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Art & Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios Presentation Review

Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.
Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

This morning I attended the very first of several presentations at the D23 Expo; Art & Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios. The almost three-and-a-half-hour long presentation contained a lot; and I mean a lot of announcements regarding new films, all of which you will find below in my write-up of the event (which was nine pages long in my notebook!)

Bob Iger; Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company opened the presentation with a warm and loud reception from thousands of Disney fans from across the globe before giving us a small teaser on what to expect from The Walt Disney Studios. Bob then introduced John Lasseter; who managed to get the crowd laughing right from the word go and then he started to gradually introduce us to what’s next for Pixar Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Starting with Pixar; John announced that a new short film from the creators of Monster’s University is currently in production. Titled “Party Central” the short film see’s all your favourite monsters in a fun and comical film. He also told us that this will be the short-film before Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” which comes out next summer.

Speaking of “The Good Dinosaur”, John then brought out the director of the film (Bob Peterson); who talked to us a little about the storyline whilst showing us a few short clips and animation tests along with an introduction to some of the main characters within the movie. The cast line-up includes Frances Mcdormand and Neil Patrick Harris whilst Lucas Neff will take the lead as the character Arlo. During the presentation, we were also introduced to the character Spot; who is the only human in existence within the film. Spot’s path crosses with Arlo and a special friendship is created as they set off on an adventure like never before. The Good Dinosaur is expected to be in cinemas from next summer.

Moving on, John Lasseter then announced that a brand new film titled “Inside Out” will be coming into cinemas sometime in 2015. Directed by Pete Docter; Inside Out is all about a girl named Riley and what goes on inside her mind in the form of Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Joy (Amy Poehler). John commented that this movie will be like the seven dwarves of the Pixar world; and that the movie really is going to be something fun, special and full of laughter.

Next up, John talked about the highly anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo… Finding Dory!
Director Andrew Stanton was then invited up to the stage to talk a little more about what we can expect from the movie. Finding Dory takes place around about a year after the first film ended, and a traumatic event will cause Dory to start looking for her family; with some twists along the way. Of course, Ellen DeGeneres returns as the voice of Dory and Albert Brooks as the voice of Marlin; however we are introduced to Dory’s Mum (Diane Keaton) and Dory’s Dad (Eugene Levy). We will also be introduced to a Beluga Whale named Bailey – who will be voiced by Ty Burrell, you may know him from Modern Family.

During this part of the presentation, Pixar’s very own lucky charm John Ratzenberger surprised everyone on stage. John holds the record for voicing fourteen different Pixar characters over the years, including Hamm from Toy Story.

Following this, John Lasseter then returned to the stage and spoke about the first ever and very much highly anticipated Pixar TV special that is to air during October; “Toy Story of Terror!”. We were lucky enough to be given a sneak peek at the first ten minutes of the TV special – and I can tell you that you are in for a real trick or treat!


Next up, John began to talk about the work of DisneyToon Studios; who are the division of The Walt Disney Company who were designed to create prequels to Disney’s animated films. To begin this part of the presentation, we were shown a short video which took us inside the DisneyToon Studios and “behind the magic”. It certainly looks like the staff there have a lot of fun; they even have a snooker table!

John announced that two new Tinkerbell movies will be coming our way in the future, the first of which is called “Legend of the Neverbeast”. The film sees Tinkerbell and her best friend befriend a Neverbeast and set off on a daring adventure where the fate of Pixie Hollow is within their hands. For the second movie, director Peggy Holmes came out onto the stage to talk about it. Titled “The Pirate Fairy”, the film is the first time that a Tinkerbell movie will bridge the worlds of Pixie Hollow and Neverland together. Vocal talents announced included Christina Hendricks as Zarina (the Captain) and Tom Hiddleston as James (the Cabin Boy). Both personalities made an appearance to talk a little more about the film. We learned that Tom’s character (James) acts like a friendly and loyal cabin boy however as the film progresses his secret agenda and full name starts to unravel as Captain James Hook.

John Lasseter then returned to the stage to talk about Disney’s Planes, the latest movie from the DisneyToon Studios that funnily enough is released in the U.S. today and in the U.K. next Friday (August 16). Klay Hall; the director of the movie was invited out onto the stage to talk a little more about the inspiration for the movie and explained that he has always had a love for aviation thanks to his godfather who was an aviator. It was then announced that a sequel to Planes titled “Fire and Rescue” will be released next year. The movie plays homage to the service men and women who help to combat forest fires on a daily basis and see’s Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook – who also made an appearance) train to become a fire-fighting plane and see whether he has the courage to pursue his career as one. We were then treated to a little excerpt of the movie; some of which was still in progress. It was really interesting to see just how many levels of animation there are!

Finally, John Lasseter returned to talk about what is next for The Walt Disney Animation Studios and the fact that it has been around for more than ninety-years. He explained that everyone who works there is dedicated to creating only the best movies for people to see all because it has Walt Disney’s name on it. This is when John introduced us to Burny Mattinson; someone who has been with the Disney company for more than sixty years and is the only animator still alive who had the pleasure to work with Walt Disney himself. Burny talked to us about he was first hired by Disney way back when in June 1953; it was very interesting!

We then got to see the U.S. debut of Mickey Mouse “Get a Horse!” – which was originally released in 1928. Thanks to footage of the short being recently discovered; the animators at Disney decided to recreate the short using both classic and modern techniques to combine hand-drawn animation with CGI and create a 3D short that is full of laughter and showcases what Disney does best. Mickey Mouse “Get a Horse!” will be shown prior to Disney’s “Frozen” in cinemas later this year.

Other announcements included a movie called “Big Hero 6” – which will open next year and a new movie for 2016 titled “Zootopia”. Byron Howard; the director of Tangled made an appearance to talk a little more about the movie and explained that it is a funny-action-comedy that is all about animals living in a modern world designed for themselves. We were shown a few early still-renderings of what to expect and it looks like a lot of fun.

To close the presentation, John Lasseter returned to talk about Disney’s “Frozen” – which is to open in cinemas during the Winter. Directors Chris Black and Jennifer Lee were invited onto the stage to talk a little more about the film. We learned that the storyline is all about two sisters named Elsa and Anna. Elsa was born with a gift to turn things to ice, whilst the latter is “normal”. Anna is voiced by Kristen Bell who made an appearance on stage where we learned that she was very excited to become a Disney heroine and was able to put forward some of her own ideas for her character to the directors on what she wanted her to be like. Kristen also mentioned that she was even allowed to stand in-front of the microphone and just talk unscripted, being just as hilarious as she is in person.

Voiced by Josh Gad; Olaf is a Snowman that had been created by Elsa from the memories of her sister Anna and herself when they were their happiest. Josh was also attending today and was therefore invited up on to the stage to chat a little more about playing a snowman who dreams about living in the summer. His character Olaf will also be hosting the new Winter overlay of World of Color; titled “Winter Dreams” – which will debut later this year at Disney California Adventure Park. We were then treated to a few clips from the movie and it looks like a lot of fun so I highly recommend going to watch it when it is released. To cap off the entire presentation, Broadway superstar and the voice of Elsa; Idina Menzel took to the stage to give a live performance of her song “Let It Go” from the movie.

Overall, the Art & Animation presentation was packed full (and I mean full) of announcements and surprises. It certainly looks like it is going to be a fantastic couple of years for Animation at Disney!

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