The Walt Disney Company hosted another special Investor Day 2020 event virtually on December 10th 2020,focused on the Company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Hotstar and its upcoming international service, While most company investor presentations are not typically geared for fans and viewers, the company is still expected to divulge information about content and other streaming related topics that will be helpful in the coming year.
Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO made several announcements in today’s annual Walt Disney Investors Day. Right off the top, he boasted that Disney Plus has 86.8 million subscribers as of December 2. He also explained that Disney has separated content creation from distribution. He then pivoted to mentioning some of their upcoming content that he’s excited about. In addition to WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki being highlighted as upcoming Marvel projects, an Avengers Campus is in the works at their theme parks.
Kareem Daniel of Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution, discussed Disney’s new Media Distribution group. He discussed how Disney will continue releasing content in exclusive windows to linear networks and theater exhibition. Disney will also keep using the Premier Access model as well like what was used for Mulan. He explained that eventually, everything will end up on streaming platforms and so Disney is prioritizing their streaming services by ramping up production for these services. He assured investors that blockbuster films will still debut first in theaters, with big content also coming to Disney+. Surprisingly, he added that something new would be added to Disney+ every week and over the next few years, Disney+ expects to have ten Marvel series, ten Star Wars series, fifteen Disney series, and fifteen features under their belt.
Daniel then mentioned that an all new animated film, ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ will be available on Premier Access at the same time it is released in theaters on March 5, 2021. Disney also announced Disney+ releases for many previously heard of upcoming films such as Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and Cruella during their virtual Investor Day. Additionally, as the platform begins adding content with more mature ratings, they are taking steps to safeguard kids. Subscribers will need to opt-in to mature content like ‘Logan’ for instance.
Bob Iger made an unexpected appearance as well to discuss the quality of their program, emphasizing that it’s about “quality, not volume. Iger now supervises the creation of content and he believes the best way to grow subscribers is to simply have great content. When he was asked why Disney wasn’t adopting the same day / date release in cinemas and streaming that Warner/HBOmax was, Iger responded with “Disney builds franchises through the theatrical window.” Investors were reminded however that Premier Access will be used when a film is released on Disney+ day-and-date with theatrical.
Disney announced major new projects this week that will include TV and film content from Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar Studios. As the covid-19 pandemic has continued forcing quarantines and public gathering restrictions, production companies have been facing challenges in producing content safely and how to distribute it to a world where theater attendance has plummeted. Disney addressed some of the concerns and its upcoming release slate in its virtual Investor Day event this Thursday, December 10.
Dana Walden, Chairman of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television, spoke about “Disney General Entertainment Content” formerly Disney Television. She then hosted a sizzle reel for Hulu and Star, several new projects were announced, including Dopesick with Michael Keaton, The Dropout from Elizabeth Holmes, David E. Kelley’s Nine Perfect Strangers starring Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy and Regina Hall, and Only Murders in the Building starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez will be coming to Hulu and Star.
John Landgraf then spoke about FX. After discussing FX’s history, growth, and previous projects, noting that 78% of FX shows are 7.5 stars or better on IMDb. FX plans to produce 30 original programs each year between FX and FX on Hulu. After dropping the news that ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ has been renewed for four more seasons, he then he then introduced some interesting new projects. They are in advanced talks for a Rolling Stones series, as well as working on a reimagining of Shogun. But perhaps the biggest news was that FX is getting an Alien series. It will be the first Alien story set on Earth.
Speaking of science fiction, Kathleen Kennedy then spoke about Lucasfilm projects. After a well deserved showcase of the successful debut Star Wars series The Mandalorian, Kennedy revealed that Jon Favreau and Dave Feloni are developing two spinoff series. Rangers of the new Republic and a series starring Rosario Dawson as the jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano. These two series will be interconnected and culminate in a storytelling event.
Kennedy then mentioned a vast and expansive universe to tell Star Wars stories “for everyone”. This began her discussion of brand new Star Wars related series Andor, a spythriller featuring Casian Andor (from Rogue One) and is being directed by Tony Gilroy of the Bourne films. Diego Luna will be returning top the role with an all new cast for the 12 episode series. She then discussed the long anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi series and revealed that Hayden Christensen will return as Darth Vader. The Obi-Wan series takes place 12 years after Revenge of the Sith and production begins March 2021.
Other original Star Wars projects mentioned were an animated spin-off from The Clone Wars called The Bad Batch. More animation from Star Wars will be an anthology collection from several Japanese anime studios in a series called Star Wars Visions. Another classic character is getting a new event series simply called “Lando” from Dear White People creator Justin Simien. Leslye Headland is also developing The Acolyte. She also teased a droids series starring C3PO and R2D2. Seems like a no brainer.
Other Lucasfilm projects include a Willow follow-up series, with Jon Chu and Ron Howard’s involvement, as well as Warwick Davis. Ron Howard talked about how he learned so much from George Lucas, and it was a little bit inspiring. James Mangold is directing the final Indiana Jones film, which begins production in late spring 2021 and will be released in July of 2022. The next Star Wars feature will be from director Taika Whatiti and he is currently writing. The next Star Wars feature film will be directed by Patty Jenkins and is called Star Wars: Rogue Squadron scheduled to be released .
No word on Rian Johnson’s long awaited trilogy.
While Disney has continued with plans for future Marvel films like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU has lacked a unified direction and momentum since Avengers: Endgame. With popular properties like The Fantastic 4 and X-Men now also under its cinematic umbrella, many hoped today’s announcements could point to the next major arc for the franchise.
Kevin Feige did not entirely disappoint.
Kevin Feige was saved for near the end and he dropped a lot of interesting tidbits, starting with the Doctor Strange sequel. Elizabeth Olsen is currently in London filming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and we also learned that the unpopular character of America Chavez will make an appearance. Feige also confirmed that Wanda Vision will connect to Doctor Strange which will connect to the next Spider-Man film. Next we learned that Falcon and the Winter Solider will debut on Disney+ on March 19. Loki will arrive in May. And Black Widow is still coming to theaters…
Other new shows were announced, some we knew about, others seem obvious. The What If…? sizzle reel looks great. Ms. Marvel is still in production. Hawkeye will debut on Disney+ late next year. Kevin Feige also teased that other heroes will appear in She Hulk, namely Mark Ruffalo who will appear in the series. And Tim Roth is returning in She Hulk as the Abomination. A few projects we weren’t aware of that were mentioned came last. Secret Invasion is coming to Disney+ featuring Nick Fury and Talos. An Ironheart show focused on Riri Williams which will lead into Armor Wars which will explore what happens when Tony Stark’s tech goes in the wrong hands. This project stars Don Cheadle as War Machine. Feige also teased two Guardians of the Galaxy projects. A Holiday Special coming Christmas 2022 and an I Am Groot short series.
On the silver screen, Feige mentioned that Marvel just wrapped production on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Captain Marvel 2 is currently in the works and will also feature Ms. Marvel. Eternals is still set for a theatrical release. Christian Bale plays the villain in Thor: Love and Thunder. and finally, Peyton Reed is working on Ant-Man and the Wasp called Quantumania and will feature Kang the Conquerer and Cassie Lang. Fantastic Four got a very brief mention, only that it will be directed by Jon Watts. Kevin closed by remembering Chadwick Boseman and informing fans that Black Panther 2 is scheduled for release July 8, 2022 – and Marvel Studios will not be recasting T’Challa.