The 2013 D23 Expo has officially begun with a bang with an animation domination of the first morning. In front of thousands of fans in the D23 Arena, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and Disneytoon Studios presented their latest lineup of upcoming feature films, led by the always entertaining John Lasseter.
Before the animation presentation began, Disney CEO Bob Iger took the stage to welcome everyone to the D23 Expo, noting every arm of the Disney company is in attendance, saying “That’s pretty cool.” A mention of Lucasfilm received the biggest applause. But fans shouldn’t expect any big “Star Wars” updates from this weekend. “We’re speechless,” said Iger. “In fact, we’re going to be somewhat speechless at this Expo.”
He emphasized that he’s been a lifelong Disney fan, amazed he is where is today. “I get to go to Disneyland whenever I want and I even get to go to the front of the line,” Iger joked. “This Expo is for you. It’s our way of saying thank you.”
Moving on to the topic at hand, Iger stated “Animation has always been and will always be the very heart of the Walt Disney Company,” ready to introduce the main event.
Highlights of the whole event are in the video below, followed by a complete recap of everything shown.
Video: Animation presentation highlights at the 2013 D23 Expo
John Lasseter excitedly took the stage, stating he’s proud to lead three animation studios. “The studio is its filmmakers,” he said, adding everyone animating for Disney is inspired by Walt Disney himself.
Lasseter built excitement with big promises “We have all sorts of D23 exclusives that you alone will see. [...] We have installed seat belts in all the seats. I recommend you fasten them.”
First up on the celebrity roster, Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader, voice of the slug in “Monsters University” - which Lasseter called the “superstar” character - joined in, stating it is “a giant, giant honor to be part of a Pixar movie.” He was followed by a first look at a hilarious new “Monsters University” short called “Party Central,” showed in its entirety. It features all the cast of the hit film in a frat party filled with door antics.
Lasseter then introduced “The Good Dinosaur” with a teaser set in space that proposes the question: “What if that asteroid missed Earth?” An asteroid flew past Earth as dinosaurs looked up from eating, watched it soar by, and went back to eating. The movie’s director and producer introduced the film’s characters as farmers, including Triceratops (the bulldozers), Stegasaurus (mow down acres of crops), Ankylosaurus (haulers), Apatosaurus (plowing), and Parasaurolophus (hard to pronounce).
The dinosaurs of the film feature humanized faces, shown off in a clip of plowing, harvesting crops. Main character Arlo was introduced, to be voiced by Lucas Neff. His film family is announced as Poppa voiced by John Lithgow, Momma is Frances McDormand, Forrest is Bill Hader, Cliff is Neil Patrick Harris, and Ivy is Judy Greer. Hader, Greer, and Neff all took the stage and horsed around as a “family.”
Arlo lives in a traditional farming community, ridding the farm of prehistoric bug pests. Arlo is fascinated by a strange new bug - a human, the first any dinosaur has seen. The caveboy’s name is Spot, joining Arlo in an adventure in new lands. A clip showed Spot meeting Arlo for the first time, poking him with a stick and chomping at him. The dynamic between a small human and huge dinosaur will play out throughout the film.
Lasseter returned to the stage to introduce director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera to talk about their upcoming film “Inside Out.” “This film is one of the most unique films I have ever been associated with. This is a magical, wonderful, original film. Wait til you see it,” said Lasseter.
“Inside Out” stars Riley, a young girl who moves to San Francisco, uprooting her her school life. But the real stars of the film are the emotions inside Riley’s head, with the cast announced: Anger - Lewis Black, Disgust - Mindy Kaling, Fear - Bill Hader, Joy - most important emotion - Amy Poehler, Sadness - Phyllis Smith. The emotions appear to be made out of energy particles, representing what emotions feel like, a new technology for Pixar. Hader and Smith took the stage to ham it up.
A clip from “Inside Out” reveals the “Cranium Command” style headquarters where the emotions monitor Riley’s actions and store her memories. Scenes will take place in long term memory, imagination land (like a theme park), abstract thought, dream production (like a film studio), and the train of thought. Another rough sketch clip showed insane activities not only happening in Riley’s mind but also her parents, with very different emotions running through the heads of her mom and dad.
But the D23 Expo audience became hugely excited when “Finding Dory” was introduced next, bringing out director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins. The film will take place a year later as Dory is living with Marlin and Nemo.
A traumatic event triggers Dory’s homing instincts and sends her back to where she came from, searching for her family - a big family. Dory’s mom Jenny is being voiced by Diane Keaton and her dad Charlie is being played by Eugene Levy. Bailey the beluga whale will be voiced by Ty Burrell. Returning are Albert Brooks as Marlin and Ellen DeGeneres as Dory.
But then Bill Hader emerged - again - dressed as a sea cucumber, hoping to become Pixar’s lucky charm by adding himself to another film.
