Here’s How Disney Is Planning to Tackle Diversity in 2018

Lead Photo: In Disney•Pixar’s 'Coco,' several members of the Rivera family reside in Santa Cecilia in the Land of the Living. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Pixar
In Disney•Pixar’s 'Coco,' several members of the Rivera family reside in Santa Cecilia in the Land of the Living. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Pixar
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In the last year, we’ve seen a streak of Disney movies that present a more inclusive vision of the world, tapping more women and people of color for roles both in front of and behind the camera. There were films like Moana and The Jungle Book, which centered young protagonists of color (according to Disney, about 24 percent of the studio’s live-action releases will feature ethnic minority leads between 2016 and 2018.) Meanwhile, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a stacked cast, including Diego Luna (in a historic casting for Latino actors), as well as Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, and Donnie Yen — plus a female protagonist, played by Felicity Jones.

In the near future, we can expect to see this trend continue, particularly since box office numbers confirm that inclusivity is good for Disney’s bottom line. Things are changing behind the scenes too, as Vanity Fair noted in a recent feature: “In Marvel’s corner, Taika Waititi is directing the next Thor. Ryan Coogler is helming Black Panther, which has an all-star cast featuring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o. Ava DuVernay is reimagining Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time to center around a biracial girl (newcomer Storm Reid), and the cast also includes Oprah, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Jennifer Lee will return to co-direct the Frozen sequel.”

Latinos are also a growing part of this inclusive vision, and we were at last week’s massive D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center last week to learn more about what we can expect for Latinos and Disney in 2018. Check out the highlights below:

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Feature Prominently in Mary Poppins Sequel

More than 50 years after the original film, Mary Poppins Returns will check in with the magical nanny a couple of decades later – with the children from the original version now grown adults with their own families. Building on his now tight relationship with the titan of entertainment, (following his musical work on Moana and voicing a character on DuckTales), Lin-Manuel Miranda will finally appear in the flesh in a Disney film as Lamplighter Jack, who is supposed to be a disciple of Dick Van Dyke’s beloved character in the timeless classic. The music-driven driven clips showed Miranda leading a lamplight number that’s sure to be a showstopper in this sequel starring Emily Blunt.

Mary Poppins Returns will be released on December 25, 2018.

Oscar-Winner Benicio del Toro Joins the 'Star Wars' Saga

Another Disney favorite, Benicio del Toro is set to appear in two of the studios biggest releases to date. Later this year the Puerto Rican star will be part of the next chapter in the new Star Wars trilogy as DJ, a character that has been handled with a lot of secrecy. No one knows what the name stands for or what his role within the narrative is. Del Toro was seen briefly in a making-of clip that also featured the late Carrie Fisher. Despite being one of the few Latinos at the event, he did not reveal anything beyond his excitement about being part of this world. The actor will also reprise his role as The Collector in Avengers: Infinity War out next summer.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters on December 15, 2017 and Avengers: Infinity War on May 4, 2018

Michael Peña Stars in Ava DuVernay’s 'A Wrinkle in Time'

“We wanted to make a film with a cast that looks like you, that looks like the real world,” said Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay about the star-studded and fantastically diverse cast of A Wrinkle in Time, which includes Oprah and Mindy Kaling. On the Latino front, Michael Peña will appear as Red, one of the colorful characters that join young star Storm Reid in this mind-bending, science-infused fantasy about a girl who discovers her father might be lost in a parallel dimension.

A Wrinkle in Time hits screens on March 9, 2018.

Eugenio Derbez Goes for the Big Leagues in 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms'

It was only a matter of time before one of the most successful Latino actors working in Hollywood today made the leap into full-on mainstream productions. Derbez is having yet another great year after the box-office success of his latest comedy, How to Be a Latin Lover, starring next to Salma Hayek, and is now on his way to becoming a household name in this live-action reimagining of the beloved holiday tale. The Mexican actor will play the ruler of the land of flowers, one of the four realms in this new Nutcracker adventure. If getting that Disney money doesn’t mean a surefire crossover, then we don’t know what does.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will be released on November 2, 2018.

Gael Garcia Bernal is a Fútbol-Loving Calaca in 'Coco'

While Coco got off on the wrong foot after Disney attempted to trademark the phrase Día de los Muertos in 2013, Pixar and Disney have since diligently worked to involve more Latinos, so that the finished product can truly resonate with filmgoers. Bringing on the internet’s crush Gael García Bernal was a good step, and the film has since announced an all-Latino voice cast. But just in case there were still some doubtful audiences out there, the Pixar team behind this Día de Muertos-themed film shared some new clips and images during the animation event at D23. Among them the most memorable was a short work-in-progress video where Miguel, the young protagonist, and Hector, a good-nature skeleton voice by Gael García Bernal, play soccer. Hector will be Miguel’s clumsy companion in his journey through the Land of the Dead.

Coco opens in theaters on November 22, 2017.