CinemaCon 2014 | Avoiding 'Star Wars,' Disney Touts Marvel, 'Cinderella' & Pixar

Disney opened its presentation Wednesday at CinemaCon 2014 in Las Vegas with a sizzle reel highlighting recent releases, with footage of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks bookending scenes from Monsters University, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Oz: The Great and Powerful and Frozen.

As the lights came back up, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn walked on stage, belting out “The cold never bothered me anyway!” from the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go,” and joking the sequel to Frozen will be titled Thaw.

Horn gave a brief state of the studio address, recapping that 2013 was a record-breaking year for both Disney and the industry in general, with nearly $36 billion in revenue worldwide. He noted that a large portion of the growth is coming from China, where 13 screens are being built every day. He even joked that during the time of the presentation, three had already been constructed.

He trumpeted how four of last year’s 10 highest-grossing movies worldwide were from his studio: Frozen, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Monsters University and Iron Man 3. He also added on that Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World barely missed making the list. He noted that not all his movies were resounding successes, and lamented in particular The Lone Ranger. “Crow doesn’t taste good, but it sure is nutritious” Horn said, reflecting that, “movies are difficult to make but actually, Beerfest wasn’t that hard!”

He then confirmed that director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII will be released Dec. 18, 2015, and will be set 30 years after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Horn indicated the studio isn’t quite ready to share details about the film, which begins principal photography in May, even invoking Yoda with the exclamation, “Patience you must have!”

On a more somber note, Horn remembered former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak, who passed away earlier this year and is being honored with 2014 Pioneer of the Year award.

With that, he introduced Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution, who opened with a discussion of the success of Marvel Studios with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.

Hollis segued into Captain America; The Winter Soldier, which doesn’t premiere in the United States until April 4 but has already opened in several overseas markets. He hinted that this sequel is particularly important as a lead-in to 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Then the lights dimmed for screening of a Winter Soldier clip and the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer.

The Winter Soldier footage reveals an early scene in which Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to free hostages on a freighter hijacked by Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). The screen then transitioned to the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer.

Following a round of applause, Hollis mentioned that Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted is now in theaters, with more family-oriented fare on the way, including Million Dollar Arm (May 16), the John Hamm vehicle based on a true story about recruiting the winners of an Indian game show to play baseball in America, and the Steve Carell-Jennifer Garner film version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Oct. 10). Also incoming: the Kevin Costner sports drama McFarland (Nov. 21).

Hollis transitioned to the studio’s fabled history of fairy tales with talk of the two latest: Maleficent (May 30), starring Angelina Jolie, and director Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (March 2015), starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. This Cinderella won’t be the only one making her way to the screen, as Chicago director Rob Marshall is also adapting the Stephen Sondheim classic Into the Woods (Dec. 25), with an ensemble cast – it includes Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Ana Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Chris Pine – that Hollis described as “the Avengers of fairy tales!”

Attendees were shown a previously screened clip from Maleficent, featuring Jolie casting her evil spell upon Sleeping Beauty, and a Lord of the Rings-esque battle between armored warriors and living trees. More interesting was the new trailer for Cinderella, with Bonham Carter’s take on the Fairy Godmother, a cameo of the famous mice-turned-horsemen and a grandiose pumpkin transformation scene.

Hollis also mentioned The Hundred-Foot Journey (Aug. 8), starring Helen Mirren and produced by the powerhouse team of Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

When he shifted from live-action film to Pixar’s offerings, Hollis beamed that Frozen is closing in on becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Remarkably enough, just this week the feature dropped out of the top 10 at the box office for the first time since its Thanksgiving opening – a remarkable streak serving as testament to its staying power.

He then showed a still from Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7), set in the future city of San Fransokyo. This film is based on the Marvel miniseries of the same name, which finds a boy and his robot teaming with friends to form a crime-fighting team.

After screening the trailer of Planes: Fire & Rescue (July 18), starring Julie Bowen and Dane Cook, Hollis brought up two upcoming Pixar films: Inside Out (June 2015) and The Good Dinosaur (November 2015). While The Good Dinosaur wasn’t discussed in detail, a new clip from Inside Out was shown to the delight of the crowd.

From the creators of Up, Inside Out centers on the efforts of 11-year-old Riley to deal with her family’s cross-country move. The primary setting is Riley’s head, where her emotions are the key players: Joy, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Anger are voiced by Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black.

The clip begins with Joy and Sadness off on a mission, leaving Fear, Sadness and Anger in charge of Riley while she with her parents. The ill-suited trio tries to interact with the parents with little success, leading to Riley’s father eventually reaching DEFCON 1 and “putting his foot down.”

Horn returned after the clip with a slide showcasing a timeline of the next couple of years of Disney films: Beyond those mentioned are Tomorrowland (May 2015), Ant-Man (July 2015) and The Jungle Book (October 2015). He indicated the studio is looking to produce about seven to eight movies a year, and as a final teaser, excitedly indicated he had the final draft of The Avengers: Age of Ultron “in [his] suitcase right now.

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