News will be surfacing all weekend as D23 Expo 2015 continues. Here is some of what we have learned so far:
At WDW: The Jungle Cruise, one of Magic Kingdom Park’s most popular attractions, has delighted guests for years. It was just announced at the D23 Expo, that Jungle Cruise fans will have even more to look forward to later this year when the brand-new Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen restaurant opens in Adventureland.
At the Jungle Skipper Canteen, guests will be able to experience “World Famous Jungle Cuisine” in one of several unique dining rooms – including a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant will also be staffed by Jungle Cruise Skippers.
The Jungle Skipper Canteen is already under construction and will open its doors in late 2015.
Shangai Disneyland played a major role, along with Avatar Land, in models and displays located in the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts pavilion.
On display at the expo was a large model of Avatar Land coming Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
This year’s recipients of The Legends Award were announced a few weeks ago. This year’s honorees were George Bodenheimer, Andreas Deja, Eyvind Earle, Danny Elfman, George Lucas, Susan Lucci, Julie Reihm Casaletto, and Carson Van Osten. Not announced was a surprise legend and guest at D23 – Johnny Depp!
Nobody told the crowd of fans at Disney’s D23 expo that Depp was making an appearance, so obviously, everyone went nuts when he showed up at the Anaheim Convention Center. Even Depp was a little hazy on the details. “I don’t know why I’m here,” Depp joked, taking the stage for a speech.
The Slate of Upcoming Movies:
Filmmakers from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios introduced D23 EXPO 2015 fans to an array of new stories and characters—from a lost dinosaur to a master wayfinder, a scheming fox to a forgetful fish. The audience of 7,500 was treated to sneak peeks, musical performances and appearances from stars like Ellen DeGeneres, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dwayne Johnson, Randy Newman and Ty Burrell, among others.
John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, led the presentations, calling on a host of filmmakers from both studios to introduce the upcoming slate of films. “We really have an unbelievable range of movies in production at our studios right now,” said Lasseter. “The stories are dynamic, fresh and so much fun; the characters new and old are so appealing. I’m excited to share some of our long-held secrets for the first time at the D23 EXPO.”
Following are the films presented on behalf of both studios.
RILEY’S FIRST DATE?
Pixar Animation Studios heads back inside the mind with an all-new short. “Riley’s First Date?” made its world premiere this afternoon at D23 EXPO. Director Josh Cooley, along with “Inside Out” filmmakers Pete Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and Jonas Rivera (“Up”), introduced the short, which revisits Riley, now 12. “‘Riley’s First Date?’ ventures into the minds of Riley’s parents when a mysterious boy shows up at the front door,” said Cooley. “Having a daughter myself, it was a lot of fun to mine my own feelings to show this emotional time in a parent’s life.”
The short will be included as a bonus feature in the digital HD & Blu-ray releases of Disney·Pixar’s “Inside Out,” which will be available digitally Oct. 13 and on Blu-ray Nov. 3, 2015.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Anticipation for Disney·Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” was amplified when director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream shared breathtaking sequences with fans, including never-before-seen footage of a trio of T-Rexes in action.
In theaters on Nov. 25, 2015, the film introduces audiences to Arlo, a sheltered Apatosaurus who finds himself far from home, and Spot, Arlo’s unlikely human friend. “Arlo and Spot journey through a world that has been greatly inspired by the American Northwest,” said Sohn. “It is epic in scope, soul-enriching and simultaneously beautiful and treacherous. In this world, we meet up with a very special family of T-Rexes, who help Arlo find a way through his personal fears and ultimately teach Arlo what he’s truly made of.”
International superstar Shakira is lending her Grammy®-winning voice to Gazelle, the biggest pop star in Zootopia, D23 EXPO fans learned via a taped message from Shakira today. Ginnifer Goodwin (ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” “Something Borrowed,” “Walk the Line”), the voice of the film’s rookie rabbit officer Judy Hopps, saluted fans alongside directors Byron Howard (“Tangled”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”), and producer Clark Spencer (“Wreck-It Ralph”). Hilarious new scenes from the film were unveiled, plus a tease of the all-new original song, “Try Everything,” written by singer-songwriter Sia and songwriting duo Stargate, and performed by Shakira.
