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D23 Expo 2017: Disney Live-Action, Lucasfilm and Marvel Panel Recap

After an extremely energetic and well-received presentation from Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios on Friday, the 2017 D23 Expo kicked things up a notch on Saturday morning with a huge panel from the studio's live-action arm. Thousands of fans had camped out overnight to secure their seats in the colossal Hall D23 in hopes of something spectacular, and the studio did not disappoint.

Ava Duvernay's bold new interpretation of A Wrinkle in Time was an early highlight, boasting lavish production design and the kind of heartwarming story of courage that has long been synonymous with Disney (you can see the trailer here). The principal cast was brought onstage to discuss the film, and newly-minted Disney Legend Oprah Winfrey had a bit of fun riffing on her public persona by announcing that everyone in attendance would receive a free poster from the film. "You get a poster!" she repeated over and over, as the audience cheered.

Also on display was the first look at Mary Poppins Returns, with director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt taking the stage to express their love for the original classic. Photos from the set showcased an incredibly accurate recreation of the house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, and Marshall added an extra sprinkle of magic by getting his hands on the corner desk used in the original film, having it flown to London for the production.

With the film not scheduled for release until December 25, 2018, the team is still very early in the editing phase, so they weren't able to show off a trailer - but they did treat the audience to a montage of scenes from Mary Poppins Returns, with a live orchestra playing the original film's score over the footage. Of particular note was what we assume to be the film's first shot of the magical nanny, as lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is flying a kite with one of the children during a storm, and the clouds part to reveal Mary Poppins silhouetted against the sky in a breathtaking image.

Up next was a brief message from Tim Burton, filmed on the set of his live-action remake of Dumbo, followed by a surprise appearance by director Jon Favreau, who treated the audience to a a shot-for-shot recreation of the opening sequence from The Lion King, but rendered with the same photorealistic style used in The Jungle Book. No word on whether or not this will be the same version shown in the upcoming feature film, but it moved many audience members to tears - myself and my wife included.

Lucasfilm took the stage next, with director Rian Johnson welcoming several cast members from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Mark Hamill promised the film would contain "so many unexpected elements" and would be "a real game-changer" for the franchise. Fans hoping for a new trailer were forced to contend themselves with a stellar behind-the-scenes sizzle reel, which you can check out in our Star Wars roundup here, along with a collection of new posters that were unveiled at the Expo.

As a surprise to no one, Kevin Feige and the Marvel team closed out the show. Feige welcomed Josh Brolin to the stage before introducing an ever-increasing collection of heroes to stand against the villanous Thanos, including Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier, Dave Bautista (Drax), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision), Don Cheadle (War Machine), and Anthony Mackie (Falcon).

The came the first footage from Avengers: Infinity War, and it nearly blew the roof off the building. The clip opened with the Guardians of the Galaxy cruising through space and encountering the floating, unconscious body of Thor. He awakens on their ship, and the group travels to an unnamed planet that has been decimated. This was followed by a series of shots that included Loki holding up the Tesseract, Peter Parker riding a school bus when the hair on his arms stands up (Spider-Sense confirmed!), and a massive spaceship crashing onto a planet we presume to be Earth.

"Fun really isn’t something one considers when balancing the universe," says Thanos in voiceover as a terrified Gamora turns around. "But this puts a smile on my face." Doctor Strange begins conjuring platforms that Star-Lord leaps onto in an effort to mount an assault, but they're clearly outmatched. We get a crazy montage of action, including a bearded Captain America throwing punches, the Hulkbuster armor charging into battle and Spider-Man sporting the sleek black-and-red suit from the end of Homecoming. Then Spider-Man is lying on the ground, clearly in great pain, while Thanos crushes Thor's skull and floors Iron Man with a single punch before using the Infinity Gauntlet to grab a moon (seriously) and bring it hurtling down toward the heroes.

This was easily the wildest stuff we've ever seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and likely only the tip of the iceberg - with nearly a full year until Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters, the studio will certainly have plenty of big-time surprises up their sleeve. We expect the same footage to be shown this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, and released online shortly after - and rest assured, we'll have the footage here as soon as it's available.

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