Highlights From The Disney/Pixar Panel At D23

Hulk dives into THE INCREDIBLES II, FROZEN II, WRECK IT RALPH II... basically a lot of IIs.

We begin our presentation with a montage of alllll the recent Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Star Wars movies you love. It’s sort of a gluttony of riches at this point, right? You practically feel like Disney is just sort of laying it on the table being like, “LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF WE GOT. WE GOT ALL THE BEST STUFF.” But it’s great that the biggest cheer of the montage comes for a brief snippet of Lin Manuel Miranda in Mary Poppins.

Then walks out Alan Horn, just one of the many silver fox CEO types who populate this industry, he gives us a 50% dry, 50% amiable presentation on the Legends ceremony from earlier in the day, followed by a History lesson about the importance of Disney animation. Luckily he keeps things pretty short and sweet before he bringing out our REAL ringmaster, John Lasseter, listed as CCO and “former jungle cruise skipper.” He comes out on brand with a Hawaiian-shirt cannon and there’s people running around and it’s like it’s a basketball game. There’s nuts energy and I may have overheard the phrase: “white people will do anything for a free t-shirt.”

Anyway, onto the presentations.

We start with Disneytoon Studios, and Lasseter explains how they are working on a project where they are going to be reimagining the heights of aviation. They then play a reel known only as “The speed test” which showcases two racing Top Gun-ish jets and it largely seems to be playing with cinematic effect, extreme sights and sound, strange angles (and we see the eyes, hinting this will come out of the Planes universe) all before it crescendos into the title Space. People clap curiously before it turns into a joke of “This space reserved for a title.”

We then turn to the bigger kahuna, Walt Disney Animation Studios. We start with a peak into the 20 minute short Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and then “Hey it’s Kristen Bell!” She’s very good at these sorts of public interaction/hosting things. She’s saddled with a lot of exposition to set up the clip with a song from Olaf. But then right as he begins singing the clip starts futzing out and Bell is deeply confused BUT OF COURSE - it’s set up for a bit, out jumps Josh Gad to sing the song live! It’s fun! The clip is something about picking the best christmas traditions and it’s sort of the definition of enjoyable fluff.

Then, they segue-way into Frozen 2 itself. They don’t say much about it, they makes jokes about the possible titles for the film. Meanwhile, Kristen and Josh argue over who should get top billing. But instead of actual footage we just get a nice behind the scenes video about a research trip the directors, writers and animators took… how to transition out of this?

Quickly! By just showing the Wreck it Ralph 2 trailer! Subtitled Ralph Breaks The Internet, it’s about - you guessed it - the dawn of the internet (or just the internet in general, I guess it changes later). After some set up we see Ralph wandering a big mall as sprites keep showing him banner ads and he gets sucked in (it’s basically the old Dave Chapelle “What if the internet were a real place?” gag).

Then they bring out Sarah Silverman! She’s delightful! They announce the casting of a major role with Taraji P Henson’s joining the cast as “Yesss.” They then show a new clip. At first it’s more of the same with Ralph talking about wanting to go Viral or something, and she sets up that he needs to get aggregated and it sounds like she’s setting up a site like Reddit, but it turns out to be disney.com! Weird internal branding commences! At first it plays like a weird Disneyland tour in the middle of this video game movie, but then Vanelleope sees the Disney princesses go by and she wants to be one of them so bad, to the point that she escapes into their room. The scene with the Disney Princesses plays like freaking gangbusters. It’s meta, but on point and going deep into all their characterizations and calling out basically all the bullshit of their past character dynamics. It’s the sort of thing The Lego Movie did perfectly and this is just as good.

The clip is absolutely the highlight of the day.

But if that wasn’t enough they next bring out a big chunk of the iconic voice actors behind these famous characters. It starts with Ariel’s Jodi Benson, who introduces Belle’s Paige O’hara, who introduces Jasmine’s Linda Larkin, who introduces Pochahontas' Irene Bedard, who introduces Tianas’ Anika Noni Rose, who introduces Rapunzel’s Mandy Moore, who introduces Merida’s Kelly Macdonal, who brings it back full circle to Kristen Bell, but right when you think it’s over she introduces Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho, who finally brings it back to Sarah Silverman and our new princess Vanellope (you read that right). It’s the kind of grand, ongoing gesture that is the mark of these sorts of dog and pony shows. Ice cream on ice cream on ice cream. How do you follow it up?

Smash to an image of INCREDIBLES 2!

Lasseter begins simply by showing a clip about Edna Mode that’s a fake documentary with a bunch of real life famous fashion designers talking about her (but I don’t really know any of the cameos). It’s light and fun, but then they call out Brad Bird and he shows us some simple animation tests, showing the jump in quality since the first film came out. He then brings out the cast for a quick hello (the only real moment of note from which is Sam Jackson distracting everyone by taking a giant selfie). When get to the best part which is an early clip from the movie of recently powered Jack Jack, who gets angry because he thinks raccoons are stealing their garbage. The raccoon battle is a blast and it turns out Jack Jack is basically the most super-powered being ever. Upon discovery, Dad is delighted by this but then realizes the terrifying depth of trying to take care of this baby. It’s all pretty great.

Then boom, Toy Story 4! it’s a thing! They don’t really have much to show, or even anything to say about the story, but we meet our young director Josh Cooley and find out he’s being handed full responsibility of the film as part of Pixar’s whole development program. When then get a short office tour video meeting all the people behind it, story dept. etc.

We then jump into an announcement for a title-less new Pixar movie known just as Suburban Fantasy World! It takes place in a world where magic exists but is kind of hard to do. So most people just developed the same modern, easy niceties our suburbs have developed. We get a clear, funny look at art of a world of the fantastical mundane (complete with the fun detail that Unicorns are so populous they’re basically garbage-eating rodents). But then we learn the thrust of the film will be two teenage brothers going off on a quest to spend one last magical day with their father who passed away long ago… Just from these details, it kind of seems great.

The last matter is the upcoming film Coco. We haven’t seen too much, but we get a lot of introductions from the filmmakers and the context of music, Mexico, and the power of familial bonds. Our first clip from the film is interesting. It’s not exactly “showy” in terms of fun, but it’s quietly gorgeous and more serious than we’ve seen from so many other Pixar movies… It actually feels like a PG movie if that makes sense. A kid needs a guitar and sneaks into a tomb to take a famous one and live out his dream. But in trying to steal it, he does not realize this magical guitar makes him cross the threshold into the land of the dead. And he enters a strange series of bargains in trying to convince his family to live out his dream, or be trapped in the land of the dead forever. It’s interesting, the film has jokes and stuff, but it really does seem hell bent on the character functionality and staying true to its more somber tone (again, just from what we’ve seen). I’m curious, but not sold on it. From there, the whole stage explodes in a fun explosion of Mexican music, confetti streams from the ceiling, and apparently Benjamin Bratt can hit the high notes.

With that, we exaunt.