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D23 – Day Two

So much to say, so little time to say it. Some brief highlights of the day:

The Studios presentation was massive. They led off with a montage that seemed to last 20 minutes and feature every Disney film from after 1984. Who’d have thought that I’d wind up watching a montage of scenes from Down And Out In Beverly Hills today? Again, it was funny watching the thousands of guests vote their approval for different films via applause.

Lots of clips, and lots of special guests. Robert Zemeckis promoting A Christmas Carol – fail. Sorry, I’ll never be on board for the creepy mocap thing. The trailer was just silly. John Travolta and his family appeared to promote Old Dogs, a truly awful-looking comedy that they’re all in. The audience seemed to eat up the clips, though, so what do I know. It’ll make money, so whether it’s good or not is unimportant.

Tim Burton appeared to speak about his forthcoming Alice in Wonderland, for which a trailer was shown. He and Dick Cook also confirmed that Burton would be directing a new stop-motion animated film based upon his early short Frankenweenie. At a later press conference, producer Don Hahn confirmed that the film, like the original 1980s short, would be in black and white. It was amusing to see Burton on stage, as he seems such a shy but funny guy.

Jerry Bruckheimer was there to tout Prince of Persia, the clip for which didn’t help to give any sense of the film’s quality aside from its overwhelming load of visual effects and explosion porn. If you like fire and swords, you’ll be good to go. Nicholas Cage was there to present a clip for his upcoming film The Sorcerers Apprentice, which actually seemed pretty intriguing. Cage is a self-proclaimed Fantasia fan, and pitched the idea of the film himself.

The Muppets section of the presentation began with the characters on film interacting with studio head Dick Cook, and concluded with dozens of the Muppets riding onto the stage aboard a replica of Disneyland’s Mark Twain while singing a medley of songs. It was awesome. It’s no secret that I’ve always loved the Muppets, so it’s great to see them getting some respect. Their bit was funny, too. Cook announced that a new Muppet film, amusingly titled The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made, is finally on its way.

There was a preview for the next Disneynature feature, Oceans, which looks fantastic. We also got the same teaser for TRON: Legacy that we’ve all watched a thousand times already.

Then Miley Cyrus came out and sang. Heh.

More exciting was the final look forward to future releases; there was the first-ever concept art for Andrew Stanton’s John Carter of Mars, which looked incredible. There was an official announcement of The Lone Ranger, which will star Johnny Depp as Tonto, and there was some discussion of the upcoming release agreement with Dreamworks which will bring Steven Spielberg to Disney at last.

One of the most exciting announcements for me was that Disney and Pixar have partnered with director Guillermo del Toro to found an entirely new animation label called “Disney Double Dare You” (silly name, but whatever). The goal of this label is to create animated features that focus on spookier content, inspired by del Toro’s childhood love for such scary Disney concoctions like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. He felt that Disney had lost that edge over the years, and the willingness to be truly scary in a family-friendly way, and he wants to bring that back. He’ll try his hand by directing the label’s first feature, Troll Hunters.

Of course, by now you’ve all heard how the presentation concluded. Cook bit the audience farewell, and as people started rushing for the exits he remarked that he might have forgotten something. Then the score from Pirates of the Caribbean started up, and a cloud parted on the main projection screen to reveal the title Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides. The audience freaked out, naturally, and then a familiar silhouette appeared on a wrecked mast that appeared out of the mist. It was a nice bit of theater that worked the crowd into a frenzy, as Johnny Depp emerged in full pirate costume to trade some drunken banter with Dick Cook. It was by far the biggest announcement of the show, and it left people buzzing.

Other highlights of the day: Jason Surrell’s hilarious Haunted Mansion discussion, which featured lots of talk about the recent Magic Kingdom upgrades. Another Disney author, Jeff Kurtti, led a series of discussions with composers of Disney theme park music. This was a really exciting panel, since it included such notable composers as Bruce Broughton and the brilliant Michael Giacchino. I was ecstatic to see Giacchino there, as he’s usually my favorite film composer working today. His score for Ratatouille is superb, as was his work on The Incredibles. I spoke to Kurtti afterwards, and he was a really nice guy who seems to really get where the fans are coming from. You have to love that.

Don Hahn hosted a showing of Disney rarities; these were little-seen Disney shorts ranging from World War II training films to more recent fare. We got to see some of the films planned for the aborted third Fantasia project, including Lebo M’s One By One. Destino made a welcome appearance, and at last – at last! – I finally got to see Lorenzo. And yeah, it was pretty much as great as I expected. At a press conference afterward, Hahn said that Disney CEO Bob Iger is a fan of this sort of thing, so he really hopes that these rarely-seen shorts will make it onto Fantasia’s DVD re-release next year.

Then it was upstairs to a panel discussion about the upcoming documentary Walt and El Grupo; director Ted Thomas (son of Disney animator Frank Thomas) and author J.B. Kaufman (noted Disney historian and author of the forthcoming South of the Border with Disney) spoke about Walt’s goodwill trip to South America in 1941 and the films it spawned. They also showed clips from the new documentary. I spoke to the guys afterward and, as expected, they were great. Your civic duty now as a Progress City reader is to write, call or email your local theaters and try to get them to schedule a showing of Walt and El Grupo. Do it!

The evening ended with a screening of the 1959 classic The Shaggy Dog. Ubiquitous Disney child star Tommy Kirk was on hand to graciously answer a few questions, and it was good to see him get a little public credit for the work he did for the studio all those years ago.

So, another wild day. And it all starts up again in a few hours. Pictures and more details will come later, along with more official pics and releases from Disney. Until then…

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