Said Howard, “For the role of Gazelle, Zootopia’s most beloved superstar, there was only one person on our wish list: Shakira. Luckily for us, she said yes. Her immense talent and charm bring Gazelle and her song, ‘Try Everything,’ to life.”
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” opens nationwide March 4, 2016.
Ellen DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”), the voice of everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang, took a dip with D23 EXPO attendees this afternoon, celebrating Disney·Pixar’s upcoming film “Finding Dory.” Joining DeGeneres on stage this afternoon were Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”), who lends his voice to Hank, a cantankerous octopus; Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”), the voice of Bailey, a misguided beluga whale; and Kaitlin Olson (“Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), who voices Destiny, a kind-hearted whale shark. Oscar®-winning director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”), co-director Angus MacLane and producer Lindsey Collins (co-producer “WALL•E”) offered details about the all-new story, which reunites Dory with friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale?
Said Stanton, “In ‘Finding Dory,’ we can expect to address the one emotionally open-ended issue that remained from the first movie: Where is Dory’s family, and will this overly-optimistic fish with short-term memory loss ever be able to find them again? Her issue has also given us the opportunity to travel to very different locations, on land and sea, and meet a variety of new sea creatures that expand the world of Nemo, Marlin and Dory.”
Also featuring the voices of Albert Brooks, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton, Disney·Pixar’s “Finding Dory” swims into theaters June 17, 2016.
Dwayne Johnson (“San Andreas,” “Furious 7,” HBO’s “Ballers”), who lends his voice to the mighty demi-god Maui in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana,” hit the stage at D23 EXPO this afternoon. Renowned directors John Musker and Ron Clements (“The Little Mermaid,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Aladdin”), and producer Osnat Shurer (Oscar®-nominated Pixar shorts “One Man Band,” “Boundin’”) shared dazzling early test footage and revealed plans for the film’s inspired music and the extraordinary team behind it. Tony®-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway’s hottest new hit “Hamilton,” Tony-winning “In the Heights”), Grammy®-winning composer Mark Mancina (“Speed”, “Tarzan” “The Lion King”) and Opetaia Foa’i (founder and lead singer of the world music award-winning band Te Vaka) blend their diverse and dynamic talents to help tell the tale of a spirited teenager who sets out to prove herself a master wayfinder.
“Our research took us deep into the South Pacific,” said Clements. “The wonderful people we met there, their rich history and traditions, and their fantastic music changed us forever.”
“We can’t wait to bring those experiences to ‘Moana,’” added Musker. “We are incredibly lucky to be able to work with three amazing artists who are the absolute best at what they do. The sounds they create will be something we’ve never heard before—but it’ll feel like it’s been part of this world forever.”
Foa’i and his band Te Vaka capped the presentation with a show-stopping performance illustrating the magic of the movie’s music. “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.
TOY STORY 20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Pixar Animation Studios marks the 20th Anniversary of “Toy Story” this year. Said Lasseter, “All the characters from ‘Toy Story’—especially Woody and Buzz—are so close to us. They seem more like family members than just creations. Not only do we dearly love the characters, but we also love the world of ‘Toy Story’—the world where toys come to life when people are not in the room has always been rich with many story possibilities.”
Lasseter, who’s one of Pixar’s three founders, celebrated 20 years since “Toy Story” transformed the animation industry and the art of storytelling. He welcomed to the stage iconic two-time Oscar®-winning songwriter and longtime Pixar collaborator Randy Newman, whose Pixar credits include “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars.”
Also joining in the celebration were “Toy Story 4” co-director Josh Cooley (“Cars 2,” “Ratatouille”) and producer Galyn Susman (“Toy Story OF TERROR!”). Screenwriters Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (“Celeste & Jesse Forever”) joined Buzz, Woody and Bo Peep for the celebration. “I’m very proud of our films,” said Lasseter. “When we made the first three ‘Toy Story’ films, we didn’t realize what we had done was to change the genre of each of the films’ story. For ‘Toy Story 4,’ we are doing a type of story we have not done before: a love story. It’s a story about a relationship between Woody and Bo Peep. “
“Toy Story 4,” which will be directed by Lasseter and produced by Susman, is slated for release on June 16, 2017.
Things are looking up at Walt Disney Animation Studios – way up. “Gigantic,” Disney’s unique take on “Jack and the Beanstalk,” will feature music from Oscar®-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who greeted D23 EXPO fans in signature style—in song—alongside director Nathan Greno (“Tangled”) and producer Dorothy McKim (“Get A Horse!”).
