Disney+ Wins Its First-Ever Emmys With ‘The Mandalorian’

Disney’s upstart subscription streaming video service, Disney+, Sept. 16 scored its first Emmy award for original series, “The Mandalorian,” winning Outstanding Special Visual Effects at the Creative Emmy Awards.

The trophy was followed by series (30-minutes in length) wins for for Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing For a Comedy or Drama Series and Animation, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series and Animation, and Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program.

The “Star Wars” spinoff series was nominated for 15 Emmys and is a huge hit for Disney+. The series, from director Jon Favreau, stars Pedro Pascal as the title character and features fan favorite The Child (dubbed Baby Yoda by fans) as ultimate scene stealer.

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The second season of the show is slated to debut on Oct. 30 with Rosario Dawson, Michael Biehn and Bill Burr joining the cast. Returning cast includes Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers, Omid Abtahi and Ming-Na Wen.

(Update 9/18/20: “The Mandalorian” also won Outstanding Music Composition for composer Ludwig Göransson, bringing the show’s Emmy total to seven.)

Disney+ Prepping ‘Star Wars Day’ May 4 With Original Content

Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service is readying the upcoming “Star Wars Day” (“May the Fourth”) with new original content, in addition to the service’s complete collection of “Star Wars” movies and shows.

Originally conceived as a fan-generated grassroots holiday, “Star Wars Day” has evolved into a celebration of the Star Wars franchise and saga. Disney will be streaming the conclusion of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” in addition to the global premiere of the new eight-episode documentary series “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian,” from executive producer Jon Favreau.

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The doc takes a look at the making of the series, which became a pop culture phenomenon after premiering in November. Each chapter explores a different facet of the first live-action “Star Wars” television show through interviews, never-before-seen footage and roundtable conversations hosted by Favreau.

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“‘Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian’ is an opportunity for fans of the show to take a look inside and get to see a different perspective, and perhaps a greater understanding, of how ‘The Mandalorian’ came together and some of the incredibly talented contributors throughout season one,” Favreau said in a statement.

Topics this season include the filmmaking process, the legacy of George Lucas’ “Star Wars,” how the cast brought the characters to life, the series’ groundbreaking technology, the artistry behind the show’s practical models, effects, and creatures, plus the creative influences, the iconic score, and connections to Star Wars characters and props from across the galaxy.

“Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” will premiere three days after “The Mandalorian” will wrap its first season in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. New episodes of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” will stream every Friday on Disney+.

After seven seasons, the CG-animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will come to a close on May 4, giving fans around the world the chance to watch the finale together for Star Wars Day.

The Emmy award-winning “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was created by George Lucas and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni (“The Mandalorian”) serving as Executive Producer/Supervising Director.

The highly anticipated conclusion to the acclaimed series explores the events leading up to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

‘Very Bad Things’ Headed for Blu-ray Disc Release

Shout! Factory has set a Jan. 28 release date for it’s special-edition Blu-ray of the 1998 black comedy Very Bad Things, a party-gone-bad classic starring Cameron Diaz, John Favreau, and Christian Slater, and written and directed by Peter Berg.

Extras will include a new audio commentary with film critics Witney Seibold and William Bibbiani, an interview with actors Jeremy Piven and Daniel Stern, the theatrical trailer, and a stills gallery.

The film follows Kyle Fisher (Favreau), who has one last night to celebrate life as a single man before marrying Laura (Diaz). He sets out to Las Vegas with four of his best buddies, but their drug-and-alcohol-fueled bachelor party goes bust when their “stripper” cashes in her chips during a deranged sexual escapade. The friends decide to bury the evidence, which leads to a series of misadventures.

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Very Bad Things grossed almost $10 million at the domestic box office, and just over $11 million internationally.

 

The Lion King (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Disney;
Family;
Box Office $543.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.
Voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones.

Director Jon Favreau’s new version of The Lion King stands as both a zenith for Disney’s live-action remakes as well as something of a nadir.

As a re-creation of the 1994 animated classic in a live-action style, the film represents a pinnacle of visual effects to simulate photorealistic environments and animals.

