D23 Expo: Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films

Disney's D23 Expo has returned for its every-other-year appearance at the Anaheim Convention Center, just across the street from Disneyland. Friday afternoon brought one of the major highlights of the event: "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films, Hosted by John Lasseter."

During the two-hour session, Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, shared new looks at upcoming feature films -- including Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2 and Pixar's Coco, which debuts in theaters this November. Plus, a new (and still untitled) Pixar film was announced, and plenty of notable names joined in on the fun, including Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Sarah Silverman and a number of Disney Princesses.

The presentation started with a sizzle reel featuring clips from recent and upcoming Disney films -- including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, ,Black Panther, Beuty and The Beast, A Wrinkle in Time, Mary Poppins Returns, Incredibles 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and others.

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn was first out to the stage. "I've seen it 50 times, that reel, and it gets to me every time," Horn told the audience. He also acknowledged those honored earlier today at the Disney Legends ceremony, including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Oprah Winfrey.

Horn told the crowd of the famous history of Disney Animation, and how it sparked the vast, multifaceted company that evolved into present-day Disney. He also acknowledged recent Disney animated successes, including Zootopia, Finding Dory, Moana and Cars 3.

Lasseter then entered the stage, firing a shirt cannon -- blasting out versions of the famous Disney-patterned Hawaiian shirts he's known to wear -- to the crowd. He then promised the crowd announcements, and also a look at "really, really rough animation for movies we don't even have a title for yet."

First up on the schedule: Disneytoon Studios, specifically a new entry into the Planes franchise. Lasseter emphasized the research into real-life aviation that went into the film, and then showed a demo reel that he called a "Speed Test" -- featuring two jets racing through a desert landscape, and then leaving the stratosphere and journeying into space. A title card read: "Disney: Space," but was quickly joined by more words -- ultimately reading, "This Space to Be Filled by a Title When We Think of One."

""It is harder to come up with a title then it is to go to space," Lasseter said.

Next up: the Olaf's Frozen Adventure short, which will debut in November in front of Pixar's Coco. Kristen Bell, the voice of Anna, entered the stage to tell fans the plot of the short: Anna and Elsa meeting for Christmas, but realizing they don't have holiday traditions of their own -- inspiring Olaf, joined by Sven, to venture out and discover traditions to introduce to the sisters.

In a clip shown to the audience, Olaf is seen door to door asking families about their holiday traditions, though the clip cut out about a minute in -- in what was staged "technical difficulties," as Josh Gad (voice of Olaf) then joined the presentation to sing Olaf's musical number live, accompanied by the visuals from the short playing on the room's big screens. "You cut down a tree, and then you dress its corpse with candles?" Olaf asks in the suitably irreverent song. "I love it!

The Frozen fun didn't stop there, with Lasseter, Bell and Gad moving to 2019's Frozen 2, which is apparently not yet an official title. The three joked about the possible titles for the sequel, including Frozen Peas, Frozen Assets, Fro-Yo and Thawed. Bell told the crowd about the filmmakers' trips to Norway, Iceland and Finland to research the film. Video and still pictures from the striking landscapes visited during the trips were shown to the audience.

That led directly to the first teaser trailer for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, seeing Ralph and Vanellope enter the Internet -- and discovering humanized manifestation of intrusive Internet advertising.

"If you liked seeing video games brought to life in Wreck-It Ralph, you're going to go crazy seeing the Internet in Wreck-It Ralph 2," Lasseter said. Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston joined the presentation, who brought out the voice of Vanellope, Sarah Silverman.

"Oh, I love this rascally glitch of a girl so much," Silverman told the crowd. She explained the basic plot of the game: Sugar Rush breaks, and Ralph and Vanellope have to enter the Internet to find the missing piece.

Moore and Johnston informed fans about a new character in the film: "Yesss" -- with three S-es -- who is an algorithm and the personification of a familiar-sounding website named "Buzzaholic." Empire and Hidden Figures' Taraji P. Henson will voice Yesss.

In a clip shown to the audience -- in the very early animation test stage -- Yesss takes Ralph and Vanellope on a tour of one specific real-life site: Oh My Disney, leading to plenty of self-referential meta Disney humor, with references to Marvel, Star Wars, the Muppets, Disney Princesses and Tsum Tsums -- which Vanellope calls "little furry sausages with faces."

In the scene, Vanellope enters a portal and, in a much-more finished sequence, encounters the Disney Princesses -- including Ariel (who breaks out into song, briefly), Elsa, Moana, Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Tiana, Mulan, Belle and Merida ("from the other studio," another Princess says). Vanellope insists she is also a princess, and the group is skeptical, until she answers yes to this question: "Did everyone think your problems disappeared once a big strong man showed up?"

