My wife and I flew down to Anaheim, Calif. last night to attend Disney’s first-ever D23 Expo, a fan convention focused on anything related to the House of Mouse. The event kicked off on Thursday with a presentation by Bob Iger, Disney CEO, which we unfortunately missed, but you can read about what he said about the Marvel deal over on CBR.
We picked up our badges — or, actually, wristbands — last night, and headed over to the Anaheim Convention Center this morning for our first full day.
We had a few things on our agenda for today, not the least of which was the big movie presentation by Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Cook’s presentation basically covered everything that fell into the live-action category; John Lasseter of Pixar fame will be here on Sunday to talk about their animation slate.
And let me tell you, if there’s one thing Disney knows how to do, it’s put on a good presentation. Cook spoke in the convention center’s huge arena, to a crowd of about 5,000 I think was the number he gave. Before we headed into the arena, we stood in a long but fast-moving line and had to give up all electronic devices to a friendly Disney employee. Cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc. weren’t permitted into the presentation, which killed any thoughts I had about Twitter updates or live coverage, or even photos to share later.
But anyway, you could tell this wasn’t going to be a normal presentation or movie panel when the orchestra and singers took their places next to the stage. It kicked off with a musical/video tribute to past Disney films, everything from Pretty Woman and Pearl Harbor to Mary Poppins and Sleeping Beauty. The orchestra performed all sorts of music from the Disney mainstays, i.e. Circle of Life, Beauty and the Beast, etc.
Then Cook went into the films and started bringing out the stars:
–Robert Zemeckis as there to talk briefly about A Christmas Carol, a 3-D stop motion thing (think Polar Express) starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge and a lot of other characters. They provided 3-D glasses, of course, so we could watch the trailer and some scenes from the film. Zemeckis is also working with Disney on a Yellow Submarine film.
–John Travolta, his wife Kelly Preston and their daughter were there to promote Old Dogs, a film with all three of them, Robin Williams, Seth Green and a lot of other folks. Travolta and Williams are two older single guys, best friends, and they find out Williams’ character has twins from a previous girlfriend. They showed the trailer and a clip, and the crowd seemed to find it hilarious; it just kind of reminded me of something akin to Wild Hogs (which people also went nuts over when they heard there would be a sequel).
–Jerry Bruckheimer was there to talk about Prince of Persia, which comes out next summer. I thought the clips they showed were pretty cool, but the crowd didn’t respond as loudly to them as they did to other clips.
–Nicholas Cage was there to talk about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This is one I wasn’t too sure about going into it, but after seeing the clips and behind-the-scenes stuff they showed, I’m probably a little more excited about this one. Cage plays an older sorcerer who has been looking for an apprentice for centuries … and he finds him in New York City. Alfred Molina plays the bad guy. I don’t know; this could end up being really bad, but I dug what I saw during the presentation. Cook also asked Cage if he was up for a third National Treasure movie, which made the crowd roar.
–Tim Burton was on hand to talk about Alice in Wonderland; I was half expecting Johnny Depp to pop out while he was talking, but it didn’t happen. I also had to chuckle when Burton told Cook he wanted to make an Alice in Wonderland film because he thought no one had ever done it justice … cough, cough.
–After showing the Wonderland trailer, Cook said that they were doing a full-length version of Burton’s Frankenweenie short from many moons ago.
–Live via video from New Zealand, Guillermo del Toro talked about the new movie studio he formed with Disney, called Disney’s Double Dare You. They plan to make animated films with a bit of a horror/adventure bent. del Toro mentioned he was a big fan of rides like The Haunted Mansion, and he wanted to capture the storytelling feel of those sorts of rides in these films. The first one is called The Trollhunters, based on one of del Toro’s ideas.
–Miley Cyrus came out to perform a song from … well, I’m not exactly sure. But I can check “See Miley Cyrus perform live” off my bucket list.
–Also performing on stage were the Muppets, who came out from behind the curtain in a big boat and performed a number. This was one of the highlights, but probably not THE highlight … Cook said a new Muppet film was in the works, called The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made.
–Cook also spoke about other films that are further in the future, like John Carter of Mars and The Lone Ranger. They debuted some concept art for the former and said Johnny Depp would play Tonto in the latter (not sure if that was “new” news or not.) It seemed like there were a couple of other films mentioned as well, but I can’t remember what they were. But watch for a report on the main site.
People were already getting up to leave when Cook pulled a Steve Jobs and said there was one more thing he wanted to mention. At that point, the Pirates of the Caribbean logo appeared on the big screen, with the words “On Stranger Tides” underneath it, followed by “Summer 2011.” Of course, the crowd was going nuts, then was standing and cheering as the curtains were pulled back to reveal a giant masthead and sail. You could the silhouette of someone in the sail, and as it rotated around, there was Johnny Depp, dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, who swaggered out on stage. He stayed in character as he spoke to Cook, saying he was looking for a talking frog because he likes them — “they taste like chicken” then made a reference to it being time for Rum. Overall, it was a really cool moment and a really cool way to end the presentation.
I’ll have more about what we did and saw soon …