D23 Expo Coverage! Avengers! Raimi’s Oz! The Muppets! Pixar!

D23 is Disney’s biannual expo intended on working to develop a fan community of Disney enthusiasts.  D23 stands for “D” as in Disney and “23” as in 1923, the year that the company was founded.  It is usually not an expo that I pay much attention to as I’m not a Disney enthusiast.  But this year they took a piece of the San Diego Comic Con pie with them and had presentations revealing news and footage from various upcoming projects, such as The Avengers, Oz The Great and Powerful, The Muppets and Pixar’s new projects.  Here is a quick recap of some of the stuff that was revealed at D23.

The Avengers

Disney brought out a few cast members to show off footage from the May 2012 Marvel Studios release.  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston and producer Kevin Fiege were all in attendance.  Feige said that Joss Whedon, the writer/director, is about two weeks out from completing production.  Whedon put together some footage for the D23 crowd and assembled about four minutes total.  The footage that was screened seemed to go over well with the audience.  It revealed that Loki definitely seems to have a pretty big role in the film and showed off the superheroes, giving glimpses of everything from the first look at Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to a snarling Hulk.  There was a scene between Nick Fury and Loki that apparently showed the two verbally sparring with each other and the dialogue was said to have a nice rhythm to it. For a more detailed description of the footage, head over to Comingsoon.net.  I really wish Disney had allowed the footage to be shown at Comic Con.  I understand that, since they own Marvel Studios, they want to be able to pimp there own projects but I think that the footage would have had more of an impact with the 6,000 people of Hall H.  They were the exact target audience for the film and would have created a lot more buzz.

Oz, The Great and Powerful

The presentation for Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz didn’t take up much time at D23 as they only showed a behind-the-scenes video.  Sam Raimi introduced the video in a suit (he’s known for wearing suits on set as a nod to Alfred Hitchcock) but this one was a little different from his usual suits, it looked old timey and had a floppy bowtie.  One thing in particular that I thought was kind of cool about the presentation was that the footage shown indicated that Raimi will use 1:37:1 aspect ratio black and white for “real world” scenes and 2:35:1 color for the scenes in Oz.  The footage showed concept art for the film, including a look at the Emerald City and other landscapes, as well as James Franco on set with Michelle Williams being directed by Raimi.  It had Franco briefly describing his character, Oz, as “a bit of a con, a bit of a Lothario and a seducer. When he gets to Oz, it’s a chance to redeem himself.”  It seems Franco’s character gets to the land of Oz via a tornado (much like Dorothy in the original film) and that we should expect to see some flying monkeys as well.  I think Raimi has put together a pretty cool cast, which includes the aforementioned Franco and Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Zach Braff.

The Muppets

Kermit and the writer/star of the new Muppets film, Jason Segel, were seated on stage in director’s chairs as they introduced the presentation.  They were joined by Ms. Piggy when they started joking about how she’s always late but she stormed off the stage when she found out she wasn’t in any of the clips (all in good fun of course).  They introduced clips from the movie which showed Jason Segel and Amy Adams with a new muppet character, Walter, trying to find Kermit’s house and they actually encounter Kermit himself, which causes Walter to pass out.  Another clip showed Rolf and Fozzie cutting the chains of the closed Muppet Theater and Fozzie commenting that there is no way they can rehearse in the broken down condition of the theater.  That leads to a montage of the Muppets cleaning the theater and discovering the janitor squatting in a closet and asks “where’s everybody been?”  I must admit that I’m not a Muppets enthusiast but after seeing Jason Segel’s Dracula musical segment (which he wrote) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I’m really excited to see what he’s written for this new film as he seems to have a deep love for the Muppets.  All in all, it makes me kind of want to go back and get caught up on the Muppets and see their tv/film history and what makes them have such a long lasting presence in our pop culture.  It was also announced that there would be a new Toy Story short attached in front of prints of The Muppets.  The movie will open this year on November 23rd.

Frankenweenie

Before Tim Burton became a widely known director, he directed a short film entitled Frankenweenie.  It was about a young boy who loses his dog but, through some very Frankenstein influenced science, brings his canine friend back to life.  This new film will expand that story into a feature length story.  It will be shot in black and white stop-motion animation and rendered for 3D screens.  The film will star the voices of Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and more.  The script was written by John August (Titan A.E., Big Fish, The Corpse Bride) and is being scored by Danny Elfman.  The clips shown gave a vibe off old Univeral monsters with creepy looking typography and fake (on purpose) lightning effects.  This is actually a Tim Burton project that I feel I could get behind more than some of his other stuff.  I think his visuals work well in stop-motion and am looking forward to seeing if he can pull off something that is more in the vein of his early stop-motion short film, Vincent.

Pixar

There was a bunch of news regarding the CG animation powerhouse Pixar at D23.  They revealed two new projects on their slate.  An untitled dinosaur movie, to be directed by Bob Peterson (writer of Up, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille), which will look at what might have happened if the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs never hit earth.  The film will take place in the present and will most likely show how dinosaurs have integrated into our world.  It is scheduled to open on Nov. 27, 2013.  The other new project sounds pretty interesting.  The film is to be directed by Pete Docter and is described as “an inventive new film that will take you to a place everyone knows, but no one has ever seen: the world inside the human mind.”  They said they will examine things like why we remember certain things, why we forget, why we get songs stuck in our heads.  There weren’t very many other details on the film but did give a release date of May 30, 2014.

There was also news on two (already announced) Pixar films, Monsters University and Brave.  Monsters University will follow 18 year old Mike and Sully, who are still going through growing pains, as they enter the prestigous university to become “scarers.”  The film will feature a lot more monster designs since they will be at monster college.  They said that a lot of research went into “monsterizing” the college experience.  Their plan is to feature “cool” frat monsters, nerd monsters and goth monsters in the student body as well as the monster professors being fairly prominent.  Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi will reprise their original roles from Monsters Inc.  The prequel will hit June 21, 2013.

The preview presentation for Brave was introduced by John Lasseter, who said, “This is our first sort of fairytale.  This is our first period piece. This is our first female main character. This is Brave.”  They showed some clips and went on to say that Scotland’s phenomena of blue bog gas, called Wil-o’-the-wisp, will be a prominent part of the story.  Katherine Sarafian spoke of the overall tone of the film and said, “We have our own take on Scottish lore.  It’s really Pixar lore, but it’s set in Scotland and its inspired by Scottish storytelling and designed to be a story that’s perfectly set in that landscape.”  Brave hits theaters on June 22, 2012.

So there you have it, a quick recap of some of the events that went on at D23.  Some of you may have noticed that I left out any mention of John Carter.  A lot of the coverage for that movie is simply just descriptions of the footage shown there.  But to be fair for those of you wanting to read something about that, click here to read a description of that presentation.

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