All images courtesy of D23
On Thursday, the Walt Disney Company kicked off its biennial convention, D23 Expo. Chief creative officer of Disney Animation, Pixar, and DisneyToon, John Lasseter, who welcomed fans to the event by telling them, “Create stories that matter and put joy out in this world,” was on hand that afternoon to introduce and delight thousands of dedicated Disney fans to all the upcoming films from Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, and DisneyToon Studios.
From this year’s Coco, to several highly anticipated sequels like The Incredibles 2 and Frozen 2, the Tracking Board has all the exciting details from the epic two-hour panel that featured several big names and sneak peeks.
First up was the smaller animation studio, DisneyToon, behind movies such as the Cars spinoff Planes and Planes: Fire and Rescue as well as the various Tinker Bell films. In keeping with their brand, the latest film, set for release on April 12, 2019, is a new aviation film, this time centered around fighter jets who can fly faster, louder, and higher than the planes we’ve seen before from the studio.
Fans were treated to a brief look at the film, featuring three jets flying through the desert and up into the sky, complete with epic and room-shaking sound that definitely kept everyone entranced.
Currently untitled, Lasseter, ever the jokester that he is, made this a running theme for the duration of the panel.
Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Mouse House presented two films for the panel, both sequels, the highly anticipated FROZEN 2 and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2. Unfortunately, there was no news on their only original film in their upcoming slate (at least so far), Gigantic, but what was presented for these two films more than made up for it.
Frozen continues to be one of the more prolific of Disney’s animated films. The first film was released in 2013, which was then followed by a short that preceded 2015’s live-action Cinderella. Now, the newest tale in Arendelle is “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” a 21-minute short set to screen before Pixar’s Coco this November.
Featuring the original voice cast and four new songs from Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, the short follows lovable snowman Olaf searching the town for holiday traditions since Anna and Elsa have none of their own after being separated for most of their lives.
On hand to introduce a clip from the short was none other than Princess Anna herself, Kristen Bell.
Unfortunately, just as the song in the clip was about to start, the sound went out. But then, who should arrive, but the voice of Olaf himself, Josh Gad, to perform the song live to the animation? Predictable? Maybe, but certainly very exciting for everyone in the room.
The song, “That Time of Year,” is a cute, comedic number that features Olaf going door-to-door asking all the families of Arendelle what their holiday traditions are, from caroling to tree decorating to lighting the menorah. There’s also a unique animation sequence in the song that’s made to look like an ugly sweater, not unlike the different animation styles that can be seen in songs like “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog or “You’re Welcome” from Moana.
There wasn’t much in the way of news about Frozen 2, except for a sly remark that Frozen 2 may not, in fact, be the final title for the film (which was then followed by numerous joke titles like Frozen To, for “two” in Norwegian, Thawed, as well as Olaf Presents Frozen 2 in Which Anna Has a Marginalized Role and Frozen 2: Olaf Hits the Sauna, the final two suggestions contributed by Bell and Gad in an ongoing feud over which of their characters is bigger).
However, the crowd did get a look at the research being done for the sequel. Set to Frozen‘s beautiful opening number, “Vuelie,” the video showed the crew, including returning directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, doing on-the-ground research in Norway, Iceland, and Finland. If Frozen 2 features any of the beautiful nature we saw in this video, we’re certainly in for a treat.
Next up was the Wreck-It Ralph sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet. Presented by directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnson as well as original cast member, Sarah Silverman, returning for the sequel as Vanellope, this sequence was definitely one of the highlights of the panel.
Ralph Breaks the Internet continues the story of Ralph and Vanellope who must venture into the Internet after Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, breaks down in the arcade. The Internet is an entirely new world, full of puns (Gügle instead of Google) and funny references like pop-up ads, not unlike the world created for Zootopia.
Fans got a look at an extended clip of the film, in which new character Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), an algorithm who works for Buzzaholic and can constantly change her appearance, takes Ralph and Vanellope around and eventually brings them to Oh My Disney (a real Disney site). The sequence is full of hilarious jokes specially made for Disney fans, like the Tsum Tsum craze and the royalty that are the Disney Princesses.
When Vanellope sees the Princesses and is told they’re off-limits, she becomes stuck on the idea of messing with them. She uses her glitch power to get into the Princesses’ room and fans went wild when every single princess, in brand-new CG animation, was front-and-center in several hilarious scenes with Vanellope. The Princesses round on Vanellope in attack mode: Merida wields her bow while Tiana brandishes a rolling pin, and Cinderella smashes her own glass slipper to use as a weapon. Vanellope ends up befriending the Princesses, though, after proving she is one herself (accompanied with a hilarious line about the Princesses’ accomplishment usually being attributed to a man) and giving them new, comfy outfits like her own.