On the flip side, the film doesn’t really strive to be anything more than a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the animated film, with mostly the same dialogue and songs as before. As such, it comes across as the most striking example that, from a creative standpoint, there isn’t much of a reason for Disney to produce these remakes other than because it can (and the box office results are certainly proving the merits of those decisions).

Like many of Disney’s live-action remakes, it’s a competent cover version of one of the studio’s popular musicals, so it will always have that watchability factor. The stunning visuals, cute animals and rousing songs will make it as enjoyable for kids today as the original was for its generation of youngsters. But anyone already familiar with the animated version (i.e., the parents of the kids seeing it with fresh eyes) will be hard pressed to see it as more than a curio.

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To my mind, the conversion to the live-action template actually dampens the impact of the story (famously inspired by Hamlet) of young lion Simba growing up in exile after the death of his father, only to return to challenge his uncle, Scar, for leadership of the Pridelands.

As a cartoon, the artistic reality makes it easier to accept the concept of the animals talking and singing. But with a photorealistic setting, the illusion that this is somehow taking place somewhere takes a bit of a hit.

A bolder creative direction might have been to step back from the idea of a strict remake and instead pay a bit of homage to the studio’s cinematic past by styling the film more like one of Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” nature documentaries from the 1950s. Instead of the animals talking and singing, a narrator would explain the story and who the various characters are as they go about their business. The classic songs could even be played as part of the soundtrack over the action, as a few already are (such as “Circle of Life”). Strictly speaking, there really isn’t anything stopping a version like this from being made with the film as it already exists, in the form of a fun, alternate audio track applied to the footage.

It would also be cool if these live-action remakes were connected in some larger cinematic universe, giving them at least some reason to exist beyond milking nostalgia with new versions of older films. Anyone who has seen Tim Burton’s Dumbo knows how easily that film could connect to The Jungle Book. And Jungle Book was of course the film that Favreau directed to pave the way for his gig to redo Lion King. And the fact that some of the films take place in different eras shouldn’t impede the characters meeting, especially since one of the movies has a time-bending Genie in it.

This new version of The Lion King has also generated some buzz over the semantics of referring to it as live-action, given that after the initial shot of the sunrise, the entire movie is digitally animated. To me, the terms “live-action” and “animated” have more to do with aesthetic than they do with photography. The film is meant to depict a real-world environment, and does so using visual effects. A film is typically classified in the “animated” genre because its characters and settings are meant to portray a stylized reality unto itself. There are certainly exceptions here and there, and the digital tools filmmakers now have at their disposal have certainly blurred the lines between what could be considered “animated” and “live-action,” so much so that the discussion over it could be considered something of a cinematic Ship of Theseus.

Consider any real-life scene that could be filmed practically, and imagine touching up that scene with photorealistic CGI. Elements in the background are replaced one by one until the only thing left that was really there is a person in the foreground (not unlike Jungle Book). Now remove the person — you get an “animated” scene of a live-action setting. That’s what Lion King has essentially done, just pushing past the step of shooting something real to begin with. It’s “live-action” when the world has been re-created with visual effects; it’s “animated” when the pictured environment is not meant as a portrayal of something real.

And we see from the extensive Lion King bonus materials how the process of creating this simulated live-action film differs from that of the usual CG animated film, involving animators plugging data into their computer. To better simulate the live-action environment, filmmakers created a virtual reality studio, using a real cinematographer (Caleb Deschanel) and real cameramen walking around the virtual set to craft the image, just as they would any live-action film.

And consider this: The very nature of film projection is an illusion — a procession of still images presented in a sequence meant to fool the eye into perceiving motion. This is the simple truth that made cartoons work in the first place. If anything, traditional cel animation would have as much claim as being “live-action” as anything, considering how they are basically a series of photographs of static drawings that actually existed in the physical realm, which is more than can be said about the artwork of most modern cartoons.

On the Lion King’s home video extras, the process for creating the film shares considerable real estate with some nostalgia for the original, mostly owing to how the filmmakers wanted to be faithful to the story and characters.

Favreau in his informative solo commentary also waxes over the Lion King stage show, which convinced him that the basic musical storytelling elements translated well across whatever visual medium they were presented. Favreau also details the most notable changes between the new and old versions, mostly having to do with toning down the anthropomorphizing of some of the animals and punching up the verisimilitude of musical numbers where the animation could depict some colorful, wacky dance sequences. Favreau also provides a minute-long introduction to the film.

