NEW YORK – Tuesday, May 16, 2023 – Disney brought its annual Upfront presentation to life in a multiscreen sensory experience at the North Javits Center in New York City on Tuesday, May 16. Spotlighting the best and brightest voices across entertainment, sports, news, live events and streaming, the presentation celebrated Disney’s distinctive, innovative approach to dynamic storytelling backed by technology.
Rita Ferro, president of Advertising, Disney, opened the show with a powerful reminder that “Storytelling is what distinguishes Disney. We’ve been cultivating it for a century. In this area of great change, creativity and innovation continue to be the cornerstone of all we do at Disney.”
After touting Disney’s unprecedented scale, Ferro reinforced the company’s call to action from industry partners to increase their investments and intentionality around inclusion, and lean into all dimensions of diversity. She also announced that the company would include programmatic as a core part of each and every Upfront deal.
Stars and executives from nearly every business sector made appearances center stage in front of more than 3,700 guests. The expansive list of award-winning, critically acclaimed personalities showcased during the course of the presentation included David Muir, Michael Strahan and George Stephanopoulos, in addition to Breanna Stewart, Angel Reese, Dan Orlovsky, Desmond Howard and many more.
To kick off the afternoon, cultural phenom and the greatest of all time Serena Williams took the stage to announce the start of production on her new multipart ESPN series, “In the Arena: Serena Williams,” which will look back at her dominating tennis career over two decades. Several of Serena’s most significant Grand Slam tournaments and defining personal milestones are examined and decoded in detail as she simultaneously juggles the transformational experience of starting a family.
Hannah Storm, Elle Duncan, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman reiterated Disney's incomparable position in sports media which houses over 94,000 live and original hours of studio and event programming across ESPN. Multiplatform sensation and ESPN college football analyst Pat McAfee announced that his highly successful and innovative weekday sports talk and discussion show will be joining the ESPN family just in time for football season. ESPN also offered a first look at several 2023 marquee matchups that will be central to its industry-leading college football coverage. The four premier games highlighted will feature top rivalries and seven of the sport’s biggest brands – including six teams in ESPN.com’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. Buck and Aikman also welcomed Damar Hamlin to the stage who was welcomed with a standing ovation from the crowd and had the opportunity to discuss his plans to return to the field after his near-fatal collapse on the field in January. Two-time Super Bowl champion and star of “ManningCast” Peyton Manning revealed he’ll be returning as a host of the 2023 CMA Awards alongside country music sensation and “American Idol” judge Luke Bryan, who shared a special message with guests at the show.
Jesse Palmer, former NFLer, ESPN college football analyst and host of “The Bachelor” franchise, joined the presentation to talk about the power of fandom, the resonance of Bachelor Nation and the opportunities for advertisers leveraging Disney’s Audience Graph to show the connection between audiences across content affinities, swiftly followed by two of the most influential women in the world – Kim and Khloé Kardashian, who announced the family drama will continue with 20 more episodes of “The Kardashians”.
Kevin Feige, producer and president of Marvel Studios and Chief Creative Officer, Marvel, was center stage to reveal a look at the next three Marvel series for Disney+, including a sneak preview of “Secret Invasion” in advance of the June 21 debut. Feige also announced the Oct. 6 premiere date and introduced a special look at “Loki,” Marvel Studios’ first-ever second season of a series, as well as the Nov. 29 premiere for all episodes of “Echo”.
And for the first time ever, Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, joined the Upfront stage and shared early looks at upcoming titles “Ahsoka,” “Skeleton Crew” and “The Acolyte.” She also revealed that ahead of the June 30 launch of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the celebrated Indiana Jones catalog will be coming to Disney+ on May 31.
In a prerecorded greeting, Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter invited the audience to take a first look at “Win or Lose,” the studio’s first official longform episodic series for Disney+ that follows the intertwined stories of different characters as they each prepare for a big championship softball game.
America’s favorite personality and producer Ryan Seacrest spoke passionately about Disney’s commitment to creative excellence evidenced by series that have become cultural touchstones, including the Emmy®- and Peabody-winning “Abbott Elementary” which is set to return for its third season, amongst other fan favorites including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19,” “The Good Doctor” and “The Rookie,” as well as enduring family comedies like “The Conners” and last season’s breakout hits “Will Trent” and “Not Dead Yet.”
Seacrest also gave the audience sneak previews of two of Disney’s biggest franchises: the new season of FX’s critically acclaimed original “The Bear,” returning June 22 for season two, exclusively on Hulu; and one of Hulu’s biggest and best reviewed comedies, “Only Murders in the Building,” which returns for season three on Aug. 8. And as a special treat, Seacrest presented a first look at Hulu’s “Black Cake,” a family drama wrapped in a riveting murder mystery, based on Charmaine Wilkerson’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films.
Then to close the show in a thrilling surprise, 100 samurai swarmed the aisles and hit the stage, leading the crowd into an exclusive first look at “Shōgun,” the groundbreaking 10-episode limited series based on James Clavell’s bestselling novel of the same name which is set to be released exclusively on Hulu.
After an impactful presentation, guests joined under the 42-foot-wide Mickey ear arch and were treated to an experiential costume exhibit celebrating Disney’s 100 years. Costumes and props were on display from classics including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella,” “Cruella,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Iron Man,” “Loki,” “Maleficent,” “The Mandalorian,” “Star Wars” and more.
Ashley Kline Shapiro
Derek Del Rossi