At a time when Disney is undergoing management turmoil, Pixar stole the Disney thunder at a very long Tuesday show-and-tell at CinemaCon. Pixar/Disney Animation czar John Lasseter screened the glorious first half hour of “Brave” (June 22), which will surely prove a summer blockbuster and showed stunning footage for “Finding Nemo” in 3-D. Lasseter also announced that “The Good Dinosaur” (May 30 2014) will be the title for Bob Peterson’s untitled dinosaur movie, as well as a release date for Pete Docter’s untitled movie that takes you inside the mind (June 19 2015). He also announced a new movie from “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich, set in Mexico, “La Dia de los Muertos.,” and promoed the “Monsters University” prequel in 3-D with help from Billy Crystal and John Goodman (January 18, 2013).
On the Disney Animation side, Lasseter and John C. Reilly talked up animated comedy “Wreck-It Ralph,” set inside the games in a video arcade, and showed the first six minutes.
Disney Studios also confirmed that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy will return for “Muppets 2” and brought Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp to introduce “The Lone Ranger” (May 31), an origin myth told from Tonto’s point-of-view; the sidekick in this one is running the show, as opposed to one-time prosecutor John Reid, the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer. The film is currently filming with Gore Verbinski in New Mexico. Departing Disney chief Rich Ross had tussled with the team behind the mighty “Pirates” franchise about the film’s budget.
And Bruckheimer announced that Jack White will write, produce and perform the score for “The Lone Ranger.” This will mark White’s first foray into film scoring. He released his first solo album “Blunderbuss” Tuesday.
Exhibitors responded warmly to a presentation from Marvel’s Kevin Feige including scenes from “The Avengers” (May 4). So far Marvel has only executed phase one, he said. “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor will helm “Thor 2” (April 4, 2014) while “Captain America 2” will continue the war hero’s exploration of the modern world. Shane Black’s “Iron Man 3” (May 3, 2012) starts shooting in three weeks in North Carolina with Robert Downey, Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. In a video feature, Black promised to take the film in an international thriller direction. Apparently, Tony Stark will be both visceral and soul-bearing.
Disney production head Sean Bailey introduced the Disney side of the studio ledger. Producer Joe Roth, director Sam Raimi and stars James Franco and Mila Kunis brought footage from “Oz: The Great and Powerful” (March 15, 2013), another origin story about how a magician traveled to a strange land to become a wizard, how a witch fell in love with him and became the wicked witch of the west, and how he and witch Glinda joined forces to save Oz. The film is now in the editing room.
Tim Burton promoed his reworking of an early Disney short “Frankenweenie” (October 5), based on his own experience loving “Frankenstein” and losing his beloved childhood dog, this time in stop motion black and white 3-D. He admitted it was “weird” recreating the Burbank of his youth in East London.
In Peter Hedges’ “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” Female Star of the Year Jennifer Garner and “The Great Gatsby” star Joel Edgerton star as a suburban couple who give up on making kids, but get one in their back yard.
DreamWorks goes in a family direction with “Star Trek” writer Alex Kurtzman’s heart-tugger “People Like Us” (June 29) starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks as a brother and sister who never knew each other until after their father died. Michelle Pfeiffer plays their mother. It’s a personal film for Kurtzman. There were no new materials on Steven Spielberg’s holiday awards-contender “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The talk of CinemaCon is who will replace Ross. Most insiders believe that Feige, Lasseter and DreamWorks Stacey Snider will stay put, keeping their powerful Disney labels strong. The person who gets the job, everyone agrees, needs to be experienced and knowledgeable enough to be able to diplomatically manage all these strong personalities while keeping Disney on course. The irony is that this may not be the first time that a studio head departs just as some of the films they nurtured turn into hits.