D23 EXPO: “Pete’s Dragon,” “The Queen of Katwe” & “The Finest Hours”


Pete’s Dragon, a remake of the 1977 family classic, is one of the few Disney remakes (excuse me, reimaginings) that has flown under the radar, but throw in Robert Redford, and it leads the pack of a few of the other upcoming live action Disney films.

First up, is The Finest Hours, the “incredible true story” of a Coast Guard rescue, starring Captain Jim Kirk himself, Chris Pine.


The Perfect Storm meets reality features the following official description:

Presented in Digital 3D™, Real D 3D and IMAX® 3D, the film, which is directed by Craig Gillespie and also stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz and Eric Bana, transports audiences to the heart of the action, creating a fully-immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale.

“The Finest Hours” is produced by Jim Whitaker and Dorothy Aufiero and Doug Merrifield is the executive producer. The film is based on the book by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman and the screenplay is by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson. “The Finest Hours” storms into U.S. theaters on January 29, 2016.

Pete’s Dragon, which unveiled an early look of the film, brought Bryce Dallas Howard to the stage to talk about the film. She plays a park ranger who finds Pete, a young, feral child who’s survived in the forest for four years, who forces her to believe in magic (read: DRAGONS!). She clearly held the original in high esteem, and stumbled over words in describing her thoughts about the remake, labeling herself as initially curious in “re-feel(ing)” it, whatever that means.

In the look, we get a brief glimpse of Elliott the Dragon’s hairy (and perhaps color changing) scales. Here’s Disney’s description:

The heartwarming adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon, “Pete’s Dragon” is directed by David Lowery, produced by Jim Whitaker, and executive-produced by Barrie Osborne, and also stars Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford. “Pete’s Dragon” opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.

Incredibly, Disney is going to be bringing, to the best of my knowledge, the world’s first Ugandan chess movie, Queen of Katwe, starring the incomparable and suddenly ubiquitous Lupita Nyong’o. The film, according to Disney…

…is based on the inspirational true story of a girl from the poverty-stricken slums of rural Uganda who dreams of becoming a champion chess player. Directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler based on the book by Tim Crothers, “Queen of Katwe” stars Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and newcomer Medina Nalwanga.

There’s no release date for the film at this point, and while it has a whiff of the pat Disney/ESPN Million Dollar Arm/McFarland USA sports movie, it feels far more important, and thankfully, isn’t a white person saving minority story. Any world that features a Ugandan chess movie in theaters, a hairy dragon costarring alongside Robert Redford, and a Chris Pine-gets-wet movie can’t be too bad.


As Bryce Dallas Howard put it, “Disney is killing it!”