One of the few major disappointments at this year's D23 Expo, which is kind of the Disney version of Comic-Con, was when Alan Horn, the former Warner Bros. executive who now serves as the chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, talked about the company's plans for "Star Wars." Or rather didn't talk about them.
"I remember being blown away by the film in 1977," Horn began. "After watching it I was driving home and a policeman pulled me over. He said, 'Why are you going 80 miles-per-hour down Wilshire Boulevard?' And I said, 'I have to get to lightspeed.'" You could feel the crowd in the cavernous auditorium both chuckle at Horn, but also feel impatient, like listening to an older uncle tell a story while you wait for the punch line.
Horn continued: "It was an adrenaline rush to see that. I'm thrilled that more than 35 years later I have a chance be a part of this saga." More rapt anticipation, palpable and invisible, just like The Force. "Look for 'Episode VII' in the summer of 2015." Wait. What?
He then rattled off facts that we already knew: Kathleen Kennedy will serve as producer, John Williams is returning to do the music, Michael Arndt is writing the screenplay, and J.J. Abrams, who is "so well known in the business that he doesn't need a first name," is directing. Horn then said, "I really wish I could tell you more," and at some point a menacing shot of Darth Vader filled the large screen behind him, but that was it.
While some are reporting that there were actual boos at this non-news event, that isn't exactly the case. It was more like a bunch of disappointed "awwws" (according to our notes), since the D23 crowd is much more appreciative and polite than the demanding Comic-Con bunch. It was pretty disappointing that there wasn't even an announcement or an appearance by Abrams, Kennedy, or Arndt.
Over at the Imagineering pavilion, where it was speculated that at least something would be revealed about the two stateside theme parks' plans for "Star Wars," things were just as cryptic: huge boxes marked "Orange Harvest" (a play on "Return of the Jedi's" code name, "Blue Harvest") were covered in "Star Wars" references, but nothing was officially announced. This, despite large-scale plans for utilizing the "Star Wars" property at both California Disneyland (where Tomorrowland will be getting a large-scale "Star Wars"-ization starting this winter) and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida (where a larger, more lavish "Star Wars" Land will take up much of the park).
D23: light on details, but heavy on implied speculation. The Force was definitely not with us this year.