But accompanied by much fanfare from a marching band, John Ratzenberger took the stage to hold down his title, having voiced 14 Pixar characters over the years, one in every film. With a burst of confetti, the two left after much laughter.
“Toy Story of Terror” is set to debut on October 16 on ABC but D23 Expo attendees got to see the first 10 minutes of horror-ific hilarity. The main cast of “Toy Story” characters are led on adventure across a stormy night at an old “Psycho” style thrill ride at an old motel. It’s a sure hit.
Lasseter then moved on to Disneytoon Studios, attempting to win over the crowd of fans who are extremely doubtful of this studio that was designed to produce direct-to-video films. A video tour of their studio felt a bit forced, trying to make them appear as the next fun-loving Pixar-style environment. This studio is responsible for the creation of the “Disney Fairies” line of films, with two new Tinker Bell movies announced today: “The Legend of the Neverbeast” and “The Pirate Fairy.”
“The Pirate Fairy” will star Christina Hendricks as Zarina and Tom Hiddleston as James the cabin boy, both of whom showed up to talk about the film - and reveal that James is really Captain Hook, before the hook. Hiddleston recounted an early audition in which he opted to sing “Bare Necessities,” after which the audience cheered and yelled until he sang a bit on stage - an unplanned moment. A storyboarded clip also showed a classic pirate-style song called “A Frigate that Flies.”
Video: Tom Hiddleston sings “Bare Necessities” live at the 2013 D23 Expo
Moving on to “Planes,” director Klay Hall talked up the film on this opening day, inviting all attendees to see the film later in the day at the D23 Expo. Then its sequel “Planes: Fire & Rescue” was introduced. To talk up the new film, voice of Dusty Crophopper Dane Cook took the stage, offering some mildly received comedy.
Introducing Walt Disney Animation Studios, Lasseter gave a tribute to Burny Mattinson, the last artist that personally worked with Walt Disney still at the studio - who was then invited on stage to tell stories of how he started his 50+ year career. Any time stories with personal connections to Walt Disney are shared with the D23 audience, it warms the hearts of everyone in attendance - Lasseter included.
Under the guise of digging up a lost Mickey Mouse short from the Animation Research Library, the D23 Expo audience was treated to the brilliant new short “Get a Horse!” featuring the voice of Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse and combining color and black and white, 2D hand drawn animation and 3D CG, all with a wonderfully classic sense of humor and style.
It was the United States debut of this short. Director Lauren MacMullan with heads of animation Adam Green and Eric Goldberg came out to talk about the new short’s creation and pulling the decades-old style of Ub Iwerks. Goldberg emphasized everyone working on it operated under the mantra of “Let’s get this era right.” And they did. The world will get to see “Get a Horse!” in front of “Frozen” in theaters beginning in November.
Entering the world of Marvel, director Don Hall came out to talk about “Big Hero 6″ - an unusual comic book choice for an animated film, hitting theaters in 2014. Hall was happy to find something “on the obscure side” to work on for Disney.
Characters Hiro, robot Baymax, and friends Go Go Tomago, Wasabi No-Ginger, Honey Lemon, and Fred were introduced in a clip with plenty of action, adventure, and comedy set in San Fransokyo. It’s got a great visual style and is sure to bring some unique flair to the Disney universe.
Then a big announcement came: “Zootopia” is named as the 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios film. It’s an original from “Tangled” director Byron Howard - a buddy action comedy set in animal world where humans never existed. That means in this world, animals designed all architecture and design elements with locations like Tundra Town, Sahara Square, Rain Forest, Wild Times, Anamalia, The Canals, and Burrow Borough. Natural elements inspire locations, like a hotel that looks like a mountain or a palm tree.
The film will star hero Nick Wilde, a sharped tooth mammal - a fox. It’s about his relationship with Lt. Judy Hopps, a rabbit. Set in a Las Vegas-style world, the two start as natural enemies but become friends by the end. Oh, and there will be a lot of “Gnu-pid” Wildebeasts.
Finally, “Frozen” takes center stage, with John Lasseter calling it “truly a magical, amazing film,” with the “Snow Queen” story inspiration dating back to Walt Disney’s own interest. He then praised Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez, who were sitting in the audience, for their upcoming music in the film. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee emerged to discuss the film.
The film’s lead star Kristen Bell, Voice of Anna, came out to talk about her own Disney connections, singing songs from “The Little Mermaid” when she was very young. Princess Anna seems innocent, but her sister Elsa had traumatic childhood events that has left her cold-hearted to the world, leaving the kingdom covered in ice. Actor Josh Gad voices snowman Olaf, who showed up to profess his love of Disney’s World of Color, especially with his upcoming hosting duties in the holiday version. Then the audience was treated to a clip of Olaf singing a hilarious song about… summer, of all things.
Then to finish it all was a first performance of “Let It Go” from “Frozen” sung by Elsa voice Idina Menzel as it snowed confetti.
Video: Idina Menzel sings “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Disney certainly has an outstanding lineup of animated films ahead!