The Films of D23
Walt Disney Pictures should have no problem filling theater seats for quite some time.
As soon as the doors opened for the second day of D23 at the Anaheim Convention Center, it was obvious what the main attraction for the day would be. Guests immediately started lining up outside of the Arena an hour and a half in advance to see what Walt Disney Pictures would be offering in the following years and maybe catch a few moments with some of their favorite celebrities. D23 definitely satisfied on both fronts.
After a short sizzle real, recapping some of Disney’s most cherished recent films – and sneaking a few peeks at upcoming projects – Rich Ross (Chairman, Walt Disney Studios) stepped out on stage to welcome the crowd, introducing himself as “one of Disney’s biggest fans.” After a few more minutes to set the tone, Ross surrendered the stage to John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios) who received a standing ovation from the audience.
Lasseter was in great form and looked completely comfortable speaking to and interacting with the audience, jokingly commanding everyone to “sit down” when the applause lasted too long. He also immediately drew attention to his Hawaiian shirt that he wore underneath his sport coat, pointing out that the pattern was from Cars 2. “My wife makes me wear the sport coat,” he said, “because it makes me look more professional.”
Having recently released Cars 2, Lasseter explained that he “saw every vehicle as a character” and for this upcoming film he wanted to explore these other stories. So Planes follows the life of Dusty Crophopper who is a crop duster with big dreams. The teaser trailer that was presented showed an aircraft carrier launching state-of-the-art jet fighters, so who knows what adventures await Dusty when this film comes out in the spring of 2013. Lasseter did announce however that Jon Cryer from TV’s Two and a Half Men would lend his voice to Dusty. Cryer was invited on stage to share his thoughts on working on the film and Cryer confessed that he “geeked out” at the idea of voicing a character for Disney.
Director Rich Moore was welcomed on stage to introduce Wreck-It Ralph, which is a film that taps into a large source of entertainment for many people: video games. Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a villain in an 8-bit arcade game where he climbs up the side of buildings and smashes them like in Rampage. Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) is the hero in the game who repairs the building while Ralph tries to stop him by dropping things on Felix ala Donkey Kong. After so many years of being a bad guy, Ralph decides that he wants to try being a good guy and he traverses different video games, including something like Halo and Mario Kart, in search of that goal. Jack McBrayer and Sarah Silverman, who voices Vanellope von Schweetz, came out on stage to share a few words.
“I’ve always wanted to come to Anaheim and not go to Disneyland,” Silverman quipped.
McBrayer was quick to deprecate himself, sharing his initial surprise at being asked to do an animated voice. “My own voice annoys myself,” he said to the crowd’s amusement. As a very special gift for diehard Disney fans who attended D23, the first four and a half minutes of the film were screened. While most of the footage was still in its storyboard phase, the storytelling, characters and humor came through brilliantly and the audience loved it all.
While Brave has already had a bit of exposure (check out the teaser), director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian took the stage to share more about the film. Since the film is set in medieval Scotland, Andrews came out wearing a kilt to set the mood. Brave will feature a cast of notable actors to voice the eccentric Scottish characters, including Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane. Macdonald and McKidd joined the filmmakers on stage to present footage from the film.
The footage was also a work-in-progress, but the film is obviously destined to be a classic – especially since it refreshingly features a strong female lead. Look for it in theaters on June 22, 2012.
The second Pixar film presented was the prequel to the hit Monsters Inc. This time the story focuses on how Mike and Sulley became friends, which was in college. Director Dan Scanlon presented some concept art to show off the campus and how Mike and Sulley looked when they were younger – Mike had a retainer and Sulley was skinnier and shaggier. Scanlon even showed a picture of himself in college when he had a thicker head of hair. As a special treat, Billy Crystal and John Goodman, who voiced Mike and Sulley respectively in the original film, recorded a personal message to the D23 audience. Goodman apologized that they couldn’t be there in person to which Crystal replied with something snarky before running off screen and appearing on stage. Everyone in the room was on their feet, clapping.
Look for Monsters University in theaters June 21, 2013.
