D23 | Animation Insight, Pixar Shorts and New Disney Video Games

While the most star-studded and eye-catching events at Disney's D23 Expo were the animation presentation on Friday and the live-action one on Saturday, there was plenty more happening at the Anaheim Convention Center, and Spinoff attended a wide selection of the show's programming.


A Saturday panel promoting the recently released Disney Animated iPad app contained insight from Disney animators Brittney Lee (Frozen visual development artist), Eric Goldberg (veteran animator, director of Pocahontas and more), Amy Sneed (Frozen animator), Michael Kaschalk (effects supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios), Darin Hollings (Walt Disney Animation Studios visual effects supervisor) and Dave Bossert, creative director of Walt Disney Studios Animation Special Projects and the “co-author” of the Disney Animated app.

The app aims to give users a look at multiple facets of the animation process, from the history of Disney's work in the genre to the "12 basic principles of animation" utilized by animators for decades. While the app's focuses on animation's past -- it contains content from all of Disney's animated features -- the panel also looked towards the future.

"We don't know what tomorrow will bring, with technology and with the stories that we're telling," Lee said. "That's what we're all here for, the stories."

The panel also responded to a fan's assertion that Disney is moving away from hand-drawn animation, with Bossert saying that while the studio doesn't have a 3D feature film in production at the moment, they're "actually doing 2D animation of a regular basis," and used a character test (traditionally animated by Goldberg) for the Wreck-It Ralph character King Candy as an example.

Another fan asked if there was a chance Disney would do a feature-length film in the animation style of the Oscar-winning “Paperman.” While the panel didn't provide a direct answer, Goldberg said Disney has a "very fertile and burgeoning shorts program. Each of the shorts that we produce has interesting technical innovations involved in them. Before long, those innovations will be worked into the features program."


Later on Saturday, Pixar general manager and executive vice president of production Jim Morris led "Toy Story of Terror and the Motivation Behind Pixar’s Short Form Content," featuring Galyn Susman (Toy Story of Terror producer), Angus MacLane ("Small Fry" writer and director), Mary Alice Drumm ("Bugged" and "Spinning" producer) and Rob Gibbs (director of multiple "Cars Toons" shorts).

Susman called working with a smaller crew on the shorts was an "enormously satisfying thing," due to the closer collaboration the format demands. "Everything's a little more intimate," she said. "Everybody can be working together, wearing multiple hats."

Much of the talk centered on upcoming Halloween special Toy Story of Terror, a 22-minute short debuting Oct. 16 on ABC. Morris called it Pixar's "first horror film," and MacLane compared it to Ten Little Indians, with the main characters disappearing one by one. "We looked at horror elements we wanted to have in the movie, while also having it be something for a general audience," MacLane said.

Gibbs discussed the ongoing "Cars Toons" series of shorts, saying they're inspired by classic Looney Tunes, and started from Pixar and Disney animation Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter's desire to "expand the world of Cars."

"There's not a lot of time to really get emotion and story structure," Gibbs said. "They are structured, but really kind of going for laughs."

Answering an audience question regarding the financial viability of Pixar's shorts, Morris said, "Generally we go into them assuming that we're not going to make money. Or to put it more accurately, that we're going to lose a bunch of money."

Yet they're opportunities for Pixar artist to practice different skills, and to expand the worlds of their characters -- Susman described them as an "investment." Nostalgic fondness for having a short running in front of a feature was also noted as a motivating factor.


Sunday's "To Infinity and Beyond: Disney Interactive Takes the Stage" presentation focused on demonstrations of two upcoming games: 2014's Xbox Kinect rhythm game Fantasia: Music Evolved and the Skylanders-esque Disney Infinity, out this month.

The Fantasia section included a live orchestra performance, and the Disney Infinity portion showcased a new "Toy Story in Space" playset, plus the announcement of new characters joining the game: Jack Skellington, Rapunzel from Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz, Agent P and Phineas Flynn from Phineas and Ferb, and Anna and Elsa from Frozen. The game will also include its own version of Disneyland, available to download at launch; and attendees at the presentation received a Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey figure, usable in the game and not on sale at retail until early next year.

Also previewed was the stop-motion animated Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story, a 12-part web series focusing on two blank Vinylmation toys attempting to reunite after being split apart.

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