9 Takeaways from a Magical — and ‘Elemental’ — Disney CinemaCon Presentation

"Guardians of the Galaxy," "Next Goal Wins," and "The Little Mermaid" all got extended looks in Vegas, where Disney showed off films from each of its seven studios.
Disney CinemaCon
"The Little Mermaid," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," and "Elemental" all had big looks during Disney's CinemaCon presentation.

Disney’s magic was on full display Wednesday morning at CinemaCon 2023. For the first time since before the Covid pandemic, the studio is releasing films this year from each of its seven banners: Disney Live Action, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight Pictures. And we got footage from all of them.

There were some no-shows, including most celebrities (with the exception of Melissa McCarthy for “The Little Mermaid”), no “Star Wars,” and Searchlight made no mention of its Jonathan Majors acquisition “Magazine Dreams,” which for now is still dated for a release on December 8 during awards season, despite the actor’s controversy and legal woes.

Below are our key takeaways from the no-nonsense, fast-moving, and (mostly) crowd-pleasing Las Vegas presentation.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” Looks Good (and Sounds Even Better)

The Caesar’s Palace Colosseum got new “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” footage. It was funny, a bit in the feels, adorable, and backed by excellent ’80s music. In other words, it was completely on-brand for Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), and the rest of the “Guardians” gang.

That reveal set the tone for an exciting, fast-moving, and action-packed Disney presentation. Not everything we saw met the same standard, however.

“The Marvels” Maybe Does Not

Look, “The Marvels” had a tough task this morning. Not only did the sneak peek immediately follow footage from the much-more established “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise’s latest installment — nor was it anything that wasn’t already released online just last week — it was just some 17 hours removed from the thousands of us at CinemaCon being wowed by “The Flash.”

We’re not saying “The Marvels” has no chance to be good or to succeed — frankly, we didn’t get enough of it to be sure — but it’s got a tough task ahead of itself to break out from the pack. (And boy is the field packed: At Sony’s own CinemaCon presentation, we saw footage from “Kraven the Hunter” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” And at Warner Bros Discovery, we got DC’s “Blue Beetle” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”)

“Next Goal Wins” Is a “Loser”

Searchlight’s “Next Goal Wins” may give a lot of “Ted Lasso” vibes, but it turns out to be much, much more. The film, which has been in the works and delayed for years, is the return to indie films from Taika Waititi, who the trailer described as the “Loser” of the Oscar for “Jojo Rabbit” and even the loser of a Teen Choice Award for “Thor: Ragnarok.” That’s fitting, because the film is inspired by the true story of American Samoa’s national soccer team, who hires a new coach played by Michael Fassbender after the team has suffered an historic 31-0 loss and has not scored a goal in its country’s history.

The first trailer for the film, which for now was only seen in Vegas, concluded with a funny gag that is pure Waititi, in which an American Samoan native welcomes Fassbender’s character with open arms and describes him as like “finding a little lost white kid at the mall and telling him which way to go.”

“Next Goal Wins” opens in theaters November 17.

The ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico, in Disney Animation's "Wish"
The ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico, in Disney Animation’s “Wish”DISNEY

“Wish” Could Be a Star

In Disney Animation’s Thanksgiving 2023 animated release “Wish,” when you wish upon a star, it actually comes true. Well, Disney got a wish granted when Chris Pine joined the voice cast as King Magnifico, which the studio announced Wednesday at CinemaCon.

Beyond the casting news, we got the first footage of Asha (Ariana DeBose) singing what sounds like it will be the movie’s breakout song. The look, plot, and sound was exactly what you’d expect from Chris Buck of the “Frozen” films, who directs alongside Fawn Veerasunthorn. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Julia Michaels and Grammy-winning producer/songwriter/musician Benjamin Rice wrote original songs for “Wish.”

Melissa McCarthy’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Is Anything but Poor

“The Little Mermaid” could be big. There’s just one potential problem (outside of the stupidity of a few racists being offended by the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel): Ursula (Melissa McCarthy in this one) and her eels are definitely going to scare some kids. The original “Little Mermaid” in 1989 was rated “G” — this one is “PG.” The original “Lion King” and its live-action remake had the same trajectory.

McCarthy’s Ursula may be creepy to some of the smallest movie-goers, her rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” will score with bigger ones. We got to see the scene first at CinemaCon, and McCarthy’s voice was as beautiful as the footage itself. The theater owners in attendance were pleased; we’ll find out in a month and change if they’re pleased with ticket sales.

“Elemental” Is Fire

Pixar’s latest original film “Elemental” got a nearly 20-minute look at CinemaCon. In 3D no less!

“Elemental” is a story about Element City, where creatures composed of basic natural elements like Earth, Air, and Water all mix. The film follows the story of a family of Fire elements, who feel and sound like foreigners in Element City. But their family helps create an entirely new community that, over years, is populated by other Fire elements and helps develop a bourgeoning culture just outside the city.

While some people were fiddling with their 3D glasses this morning, the crowd received it warmly, even if it didn’t set the room on “fire” — get it? The film most closely resembles Pixar’s “Inside Out” both in its exploration of the city of different attributes but also the family dynamics.

Element City in Pixar movie "Elemental"
“Elemental”Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

“True Love” Has a New Title, a Trailer, and a Big Theatrical Push

“The Creator,” formerly titled “True Love,” is being dubbed — and pushed — as a “Theatrical Event.” It certainly looks the part. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards, who previously worked with Disney on “Rogue One”, and it has all the sci-fi sweep of that film. John David Washington stars in a cast that also includes Gemma Chan and Ken Watanabe, and he plays a human man with a troubled past protecting an AI robot who is still modeled as a young boy. The boy asks him about the afterlife and meaning and says, “So what you’re saying is we can’t go to heaven, because you’re not good, and I’m not a person.”

Both the trailer and the presentation from Tony Chambers were light on specific plot details, but it looked impressive all the same. The film will also release in IMAX and is opening in theaters from New Regency on September 29.


Disney saved the best for last in the first extended look at “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” unveiling a funny and rousing chase sequence ahead of the film’s Cannes premiere next month. Harrison Ford and director James Mangold weren’t here, but no matter, the crowd still loved it. Read more about what we saw here.

No One Wants to Be Scared at 11 a.m.

We wouldn’t say it was exactly a mass exodus after the Disney presentation and ahead of the screening of the “Boogeyman,” but those who stayed to watch the horror movie had plenty of room to stretch out.

Look, we’re guilty too, deciding it was time for eggs, coffee, and writing — not for Stephen King jumpscares. The good news for those who stuck around? After the thriller ends, you’ll have like 10 hours or so before bedtime to forget everything you just saw. There are already enough nightmares in Vegas.

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