Disney left animation fans satisfied (and maybe a little overwhelmed) during their “Art and Imagination: Animation at the Walt Disney Studios” presentation, previewing a dozen upcoming projects on the opening day of it’s every-other-year D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif.
Following an introduction from Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger — who advised not to expect much in the way of Star Wars: Episode VII details this weekend — and a sizzle reel of upcoming live-action films including brief glimpses of Marvel Studios productions Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney animation chief creative officer John Lasseter led a tour of what’s in the works at Pixar, DisneyToon Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Lasseter expressed his gratitude to the 4,000 spectators at the Anaheim Convention Center for the success of Monsters University, released this past June, and brought out MU voice actor Bill Hader, who recently exited Saturday Night Live after an eight-season stint.
A new Monsters University short, “Party Central” — where Door Stations aid in turning a lame party into a rad one — will run before next year’s Pixar feature The Good Dinosaur, and was screened for the crowd in its entirety. It’s directed by Kelsey Mann, a story supervisor on Monsters University.
The Good Dinosaur
Pixar films, Lasseter said, poise questions: “What if toys came alive when you weren’t around? What if a rat became the top chef in Paris?” Lasseter said The Good Dinosaur asked the biggest “What if?” yet, cuing up a short clip of an asteroid missing Earth 65 million years ago, therefore preventing dinosaur extinction.
Co-director Peter Sohn — also the voice of Monster University‘s Squishy — and producer Denise Ream discussed the movie, which portrays dinosaurs as farmers. Specifically, triceratops act as bulldozers; stegosauruses “mow down acres of crops;” ankylosauruses are “haulers” and apatosaurus use their long necks and tails for plowing.
The main character of The Good Dinosaur is an apatosaurus named Arlo, voiced by Raising Hope‘s Lucas Neff. Filling out his family unit is Frances McDormand and John Lithgow as his mother and father, plus older siblings voiced by Bill Hader (“Forrest”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Cliff”) and Judy Greer (“Ivy”). Hader, Greer and Neff all appeared on stage.
A twist comes when Arlo encounters a creature he’s never seen before — a young human child named Spot. They’re “thrust into the unknown world outside the farm,” and, as Sohn put in, form an “unexpected friendship and an incredible bond with each other.” The Good Dinosaur is scheduled for release on May 30, 2014.
Director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.) and producer Jonas Rivera talked Inside Out, which at the last D23 in 2011 was referred to by the considerably wordier handle of “The Untitled Pixar Movie that Takes You Inside the Mind.”
Inside Out is about a happy 11-year-old named Riley whose life changes for the worse when her family moves to San Francisco — but more specifically, it’s about the emotions inside her head. Namely, Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith, from The Office) and Joy (Amy Poehler), dubbed the main character and “the most important emotion in Riley’s life.”
Hader made his third appearance at the presentation to talk about the movie, joined by Smith. Locations in the film — and inside Riley’s head — are set to include “Long Term Memory,” “Imaginationland,” “Abstract Thought,” and “Dream Production,” all connected by “The Train of Thought.”
The plot sees Joy and Sadness lost within Riley’s mind, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust running the show. A black-and-white story reel showed Riley and her mom and dad eating dinner, with bonus peeks into her parents’ heads. Inside Out is scheduled for release on June 19, 2015.
The Finding Nemo sequel, said director Andrew Stanton, was prompted by unanswered questions from the first film surrounding the character of Dory: “Where’s her family? What happened to them? How did she lose them?”
Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins disclosed that Finding Dory takes place about a year after the first film, with a “traumatic event” causing Dory’s “homing instincts” to kick in, leading to her searching for her original family, and Marlin and Nemo searching for her.
Along with returning voice actors Albert Brooks (Marlin) and Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Dory’s mother Jenny will be voiced by Diane Keaton, with her father Charlie voiced by Eugene Levy. New “comedic sidekick” Bailey, a beluga whale, is played by Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell. Finding Dory is scheduled for release on Nov. 25, 2015.
Toy Story of Terror
A TV special was a pre-Toy Story goal for Pixar, Lasseter said, but it hasn’t actually happened until now — with Toy Story of Terror set to debut Oct. 16 on ABC.
The first 10 minutes of the Halloween special was shown, starring familiar characters Woody, Buzz, Jesise, Mr Potato Head, Rex, Trixie and Mr. Pricklepants; plus a G.I. Joe-esque figure named “Combat Carl.”
The Legend of the Neverbeast
The seventh film in the direct-to-video Tinker Bell franchise, The Legend of the Neverbeast is out in spring 2015 and directed by Steve Loter. It’s about Fawn seeing a potential friend in a monster called the Neverbeast, and inspired by Loter’s six-year-old daughter’s love of large dogs.
The Pirate Fairy
Peggy Holmes directs 2014’s Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, featuring the voices of Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks as fairy Zarina; and Marvel Studios’ Loki, Tom Hiddleston, as pirate “James” — who’s actually a young Captain Hook, with both hands still intact.
The two actors joined the presentation, with Hiddleston singing a bit of “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book, the same song he performed years back for acceptance into a theater school in London.
Planes: Fire & Rescue
The follow-up to Planes, released this weekend, is next year’s Planes: Fire & Rescue, directed by Bobs Gannaway. Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen joins the cast as “Dipper,” and Dane Cook (who appeared live in person) returns as the voice of Dusty.
WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS:
Mickey Mouse: Get a Horse
Director Lauren MacMullan discussed new Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse,” which features classic characters including Minnie, Peg Leg Pete, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. It blends Steamboat Willie-era black-and-white visuals with CGI animation, and is running before this November’s animated feature Frozen.
Big Hero 6
Based on the Marvel concept, director Don Hall talked Big Hero 6 and revealed the titular six heroes: Hiro Hamada, GoGo Tomago, Wasabi No-Ginger, Honey Lemon, Fred and Baymax. A full report of the Big Hero 6 section of Disney’s presentation is up on Comic Book Resources.
Announced at the presentation, Zootopia is directed by Bolt and Tangled‘s Byron Howard, and written by Jared Bush. It depicts “animals in a modern world designed by animals,” in a comedic film devoid of human characters.
No voice cast was announced, but the main characters include a fox named “Nick Wilde” and a bunny police officer, “Lt. Judy Hopps.” Settings include “Tundratown” (where cold-weather animals live) and “Sahara Square” (home of the desert animals).
The three-plus hour presentation wrapped with a focus on Frozen, out Nov. 27 of this year. Lasseter said that Walt Disney himself was interested in adapting “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen,” thereby connecting Frozen to the company’s namesake.
Kristen Bell, who voices main character Anna, joined directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee on stage. “I was so excited to be a Disney heroine one day that I already had all of these ideas growing up, how I would make her relatable to me,” Bell said. “I was not a kid that was eloquent or graceful. I put my foot in my mouth all the time.”
The Book of Mormon‘s Josh Gad, who plays a snowman named Olaf in the film, also appeared in person, leading to a clip of an Olaf-driven musical number where the blissfully ignorant snowman expresses a desire to experience summer.
Tony-winner actress and singer Idina Menzel, who voices Frozen‘s Elsa the Snow Queen, closed the presentation with a live performance of “Let It Go” from the film’s soundtrack.
Also a part of the proceedings: A tribute and appearance from animation veteran Burny Mattinson, marking his 60th year working for Disney; and a playful confrontation between Bill Hader, who’s acting in three straight Pixar films, and Pixar “lucky charm” John Ratzenberger, a voice in each of their productions thus far.
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