Plenty of amazing movies on tap from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures this year. I’m really looking forward to “McFarland, USA,” because I love a good inspirational sports movie. It looks similar to “Million Dollar Arm,” with Kevin Costner in the coaching role.
Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” features George Clooney and Hugh Laurie (seriously!), and of course, everyone is waiting to see what director Joss Whedon does with “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The year ends with the much-anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Let’s take a look at the full slate.
JANUARY 23, 2015 – Strange Magic
“Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion.
Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects. Well-known music producer Marius de Vries (“Moulin Rouge”) serves as both the musical director and composer.
Directed by Gary Rydstrom (“Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation,” “Lifted”) from a story by George Lucas, “Strange Magic” will be released by Touchstone Pictures on Jan. 23, 2015.
FEBRUARY 20, 2015 – McFarland, USA
Based on the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school.
Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other, but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent — the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic.
With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.
The cast also includes Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Martha Higareda, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Danny Mora, Valente Rodriguez, Vanessa Martinez, Chris Ellis and Diana Maria Riva, and is directed by Niki Caro with screenplay by Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson, and story by Cleveland & Gilois. Gordon Gray and Mark Ciardi are producing, with Mario Iscovich and Mary Martin serving as executive producers. “McFarland, USA” releases February 20, 2015.
MARCH 13, 2015 – Cinderella
“Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home.
But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her.
And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he’s really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden).
Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and – armed with a pumpkin and a few mice – changes Cinderella’s life forever.
Directed by Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh (“Thor,” “Hamlet”), “Cinderella” is produced by Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Elysium”), Allison Shearmur (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I”) and David Barron (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) with Tim Lewis (“Goldeneye”) serving as executive producer. The screenplay is by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy,” “The Golden Compass”). “Cinderella” will be released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 13, 2015.
APRIL 17, 2015 – Monkey Kingdom
Life is an adventure for Maya, the clever and resourceful blonde-bobbed monkey in “Monkey Kingdom,” Disneynature’s new feature film set among ancient ruins in the storied jungles of South Asia. Maya’s world is forever changed when she welcomes her son, Kip, into her complicated extended family. Like all families, Maya’s has more than its share of colorful personalities, and she’s determined to give her son a leg up in the world.
When their longtime home at Castle Rock is taken over by powerful neighboring monkeys, Maya’s whole family is forced to relocate, where she uses her street smarts and ingenuity to lead them to untapped resources amidst strange new creatures and unsettling surroundings. Ultimately, they will all have to work together to reclaim Castle Rock, where Maya can hopefully realize her dreams for her son’s future.
Featuring a rich cast of characters, including a mischievous mongoose, simple-minded langur monkeys, predatory leopards and monitor lizards, “Monkey Kingdom” is directed by Mark Linfield (“Chimpanzee,” “Earth”) and co-directed by Alastair Fothergill (“Chimpanzee,” “Bears”). With music from award-winning composer Harry Gregson-Williams (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Shrek” movies), Disneynature’s eighth True Life Adventure — the follow-up to 2014’s “Bears” — swings into theaters April 17, 2015.
MAY 1, 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel Studios presents the epic follow-up to the biggest Superhero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill and Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction.
Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is based on the Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Patricia Whitcher, Stan Lee and Jon Favreau serve as executive producers. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on May 1, 2015.
MAY 22, 2015 – Tomorrowland
From Disney comes two-time Oscar winner Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” a riveting mystery adventure starring Academy Award winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world — and them — forever.
Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen, “Tomorrowland” also stars Hugh Laurie as brilliant scientist David Nix, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Judy Greer, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Robinson.
“Tomorrowland” is produced by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird and Jeffrey Chernov and directed by Brad Bird, with John Walker, Brigham Taylor, Jeff Jensen and Bernard Bellew serving as executive producers. “Tomorrowland” opens in U.S. theaters on May 22, 2015.
JUNE 19, 2015 – Inside Out
From an adventurous balloon ride above the clouds to a monster-filled metropolis, Academy Award-winning director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”) has taken audiences to unique and imaginative places. In Disney•Pixar’s original movie “ Inside Out,” he will take us to the most extraordinary location of all — inside the mind.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life.
As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
JULY 17, 2015 – Ant-Man
The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Marvel’s “Ant-Man” stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Judy Greer as Maggie, Tip “Ti” Harris as Dave, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Wood Harris as Gale, Jordi Mollà as Castillo and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.
Peyton Reed directs Marvel’s “Ant-Man” with Kevin Feige producing and Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Edgar Wright and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Marvel’s “Ant-Man” delivers a high-stakes, tension-filled adventure on July 17, 2015.
OCTOBER 9, 2015 – The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling’s classic story comes alive in this upcoming American adventure film directed by Jon Favreau, written by Justin Marks, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures.
The film stars Neel Sethi as Mowgli, Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Christopher Walken as King Louie, and Giancarlo Esposito as Akela. The film is scheduled to be released on October 9, 2015.
OCTOBER 16, 2015 – The Untitled Steven Spielberg Cold War Spy Thriller
Directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, this film follows the true story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an attorney who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on a near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot. Academy Award-nominated actress, Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone,” “Win Win”), has been cast as his wife.
The cast also includes Billy Magnussen, Alan Alda, Eve Hewson, Domenick Lombardozzi, Austin Stowell, Mark Rylance, Sebastian Koch, Edward James Hyland and Michael Gaston.
The film rolls into theaters on Oct. 16, 2015.
NOVEMBER 25, 2015 – The Good Dinosaur
This upcoming American 3D computer-animated comedy film is produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It’s the studio’s sixteenth feature film and is directed by Peter Sohn.
“The Good Dinosaur” asks the age-old question: What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? The film is a humorous original story about Arlo, a lively 70-foot-tall teenage Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event rattles Arlo’s tranquil community, he sets out on a quest to restore peace, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a young human boy named Spot.
The cast includes Lucas Neff as Arlo, John Lithgow as Poppa, Frances McDormand as Momma, Neil Patrick Harris as Cliff, Judy Greer as Ivy, and Bill Hader as Forrest.
DECEMBER 18, 2015 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Directed by J.J. Abrams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (also known as “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”) is the seventh installment in the “Star Wars” film series (excluding spin-offs). It stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow, with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker reprising their roles from previous films. The story is set approximately 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” (1983).
“The Force Awakens” is the first film in the planned third “Star Wars” trilogy announced after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012. It is produced by Abrams, his long-time collaborator Bryan Burk, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
Abrams directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Abrams and Kasdan rewrote an initial script by Michael Arndt, who also wrote the story treatment. John Williams returns to compose the score, and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas serves as creative consultant. It’s scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.
Which of the above Disney movies are you most looking forward to?