Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reacting to D23's Disney Live Action Film Panel


This weekend the Anaheim Convention Center hosted Disney's fan convention D23 across the street from Disneyland.

In the convention center's arena fans where treated to a star studded presentation that included trailers, rough cuts and behind the scenes footage of some of Disney's upcoming slate of films.

There are plenty of stories out there that give you a proper news accounting of the event an even complete dialogue from the scenes shown, so instead I am going to focus on some impressions about what we saw.

Admittedly I am not the biggest Disney nerd, I enjoy the films, have visited Disney World multiple times, but I could really appreciate the passion that hardcore Disney fans have for the company because we Star Wars fans are the same way about Star Wars and Lucasfilm.  The panel was hosted by Walt Disney Studious Chairman Alan Horn and featured Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Disney Live Action Production President Sean Bailey.

Horn kicked the show off by detailing the history of Disney's growth, celebrating the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.  He related some interesting personal stories about how his proposal to his wife involved Bambi and how he got a speeding ticket following the 1977 premiere of Star Wars attempting to reach lightspeed.

Lucasfilm was clear going into D23 not to expect any news regarding future Star Wars projects and Alan Horn reiterated what has already been disclosed about the crew working on Episode VII and had some kind words for Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Just as a reminder to fans, they are still working on the Episode VII script. Nothing has been shot for the film yet, so expecting a reveal of anything significant seems unrealistic.

What we did see was footage some of which was shown at San Diego Comic-Con and some of which was new.

Marvel Slate:

The Marvel presentation showed us a first look and trailer for Thor: The Dark World (11/8/13) an featured appearances by Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston.  The extended look focused on a battle in which Thor takes down a giant rock troll. We also got to see Jane going to Asgard and Portman showing off her comedy chops interacting with Odin.

From the look of the film, Thor will be a lot of fun. The trailer did seem to reveal that Thor is going to have a very rough film.

The Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/4/14)  presentation featured an appearance by Chris Evans (Captain America), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / The Falcon), and Sebastian Stan  (Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier). It featured two scenes Cap in an elevator and Cap on a mission boarding a freighter as well as a trailer.  The first thing that pops out from these clips was that Winter Soldier will be a much darker Captain America.  The uniform has been updated with a much darker and more subdued color pallet. The scene in which we see Cap boarding the freighter we see a level of violence and bodily injury caused by the character that to me indicates Cap may be losing his way early in the film as he attempt to adjust to modern realities.  I will say I loved the comedic interaction between Evans and Johansson as the Black Widow spends the mission trying to set Cap up on a date.

Marvel's Kevin Feige seemed especially excited for Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1/14) and after seeing the clip we did I can see why.  I have zero familiarity with the comic book, but this looks like a fun story.  We are introduced to the Starlord (Chris Pratt). We then saw an extended sequence set in a prison where John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey puts each one of the films main characters through a futuristic mugshot/lineup. The entire clip is set to the song "Hooked on a Feeling," which adds a very whimsical feeling to what appears to focus on a prison riot.  I loved the absurdity of Rocket Raccoon and I can't wait to see more of this film.

A the end we got a very brief teaser of Ultron's head being formed while audio played from previous movies, and the shot of the title logo for Avengers 2.

Disney Nature Slate:

Disney series of animal focused nature films is returning with Bears (4/18/14). The film appears beautifully shot and follows a family of bears, from when the cubs are born to the challenges the family faces. It was announced that the National Park Foundation will receive a portion of the ticket sales for the first week of the films release.

Disney Studios Slate:

The Walt Disney Studios slate featured Muppets Most Wanted (3/21/14), Into the Woods (12/25/14), Cinderella (3/13/15), Malieficent (7/2/14), Tomorrowland (12/12/14), and Saving Mr. Banks (12/20/13).

Ty Burrell appeared on stage and Tina Fey appeared via video for the Muppets segment, Kenneth Branagh appeared via video for the Cinderella segment, Angelina Jolie appeared for Malieficent, Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof for Tomorrowland and PJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman appeared for Saving Mr. Banks.

Of all these films Tomorrowland described as a mystery-adventure has me most intrigued.  We were shown a short "found" animated clip that seems to reveal a bit about the film.  To me this smells like a combination of LOST and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. There are indications of a secret society of scientists and a secret project underneath the 1964 World's Fair It's a Small World ride.  Bird and Lindelof had a lot of fun showing off contents of an old box and may have put the Disney PR folks out of work by coming up with "dusty old box and crappy old sound" as a marketing campaign for the movie.

Malieficent looks like a real trip and if executed right promises to put Sleeping Beauty in a different perspective, after all every character is the hero of their own story.

The film that most surprised me is Saving Mr. Banks. Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers is tremendous and has great chemistry with Hanks.  The added benefit of co-starring Bradley Whitford makes this a film that while I wasn't planning on seeing it, is one that I think will be too much fun to miss.

The show closed with a live performance of Let's Go Fly a Kite by Schwartzman and Novak with a suprise appearance by Richard Sherman.  The performance and reception that Sherman received was a lot of fun to see.


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