cheering with them. It’s Harrison Ford. Come on.

Courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm

7. Disney’s Building Two Massive Star Wars Theme Park Additions

Throughout the Star Wars chunk of the presentation, the specter of “Big Star Wars News” was hanging over the crowd. And for a good reason- everyone on stage was teasing it relentlessly.

Finally, Iger got onstage and ushered away Abrams and all the actors (and Ford, which must have upset the YEAHHHHHH guy). This is it. The big announcement. Bigger than Mads Mikkelsen, even. The lights dim. The footage begins…

We see the classic “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Then, a POV shot of a space-hatch opening, revealing a city landscape. It’s slightly forested over, with buildings topped in big mushroom cap-looking domes and buildings that are part skyscraper, part hollowed out tree-trunks. Two TIE Fighters zoom towards us. The end.

The crowd responds with a general what the hell was that? murmur. Then Iger drops the big reveal: that was concept footage for the upcoming Star Wars theme land, coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, and Disneyland in Anaheim (a guy in my row leaps from his seat and begins dancing with sheer joy).

It’s only tangentially movie-related, but it also sounds super neat and everyone spent so much time teasing it. So here’s what we know:

No word yet when Disney Theme Park Star Wars Land (no official name, either) will be available to the public. Probably not anytime soon.

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