Wednesday, April 10, 2013

D23 Expo 2013 – Day Two: Saturday August 10, 2013

Reported by Jami Ferguson
expoAll the magic and excitement of the past, present and future of Disney entertainment will come together once again when D23: The Official Disney Fan Club presents an all-new D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center on Aug. 9-11, 2013.  Among the highlights of D23 Expo 2013 will be expanded capacities at some of our most popular venues; the 2013 Disney Legends Ceremony, which honors the talented men and women who have made significant contributions to the Disney legacy; Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, a treasure trove of crown jewels from the Walt Disney Archives; the bustling aisles of the Collectors Forum, where Disney fans can buy, sell and trade Disney collectibles, memorabilia and merchandise; and a massive show floor full of special opportunities to see what’s on the horizon for Disney around the world—and where guests may bump into their favorite Disney stars, characters, Imagineers, animators and filmmakers.
Day one of the D23 Expo taught me that the action happens in the arena and the Disney fans will line up earlier than I thought to get in there so I’m off to brave the crowds at the Anaheim Convention Center.  The crowd seems larger, but slightly more organized than yesterday.  Waiting in line for the arena takes up my entire morning  which doesn’t leave me much time  to find my seat at the big event.
Today’s host is Alan Horn, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios.  He’s new to the job, having come to work for Disney only 14 months ago.  It’s clear that John Lasseter was the crowd favorite and I’m surprised that he spoke on Friday, rather than Saturday.  I expected them to bring out all the big guns on Saturday but I’m guessing it’s because Lasseter oversees the animation area while Horn handles the live action films.  Horn shares a charming anecdote about Bambi being his favorite movie and he shows the pewter Bambi figure that he put the ring on when he proposed to his wife.  Horn came from Warner Bros. and explains that he basically traded a bunny for a mouse, and that he is experienced at managing small mammals.
Horn explains the history of the different studios and what it’s like at their offices.  Pixar is apparently a place where they hug each other a lot.  Marvel, acquired in 2009 is like Sparta, a very muscular place.  Lucasfilm, acquired last year has trees, rugs, and an eight foot tall statue with Yoda at the top.  There people often say “May the Force Be With You” and Horn explains that he has new answer to that is  “and also with you, my brother.”  Referencing Friday’s main speaker, John Lasseter, Horn wonders aloud how long it takes John to pack with all those shirts.  Horn also explains how he has borrowed Lasseter’s saying that “quality is the best business plan” and that it’s how Disney does business.
Once again Star Wars fans are disappointed that there is virtually no news to share about the upcoming projects.  Horn says that they are excited to welcome Lucasfilm to the Disney family and that they’re confident in producer Kathleen Kennedy and will only confirm that the next Star Wars movie is their priority – expecting Episode VII to be released in the summer of 2015.  John Williams will be doing the score, which is not surprising as true Star Wars fans would revolt if the music were provided by anyone else, even the most capable of composers.
As the discussion turns to the Marvel universe, Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor comes to the stage and sadly he does not bring Thor himself Chris Hemsworth.  Absent at this year’s San Diego Comic Con I had hoped to get a glimpse of the man in person at D23 Expo but sadly, Hemsworth did not attend.  No surprise since he was at the Expo a day earlier, Tom Hiddleston (Loki) is introduced.  He is certainly a crowd favorite. He apologizes for not turning up in costume, but he states that he did bring some friends with him to make up for it.  Shockingly his first friend is Natalie Portman followed by Anthony Hopkins with the most instantaneous standing ovation I’ve seen to date.  The audience was treated with a clip no one has seen featuring Jane’s (Natalie Portman’s) first day in Asgard.
Next up is Captain America: The Winter Soldier set to be released in April 2014.  We’re told only one other audience (Comic-Con) has seen the clip of Captain America kicking butt in an elevator.  I wasn’t a big fan of the first Captain America movie even though I like Chris Evans, but the clip I’ve just seen has me interested in the upcoming film.  As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the crowd is excited to see Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie appear on stage.  In a second clip from the film, Captain America jumps from a plane without a parachute and then quietly boards a ship and takes out all adversaries.
Four months after the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes Guardians of the Galaxy.  This is a film based on a comic that I am not familiar with but it looks rather interesting. The crowd as a whole seems the most excited about the character Rocket Raccoon.  Now the crows is primed and perfectly ready for the big tease of what’s to come in 2015 when the teaser from Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Most of the teaser is simply Iron Man’s helmet getting transformed into the robotic villain Ultron, but the crowd loves it and cheers when the Avengers logo finally appears.
Disney Nature
