This year’s D23, a conference every two years exclusively for members of the D23 fan club, was full of news about upcoming projects, but unfortunately it wasn’t the news that people were expecting to hear. There was no Star Wars casting announcement, no surprises from Marvel or Pixar, no Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. What there was, however, was lots of smaller casting announcements, plus an in-depth look at some films which we previously only knew the title of. I’m a D23 member, but I wasn’t at the conference this year, but read on for the highlights of what was announced and shown, along with some of my opinions.
Pixar previewed their three, previously announced films. First up was The Good Dinosaur, coming out May 30, 2014. It tells the story of what the world might be like if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs had instead missed Earth completely. It shows the dinosaurs farming and interacting as the dominant “species” on the planet. The protagonist, Arlo, encounters a human boy and the two go on an adventure. It’s directed by Bob Peterson (Up) and will feature the voices of Lucas Neff, Bill Hader, John Lithgow, Neil Patrick Harris, Frances McDormand and Judy Greer. I haven’t seen the footage that was shown of the film, but it sounds like a fun family adventure, more akin to Brave or Up than something like Wall-E.
Next up was Inside Out. This one tells the story of a little girl, Riley, but not in the way you might expect. You see, Inside Out tells the story from the perspective of the five emotions that govern her life: Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). They all live inside her head, and govern her thoughts and dreams. For some reason, Joy and Sadness end up lost inside Riley’s mind, leaving the other three to try to run her life in a balanced way. We also will see inside the heads of Riley’s parents. Inside Out sounds more up my alley than The Good Dinosaur, but of course we’ll have to wait for the trailers. The reaction from those who were at D23 is that it seems very funny and clever. Inside Out is due to come out summer 2015.
The last Pixar film from the conference was Finding Dory. This one is still a ways out, but they had some casting to announce, including Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents. The premise is that one day Dory remembers that she has a family and sets off to look for them, with Marlin and Nemo having to go looking for her. Ellen Degeneres is back, as is Albert Brooks as Marlin. (In unrelated news, it seems that Pixar has slightly altered the ending to Finding Dory in light of a recently released documentary.) I was dubious about Finding Dory at first, but hearing director Andrew Stanton (who directed Finding Nemo) talk about how he waited to do the film until he felt he had the right story has restored a lot of my confidence.
Not much of interest to me here. They confirmed two new Tinkerbell movies, The Pirate Fairy and Legend of the NeverBeast, along with a sequel to Planes called Planes: Fire and Rescue.
Walt Disney Animation Studios
One of the films people were most excited to see was the first crossover between Walt Disney Animation Studios and Marvel, Big Hero 6. It tells a story of superheroes in the fictional city of San Fransokyo (San Francisco + Tokyo). It’s not a part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, but instead contains its own unique world. It has a futuristic vibe to it, with robots and the like, but it’s still too early to know much about it. No voice cast was announced (as far as I could find), but it’s not due to come out until the end of next year.
Another film which we didn’t (and still don’t) know much about is Zootopia. Zootopia seems to have a bit in common with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, though obviously not stop-motion animation. It’s about a world that resembles ours except that it’s populated entirely by anthropomorphized animals. What makes this different from other classics like 1973’s Robin Hood is that instead of animals inhabiting our world, instead they’ll have a world like ours except as designed by animals. It sounds cute and creative, but we’ll have to wait to see more. The fact that it’s directed by Tangled’s Byron Howard is a good sign.
They ended the animation presentation with Frozen, which we already know a bit about. It tells the story of two sister princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), the Snow Queen. It also features Jonathan Groff as a mountain man, Josh Gad as a snowman, and Alan Tudyk as a duke. Along with a preview of the film, Disney unveiled the first songs from the film, bringing Idina Menzel on stage to sing one of them, “Let it Go”. I’m definitely starting to get excited for this one.
No real news here. There was some new footage of Thor: The Dark World, with what sounded like some cute relationship moments involving Natalie Portman’s Jane. Then there was a clip from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which showed Cap and Black Widow attacking a boat. There’s some interplay between the two, as she tries to talk him into asking a girl out, but he doesn’t want to. From what I read, the action seems much more exciting in the sequel. I’m also happy that they seem to be maintaining the character somewhat as he was written by Joss Whedon in The Avengers. I feel like Joss really made the character interesting, as a man out of time and caught in the moral greyness of our modern world. That sounds much more interesting than what we got in the origin story. Disney/Marvel also showed the footage of Guardians of the Galaxy from Comic-Con, though slightly censored for the Disney crowd. No new news here, unfortunately.
A quick bit about the upcoming Bears nature documentary, the latest in their line of annual films in this series. There’s nothing to get excited about, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not thrilled Disney is still doing this.
Walt Disney Pictures
They started with a new preview for Muppets Most Wanted, showing more of Kermit’s doppelganger, Constantine, and his assistant, played by Ricky Gervais. There’s also a subplot in the film featuring Ty Burrell’s Interpol agent and Sam the Eagle which sounds hilarious. Hopefully we’ll get a new trailer for this soon, because the teaser wasn’t all that exciting.
Next up was Into the Woods, based on the Sondheim musical. We got some official casting, though nothing that hadn’t been basically confirmed by the rumor mill: Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf, Meryl Streep as a witch, along with Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Emily Blunt. This one is due out Christmas of next year. I’m always thrilled for new, live-action musicals, and the casting in this makes it even more interesting. I’m curious to see how they’re going to interpret it for the screen.
Next up were two female-centric films that have my attention. There’s a new, live-action Cinderella coming in 2015, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It will feature Lily James as Cinderella, with Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. There’s also Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the Sleeping Beauty villain, who is getting the Wicked treatment in this new film. One exciting bit of casting confirmation was Elle Fanning as Aurora. Jolie showed up on stage to tell stories about how terrifying her costume was to the kids on set, who would run away screaming when she tried to talk to them. They also showed a brief teaser.
They ended the session with Saving Mr. Banks, which I talked about just recently, so I won’t go into it very much. This is a film that seems made for me, and the interplay between Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks as P.L. Travers and Walt Disney seems like Oscar bait to me.
And then there’s Tomorrowland, about which I have lots to say, so I will leave that for another day. It’s certainly the most mysterious project on Disney’s slate.
What do you think? Did you get to go to D23? Is there an upcoming Disney film that you’re particularly looking forward to? Would you have liked to see more surprises? How about anything at all from Star Wars? Let me know in the comments!