“I always wanted to be part of the Disney legacy,” said Greno. “I loved those classic stories brought to life—‘Snow White’ or ‘Cinderella’—in a way that made those films the definitive version for generations. I want to carry on that tradition by bringing ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ to modern audiences. We’re taking parts of the story we all remember and adding twists and turns, emotion and humor.”
Set in Spain during the Age of Exploration, Disney’s “Gigantic” follows adventure-seeker Jack as he discovers a world of giants hidden within the clouds. He hatches a grand plan with Inma, a 60-foot-tall, 11-year-old girl, and agrees to help her find her way home. But he doesn’t account for her super-sized personality—and who knew giants were so down to earth? “Gigantic” hits theaters in 2018.
Director Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and producer Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”) revealed the title of their upcoming film: Disney·Pixar’s “Coco” is the celebration of a lifetime, where the discovery of a generations-old mystery leads to a most extraordinary and surprising family reunion.
“As artists and filmmakers, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the striking visuals of Dia de los Muertos,” said Unkrich and Anderson. “But it was the celebration’s core themes of family, remembrance and connection across generations that resonated within and truly inspired us. Dia de los Muertos is as singular as the Mexican culture, while at the same time completely universal in its message.
“In our story,” they continued, “the celebration of Dia de los Muertos serves as the perfect backdrop for our main character to ask where he comes from, what his place is within his family, and how families stay woven together across time through the simple act of remembrance.”
“Alice – Through the Looking Glass” – This sequel film will be released May 27, 2016 and will once again star Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp.
EXPO SHOW FLOOR/PANELS/PRESENTATIONS:
Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios teamed up to create a show-floor experience at D23 EXPO. Fans are enjoying live demonstrations, presentations and autograph signings with top filmmakers. They can also check out John Lasseter’s film-themed Hawaiian shirts in a special exhibit, plus Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Eric Goldberg, who first worked on “Aladdin,” is sharing his collection of more than 100 caricatured creations.
Following are the event panels.
- In Conversation with the Filmmakers and the Emotions Behind “Inside Out” (Pixar Animation Studios) – Academy Award®-winning director Pete Docter, producer Jonas Rivera and the voice of Sadness, Phyllis Smith, shared the inside story of the making of Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
- Welcome to “Zootopia”(Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, producer Clark Spencer and artists from the studio will introduce rookie rabbit-officer Judy Hopps, con-artist fox Nick Wilde and a host of dynamic animal characters to D23 EXPO-goers on Saturday.
- Pixar Secrets Revealed!Hear the Stories They Didn’t Want You to Know! (Pixar Animation Studios) – Pixar senior development executive Mary Coleman will welcome storytellers behind some of Pixar’s most successful films tomorrow afternoon to talk about the twists and turns of crafting a narrative.
- “Toy Story”:20 Years Later, the Original Crew Looks Back (Pixar Animation Studios) – Members of the original crew from 1995’s “Toy Story” will celebrate the 20thanniversary of the film, sharing stories of the challenges they faced along the way.
- “Aladdin” – The Making of a Classic(Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Saturday evening, directors John Musker and Ron Clements, animators Eric Goldberg and Mark Henn, the speaking voice of Jasmine, Linda Larkin, and the two actors who voiced Aladdin, Scott Weinger and Brad Kane, will share stories behind the Disney classic.
- The Shorts of Walt Disney Animation Studios: from “Paperman” to “Prep & Landing,” “Feast” to “Frozen Fever” (Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Filmmakers behind the studio’s recent shorts come together Sunday morning to discuss Disney’s first medium for storytelling: the animated short.
- “Frozen” FANdemonium: A Musical Celebration! (Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Sunday afternoon, Chris Montan, president, Walt Disney Music, and the Oscar®-winning songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez will take fans on a once-in-a-lifetime musical journey through the world of “Frozen.”
- The Tunes Behind the Toons: Screening/Q&A – Fans can check out this short-form documentary Sunday evening, celebrating the power of music in animation. A star-studded Q&A will follow the screening.
I have not yet seen any news on the re-imagining of Disney’s Hollywood Studios but looking at the schedule it seems to me we should hear that news late on Saturday afternoon. I’ll keep you posted!