Another day, another zillion nifty things going on in San Diego that I’m missing out on. Yesterday, the focus was on Disney’s upcoming live-action fare. Today the spotlight shifted to animation, with sneak peaks from both Pixar and Walt Disney Feature Animation. There were no shocking reveals, but guests were treated to a panel featuring several animators including John Lasseter and, in his Comic-Con debut, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki (known to many as “the Japanese Walt Disney”).
First, though, let’s take a look at the events of Thursday night that followed up on yesterday’s Tron: Legacy panel. The countdown that had appeared on the Flynn Lives viral campaign site expired yesterday evening, giving way to a map to a real-world location in San Diego. After arriving at the designated time and place, guests were handed a packet containing instructions, a map, a hand-held black light, and a token for Flynn’s Arcade. They were then told to search the area for a series of hidden posters for Flynn’s, with which they could use their black lights to discover a series of invisible numbers. The numbers, in turn, provided a series of coordinates that led fans to…
Flynn’s Arcade. Like in the movie, but for real. When did Disney get awesome? This almost makes up for G-Force. Almost. Anyway, Flynn’s had been set up with all the trappings of a retro arcade. It even had a playable version of Space Paranoids, the game that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) had created in the original film. Upon beating a level, fans discovered a series of hidden codes; it’s still unclear as to what these codes are to be used for.
Flynn’s had been featured in the scene from TRON: Legacy shown at the panel yesterday, and the real-world arcade had been set up to recreate that clip – including the TRON machine set up in front of a hidden door at the back of the arcade.
Eventually the hidden door opened, and guests filed inside to find a series of conceptual renderings of Lightcycles from the film. Then, on a rotating platform, was an actual Lightcycle prop.
Very cool, all around. If that wasn’t enough, Disney has finally released the VFX test that was shown at last year’s SDCC and which helped gain the film its official greenlight from the studio. I can’t wait for this movie to arrive. You can find a nice play-by-play of the Flynn’s event here, and video here, here, here and here (I just pray that the crowd at D23 is less irritating that the SDCC fanboys seem to be).
So, on to today’s animation panel. Pixar led the way, with a preview of this October’s re-release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in – of course – 3-D. The films will be shown in theaters on a double bill for a two-week limited engagement. The opening sequence of Toy Story 2 was screened in 3-D, and then John Lasseter came out to screen a trailer for the double feature; the trailer will be released online next Tuesday.
Then Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich came out to speak about that upcoming release. They talked about how Barbie will play a greater role in the new film, and announced that Michael Keaton will voice the role of Ken – which was odd, as that news was widely known last year. They also played a faux-retro “interview” with Ken called Groovin’ with Ken, filmed in his Malibu Dream Home. Hopefully, they’ll put that online at some point. In other Toy Story news, Pixar updated the web pages today for both the original films and Toy Story 3.
After Pixar was done, it was time for the traditionally animated segment of the presentation. Disney appears to be really ramping up to promote its 2-D revival; Lasseter announced that Disney was going to start releasing lots of production videos online very soon, a trend that has started with Feature Animation’s new Facebook page.
First up was director Kirk Wise, talking about the upcoming re-release of his 1991 film Beauty and the Beast. The film, which for some reason has been converted to – wait for it – 3-D, will come back to theaters next February. After a brief talk, they screened a clip; for this, they selected the Belle number from the start of the film.
Next up was Prep and Landing, an upcoming holiday special that will air on television this Christmas. It tells the story of a group of elves and the extensive preparations they go through to ready a house for Santa’s annual visit. This was originally planned as a theatrical short, but it was decided to expand it into a full-length show.
Finally they got to The Princess and the Frog, which was introduced by its directors Ron Clements (above, left) and John Musker (above, right). This traditionally animated feature will contain seven songs by Randy Newman, one of which – Friends on the Other Side – was screened for fans. Reports say that the scene is trippy and psychedelic, and resembles in tone Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid.
The eight-minute sequence featuring the villainous Dr. Facilier (Keith David) was followed by another scene in which the two protagonists, transformed into frogs, search the bayou for the mysterious Mama Odie. Disney has also released the following pencil test from the film online:
For many, the highlight of the panel was the introduction of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki, he of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, rarely makes appearances in America so having him on stage with Lasseter was a special event. Miyazaki was at SDCC to promote his upcoming release Ponyo, a film about a boy and a magical goldfish/girl/whatnot – really, everything I’ve heard from this film sounds completely crazy and inexplicable.
The film is aimed somewhat younger than Miyazaki’s usual fare, but it’s received his typical level of acclaim for its surreal story and delicate watercolored visuals. Miyazaki and Lasseter held a ten-minute conversation which can be seen at CinemaBlend, and then they were both presented with the Inkpot award from the SDCC.
Other Disney tidbits from the day: Disney production head Oren Aviv said that the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film will go into production next year for a 2011 release; Disney hopes to follow that up with a smaller-scale pirate trilogy. Also check here for some pictures of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland prop exhibit.