The centerpiece of the extras is the three-part “The Journey to The Lion King” documentary that runs about 54 minutes in total. “The Music” (14 minutes) deals with updates to the original music, which involved bringing Hans Zimmer to reprise the score, and the new cast’s reaction to singing the well-known songs; plus, Beyoncé added a song, and Elton John, who wrote the original songs, recorded a new song for the end credits. “The Magic” (21 minutes) focuses on the filmmaking techniques employed in the film, blending live-action photographic techniques with virtual reality and CGI. “The Timeless Tale” (19 minutes) lets the filmmakers reflect on the legacy of the original film.

Three “More to Be Scene” segments take an iconic musical sequence from the film and show the different layers needed to create the scene, from storyboards to rough animation to voice recording, compared with the final product. The songs include “Circle of Life,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Hakuna Matata.”

Finally, the Blu-ray and digital presentations include music videos for the new Elton John song, “Never Too Late,” and the new Beyoncé song, “Spirit.”

There’s also a sing-along viewing mode for the film, plus seven song sequences playable on their own with text lyrics. That should keep the little ones happy without watching the whole film again.

The three-minute “Protect the Pride” is a PSA featuring Favreau pleading for the conservation of lions and their habitats.

There are also a couple of digital-exclusive extras. The three-minute “Perfecting the Pride” details the filmmakers taking a research trip to Africa, while the three-and-a-half-minute “Pride Lands Pedia” is a fun video hosted by Dembe the dung beetle, who profiles some of the animals and environments seen in the film.

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/1/19;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $389.86 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated’PG-13’ for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Martin Starr, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Peter Billingsley, Marisa Tomei.

Well, that could have been awkward.

Amid reports that Sony Pictures and Disney would not renew their landmark deal to share Spider-Man, the home video release of the latest film featuring the character looked to be in the unenviable position of reminding audiences just how valuable the partnership had been, both from a financial and a creative standpoint.

And since Spider-Man: Far From Home ends with a cliffhanger that recasts the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spidey’s place within it, a fresh viewing of the film under the shadow of its sequel potentially not being connected to the MCU only puts a more glaring spotlight on the impasse, much to the disappointment of fans. The bonus materials accompanying the release don’t sidestep the issues, either, with direct discussions of Spidey’s impact on the MCU (particularly the four-minute “Stepping Up” featurette).

Fortunately, such prospects were avoided with the news of a new agreement to allow Marvel to make a proper sequel, completing a trilogy with Tom Holland as the title character at the very least, and paving the way for whatever Sony has planned for the character down the road.

And that’s very good news indeed, as Far From Home offers a spectacular adventure, from the perspective of both a Spider-Man story and the 23rd chapter of the MCU (serving as the epilogue of Phase 3).

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With the world adjusting to the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Holland) and his high school class take a summer trip to Europe, where Peter hopes to relax, take some time away from being Spider-Man, and explore a relationship with MJ (Zendaya). Unfortunately, he is recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) battle a threat from another dimension. As Peter struggles to balance his personal and superhero lives, he is confronted by the legacy of Tony Stark.

But as Peter questions what his place within that legacy is, he learns that things are not what they seem, forcing him to step up to become the hero he was destined to be.

The film looks great, blending scenic European locales with dazzling visual effects to create an eye-popping piece of entertainment.

Holland remains one of the most likeable stars of the MCU, handling with ease whatever challenges the movie throws at him. Gyllenhaal makes for an engaging Mysterio, an effective counterbalance to Peter’s crisis of confidence. Far From Home features a lot of surprises, both in terms of how the story unfolds and in references to earlier Marvel movies.

As with the previous film in this particular franchise, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villains are remnants of Stark’s actions in prior films, which has left some fans a bit miffed that the MCU Spider-Man seems more like an Iron Man Jr. cleaning up Stark’s messes. There is some truth to that, but within the context of the story of the films, it works really well.

The Blu-ray also includes what is billed as a new original short, but it’s essentially a three-and-a-half minute deleted scene of Peter preparing for his vacation, clips of which were used in some of the earliest Far From Home trailers.

