Tuesday, August 23, 2011

D23 Expo news: the Cliff Notes

Disney held its second-ever D23 Expo (weirdly named fan convention) over the weekend and your intrepid Disney Revue reporter... was not there. That's OK, reading through the reports online, it sounds like there weren't an awful lot of truly new announcements made this time around. Filtering through it all, here are the highlights of new info:

The Shanghai mega-castle.

Mostly recaps with tidbits of new details about projects that were announced long ago (California Adventure's upcoming Carsland and The Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion - coolest, but least surprising detail there: an animatronic Lumiere will host the Be Our Guest restaurant). The biggest reveal about the parks was info about the castle at the future Shanghai Disneyland. Lots of guests visit Disneyland and Disney World for the first time and are surprised that the parks' biggest icon is little more than a visual (California's Sleeping Beauty Castle hosts a walk-through with miniature scenes from the movie. Florida's Cinderella castle has a restaurant and a salon). Shanghai will rectify that with a massive castle with three-stories accessible to guests and a full-blown fairy-tale boat ride attraction. This castle doesn't belong to any one princess, but encompases them all (maybe they are all part owners - it's a Disney princess time share!).


Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

The biggest announcements of the convention seem to have come from the gang over at Pixar. Good news: not much about sequels! Yes, we learned a little bit more about the already-announced Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters Inc about Mike and Sully meeting in college, but we also learned about two all-new future features:

1) The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs will be coming to a theater near you during the holiday season in 2013. Director Bob Peterson explained that this movie is about a world in which dinosaurs never went extinct, and now live side-by-side with humans.

2) The Untitled Pixar Movie that Takes You Inside the Mind will follow in the summer of 2014. This movie is directed by Pete Docter who explained, " At Pixar we love to explore new worlds. We’ve taken you from the depths of the ocean, to the mountains of South America, from Monstropolis to outer space. We’re excited to take you somewhere everyone has been to, but no one has ever seen: The world inside your own mind.”

Excellent. Granted, it's not much to go on for either one, but after the glut of Pixar sequels we're in the midst of, I'm glad to hear about two original creations coming. The first sounds like the kind of movie the studio built its reputation on: a fun story for the whole family set on a different, but somewhat familiar world. The second sounds like a return to the kind of grand envelope pushing that Pixar was doing with Wall-E, Up, and short Night and Day. Docter previously directed by two favorite Pixar films (Up and Monsters Inc.), so I'm definitely looking forward to that one.

Not a lot of information from the original animation house, Walt Disney Animation Studios, though we did learn a little more about their 2012 feature, Wreck-It Ralph. This movie will star the villain of an old-school video game out to prove he can be more than what he was programmed to be. Several characters from real-life videogames will appear in supporting roles (ala the toys of Toy Story). It sounds fun enough, but it also sounds very Pixar. Disney, you already OWN Pixar. You need to have your own identity. Return to classic hand-drawn animation or figure out a different new direction. Copying your little brother is sad.

Not much news about live action Disney movies. The upcoming Muppet movie was pushed, clips from John Carter were shown, the cast of The Avengers showed up, but nothing new was announced. No word of a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean, no updates on the Jungle Cruise or Haunted Mansion movies, and nothing about anything we hadn't heard of before.

Dick Van Dyke did perform at the Expo, and I imagine that was the real highlight for the lucky few who got to see it. Apparently there were a lot of people attending and most events had to turn away more people than they let in.

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