Plenty of Disney in-jokes follow in the scene, culminating in an animated C-3PO telling the princesses they're needed elsewhere -- and them calling him "R2-D2" and "BB-8." Exasperated, Threepio says, "'You're good with princesses, they said, you'll love this job.'"

Lasseter confirmed that the film will include the original voices of the Disney Princesses, including Ming-Na Wen (Mulan), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O'Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Kelly MacDonald (Merida) and Aul'i Cravalho (Moana). Each of them, except Wen and Menzel but plus Kristen Bell, then joined the presentation, one by one. Cravalho then declared Silverman the voice of the "newest" Disney Princess, Vanellope.

Next up: Incredibles 2. The segment started with a featurette focused on supporting character Edna Mode, with real fashion personalities including Heidi Klum, Kendall Jenner, Rachel Zoe and Nina Garcia discussing the character's in-world influence.

Incredibles 2 writer/director Brad Bird then joined the presentation. He also happens to be the voice of Edna Mode, and told Lasseter in character that Edna agreed to participate "in the form of a disillusioned middle-aged man."

"We're excited to jump back into that world," Bird said of the Incredibles sequel. "Our technology has gotten so much better, we can get them closer to what we wanted them to be in the first film." Bird showed some facial expression tests to the crowd, and revealed that the family will have a new house, "a cross between a dream house and a super lair."

The voice cast was next out: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner (the new voice of Dash -- that spelling may not be 100 percent correct, we'll double-check) and Samuel L. Jackson. "In casting Dash, we had the choice of having one character's voice get a lot deeper, or cast a new person that's the correct age of a 10 year old," Bird explained. Jackson gave some advice to Milner: "Never read the comments."

In a clip shown to the audience, baby Jack-Jack takes on a backyard raccoon using multiple powers -- including eye beams, flaming on Human Torch-style, stretching and creating multiple dupes a la Multiple Man. Bob/Mr. Incredible then discovers Jack-Jack and realizes he has powers, and is initially excited before appearing concerned.

Next up: Toy Story 4, which will now be directed by Josh Cooley, rather than Lasseter himself (though he assured the crowd that he'll have a major role in the film, as executive producer). Cooley joined the stage, and cued up a video of him and producer Jonas Rivera showing the behind-the-scenes of the film at Pixar headquarters. The video included Pixar veteran Jeff Pidgeon recording the first line of "dialogue" in the film -- the wowed reaction of the green aliens.

A previously unannounced -- and currently untitled -- Pixar film set in a "suburban fantasy world" got the spotlight next. Monsters University director Dan Scanlon was out, telling the crowd he'll once again be working with Monsters University director Kori Rae.

"When I was a year old, my father passed away," Scanlon told the audience, saying that he and his older brother both don't remember him, and never heard the voice, since they had only seen home movies without sound. They eventually heard a quick audio recording. The question of what his father was like became the "blueprint" for the film, Scanlon said, which takes place in a "modern fantasy world" -- where a long time ago there was actual magic, but it was hard to do and people eventually lost interest, as technology filled many of the needs that magic once served.

"This world is a mix of the fantastic and the everyday," Scanlon said. "In this world, there are no humans -- there are elves, sprites, centaurs, pretty much anything that would be on the side of a van in the '70s." In the film, the main characters travel to a far-off world to spend "one last magical day with their father."

The final film on the schedule: Pixar's Coco, which opens on Nov. 22. Director Lee Unkrich, screenwriter Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson joined the presentation. Recapping the major theme of the film -- learning lessons from ancestors -- the team also discussed the main characters of the film, including Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) and Dante. A quick animation test was shown of Benjamin Bratt's Ernesto de la Cruz (Miguel's musical idol in the film) singing a song titled "Remember Me."

In the film, Miguel realizes he's actually the great-great grandson of de la Cruz, but music has been banned in his family, as they view it as a curse. A clip was shown of Miguel wanting to perform at a talent showcase at his town's plaza -- but he needs a guitar. He eventually finds one that belonged to de la Cruz -- but with unintended consequences.

"Miguel realizes that he can see all of the ancestors who are visiting their family during Dia de los Muertos, and they can see him," Unkrich said, as he's crossed into the Land of the Dead, where he encounters Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal).

Michael Giacchino composed the film, and Mexican Institute of Sound's Camilo Lara also contributed to the film's soundtrack. Screenwriter Molina worked on the songwriting as well.

One more Coco clip was shown, set in the Land of the Dead -- with Miguel learning how to break his family's music-driven curse.

The presentation ended with a full-scale performance of Coco signature song "Remember Me," featuring Anthony Gonzalez (the voice of Miguel) and Benjamin Bratt (the voice of Ernesto de la Cruz), a live band and dancers in the aisle. Following that, Lasseter wrapped the session -- but expect similar theatrics in tomorrow's The Walt Disney Studios Live Action Films presentation (which CBR will also cover live).

Keep reading CBR for more from the D23 Expo!

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