D23 Expo 2013: Live Action (Part 2: Disney Nature, Disney Studios)

(Part I of the Studios live-action presentation recap is here).

Disney Nature

The next Disney Nature film will be released on Earth Day 2014, and is titled Bears.   We saw the trailer, being shown for the first time anywhere, which featured footage of a family of bears in the Alaskan wilderness.


The last portion of the Studios live-action presentation was from Disney Studios, and was presented by the studio’s President of Live Action Production, Sean Bailey

Muppets Most Wanted

The setup here is that there is an international jewel thief that looks exactly like Kermit (well, almost — the jewel thief has a mole that Kermit lacks).   We saw a bit of footage from the film and an especially-for-D23 filmed bit from the set, where Miss Piggy was under the mistaken impression that she was addressing P23, the world’s largest gathering of Miss Piggy fans.   Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell join the Muppets.   Ty then drove onto stage in a very tiny car and chatted about the film for a bit before shoehorning himself back into the car to drive away.

Into the Woods

This filmed adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical fairy tale was previously announced, but this presentation was the first announcement of the film’s cast.

Meryl Streep will play the witch.   Johnny Depp with play the Big Bad Wolf.   Other cast members include Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt.

Rob Marshall (Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean 4) directs.


Director Kenneth Branagh brings the classic fairy tale to the big screen in March 2015.   We were the first audience to see a sneak peek.   There isn’t much at this point, really just some costume tests (and we were told Cinderella’s gown may change).    Cast includes Lily James (Cinderella), Richard Madden (Prince Charming), Cate Blanchett (Stepmother), and Helena Bonham Carter (Fairy Godmother).


Coming July 2014; Director Robert Stromberg, Producer Joe Roth, and writer Linda Wolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King).    Starring Angelina Jolie (as Maleficient) and Elle Fanning (as Aurora).

Angelina Jolie was on hand to talk about the film; says that since a child she has been drawn to the Maleficient character.    We were the first audience to ever see the trailer for the film; the trailer mostly features Maleficient laying a curse on the infant Princess Aurora, but that scene was intercut with various other scenes from the film.   Angelina looks quite frightening in the role and shared that when children would visit the set, they would generally want nothing to do with her if she tried to approach and greet them in a friendly manner.   (And in fact, her daughter plays the infant princess in some scenes because they were unable to find anyone else that wasn’t scared of her!)


Just not sure what to say about this one … if may turn out to be something very interesting, but the entire setup for the film is just a huge campaign of lies and misdirection, and I don’t think that’s the way to set about getting people excited about your project.

The presentation starts with the explanation of this mysterious box (labeled “1952”) that was found deep in the Disney archives.    Director/Producer/Writer Brad Bird and Writer/Producer Damon Lindelof came on stage to show us some of the contents found in this mysterious box — like a photo of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart dated two years after her disappearance, an “Amazing Stories” comic book from 1928 with a mysterious hidden message, and a blueprint for the It’s a Small World attraction which, viewed under black light of the appropriate wavelength, reveals hidden rooms under the ride.

After the presentation ended, for the rest of the Expo you could view the contents of this mysterious box on the show floor, but any attempt to photograph anything would bring security on the run.    Must protect these precious fake artifacts!

Lindelof is best known as one of the produces behind Lost — which I loved.   But in Lost, we were drawn in first and foremost because we cared about the characters, and then we were presented with a complex, layered mystery to unravel.    Here we are being given what I’m sure is an equally complex and multi-layered mystery — but we aren’t being given any reason to care.    Maybe that will change as we learn more.

Tomorrowland is a December 2014 release starring George Clooney.    OK, I think I see why people will care.

Saving Mr. Banks

The story behind the story of bringing Mary Poppins to the screen; in particular, the difficult relationship between Walt Disney and author P L Travers as Disney attempts to get the rights to make the film.  Mrs. Travers (as she insists she be called, to no avail) has no interest in selling the rights, especially not to this man who makes cartoons.

As must as I’d like to, in the short amount of film we saw I just can’t stop seeing Tom Hanks; putting a mustache on him doesn’t make him disappear into the role.   I hope that’s just an initial reaction and that in a feature length film I’ll be able to forget it’s Tom and completely accept him as Walt Disney.

The footage we were shown looks great; I’m not sure how much of it is “true” and how much of it is “based on a true story”, but either way it looks like it’s going to be very entertaining, and quite funny.

Besides Hanks and Thompson, the film features Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak as composers Richard and Robert Sherman, Bradley Whitford as screenwriter Don DaGiadi, Colin Farrell, and Paul Giamatti.

B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman came on stage to talk about playing the Sherman brothers and getting to work with Richard Sherman  (Sherman even worked with Schwartzman, who plays the piano, to show him how to handle the phrasing).   An upright piano was then rolled out onto stage and they led us in a sing-a-long of Let’s Go Fly a Kite.   Richard Sherman joined them onstage (to a standing ovation)  to close out the studios presentation and send us off to our next Expo experience.


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