D23 Expo 2013: Art & Animation (Part 3: Disney Animation)

Part 1 of the Art & Animation presentation (Pixar) is here.

Part 2 of the Art & Animation presentation (Disneytoon Studios) is here.

The final segment of the Animation presentation covered upcoming releases from Disney Animation Studios.

Before beginning the Disney Animation Studios portion of the presentation, host John Lasseter took a few minutes to recognize 60-year Disney animator Burny Mattinson.   Burny started as an animator with Disney in 1953, and is still working today.   He’s the last active animator at Disney who worked directly with Walt Disney.    Burny was in the VIP section of the audience and apparently unaware that he would be honored; he received an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd when he joined John on stage.

We were then treated to something both new and old.   The Disney short Get a Horse was shown; I think this was the first time it was shown to an audience.   This is a very interesting mash up of a film — and I think the less you know about it going in, the more you’ll enjoy it.   It will be released as the short in front of Frozen later this year.

The first Disney Animation Studios feature we were told about is Big Hero 6.   Director Don Hall took the stage to introduce the film, based on a relatively obscure Marvel comic.   We were shown a trailer for the film, that introduces a brilliant young robotics student whose invention falls into the hands of super villains.   He then must assemble a team of would-be super heroes to save San Fransokyo (a visually interesting city that mixes features of San Francisco and Tokyo).   He is assisted by the robot Baymax, an inflatable robot intended to function as a nurse, but modified by Hiro extensively.

Zootopia was the next film presented; this feature is being announced for the first time at the D23 Expo.   Director Byron Howard (Tangled) and writer Jared Bush presented.   This is a buddy action comedy set in a world where humans never existed, so we get a view of how the world would be different if it was designed for, and run by, animals.    Cities aren’t divided up into ethnic neighborhoods, but rather into habitats, so you have a tundra area, a desert area, etc.   The film’s creators were trying to get the feel of some of the classic Disney films where you had animals in clothes such as Mr. Toad and Robin Hood.

Frozen is the next feature coming from Disney, releasing on November 27th of this year.   Director Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee took the stage to introduce us to the world and characters of Frozen.   Frozen stars Kristen Bell as Anna, Idina Menzel as Elsa, Jonathon Groff as as Kristoff, and Josh Gad as Olaf.   The story is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

Kristen and Josh joined the directors on stage to talk about the film and show a few clips.   The first is when Olaf (the snowman) first meets Anna and Kristoff.   The second clip shows Olaf singing a funny, if somewhat clueless, song about how much he looks forward to experiencing summer for the first time.    (Yes, he’s in for quite a disappointment).   Songs for Frozen were written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Book of Mormon).

To wrap up the presentation, and end the animation presentation, Idina Menzel (Elsa, or Elphaba in Wicked if you prefer) came on stage to perform Let it Go, from the film, while the audience was showered with confetti snow.    A powerful ending to the morning session and kickoff of the D23 Expo.

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