The last few years have been a dark time for Pixar. Their once untouchable reputation—”Toy Story 3” was both a Best Picture nominee and a billion-dollar grosser—has taken increasing knocks over the last few years, with an original film that (unfairly, we’d suggest) got middling reviews, and a pair of sequels that few asked for, and that not many more thought were deserving of the studio’s creative legacy.
As such, eyes were turned on the D23 expo today, when the studio were unveiling their slate for the next three years. Our Disney correspondent Drew Taylor is on the floor, and you can expect to hear more on his impressions of what was shown and how it went down very soon, but first the newsy bits, as the studio unveiled the voice casts for 2014’s “The Good Dinosaur,” 2015’s “Inside Out” and 2016’s “Finding Dory.”
“The Good Dinosaur”—helmed by “Up” co-director Bob Peterson and Pete Sohn—involves a group of dinosaurs who come across the first human. The lead, Arlo, will be played by “Raising Hope” star Lucas Neff, with Judy Greer and Bill Hader as his his siblings, and John Lithgow, Frances McDormand and Neil Patrick Harris also in the cast.
Meanwhile, “Inside Out” is the return of “Up” helmer Pete Docter, and has an ambitious “Herman’s Head“-style conceit that shows the way emotions drive its lead character. In a move so brilliant we’re surprised it hasn’t happened before, Amy Poehler will play the lead, Joy, while Mindy Kaling will be Disgust, Lewis Black is Anger, and Phyllis Smith from “The Office” is Sadness. Bill Hader also returns for his third Pixar in a row (he voiced the snail creature in “Monsters University“), as the voice of Fear.
Finally, “Finding Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory” is a little further off, but also spilled the beans on the cast. Aside from the returning Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, we’ll meet Dory’s parents, to be voiced in a brilliant casting coup by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy, while Ty Burrell will play a Beluga whale named Bailey. No Bill Hader as of yet, but you never know. Keep your eyes peeled for more from D23 both today and tomorrow. The press release with full Pixar/Disney D23 details on page 2.
“It’s a fantastic, exciting time for animation at Disney and Pixar,” said John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. “The filmmakers at our three studios are so talented—their films are all so touching and beautiful, but so different. I am truly excited to share these films with everyone.”
· Lasseter surprised fans with a screening of the first 10 minutes ofDisney•Pixar’s “Toy Story OF TERROR!” The D23 Expo audience was the first ever to see footage from the spooky new 30-minute special that features favorite characters from the “Toy Story” films. What starts out as a fun road trip for the “Toy Story” gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate in this “Toy Story OF TERROR!” From director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman, “Toy Story OF TERROR!” premieres on ABC Oct. 16, 2013.
· Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen,” directed by Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee (“Wreck-It Ralph”- screenplay by), and produced by Peter Del Vecho (“Winnie the Pooh,” “The Princess and the Frog”), shared never-before-seen film footage, introduced by “Frozen” stars Kristen Bell, voice of Anna, and Josh Gad, voice of Olaf. Fans were also treated to a show-stopping live performance of the film’s powerful new song “Let It Go,” sung by Broadway’s Tony® Award-winner Idina Menzel, who provides the voice of Elsa in the film.
In “Frozen,” fearless optimist Anna (voice of Bell) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (voice of Gad) in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa (voice of Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. In theaters Nov. 27, 2013.
· “Get A Horse!” made its U.S. premiere at the D23 Expo. Featuring Walt Disney himself as the voice of Mickey Mouse, this black-and-white, hand-drawn theatrical short follows Mickey, his favorite gal pal Minnie Mouse and their friends Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow as they delight in a musical haywagon ride—until Peg-Leg Pete shows up and tries to run them off the road. This groundbreaking short from Walt Disney Animation Studios isdirected by Lauren MacMullan (TV’s “The Simpsons”) and produced by Dorothy McKim (“Prep & Landing” trilogy, “Meet the Robinsons”), “Get A Horse!” opens in front of “Frozen” on Nov. 27, 2013.
· Disneytoon Studios’ “The Pirate Fairy” brought pixie dust to the festivities, unveiling the newest and most exciting adventure in the Disney Fairies franchise. Director Peggy Holmes (“Secret of the Wings”) introduced Christina Hendricks, who gives voice to Zarina, and Tom Hiddleston, tapped to voice a young James aka Captain Hook.
When a misunderstood dust-keeper fairy named Zarina steals Pixie Hollow’s all-important Blue Pixie Dust, and flies away to join forces with the pirates of Skull Rock, Tinker Bell and her fairy friends must embark on the adventure of a lifetime to return it to its rightful place. However, in the midst of their pursuit of Zarina, Tink’s world is turned upside down. She and her friends find that their respective talents have been switched and they have to race against time to retrieve the Blue Pixie Dust and return home to save Pixie Hollow. With comedy, heart and epic thrills for the whole family, “The Pirate Fairy” sets sail Spring 2014.
· Disney•Pixar’s heartfelt and hilarious “The Good Dinosaur” roamed the convention center this morning. Co-director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream ( “Cars 2,” “Up”- associate producer) were on hand to announce keymembers of the voice cast, including Lucas Neff, voice of Arlo; Bill Hader, voice of Forrest; Judy Greer, voice of Ivy; Neil Patrick Harris, voice of Cliff; John Lithgow, voice of Poppa; and Frances McDormand, voice of Momma.
