Soho House goes inside the D23 Disney Fan Expo

Soho House goes inside the D23 Disney Fan Expo | Soho House

Hanna Flint gets the scoop on everything there is to look forward to from the Magic Kingdom in 2023

Saturday 24 September 2022   By Hanna Flint 

The latest D23 expo was held this month across the road from Disneyland Resorts in Florida, at the Anaheim Convention Center, gathering Disney, Star Wars and Marvel fans from far and wide to nerd out on exclusive reveals, panels and performances from the company’s abundance of pop culture offerings. The event is basically a boutique Comic Con; I went a couple of years ago to cover the big trailers and screen announcements for Yahoo! Movies and Syfy. It’s a full-on, at times laborious journalistic endeavour to keep abreast of all the happenings, then find a piece of carpet near a power outlet to file your copy within minutes of the hottest news dropping on social media. Getting to meet and hug Chewbacca at Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland was certainly a welcome treat after the frantic few days of online coverage.  
I wasn’t in Florida for this year’s event, I was braving the heat in the OG location of Star Wars. Tunisia is my ancestral home, as well as the backdrop for the planet Tatooine in a galaxy far, far away. So, while I couldn’t find a place with the right cable channel to see Ons Jabeur’s US Open final match (good effort, sis), I did find a restaurant with Wi-Fi near my hotel in Tozeur to watch the D23 film and TV presentations while chowing down on some Brik and Ojja Nature. 
The trailer for Willow might have excited me the most. The original Ron Howard movie, produced by Lucasfilm and based on a story by George Lucas, is one of my childhood faves. I feel like it was unfairly maligned by critics when it was released in 1988, but maybe that’s the nostalgic bias of a kid who had it on VHS and watched it repeatedly with her brothers. Still, Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan was an antihero to rival most others of that ilk on screen, and Warwick Davis got to show how impressive an actor he was beyond Ewoks and leprechauns thanks to Lucas writing the role for him. I have to admit I welled up when his older self appeared in the trailer, and I got goosebumps when fairy Queen Cherlindrea’s wand was held in frame.  
Nostalgic feels were in abundance. The arrival of the first live-action Little Mermaid trailer was met with social media reactions of little Black girls seeing Halle Bailey’s Ariel sing. They were a much-needed respite to the racist backlash, because a fictional woman with a fishtail and a singing Caribbean crab for a mentor were no longer white. Interesting that these people moaning in defense of red-headed little girls no longer seeing themselves on screen – the original animation is still there, fam – had less to say about the live-action introduction of a Marvel hero that shares a name with the 1982 massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese Shiites. I will reserve my judgement until I learn more, but maybe the writers of Captain America: New World Order should give Israeli hero Sabra a rebrand like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow did with Zari, the Egyptian goddess formerly known as ISIS.  
Of all the Marvel announcements, the confirmation of the Thunderbolts line-up had me most giddy. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia-Louis Dreyfus), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Yelena Belova (Florence ‘Miss Flo’ Pugh), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell) and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) will team up as the MCU version of the Suicide Squad. And most of the members so far have proven themselves to be rather spectacular at scene-stealing in their supporting (sometimes) antagonist capacities. 
Well, hopefully, Taskmaster will have more to say this time around; her comic alter-ego has his humorous moments, so maybe once she gets over the trauma of being the murderous tool of her psychotic father, she’ll be able to share a few laughs with the gang. The MCU has certainly never been short on gags, and with my buddy Eric Pearson on writing duty I’m sure Thunderbolts will be chock-a-block with them. 
No justice, no royal peace 
I didn’t realise just how barmy the country would get with the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I respect every individual’s right to grieve the long-standing monarch, but like many republicans, I do not believe everyone should be forced to take part in the mourning period. We live in a democracy – the country should not shut down because of the vestiges of a defunct feudal system. 
Nor should those exercising their freedom of speech be arrested because they believe the monarchy should be abolished. Or if they have a problem with Prince Andrew because of the fact he was best pals with a notorious paedophile and paid off his sexual abuse accuser to the tune of £12m – with money reportedly contributed by the Queen. Seeing police target anti-monarchy protestors reeks of the tactics we’ve seen exerted in Russia by law enforcement to silent dissenters and Ukraine sympathisers. The hypocrisy. 
It really says a lot about the warped priorities of so-called ‘Great’ Britain that more arrests have been made against civilians holding signs, or heckling a problematic royal, than there have been over the police killing of unarmed Black student Chris Kaba.  
I mourn Chris and a justice system that continues to prioritise the elite over minorities.  

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