Separately, the disc includes another six minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, plus a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

The four-and-a-half-minute “Stealthy Easter Eggs” featurette shows off some of the film’s hidden references, while the five-minute “Teachers’ Travel Tips” offers a comedic look at the chaperones played by Martin Starr and JB Smoove trying to ensure a smooth trip.

For behind-the-scenes footage, the disc offers nine featurettes that run about 40 minutes in total. These cover everything from the new suits, new locations and new cast members seen in the film, to the extensive stunts, a look at MCU guest stars, and how director Jon Watts put his spin on the material.

Another section of the extras offers eight minutes of comparisons between pre-vis storyboards and the final version of select scenes.

Finally, there’s a 12-minute video called “The Brother’s Trust,” an inspiring look at the charity work of Holland and his brothers.

 

Disney Sets Home Release Dates, Extras for ‘The Lion King’ Remake

The live-action-style, computer-animated remake of The Lion King is coming home in October.

The film, the year’s No. 2 movie with a $534 million domestic box office haul, will be released on Digital 4K Ultra HD on Oct. 11 and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray Disc on Oct. 22, the Walt Disney Co. announced Sept. 16.

The home release comes with over an hour of bonus features that showcase the technology behind the savanna and provide a closer look at the film’s music.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the summer blockbuster’s home release is highlighted by “The Journey to The Lion King,” a three-part documentary that explores the film’s creation. It features visits to the Playa Vista production facility where talent, including Donald Glover (voice of Simba) interpret the original animated classic’s iconic music; discussions with Favreau and team about the technology they used create photorealistic animals and environments; and filmmaker and cast reflections on the story.

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Extras also include “More to Be Scene,” featuring layer-by-layer progressions of some of the film’s key moments; a lyric video for “Never Too Late” by Elton John and music video for “Spirit” by Beyoncé; sing-alongs to the film’s other songs; and a feature on the “Protect the Pride” campaign, which focuses on protecting and revitalizing the lion population.

Consumers who order The Lion King digitally in advance will gain access to “Perfecting the Pride,” a feature highlighting the filmmakers’ research trip to Africa.

The digital version also includes an extra that conveys the importance of the dung beetle, both in the film and in real life, on the African savanna.

In The Lion King, Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock ultimately leads to Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon.

Disney says The Lion King “will be packaged and released in several different formats, ensuring each member of your family can view the film on a variety of different devices with no worries. Viewers can watch the film in Digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD, and bring home a physical copy of the film which will be released as an Ultimate Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Code), a Multi-Screen Edition (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Code) and a single DVD.”

The original The Lion King is traditionally animated and was released in 1994. It sold 32 million VHS videocassettes and, years later, another 12 million DVDs and nearly 4 million Blu-ray Discs.

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Comes Home on Digital Sept. 17, Disc Oct. 1 Including 4K

Spider-Man: Far From Home will fly to digital Sept. 17 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack, Blu-ray combo pack and DVD Oct. 1 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film earned $386.1 million in domestic theaters.

Tom Holland returns as the web-slinger Peter Parker in the next chapter after Spider-Man: Homecoming. He joins his best friends Ned, M.J. and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter’s plans to leave heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks. Spider-Man and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) join forces to fight the havoc unleashed across the continent — but all is not as it seems.

The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan and Zendaya as M.J.

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Special features include a new original short, alternate and extended scenes, gag reels, and Easter Eggs. Additional special features include “Teachers’ Travel Tips,” with Mr. Harrington and Mr. Dell on how to traverse the European continent, as well as interviews with the cast and crew focused on stunts and location in “The Jump Off” and “Far, FAR, From Home.” Viewers can explore how Spider-Man was introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Stepping Up” and get a closer look at the chemistry between Jon Watts and Tom Holland in “It Takes Two.” Viewers can also dive into the “The Ginter-Riva Effect,” “Thank You, Mrs. Parker” and “Now You See Me” featurettes for more character focused details.

The 4K Ultra HD also features Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.

Saturn Awards to Honor Feige, Favreau, Loeb

The Saturn Awards organization Aug. 22 announced the recipients of three honorary awards that will be presented at the 45th annual awards show Sept. 13, including a brand-new annual award named after comic book legend Stan Lee.

Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige will be honored with the inaugural Stan Lee World Builder Award, which will “be given annually to the creative force who has, over an extended period of time, created a world with multiple stories and characters that have amazed and engaged fans worldwide at the most galactic level,” according to a statement from the Saturn Awards.

This award also honors the legacy of the late Stan Lee and is exclusively available to The Saturn Awards from Lee’s POW! Entertainment. Feige is being honored for creating and guiding the Marvel Cinematic Universe across 23 films and 11 years from 2008’s Iron Man to this year’s Saturn Award nominated Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The announcement comes as Sony and Disney have reached an impasse on extending a deal to keep Spider-Man in the MCU, which would prevent Feige from producing further “Spider-Man” movies.

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Jon Favreau

Filmmaker Jon Favreau will be honored with the Saturn Visionary Award for establishing himself as a groundbreaking visual artist in directing the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book and the remake of The Lion King, the latter having earned nearly $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office. Favreau is also executive producing the “Star Wars” live-action television series “The Mandalorian” for the Disney+ streaming service.

Jeph Loeb

Jeph Loeb, EVP and head of Marvel Television, will be receiving the Dan Curtis Legacy Award, honoring fellow masters of genre TV and quality programming. Loeb has long been lauded for his work across multiple mediums including film, television, and comic books.

The 2019 Saturn Awards will be announced in a ceremony held at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, and will be presented online through a streaming platform to be announced later.

Disney Creating Star Wars, Marvel Series for Streaming Video Service

Disney’s Lucasfilm unit is in development on a second “Star Wars” live-action series for Disney+, the over-the-top subscription streaming video service launching in 2019.

The series will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Andor, which he originated in the 2016 movie.

The spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. A release date has yet to be announced.

Disney+ is also creating (through Marvel Studios) a live-action series based on Loki, the god of mischief, to star Tom Hiddleston.

The new projects join a slate of movies and series planned for Disney+ that includes new stories set in the worlds of Pixar’s Monsters Inc., Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” and “Star Wars.”

Earlier this year, Lucasfilm revealed that Emmy-nominated producer/actor Jon Favreau would write and executive produce “The Mandalorian” for Disney+.

The live-action series, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, is currently in production with a lineup of directors that include Deborah Chow (Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Dave Filoni (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars,”Star Wars Rebels”), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok).

Favreau Teases New ‘Star Wars’ Series ‘The Mandalorian’ for Disney Streaming Service

Lucasfilm has begun production of the new “Star Wars” live-action series slated to debut with the Disney direct-to-consumer streaming service that is expected to launch near the end of 2019.

Executive producer Jon Favreau took to Instagram Oct. 3 to reveal the working title of the series is “The Mandalorian” in a graphic that resembles the style and coloring of a “Star Wars” film’s title crawl:

“After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. ‘The Mandalorian’ is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”

The show would thus take place within the 30-year period after the events of Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.

Mandalorians in the “Star Wars” canon are a race of warriors that have been heavily featured on the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels,” where it was revealed they once lost a war to the Jedi of the Old Republic. By the time of the Clone Wars, the people of Mandalore had largely moved beyond their aggressive history, though splinter groups were trying to revive the ancient ways.

They are best known for their distinctive armor, usually consisting of helmets with T-shaped eye slits, as well as jet packs. Mandalorian armor was worn by the characters of Boba Fett and Jango Fett in the films. The first production photo for the series, posted Oct. 4 by Favreau, shows an individual wearing traditional Mandalorian armor.

Favreau, who is also writing the series, voiced the Mandalorian revivalist Pre Vizsla during a prominent story arc on “The Clone Wars.” He later voiced the multi-armed pilot Rio Durant in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

According to StarWars.com, longtime “Star Wars” animation producer Dave Filoni will make the jump to live action to direct the first episode of “The Mandalorian.” The announced line-up of additional episodic directors includes Deborah Chow (“Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).

The team of executive producers, in addition to Favreau, will include Filoni, Colin Wilson and Kathleen Kennedy, who was recently given a three-year extension as president of Lucasfilm. Karen Gilchrist will serve as co-executive producer.