Rocket the Raccoon is used as a transition to the Disney Nature films and the newest film that’s set to be released on the next Earth Day, Bears.  The film features a year in the life of a pair of “bear parents” in the Alaskan Wilderness.  Disney has partnered with the National Parks Foundation and a for every ticket purchased, a donation will be made to that Foundation. We’re told no one has ever seen the utterly adorable trailer that follows.
Live Action
Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production hosts the next portion of the event.  Muppets Most Wanted will be in theaters next Spring.  It is an international crime caper featuring Ty Burrell who drives on stage in his tiny car from the film.  Ty apologizes to French people for his attempt at an overdone French accent.  Tina Fey, Kermit and Miss Piggy are “live via satellite” and Miss Piggy is utterly disappointed to learn that this is D23 Expo, not P23 Expo as she had thought.
Next is Into the Woods and director Rob Marshall.  This is described as a mashup of fairy tales taking a look at what “happy ever after” really looks like.  The cast is announced which includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp (as the Big Bad Wolf), Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine – none of which are in attendance.  Director Kenneth Branagh offers a recorded message and provides a very early look at the live action Cinderella movie to be released in March 2015.  Lilly James plays Cinderella, Richard Madden in Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett is the Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter is cast as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.
July 2014 will bring the film I am most looking forward to – Maleficent.  Director Robert Stromberg will pay homage to Sleeping Beauty and the film will include action, romance and deception. Aurora is played Elle Fanning and Maleficent is played by Angelina Jolie.  The crowd is thrilled to see Angelina Jolie, and her extremely thin frame in person.  Angelina discusses how she has always loved Maleficent who is wonderfully delicious and cruel.  Angelina enjoyed the horns but explains that when she was in costume she would frighten little children, including a little girl who cried “please mommy, make the mean witch stop talking to me.”  In the end, Angelina’s daughter Vivian was cast as the young Aurora because she was the only one that was unafraid of her.  The footage we’re shown from the film leaves everyone wanting more and it looks as though Maleficent will be well received by children and adults (although the real little ones might be frightened).
Another new movie on the horizon is Tomorrowland which is a live action mystery starring George Clooney.  Director, writer and producer Brad Bird and writer/producer Damon Lindelof bring out a dusty old box that was found in the Disney Archives that’s labeled “1952”.  It includes a very good hoax photo of Walt Disney and Amelia Earheart, cardboard cut outs that reveal secret messages and a dried up piece of parchment.  The parchment is plans for the “It’s A Small World” attraction, which shows a hidden underground chamber under the ride when exposed to a certain frequency of UV light. Then they show us a disc that contains a very random animation sequence and voiceover.  I’m not sure what the box has to do with the film, and I’m not sure they know either at this point, but it’s all very mysterious.
Finally, we are introduced to Saving Mr. Banks which tells the story behind getting the rights for Mary Poppins.  Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is the Mary Poppins author. Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak play Richard and Robert Sherman.  Schwarzman is the far more talkative of the two co-stars and he discusses working directly with Dick Sherman, who is supposedly quite a winker.  Both Novak and Schwartzman sing in the film and they leave the stage only to be wheeled back out on a platform with a piano.  They sing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”.  The crowd sings along and Dick Sherman himself is there to accompany the young men.  Disney employees fill the room, flying kites overhead and this is a great way to end the presentation.
Today’s event featured some major celebrities but I have to say the fans I talked to were the most excited about the Pixar movies and hearing from John Lasseter from Friday.  Lasseter is the one exec that the Disney fans seem to recognize by sight and he’s seen asking people not to applaud and draw attention to him as he walks the arena floor.  By the end of watching this presentation, I found myself surprised at how excited I was for these movies.  Saving Mr. Banks is the one film I probably would have skipped had I not attended the Expo but now I’m really looking forward to it. Before, I probably would have waited for Maleficent on Blu-ray, but now I will be sure to see that in the theater as well.  Leaving the arena, we’re handed a poster for Saving Mr. Banks and the some paper Maleficent horns which is a nice way to reward the loyal fans who waited in line for so long. I wonder if they will eventually have tickets and a redemption center like Comic-Con does.
If you’d like to experience these presentations yourself, please take a look at the following videos that I’ve found that will make you feel like you were there!
Walt Disney Studios, Marvel, Lucasfilm presentation highlights:
Full Voices of the Disney Theme Parks Presentation:
Full 2013 Disney Legends Awards Ceremony:
Crash Course in the Force: Star Wars Saga 101 Part 1:
Crash Course in the Force: Star Wars Saga 101 Part 2:
“The Disney Songbook” Concert with Richard Sherman:
“The Disney Songbook” Concert with Alan Menken:
expo logo

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