Untitled Pixar Films
Two films that are still so early in production that they have no titles were presented at D23. The first was about dinosaurs and a what-if scenario where they’re not wiped out by an asteroid. Directed by Bob Peterson and Peter Sohn and produced by John Walker, look for this film in theaters on November 27, 2013.
The second film was even scarcer on details. Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera would only say that the film takes audiences into the human mind. This film is slated for May 30, 2014.
Since this is the 25th anniversary for Pixar, Lasseter had a cake rolled out on stage to commemorate the occasion. However, he said that he had always been told that if he was going to have cake, then he had better have enough to share with everyone. And he did. Event staff came scurrying into the audience with boxes full of cupcakes while confetti was blasted into the air and the crowd stood and applauded. For a few moments, it might as well had been a taping of Oprah.
With everyone happily munching on baked goods, Sean Bailey (President, Production) took the stage to introduce the live action films.
With John Carter opening early next year, director Andrew Stanton was welcomed on stage to talk about his experience with the property and to also welcome three of the stars of the film – Willem Defoe, Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins – to the stage as well. The actors took turns talking about their characters in between lengthy clips that promise an out-of-this-world thrill ride. Some behind-the-scenes production stills were also shared, revealing the three-foot-tall stilts and body suit that Defoe had to wear for his role as a nine-foot-tall alien. Check out the teaser trailer.
John Carter will be in theaters on March 9, 2012.
Frankenweenie is a new stop-motion animated film by Tim Burton that mimics the Frankenstein story, but with a dog instead of a human being. To really bring this old-fashioned story to life, Frankenweenie is presented in black and white, but will also feature 3-D effects. Tim Burton and his team were unable to make an appearance, because they are currently working on the film in London, but producers Don Hahn and Allison Abbate were available to show some behind-the-scenes footage. Afterward, an actual working model of Sparky – the dog that is brought back to life in the film – was rolled out and manipulated by Abbate to show all the pains that animators have to endure to bring the model to life.
Look for Frankenweenie in theaters on October 5, 2012.
In this drama, a young couple discovers that they are unable to have children and decide to write down all of the qualities they would want in their child as a way to have closure. They take these scraps of paper and bury them in their garden. After a strong rain storm, Timothy appears to them in their home, covered in mud. Jennifer Garner, one of the stars of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, stepped on stage to share her thoughts on the film, explaining that “the thing that makes you special also makes you different.” She also predicted that audiences are going to fall in love with Timothy once they see him.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green will be in theaters on August 15, 2012.
Sitting on director’s chairs on a secondary platform that was pushed out on stage was Jason Segal and Kermit the Frog who introduced crowd favorite The Muppets. Throughout their introduction, Segal kept looking around for Miss Piggy, who was supposed to join them. Apparently, he was worried because Miss Piggy wasn’t in the clips they were about to show. Suddenly, a motorcycle drove on stage with Miss Piggy in the sidecar, but then left in a huff when she discovered that she wouldn’t be featured. The clips proved that the humor of the Muppets really can adapt to any era and audiences should be delighted when the film hits theaters. Check out the trailer.
See The Muppets in theaters on November 23, 2011.
Those who enjoyed this year’s African Cats will have another heartwarming Disneynature film to look forward to next year. This time around, the animal focused on is a three-year-old chimpanzee named Oscar, who gets separated from his family. The film will coincide with Earth Day 2012.
Finishing off the string of life action films was the Marvel film The Avengers presented by President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige. After showing a short reel of all the tags at the end of the previous Marvel films, Feige revealed a lengthy clip from the film, featuring Loki (Tom Hiddleston) trapped in a special glass room with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) explaining to him why it would be a mistake to try to escape. Afterwards, Feige introduced some of the cast who joined him on stage, including Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. The last got a standing ovation, naturally. The actors probably hadn’t seen any footage yet, because Downey Jr. requested to have the clip played again and it was made so, with the audience cheering on the actors when they appeared onscreen.
The Avengers comes to theaters on May 4, 2012.
Wrapping up the event, Rich Ross returned to the stage to thank everyone for their support. With an impressive roster of films on their slate for the next couple of years, Walt Disney Pictures should have no problem filling theater seats for quite some time.