By Andrew Marszal, AFP /Anaheim
Disney on Friday lifted the lid on three live-action Star Wars series for its much-hyped new television streaming service, including Ewan McGregor’s return as Obi-Wan Kenobi, as the company revealed a vast lineup for its Netflix rival.
Previously unannounced series set in Marvel’s wildly popular superhero universe and a live-action Lady and the Tramp film were among the shows teased at the biennial D23 fan convention in California, to whooping cheers from Disney devotees dressed as their favourite characters.
But the loudest ovation was saved for the Star Wars presentation, with the first official trailer for Disney+ launch series The Mandalorian showing a dark, lawless universe populated by murderous bounty hunters.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the TV shows would be “identical” in quality to the record-grossing Star Wars films, describing it as “exhilarating and liberating” to tell stories that expand beyond two hours.
The online streaming service Disney+ featuring film and television shows will launch November 12 in the US as well as Canada and the Netherlands, before rolling out worldwide.
Chief executive Bob Iger told investors on a recent earnings call that “nothing is more important to us” than the platform, which will compete in a crowded marketplace with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Max and more.
As well as offering Disney’s enormous back catalog, including all animated films and Pixar movies within its first year, it will feature a plethora of newly commissioned shows. It will cost $6.99 a month in the US.
Friday’s sweeping presentation in a packed 6,800-seater hall in Anaheim lasted nearly two hours, and set out titles from across Disney-owned brands including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, the Disney Channel and National Geographic.
McGregor joined Kennedy on stage to confirm rumors that he would return as the Jedi master who was first portrayed by Alec Guinness in the 1977 original Star Wars.
Few details were given for the series, except that it has been written and will begin shooting next year.
Introducing the first trailer for the separate Mandalorian series, which will be available at launch, showrunner Jon Favreau said the show would take place after Return of the Jedi in a world where celebrations about the end of the evil Empire had given way to chaos.
It will be set in a “world where like the old samurai movies and the old Westerns, where the gunfighters are rolling and people are fighting for their own safety,” he said. “It’s a dangerous world.”
New footage showed battered Stormtrooper helmets mounted on spikes and crumbling in the desert dust, with cowering mothers and children fleeing from armed villains.
Also announced was a “spy series” inspired by critically acclaimed Star Wars film Rogue One, with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk to reprise their roles in a prequel storyline.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige revealed three previously unannounced shows which will overlap with the most successful film franchise of all time — Ms Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk.
More details emerged for further Marvel superhero shows What If...?” — an animated series imagining different outcomes for each of the 23 Marvel films to date — and WandaVision, which was intriguingly described as a “half classic sitcom, half full (Marvel Cinematic Universe) spectacular” inspired by Dick Van Dyke.
Also appearing on a bumper lineup were an “unscripted” Muppets show, a grown-up Lizzie McGuire reboot starring Hilary Duff, a series of shorts featuring Forky from Toy Story 4, and a mockumentary based on High School Musical.
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