Emerging from a remarkable 12 months, Disney enters 2020 with an exceptionally diverse slate of features. The question now facing the studio is: how do you top a year of blockbuster releases, six of which grossed more than $1 billion?
The simple answer: well, you don’t. The company’s 2020 slate is short on the sort of tentpole sequels and remakes that defined its 2019 output. The list is dominated instead by original and new-to-screen stories which, taken together, mark something of a turning point for the House of Mouse.
Disney’s three in-house animated features of the year are all originals: Pixar’s Onward and Soul, and Walt Disney Animation Studios’s Raya and the Last Dragon. These represent the two studios’ first non-sequel movies since 2017’s Coco and 2016’s Moana, respectively.
Elsewhere, Marvel Studios navigates the transition from Phase Three to Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with two releases: Black Widow, a standalone vehicle for Scarlett Johansson’s character, and The Eternals, which features a starry cast but relatively unknown characters. In the absence of a Star Wars film, Disney’s most high-profile release outside the above is Mulan, a live-action remake of its 1998 animated feature.
The slate becomes considerably more eclectic when you count the dozen-odd releases inherited through the acquisition of 21st Century Fox. This is the year in which Disney will really start to reveal its strategy for its new Fox titles and brands. The 2020 crop includes one animated feature (a spin-off of the series Bob’s Burgers), a handful of hybrid movies, and prestige award contenders from auteurs like Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg. It also contains a few likely R-rated releases; their performance may determine how much mature content Disney is willing to greenlight in the years to come.
While Disney may loosen its stranglehold on the box office in 2020, its streaming presence will only grow. Disney+ will launch in much of Europe and Latin America this year, and it will gain exclusive content as the company’s strategy for the platform takes shape. At the time of writing, four exclusive features are due for release in 2020.
The following list, which includes release dates and official synopses, has been compiled with the latest available information, though studios often shuffle dates throughout the year. Non-Fox theatrical releases come first, followed by the Fox and Disney+ slates. For Disney’s current release schedule through 2023, click here.
March 6 — Disney-Pixar
Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s Onward introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Pixar Animation Studios’s all-new original feature film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae — the team behind Monsters University.
March 27 — Disney
When the emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the imperial army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father.
Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation… and a proud father.
Mulan features a celebrated international cast that includes Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; Gong Li as Xianniang; and Jet Li as the emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek, based on the narrative poem The Ballad of Mulan.
May 1 — Marvel Studios
The first film of [the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s] Phase Four stars Scarlett Johansson, who reprises her role of Natasha Romanoff, as well as MCU newcomers David Harbour, who plays Alexei a.k.a. the Red Guardian; Florence Pugh as Yelena; O-T Fagbenie as Mason; and Rachel Weisz as Melina. Cate Shortland directs.
May 29 — Disney
Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl follows 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.
June 19 — Disney-Pixar
Soul is directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, and produced by Dana Murray. According to Docter, the idea for the story is 23 years in the making. “It started with my son — he’s 23 now — but the instant he was born, he already had a personality,” says Docter. “Where did that come from? I thought your personality developed through your interaction with the world. And yet, it was pretty clear that we’re all born with a very unique, specific sense of who we are.”
Soul introduces Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. “I think Joe is having that crisis that all artists have,” says Powers. “He’s increasingly feeling like his lifelong dream of being a jazz musician is not going to pan out and he’s asking himself ‘Why am I here? What am I meant to be doing?’ Joe personifies those questions.”
In the film, just when Joe thinks his dream might be in reach, a single unexpected step sends him to a fantastical place where he’s forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. That’s where he meets and ultimately teams up with 22, a soul who doesn’t think life on earth is all it’s cracked up to be. Jamie Foxx lends his voice to Joe, while Tina Fey voices 22. “The comedy comes naturally,” says Murray. “But the subtle emotion that reveals the truth to the characters is really something special.”
July 24 — Disney
Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Jungle Cruise is an adventure-filled, Amazon-jungle expedition starring Dwayne Johnson as the charismatic riverboat captain and Emily Blunt as a determined explorer on a research mission. Also starring in the film are Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti.
Jaume Collet-Serra is the director and John Davis, John Fox, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia, Dany Garcia, and Beau Flynn are the producers, with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer.
The One and Only Ivan
August 14 — Disney
From The Hollywood Reporter: “Helen Mirren and Danny DeVito have joined the cast of The One and Only Ivan, Disney’s adaptation of the Newbery Medal-winning book written by Katherine Applegate… Thea Sharrock, director of the tearjerker Me Before You, [is] in the director’s chair for the live-action/cgi hybrid…
“Published by Harpercollins in 2011, the book centers on a silverback gorilla named Ivan (Sam Rockwell) who lives in a cage in a shopping mall along with an elephant named Stella (Angelina Jolie) and a stray dog called Bob. Ivan does not remember life before the mall, but when a baby elephant named Ruby enters and Ivan finds himself taking care of her, he begins to rediscover his previous life and concocts a plan to take the baby elephant to a new home.”
November 6 — Marvel Studios
Chloé Zhao directs the feature, which introduces an exciting new team of Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Eternals stars Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, and Don Lee.
Raya and the Last Dragon
November 25 — Walt Disney Animation Studios
From Cartoon Brew: “Much like its sister studio Pixar, Disney Animation has lined up an original film for 2020 following back-to-back sequels. Raya and the Last Dragon is a fantasy epic set in the magical realm of Lumandra, a land inhabited by an ancient civilization — and dragons — which draws on the cultures of Southeast Asia. The film is written by Adele Lim, one of the scribes behind smash comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Cassie Steele and Awkwafina star.”
Underwater — January 10, dir. William Eubank
The Call of the Wild — February 21, dir. Chris Sanders
Wendy — February 28, dir. Behn Zeitlin
The New Mutants — April 3, dir. Josh Boone
Antlers — April 17, dir. Scott Cooper
The Personal History of David Copperfield — May 8, dir. Armando Iannucci
The Woman in the Window — May 15, dir. Joe Wright
Free Guy — July 3, dir. Shawn Levy
Bob’s Burgers: The Movie — July 17, dir. not named
Empty Man — August 7, dir. David Prior
The King’s Man — September 18, dir. Matthew Vaughn
Death on the Nile — October 9, dir. Kenneth Branagh
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie — October 23, dir. Jonathan Butterell
Deep Water — November 13, dir. Adrian Lyne
West Side Story — December 18, dir. Steven Spielberg
The Last Duel — December 25, dir. Ridley Scott
Stargirl — March 13, dir. Julia Hart
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made — early 2020, dir. Tom McCarthy
Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe — summer 2020, dir. TBC
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals — 2020, dir. Anna Mastro