CinemaCon 2023 Recap: Disney Dazzles with Footage from “The Little Mermaid,” “Elemental,” “Wish,” and More!

Disney’s 2023 CinemaCon presentation was noticeably different from those of Sony and Warner Bros. that preceded it. Rather than flying top talent to Las Vegas in a whirlwind barrage of announcements, Alan Bergman (co-chairman of Disney Entertainment) introduced Tony Chambers (executive vice president of theatrical distribution), who more or less was the only in-person presence at the showcase, with one exception. Letting the content speak for itself, CinemaCon attendees were given a taste of what’s to come this year from all of Disney’s movie brands – Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm. Here is a recap of what was shown.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 – May 5th

With just a little more than a week to go before its release, CinemaCon attendees got to see an exclusive advance clip in which the Guardians touch down on a fleshy surface in their monochromatic suits. Peter Quill tries to talk to Gamora about how her future self was in love with him, but she can’t see that ever happening. To make things even more awkward, Mantis informs Peter that he’s on the group channel rather than a private one, so they all have been listening to the sad exchange in their helmets. A portion of this scene was previously released online.

The Little Mermaid – May 26th

The only star in attendance was Melissa McCarthy, who is being honored with the CinemaCon Cinema Vérité Award at the Big Screen Achievement Awards. She talked about her joy in being cast as Ursula and what a treat it was to perform “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” We were then the first audience to see the full musical number, which lovingly paid homage to the original while still allowing room for this version to stand on its own, particularly with Ursula’s bioluminescent suction cups.

The Boogeyman – June 2nd

At the end of the presentation, Disney screened the full film The Boogeyman more than a month early. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the 20th Century Studios horror film follows a family being tormented by a literal monster in the closet. I made it through about 20 minutes before my nerves couldn’t handle any more, but I’m also not a fan of the horror genre.

Elemental – June 16th

Attendees were offered 3D glasses when entering the presentation, which were used to view the first 20-minutes of Pixar’s new animated opposites attract film. The film is set in Element City and stars anthropomorphic characters inspired by fire, water, air, and earth. The film looks beautiful and attendees were marveling at the spectacle 3D provides for this film.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – June 30th

During the presentation, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was saved for last. We were treated to a hilarious and action-packed chase sequence through the streets of a city. Indiana Jones and Helena Shaw were racing after a black sedan in which Jürgen Voller was holding onto the Dial of Destiny, attempting to get it back.

Haunted Mansion – July 28th

Disney’s next film inspired by a theme park attraction, we saw some new footage not featured in the first trailer. First, we got to see a sequence in which the travel party discovers a secret stairway behind a portrait that leads down to a circular chamber… a seance room. We then saw what felt like an expanded trailer that showcased just how lovingly the film embraces the attraction’s history. The plot of the film surrounds a mysterious mansion that just appeared out of nowhere in 1788 and has been a hotbed of unusual activity ever since. The rapid sequence of footage included some iconic elements from the attraction, including the ghost bride, hatbox ghost, clock that strikes 13, Madame Leota, and the stretching room, explained by the fact that the mansion rearranges itself every night.

A Haunting in Venice – September 15th

The third film in Kenneth Branagh’s film series based on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries finds the retired detective taking a holiday to Venice, where he is invited to a party in a “haunted” house. The teaser trailer debuted at CinemaCon and was released online shortly after.

The Creator – September 29th

Written and directed by Gareth Edwards (Star Wars: Rogue One), a teaser trailer debuted at CinemaCon. The film is a distopian science fiction story starring John David Washington as a man with a robot son.

The Marvels – November 10th

The trailer for The Marvels was released online two weeks ago, but CinemaCon attendees were the first to see it play on the big screen (according to Tony Chambers).

Next Goal Wins – November 17th

One of the most delightful surprises of the presentation was the trailer debut of this Searchlight Pictures comedy from Taika Waititi. The film stars Michael Fasbender as a down on his luck soccer coach who is sent to American Samoa whip one of the worst teams in the league into shape. The marketing alone for this film is genius, branding Taika Waititi as the loser of the Best Picture Academy Award for JoJo Rabbit and loser of the Teen Choice Award for Thor: Ragnarok.

Wish – November 22nd

Walt Disney Animation Studios celebrates the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company with a film that honors its rich fairytale past. Chris Pine was revealed as a member of the voice cast, portraying King Magnifico. And then we were shown the film’s “I Want” song performed by Ariana DeBose, who voices the lead character Asha. The computer animated film’s esthetic incorporates lots of hand-painted backgrounds and even elements of the characters have 2D look, marrying the classic and modern styles of the company. The first trailer for Wish will debut tomorrow on Good Morning America.

Stay tuned to this week for more news out of CinemaCon.

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).