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Notes on the D23 Presentation

Notes on the D23 Presentation

Disney gave a helluva 2-and-a-half-hour presentation yesterday at D23 to tout all its upcoming animated films. Bill Desowitz wrote about it all in the previous post, but I thought I share a few of my my thoughts on the good stuff.

Where to begin? John Lasseter was the host of the entire presentation and did a great job being enthused about it all – whether it was Big Hero 6 or the latest Tinkerbell thing. In the case of Big Hero 6, there was reason to cheer. It looks like a winner. Moving in an entirely different direction from Tangled, Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, this Marvel Comics adaption has all the traditional Disney ingredients with a good helping of “Tomorrowland” in its DNA. The concept art and animatic material shown off by director Don Hall blew away the crowd. 

Zootopia, from director Byron Howard, is sure to please “furry fans” as it is the first “funny animals in human clothes” Disney feature since… what? Robin Hood? The Rescuers? It certainly looks good, but unlike Frozen and Big Hero Six – it looks a bit more juvenile than recent Disney feature efforts. 

The main story in Zootopia is the rivalry – and ultimate romance – of the two leads –  Nick Wilde (a fox) and Lt. Judy Hopps (a rabbit). We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had a little more to go on. 

Lasseter paid tribute to Burny Mattinson with a wonderful prepared clip. It’s hard to believe anything was a surprise at this show, but Lasseter brought Burny up from the audience in what seemed like an unplanned moment to introduce him to the audience. That was nice. 

Lasseter was excited about Pixar’s first TV Special, Toy Story of Terror. The show will air on ABC in October. They showed us the first ten minutes and… it was great! So good, they really could have expanded this into Toy Story 4. I’m recording it – and I suggest you do too. The quality is feature level – and it seems to be a spoof of horror film cliches, from Psycho to Blair Witch Project, using the Toy Story regulars. Unlike Planes, this IS worthy of the “Pixar” imprimatur. 

Lasseter brought out Lauren McMullen (“from our archives”) to explain the latest discovery of a lost Mickey Mouse cartoon. McMullen is actually the director of the new Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse!, which I will formerly declare “the classic cartoon event of the year!” (Disney, you can quote me on that!). I’m still not going to ruin its surprise – but it will be a great warm-up (no pun intended) to Frozen when it comes out in November. 

In the exhibit area (at a Comic Con we’d call this “the dealers room”) there was a nice display of “artifacts” from this lost film: 

Lasseter touted next year’s new Pixar, an original thank goodness, The Good Dinosaur. The clip they ran was funny and as good looking as you’d expect from Pixar – but I got that “juvenile vibe” I got all from all of this year’s releases (Turbo, Monsters U., Planes, etc.). I’ll wait and see… 

No “juvenile vibe” was found in Pete Docter’s presentation for Inside Out. I cannot wait to see this film – it looks fantastic. It’s an huge expansion/reinvention of the 1943 Disney short Reason and Emotion, with clever ways to incorporate concepts and art styles of Ward Kimball and Mary Blair.  

Instead of “Reason” and “Emotion”, we have the mind personified by five personalties, Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust and Sadness. The animatic they ran had the audience in hysterics – and I found it to be smart and satisfying in a way I haven’t felt about a Pixar film since The Incredibles. I hope it lives up to my admittedly high expectations.  

The big Pixar breakthrough on this film is… 2D. Docter showed several pieces of test footage and the take-away (for me) was how flat and “hand drawn” the animation looked. And I mean this in a good way. I’ve always suspected that Pixar’s ulterior motive with the computer is to revive drawn character animation in a new way. With Inside/Out they are getting closer…

The exhibit hall or “Disney Pavilions” were filled with “attractions” designed to show off one Disney subsidiary or another. Most of them, like the Imagineering House below, had a few displays but offered ample merch for sale.  

The actual dealers area, located way in the back, had some good vintage collectibles and art for sale. The Disney Family Museum was in this area and they were selling these replicas of the original 1929 Mickey dolls…

Bicycle maker Huffy was selling these nifty limited edition Mickey (for boys) and Minnie (for girls) “cruisers”. The boys bike is in black and white and features a strip of 35mm Steamboat Willie on the wheel covering; the girls bike has a Floyd Gottfredson Mickey comic stirp on its rear wheel cover…

The Consumer Products division had several exhibits on the floor including an art show called Steamboat Willie Redux which featured several contemporary artists doing their take on the 1928 talkie classic. Of course, this piece by Nick Cross was my favorite… 

The next D23 event will be held in 2015. I have to admit they do give attendees their money’s worth… as much as I’m skeptical of a corporate-run fan convention and what is essentially a three day commercial for all things Disney – I must admit, it was a lot of fun. I’ll be back two years from now. 

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