Disney’s live movie presentation almost made the entire journey to LA for the D23 Expo worthwhile. The nearly three hour presentation touched on a bit of everything. What was even more surprising was how meaty it was. Maybe it was because Disney knew they were presenting before an audience of rabid Disney fanatics or I got caught up in the fan enthusiasm, whatever the case they pulled out the stops with a host of surprise celebrity guests and a ton of never before seen footage to accompany their announcements. We already gave you the 411 on what Marvel Studios has in store for us. Now let’s take a look at the rest of Disney Pictures upcoming slate.
So to recap, Walt Disney Pictures President, Alan Horn, was on hand to be a ring master for the nearly three hour long presentation. He kicked things off by talk about how much Disney Pictures has grown and provide some cute antidotes on his first visits to Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel and their other studio properties.
Now, I know a lot of folks were disappointed that there was no real Star Wars announcements at the event, but personally I did not expect anything. Horn did confirm the long rumored idea that in addition to the new trilogy, there will be standalone films. Obviously this means there will be a Boba Fett – what else would they do, a Ewok movie? It was also announced that, yes, the great John Williams is returning to score the new movies.
Muppets Most Wanted
Muppets Most Wanted is now filming in London. Ty Burrell came on stage to give the crowd a look at the first full trailer for the movie and to reveal the plot and debut the brand new trailer. On a global tour, Kermit has been mistaken for Constantine the number one international Jewel Thief and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Gervais. It is up to the gang to prove his innocence and foil the evil plot.
After the trailer, we went to a live feed in London where Miss Piggy and Tina Fey introduced a brand new clip for the movie. The clip featured Ricky Gervais and Constantine plotting to steal the Crown Jewels and a full musical number where Constantine sings about being Number One and puts down Dominic for being Number Two. The song includes an extensive tap dance routine by Gervais. The movie stars Rickey Gervais, Tina Fey, Tom Hiddleston and a host of cool cameos. Muppets Most Wanted will be in theaters in March 2014.
Into The Woods
Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, announced that Disney is doing a film version of Steven Sondheim’s popular Broadway show Into the Woods.
In Into The Woods, a wicked witch curses a young couple; along their journey for a cure they encounter classic fairytale characters including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and others to life. The film features Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Johnny Depp as The Wolf, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, and Meryl Streep as The Witch. Rob Marshal will direct the movie. The movie comes out in December 2014.
Ok Disney we get it, you love Cinderella.
In 2014 we get a version of Cinderella in Into the Woods, in 2015 we get the proper Cinderella. Director Sir Kenneth Branagh appeared via Video to talk a bit about the movie. Apparently this movie is going to delve into the politics of court and be a more modern retailing – but maintain the classical setting and elements that we all know and love.
We got our first look at some of the production designs and Cinderella (Lily James) herself appeared very briefly in an early version of the costume to say hello to the audience. I like the direction this is going and I love the idea that they cast a relative unknown to be Cinderella.
My only slight concern is all the early marketing material seems to be focused on the stellar cast (Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett as the Step Mother Lady Tremaine) and not on James – which makes me fear that the title character may get lost.
I’m not one who obsessively follows film productions, so the announcement of Maleficent really did surprise me. The audience went absolutely NUTs (even the Press section went wild) when Angelina Jolie came onto stage to talk about her role as the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty.
Jolie went on to talk about her love of Disney and how she always dreamed of playing a Disney character so when the opportunity came she jumped at the chance. She told a cute story about how she was on set one day in full costume when she walked up to a kid and he ran “screaming” to his mother saying he was “scared of the mean witch.”
Maleficent is the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal—an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom—and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.
The film also stars Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville and is produced by Joe Roth and directed by Robert Stromberg. Linda Woolverton, the screenwriter of Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, wrote the screenplay. Supposedly we will be rooting for Maleficent to actually win. Maleficent opens in theaters on July 2, 2014.
Perhaps the dumbest and biggest time waster segment of the day came when Director Brad Bird and writer Damon Lindelof came out to spend 10 minutes telling the audience absolutely nothing about their secret George Clooney project Tomorrowland. They showed a vintage clip of Walt Disney discussing his vision of the future and then brought out a big brown box that contained Disney artifacts like the original plans for Tomorrowland, an old digital film real and some parchment that had some sort of cryptic writing on it.
I’m sorry, but I have very little patience for things like this. Just tell me what the film is about! Or don’t, but don’t waste 11 minutes of my time to tell us nothing. While I’m sure it’ll be great, I have zero interest in seeing this movie or hearing anything else about it, until they actually provide real information. The one thing that I did like was it really showed how visionary Walt Disney really was.
Saving Mr. Banks
The presentation closed with two long clips from Tom Hanks’ latest film Saving Mr. Banks. The movie is a behind the scenes look at the 20 year journey it took for Walt Disney (Hanks) to make Mary Poppins. Disney did not have the rights to the book and writer P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) did not want Disney to have anything to do with her creation, saying “Mary doesn’t sing” and she’s not an animated Disney Character. Disney made a promise to his kids to produce a movie and was determined to keep it.
We got three clips and a trailer, the first one shows P.L.’s first meeting with Walt who immediately proceeds to call him Mr. Disney despite his insistence on everyone calling him Walt. The 2nd clip shows Walt trying welcoming P.L. to Disneyland and trying to convince her to get her on a Carousel.
After these two clips the audience got a surprise visit from Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman) and B.J. Novak (Bob Sherman) who talked about what it was like to portray the legendary composers who created the music for Mary Poppins. Apparently Schwartzman spent a lot of time with Sherman. They then showed a clip where P.L. was working with the Shermans on composting the music.
I’m not the biggest Tom Hanks fan around, but the chemistry and dynamics between Hanks and Thompson are amazing! If these few minutes are any indication there is no way these two won’t get Oscar nominations for their performance.
The show closed with a standing ovation for Richard Sherman and then Schwartzman and Novak coming back onto the stage to give props to Richard Sherman who got an even bigger Standing Ovation than Jolie. Schwartzman then sat at the Piano and gave the audience a live version of the classic song Let’s Go Fly A Kite, complete with clowns running in with colorful Kites and a big confetti close.
Even though it was a hassle to get into, this had to have been the best convention presentation I’ve seen all year. Walt Disney Pictures did an amazing job; it was impossible to leave with anything but a huge smile. It accomplished exactly what it was supposed to do – make you look forward to the future.