Neff and Greer appeared on stage, alongside Hader, whose voice was also heard in Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters University.”
“The Good Dinosaur” asks the generations-old question: What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In theaters May 30, 2014, the film is a humorous and exciting original story about Arlo, a lively 70-foot-tall teenage Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event rattles Arlo’s tranquil community, he sets out on a quest to restore peace, gaining an unlikely companion along the way—a young human boy named Spot.
· The crowd roared when their favorite monsters returned to the big screen asDisney•Pixar’s short “Party Central” scared up six minutes of fun at the D23 Expo. In the short, Mike and Sulley are back at Monsters University for a fun-filled weekend with their Oozma Kappa fraternity brothers. The gang is throwing their first party, but no one’s showing up. Luckily for them, Mike and Sulley have come up with a plan to make sure “Party Central” is the most epic party the school has ever seen. In theaters May 30, 2014, with “The Good Dinosaur.”
· Disneytoon Studios’ “Planes: Fire & Rescue” landed on stage at the D23 Expo, welcoming Dane Cook, the voice of Dusty in “Disney’s Planes,” the action comedy adventure that landed in theaters today. Cook, who returns to voice the character in the follow-up, joined director Bobs Gannaway (“Secret of the Wings”) on stage. Julie Bowen was announced as the voice of Lil’ Dipper, and fans were treated to story details for “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” plus character images, concept art and footage from the film.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” features a quirky crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from a raging wildfire. When world famous air racer Dusty (voice of Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of wildfire air attack. Dusty joins forces with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger and his courageous air attack team, including spirited super scooper Lil’ Dipper (voice of Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, ex-military transport Cabbie and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire, and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero. “Planes: Fire & Rescue” ignites July 18, 2014.
· Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Big Hero 6” hit the D23 Expo in style, welcoming director Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) to the stage with a story presentation, including concept art and a sizzle piece designed to build excitement for the action comedy adventure.
“Big Hero 6” features brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion—a robot named Baymax—Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action and all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, the CG-animated “Big Hero 6” hits theaters in 3D onNov. 7, 2014.
· Disneytoon Studios director Steve Loter revealed plans for “Legend of the NeverBeast,” which takes the Disney Fairies on an epic action adventure that’s full of heart and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Fun and talented animal fairy Fawn believes you can’t judge a book by its cover—or an animal by its fangs—so she befriends a huge and mysterious creature known as the NeverBeast. While Tink and her friends aren’t so sure about this scary addition to Pixie Hollow, the elite Scout Fairies set out to capture the monster before he destroys their home. Fawn must trust her heart and take a leap of faith if she hopes to rally the girls to save the NeverBeast. Directed by Steve Loter, “Legend of the NeverBeast” roars to life in Spring 2015.
· Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” brought Joy to fans—literally—revealing members of the voice cast, including Amy Poehler as the voice of Joy, Lewis Black as the voice of Anger, Mindy Kaling as the voice of Disgust, Phyllis Smith as the voice of Sadness, and Bill Hader as the voice of Fear. The audience met two of the film’s five starring emotions, Sadness and Fear, when Smith and Hader appeared on stage to greet fans and fuel excitement for the 2015 film.
From director Pete Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and producer Jonas Rivera (“Up”), Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” takes you to a place that everyone knows, but no one has ever seen: the world inside the human mind. Riley, an 11-year-old girl who recently moved with her family to San Francisco, is not the main character but the setting for the film. Moviegoers will go inside her mind to explore how memories are formed and how a mixture of five emotions—Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear and Sadness—defines life experiences. In theaters June 19, 2015.
· Director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”) and producer Lindsey Collins (co-producer “WALL•E”) shared exciting voice cast announcements forDisney•Pixar’s “Finding Dory.” Joining Ellen DeGeneres, who provides the voice of Dory, are Albert Brooks as the voice of Marlin, Diane Keaton as the voice of Dory’s mom Jenny, Eugene Levy as the voice of Dory’s dad Charlie, and Ty Burrell as the voice of Bailey.
The all-new big-screen adventure dives into theaters Nov. 25, 2015, taking moviegoers back to the extraordinary underwater world from the original film. “Finding Dory” reunites the friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the true meaning of family along the way.
Pixar fans also delighted in a surprise appearance by the studio’s “lucky charm” John Ratzenberger, who was ceremoniously paraded on stage by the Disneyland marching band. Ratzenberger joined Hader in a hilarious duel of one-upmanship over the multiple Pixar characters each has voiced.
· Walt Disney Animation Studios’ director Byron Howard (“Tangled”) and writer Jared Bush shared plans for the upcoming comedy adventure ”Zootopia”(working title). In the animal city of Zootopia, a fast-talking fox who’s trying to make it big goes on the run when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Zootopia’s top cop, a self-righteous rabbit, is hot on his tail, but when both become targets of a conspiracy, they’re forced to team up and discover even natural enemies can become best friends. In theaters in 2016.