ANAHEIM (AP) — The Force may not be with Disney fans this weekend.
The Walt Disney Co. is cracking open the vault, rolling out the red carpet and pulling back the curtain for more than 45,000 expected fans at this weekend’s D23 Expo, a three-day celebration of all things Disney.
However, the company’s chairman and CEO shot down rumors that the expo would include a peek at the next “Star Wars” film.
“We’re speechless, at least we’re going to be somewhat speechless at this expo,” Bob Iger told a crowd of 4,000 gathered inside the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday morning. “Trust me. It’s going to be fantastic. Come on. ‘Star Wars’ and Disney together. How could it not be fantastic?”
Disney bought George Lucas’ Lucasfilm empire last year for $4.06 billion and plans to unleash a new “Star Wars” trilogy and two spin-off films beginning in 2015 with “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is being directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Michael Arndt.
Thousands of fans, some dressed as Disney princesses and characters from “Mary Poppins,” began lining up early Friday morning to be among the first inside the extravaganza across the street from Disneyland. The event will include special musical performances, presentations and previews of upcoming projects.
The company kicked off the three-day event with a Friday presentation focused on its upcoming animated films. Disney announced Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy will voice the parents of the forgetful fish in Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory,” which is slated to debut in November 2015. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks will reprise their respective roles as Dory and Marlin from the original film, and “Modern Family” co-star Ty Burrell will join the cast as a beluga whale named Bailey.
Disney revealed at the three-day fan expo that “Up” director Pete Docter’s “Inside Out” would feature the voices of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Phyllis Smith of “The Office.” The film, which is also expected in theaters in 2015, takes place mostly inside the brain of a young girl. Meanwhile, “The Good Dinosaur” will include the voices of Lucas Neff, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer and Hader as a family of dinos.
The studio also showed off footage and concept art from the computer-generated adventure “Frozen,” manga-style Marvel adaptation “Big Hero 6″ and “Disney’s Planes” follow-up “Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue,” which is set in the world of Disney-Pixar’s “Cars.” The new Mickey Mouse short film “Get a Horse!” and the first 10 minutes of a “Toy Story” special airing on the company’s ABC network this October were also screened.
Among the live-action films expected to be teased during a Saturday presentation are “Thor: The Dark World,” ”Captain America: Winter Solider,” ”Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland.” There might also be glimpses at “Maleficent,” which stars Angelina Jolie as the “Sleeping Beauty” baddie, and new intergalactic and superheroic exploits from Marvel.
Patterned after San Diego’s wildly popular Comic-Con, the biannual D23 Expo, which Disney launched in 2009, isn’t just about movies. On the show floor, attendees can snap up exclusive merchandise, trade collectible pins and meet stars from Disney Channel properties like “Teen Beach Movie” and “Sofia the First.” There will also be presentations about Disney history, theme park attractions and video games.
“I can’t wait to see the look on the crowd’s face when we show them what we’ve got to show them,” said “Disney Infinity” executive producer John Vignocchi, who will be presenting the upcoming Disney game that combines a virtual world with figurines of popular Disney characters on Sunday. “Their reaction will make all the hard work worth it.”
The event could also offer an update on “Avatar” land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Fla. The company announced in 2011 that it had struck a deal with filmmaker James Cameron to build attractions based on the top grossing film of all time, which is set on the lush alien world of Pandora. He’s currently working on three sequels to “Avatar.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)