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D23 Expo: Walt Disney Studios Hits the Ground Running with “Art and Animation” (part two)

[All images courtesy of D23 Expo, Walt Disney Studios, and Pixar]

Greetings and salutations, fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield here, reporting from the basement of the Animation Building at the Disney Studios.

toy story
Jessie, Buzz and Woody in “Toy Story of Terror.”

When last we parted company, I was a little more than halfway through John Lasseter‘s presentation of animated offerings destined to come out over the next two years (plus) from Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, and Disneytoon at this year’s D23 Expo. Lots of sneak peaks and star power all around. Let us proceed.

So after The John Ratzenberger Show departed the stage in a hail of cheers and and a storm of confetti, the Toy Story train kept rolling with a ten-minute sneak peek at the upcoming ABC primetime Halloween special: Toy Story of Terror. Picking up where Toy Story 3 left off, with Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang in the possession of their new owner, Bonnie. On a dark and stormy night, the family car gets a flat, and has to pull into a roadside motel. Meanwhile, the toys have been watching horror movies on a laptop in the trunk, frightening themselves out of their wits. The fun ensues when the now-spooked toys disappear, one by one, in the style of an 80s slasher, leaving only Jessie – who is rescued from the “monster” by a new action figure in the Pixar Toy Box, Combat Carl, played by veteran action hero, Carl Weathers [Rocky, Predator]. Look for this one October 15th.

Zarina, The Pirate Fairy – Christina Hendricks

Fans of Disney Fairies can look forward to two animated home video releases. Legend of the Neverbeast features Tinkerbell and her Pixie Hollow pals on the hunt for a feared and legendary monster terrorizing Neverland. Of course, with a little positivity and pixie power, it turns out that the big fella isn’t so bad after all. Stars Christina Hendricks [Mad Men, Drive] and Tom “Loki” Hiddleston, popped by to talk about a pixie project on the more immediate horizon – The Pirate Fairy. In this story, Tink and friends encounter a new addition to the Pixie Posse, Zarina (Hendricks) the titular pirate. Along for the ride is Zarina’s dashing first mate, John (Hiddleston), who’s hand is destined for a date with a hungry crocodile… Hiddleston is becoming a convention favorite and D23 Expo was no exception. However, rather than donning the Loki robes and commanding the audience to bow to him, he merely sang his audition piece for acting school, The Bare Necessities.

“When people think quality family entertainment, they think ‘Dane Cook.'”
–Dane Cook

Dusty Crophopper himself, Dane Cook came by on Planes‘ opening weekend to talk about the film’s upcoming sequel, already in the works at Disneytoon (a division of WDS devoted to producing sequels to their animated powerhouses). Planes: Fire and Rescue will see Dusty Crophopper trading in his landing wheels for pontoons as the newest member of an elite team of helicopters, tractors, and yes, other planes tasked with defending the forests of the anthromorph automobile world.

Classic style meets cutting edge in “Get A Horse”

Then came a bit of a “fake out” from Disney’s Animation Research Library in the form of Get A Horse, a supposedly lost Mickey Mouse black and white short from the early 1920’s, recovered, restored, and converted to 3D. The action played out rather traditionally, with villain motorist, Pete, harassing Mickey, Minnie and a few more animal friends on a hayride. However, as Mickey and his horse are thrown toward the “fourth wall,” the screen appeared to bow and bulge against their collective weight until the two broke through the screen, as well as the other characters, and into beautiful, color, 3D renderings of classic Disney designs, from the earliest days of his animation studio. The labor of love on the part of the ARL is as much of a feat in 2D animation, as it is a technological feat in the third dimension – with contemporary animators painstakingly recreating the feel and movement of the classic shorts. It is an achievement in sound as well, seamlessly cobbling together bits and pieces of Walt Disney‘s old voice work, and outtakes (for those who weren’t aware, he was the original voice of Mickey Mouse) to create a new, but old, voice for Mickey.

Frozen’s friendly snowman, Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad

Get A Horse, at present, is scheduled to be released as an extra on the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Walt Disney Studios’ tentpole animated winter release, Frozen – the final title in a presentation that was already running over by an hour plus.  [Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Yeah, how dare John Lasseter give us more than we expected. How dare he!] In this Disney spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Kristen Bell and Broadway star, Idina Minzel play sisters Anna and Elsa, the former seeking out the latter, whose powers have trapped their kingdom in a spell of eternal winter. Bell, Minzel, and co-star Josh Gad were there to present another sneak peek – a musical number in which Gad’s character, a snowman named Olaf, pines for, and pontificates on, what summer might be like. And then Minzel brought down the house with a live performance of the anthemic “Let It Go,” from the film.

With that said, save those pennies, fellow Fridge Nukers! It’s going to be a busy couple of years.