Disney+ brings a constellation of stars in the streaming launch with mega-budget Star Wars project

AFP , Tuesday 12 Nov 2019

'The Mandalorian' - the mega-budget, live-action show launches the Disney+ streaming platform this Tuesday

Star Wars

The star of Disney's hugely ambitious new Star Wars television series remembers the moment he first stepped into a galaxy far, far away.

Pedro Pascal was trying on his character's helmet for "The Mandalorian" -- the mega-budget, live-action show which launches the Disney+ streaming platform this Tuesday -- when he caught a glimpse in the mirror.

"If you grow up playing with Star Wars toys, and seeing the movies, and then you're staring at yourself and you are the image of that childhood imagination -- it's a super 'pinch me' moment," recalled Pascal.

Disney is banking heavily on audiences getting that same feeling.

Its new rival to Netflix -- costing $6.99 a month in the US -- trades heavily on nostalgia, boasting a huge back-catalog from classic Disney animations and Pixar favorites to Marvel superhero films and "The Simpsons."

But Disney+ has relatively few original titles at launch, meaning a lot is riding on "The Mandalorian."

Written and helmed by Jon Favreau, who directed Disney's wildly successful remakes of "The Jungle Book" and "The Lion King," the show brings together a constellation of stars from within and beyond the legendary franchise.

Chilean actor Pascal, familiar to fans of "Game of Thrones" and "Narcos," plays a masked bounty hunter known as The Mandalorian.

Plot details are tightly under wraps. But the story is set five years after "Return of the Jedi," and follows his adventures as a gun-for-hire roaming the galaxy's lawless outer reaches.

"He's cloaked in mystery -- an entire story that is literally hidden underneath the armor," Pascal told journalists at a Los Angeles press conference.

He will be joined by veteran action star Carl Weathers ("Rocky"), former martial arts fighter Gina Carano ("Deadpool") and "Breaking Bad" villain Giancarlo Esposito.

Lucas's right hand

Taika Waititi ("Jojo Rabbit," "Thor: Ragnarok") directs an episode as well as voicing a droid, while Nick Nolte and German auteur Werner Herzog also have roles.

But die-hard Star Wars fans will be most excited by the presence of executive producer and director Dave Filoni, described as George Lucas's "right-hand man."

Star Wars creator Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012.

But Filoni worked for almost a decade closely alongside the filmmaker on previous Star Wars projects, and brings some old-school continuity to the project.

"One of the dreams George had even when I worked with him on 'Clone Wars,' he would talk about the future being streaming, the future being episodic, serialized Star Wars," said Filoni.

Huge advances in technology -- and Disney's deep pockets -- have now brought what was once only possible in blockbuster films to the small screen.

"I tried to offer the knowledge that I've had passed on to me by George for Star Wars, and the way that he likes to shoot things," said Filoni.

Lucas himself even visited the set, appearing in an Instagram photo shared by Favreau last year.

Along with "The Mandalorian," at least two other live-action Star Wars series are in the works for Disney+.

Disney archive

From launch, the platform will also premiere a live-action remake of "Lady and the Tramp."

Post-production of the new movie took place on the same studio lot outside Los Angeles where the 1955 original was created.

It was filmed using real dogs -- mainly strays rescued from shelters and foster families -- who had mouth movements superimposed onto them with computer-generated visual effects.

Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux voice the pampered pure-breed and stray mutt who fall deeply in love.

Disney+ will also feature at launch a new mockumentary based on "High School Musical."

The 10-episode scripted series sees pupils at the real Salt Lake City school where the original movie was filmed rehearse a new production of its hit songs 13 years later.

According to Disney, the show has been created "through the lens of 2019's significant cultural sensibilities" -- for instance, the lead female character is being raised by two moms.

But fondness for cherished past favorites will be key for Disney+, as it competes in a crowded marketplace with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Max and more.

The Mouse House is opening its film archive on the streaming platform, with movies from classics "Old Yeller" and "Fantasia" through to "Frozen" and "Iron Man" online from day one.

Subscribers will have to wait longer for a vast pipeline of new projects, from a grown-up "Lizzie McGuire" reboot starring Hilary Duff to multiple Marvel superhero TV shows.

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