The Princesses, including Vanellope, lounge around chatting and getting to know one another. When Merida, the lone Pixar Princess, speaks and no one can understand her thick Scottish accent, one of the Princesses dryly comments: “She’s from the other studio.”
The scene ends with C-3PO walking in to tell the Princesses they’re back on stage in five minutes and Belle and Aurora rib him by calling him BB-8. Seeing the Princesses like this, as friends and real characters outside of their own films, is an absolute treat and will undoubtedly be one of the most buzzed about scenes in the film.
But the fun didn’t end there because then the Princesses themselves, who all returned to voice their characters for this sequence (at least the newer ones), showed up to thunderous applause from the fans. In a great photo-op moment, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Kelly MacDonald (Merida), Kristen Bell (Anna), Auli’i Cravahalo (Moana), and Silverman all gathered together on stage and the crowd went wild — literally.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated sequel within the Disney family was up first for Pixar: THE INCREDIBLES 2.
The presentation started out on a funny note, with a special video all about Edna Mode, as several real-life people from the fashion industry (including Zac Posen, Heidi Klum, and more) all discussed her contributions to the fashion world.
Then, writer-director and voice of Edna Mode, Brad Bird, took the stage to discuss the sequel. He commented on the advanced technology that wasn’t available for the original film and what they’re able to do for the sequel. He also teased story details, such as a new house for the Parr family and that matriarch Elastigirl will be at the forefront of the action.
The voice cast of the film, including Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr), Sarah Vowell (Violet), Huck Milner (Dash, the only new cast member), and Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone), then took the stage to introduce a clip from the film.
Bob is asleep on the couch, with baby Jack-Jack on his lap watching TV. When Jack-Jack hears something outside, he goes to investigate and finds a raccoon in the trash. In a very funny physical-comedy sequence, Jack-Jack fights the raccoon, displaying his various powers including phasing, telekinesis, laser eyes, and duplication. When Bob comes outside to find multiples of Jack-Jack scaring off the raccoon, he finally learns his youngest child has powers.
Picking him up excitedly, Bob comments on Jack-Jack’s various powers, like duplication and phasing, and realizes with a horrified look on his face how difficult it’s going to be keeping an eye on the baby now, especially in their very angular new house.
Next up was TOY STORY 4, which didn’t have any new footage, but did announce that Jack Cooley, previously co-directing the film with Lasseter, will now be the sole director for the film. The crowd then got a look at a behind-the-scenes video of Pixar Studio and various crew members working on the film. There were brief clips of new characters, such as a doll named Lulu, but not much in the way of story details or spoilers.
Monsters University director Dan Scanlon then showed up to announced a brand-new original film from Pixar, an untitled project set in a suburban fantasy world. Inspired by his own life (his father died when he and his brother were young before they could really know him), the film takes place in a world inhabited not by humans, but by elves, trolls, and sprites, as well as unicorns who, in this world, are pests. Magic exists in the world but when technology arrives, the two merge, creating a land where people live in mushroom houses but drive mini-vans.
The film follows two brothers on a journey to get to know their father, not unlike Scanlon’s own life. The concept art shown for the film was colorful and creative and it’s bound to be another inventive hit from the studio.
The panel wrapped up with a fun look at COCO, Disney and Pixar’s next film, hitting theaters on November 22. Director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo), co-director Adrian Molina, and producer Darla Anderson were on hand to introduce a few clips for the film and then some.
Audiences were treated to two clips from the movie. The first shows the film’s protagonist, Miguel, breaking into his great-great-great-grandfather’s burial vault to steal his guitar so he can enter a talent contest after his family banned music. His ancestor just so happens to be the legendary musician Ernesto de la Cruz, who had an untimely death, leading the family to consider music a curse. However, by stealing the guitar on Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), the day when you are meant to give to the dead, not take, Miguel himself is cursed and sent to the Land of the Dead, a colorful and imaginative world.
In the second scene, Miguel reunites with his passed ancestors who must find a way to get Miguel back home. It’s fairly simple — Miguel needs his family’s blessing. Unfortunately, they give their blessing with the condition that Miguel never plays music again. Miguel concedes and when he’s quickly transported back to the land of the living, he proceeds to steal the guitar again, and once more is transported back to the Land of the Dead. But then, Miguel remembers Ernesto, a musician himself, is also his family…
The panel ended with an epic song-and-dance number as Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel) and Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto) showed up to sing Ernesto’s famed song “Remember Me,” complete with a live mariachi band, dancers, and confetti.
Disney definitely knows how to put on a show, treat their fans, and go out with a bang.
Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor