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Disney Did What It Had To During Investor Day 2020  |  Column from the Editor

With theaters shuttered and Disney Plus not offering much apart from old TV shows and movies, “The Mandalorian”, a disappointing “Mulan” remake, and some live action Marvel Cinematic Universe shows that still haven’t materialized yet, Disney needed to rebuild consumer confidence during their Investor Day event, and they more or less did everything they needed to do that. 

Over the next few years, 10 Star Wars series, 10 Marvel series, and 15 other series will find their way on Disney Plus, and they have some interesting Star Wars/Marvel films in the works, from a “Rogue Squadron” movie, an unnamed Taika Waititi “Star Wars” film, an “Ant-Man and the Wasp” sequel, and a “Fantastic Four” film by Jon Watts. 

But the series were the crux of the announcements, as next year we’ll see the “WandaVision”, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, “Loki”, and “Hawkeye” shows premiere on Disney Plus. For Star Wars, we have “The Bad Batch”, “Ahsoka”, “Rangers of the New Republic,” “Andor,” “The Acolyte”, “Lando” and an Obi-Wan series to look forward to, among others. 

I must admit, it was easy to get lost in the flurry of names and announcements to forget that we won’t see most of this stuff for a year or more. Still, here’s my thoughts on the announcements that I thought were interesting: 

Star Wars

“Ahsoka” and “Rangers of the New Republic”: Set in the time of “The Mandalorian,” “Ahsoka” starrs Rosario Dawson as the titular character, and “Rangers” probably stars the few New Republic X-Wing pilots we’ve seen on patrol in Mando, plus a supporting cast of characters we haven’t seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mimic Mando’s style and make use of the Volume technology that show uses. 

I liked Dawson as Ahsoka in Mando, and I have no doubt they’ll find plenty for her to do. Dave Filoni will probably reprise his pilot role in “Rangers,” which I find hilarious seeing as that was initially a small cameo role Dave Favreau pressured him into doing for fun. But as we know, a Star Wars cameo is not always just a cameo; you open the door to spinoff materials like books, future film roles, and apparently live action shows. 

Both shows will have to use “The Mandalorian” way of filmmaking as their backbone, but be written and directed in ways in which they can develop their own styles. 

“The Acolyte”: Set in the High Republic era, and produced by “Russian Doll” creator Leslye Headland, this show focuses on “emerging dark side powers” and shadowy secrets. So it’s probably going to focus on a Sith apprentice of sorts. Its name seems to reference Sith Acolytes from “Knights of the Old Republic”, who were force-sensitive Sith disciples who had not yet earned a master or the rank of apprentice yet, though the name has been used many times in Star Wars as a rank of dark-side user. 

I loved “Russian Doll,” so this seems like it would be a winning combination. But with no more than a title card to go off of, there isn’t much to comment on.

“The Bad Batch”: A sequel series to Dave Filoni’s “Clone Wars”, this show looks good, and will presumably have the same dark tone of “Clone Wars” Season 7. Dave Filoni produces great work, and animation is his forte. I’m looking forward to this. 

“Andor”: Coming in 2022, we’ll have to wait a while for this series based off of a character killed off in 2016’s “Rogue One.” Disney released a video on its production, and it seems like it is not using the cost-effective Volume way of shooting; it’s boasting an ambitious production more similar to a film. 

It has a lot against it given that we know the conclusion to Cassian Andor’s story, and the fact that Andor wasn’t a great character in “Rogue One,” but I think that had more to do with generic writing and time constraints than the talent of his actor, Diego Luna. In fact, Luna is a huge bright spot for this series, as after his excellent performance carrying the first two seasons of “Narcos: Mexico” as Felix Gallardo, I have no doubt Luna will be great in “Andor.” And the franchise has proved time and time again that even the most poorly written and directed characters can be redeemed. 

“Obi-Wan Kenobi”: A limited series that sees Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen return as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, this is probably what I’m most excited to see. 

People have been asking for this for a long time, and the fact that Christensen is returning is just icing on the cake. 

Marvel

“Loki”: Everyone is freaking out about Old Woody Harrelson in this, but it’s pretty much everything I expected. It follows the Loki we saw get away in “Avengers: Endgame” who’s basically just an alternate reality version of the character up until the end of the first “Avengers” movie, which did put me off to this series, as he has none of the great character development he got between Thor 2 and “Avengers: Infinity War.” I get that they wrote themselves in a hole as Loki selflessly died in Infinity War, though I would have much preferred he came back via some Infinity-Stone trickery than having the writers preserve a much less interesting copy of him through time travel shenanigans. 

Ultimately, “Loki” will have the tough task of re-developing Loki from his narcissistic and single-minded Avengers 1 state to the more mature Loki we saw in Infinity War, and I have a feeling because of that, Season 1 of this show will feel like homework. 

“WandaVision”: It’s coming out soon, and I hope it’s good. It’ll set the bar for all other Marvel live-action series. 

“Ironheart” and “Armor Wars”: Dominique Thorne stars as Riri Adams as “Ironheart,” who’s basically a female Iron Man, and Don Cheadle will reprise his War Machine character in “Armor Wars.” It’s interesting because I expected Marvel to leave the Iron Man property alone for a good period of time, but instead, we’re getting spinoff shows. I hope they’re good — I’m particularly rooting for “Ironheart” — but I wonder how it’ll impact the franchise when they do eventually release a new “Iron Man” film, without Tony Stark. Maybe Ironheart is the answer, though I still think that Stark’s in-universe daughter will play an important role. 

“Fantastic Four”: We knew this was coming, though only time will tell if Jon Watts will be the answer to this beleaguered franchise. He’s done a good job with “Spider-Man”, but “Fantastic Four” is a noticeably different property. I think the casting will make or break this film. 

Everything else I didn’t have much reaction to, though I think it is fun that they’re making spinoff shows of some Pixar properties and “The Princess and The Frog”, which reminds me of the excellent animated series they used to air on Toon Disney based on their animated classics. 

I don’t like how they’re using Premier Access again to gate off “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and I honestly hope Premier Access will die. But it’s honestly not very different from what a lot of companies are doing, as it will be on Premier Access concurrently with its theatrical release. Still, it premiers in March, and it looks like vaccines won’t have a major impact on theater safety by then, and if they’re charging $30 for this title like they did “Mulan,” I’m going to skip it. 

Overall, their investor event represented a lot of promises Disney is going to have to keep. With the sheer volume of Star Wars and Marvel shows coming out, chances are, some of them won’t be good, and there’s also no guarantee all of these projects will even get made. 

I have no reason to doubt their handling of their Marvel properties, and I’m cautiously optimistic how they handle “Star Wars.” I’m still critical of Disney Plus, and I don’t see its original programming eclipsing Netflix anytime soon (though Disney Plus’s tendency to use the antiquated weekly episode release schedule might make its offering seem bigger than they are, especially when they have multiple original series streaming). But it seems like Disney will be fine post-pandemic. 

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