There are plenty of big stories coming out of this year's D23 Expo, especially since the Disney umbrella also includes Marvel Studios and major upcoming movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World. For fans of Disney's classic repertoire of animated family films and fairy tale adaptations, however, Disney also showed off previews for Sleeping Beauty prequel Maleficent and the upcoming live-action Cinderella reboot from Kevin Branagh.
The Mouse House seems set on a program of revisiting its best-loved properties, and among all the reveals was the announcement of a Tinkerbell movie called The Fairy Pirate, with Tom Hiddleston and Christina Hendricks. Maleficent also stars a big name in the lead, with Angelina Jolie taking up the wand and horns to explore the backstory of the fairy and the tale of what happened to turn her so sour. Cinderella, meanwhile, features relative newcomer Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the lead role, Game of Thrones star Richard Madden as her Prince Charming, and Helena Bonham-Carter as her fairy godmother.
Disney fans finally got a first look at Cinderella and Maleficent during D23 2013 previews, during which a trailer for Maleficent was shown and screen tests of James in Cinderella's classic blue ball gown were also revealed. In attendance for the latter film was Jolie herself, who said that Maleficent had always been her favorite Disney character, and both Bleeding Cool and Screen Crush provided descriptions of the trailer.
It opens with the ceremony that was seen in the animated 1959 film, which is quickly gate-crashed by Maleficent and her dreaded curse. This scene includes shots of the three good fairies, who have been given new names: Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple). The characters aren't completely animated, but they've been shrunken by FX and their facial proportions have also been skewed to given them a more elfish look.
Most of the focus seems to have been on the more familiar incarnation of Maleficent that audiences will know from Sleeping Beauty. There were some scenes of her growing up through her teenage years, which is apparently where we'll find out that she didn't start out evil, but overall it sounds like it had quite an ominous feel.
Since Cinderella hasn't yet begun filming yet, there wasn't much to show aside from the aforementioned screen test, but a pre-taped segment with Branagh showed the director talking about his plans for the reimagining of one of the most famous Western fairy tales in history. Entertainment Weekly reports that Branagh sounded very excited about the project, and very concerned with getting classic scenes (such as the pumpkin-to-carriage transformation and the fitting of the glass slipper) just right in his film.
Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Productions, promised that Cinderella will remain "faithful to the original material," though it's not quite clear whether he was referring to the first Disney movie or to Charles Perrault's version of the tale. Presumably he wasn't referring to the Brothers Grimm version, which ends with the two ugly stepsisters having their eyes torn out by birds at Cinderella's wedding. It would be funny if that were the case, but probably not worth the angry letters from parents.
Maleficent opens in theaters (2D and 3D) around the U.S. on July 2nd, 2014.
Cinderella is out in theaters on March 23, 2015.