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D23 | Disney and Pixar’s Animation Future Revealed


Disney left animation fans satisfied (and maybe a little overwhelmed) during their “Art and Imagination: Animation at the Walt Disney Studios” presentation, previewing a dozen upcoming projects on the opening day of it’s every-other-year D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif.

Following an introduction from Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger — who advised not to expect much in the way of Star Wars: Episode VII details this weekend — and a sizzle reel of upcoming live-action films including brief glimpses of Marvel Studios productions Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney animation chief creative officer John Lasseter led a tour of what’s in the works at Pixar, DisneyToon Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios.


Monsters University
Lasseter expressed his gratitude to the 4,000 spectators at the Anaheim Convention Center for the success of Monsters University, released this past June, and brought out MU voice actor Bill Hader, who recently exited Saturday Night Live after an eight-season stint.

A new Monsters University short, “Party Central” — where Door Stations aid in turning a lame party into a rad one —  will run before next year’s Pixar feature The Good Dinosaur, and was screened for the crowd in its entirety. It’s directed by Kelsey Mann, a story supervisor on Monsters University.

The Good Dinosaur
Pixar films, Lasseter said, poise questions: “What if toys came alive when you weren’t around? What if a rat became the top chef in Paris?” Lasseter said The Good Dinosaur asked the biggest “What if?” yet, cuing up a short clip of an asteroid missing Earth 65 million years ago, therefore preventing dinosaur extinction.

Co-director Peter Sohn — also the voice of Monster University‘s Squishy — and producer Denise Ream discussed the movie, which portrays dinosaurs as farmers. Specifically, triceratops act as bulldozers; stegosauruses “mow down acres of crops;” ankylosauruses are “haulers” and apatosaurus use their long necks and tails for plowing.

The main character of The Good Dinosaur is an apatosaurus named Arlo, voiced by Raising Hope‘s Lucas Neff. Filling out his family unit is Frances McDormand and John Lithgow as his mother and father, plus older siblings voiced by Bill Hader (“Forrest”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Cliff”) and Judy Greer (“Ivy”). Hader, Greer and Neff all appeared on stage.

Bill Hader, Judy Greer and Lucas Neff

Bill Hader, Judy Greer and Lucas Neff

A twist comes when Arlo encounters a creature he’s never seen before — a young human child named Spot. They’re “thrust into the unknown world outside the farm,” and, as Sohn put in, form an “unexpected friendship and an incredible bond with each other.” The Good Dinosaur is scheduled for release on May 30, 2014.

Inside Out
Director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.) and producer Jonas Rivera talked Inside Out, which at the last D23 in 2011 was referred to by the considerably wordier handle of “The Untitled Pixar Movie that Takes You Inside the Mind.”

Inside Out is about a happy 11-year-old named Riley whose life changes for the worse when her family moves to San Francisco — but more specifically, it’s about the emotions inside her head. Namely, Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith, from The Office) and Joy (Amy Poehler), dubbed the main character and “the most important emotion in Riley’s life.”

Bill Hader and Phyllis Smith

Bill Hader and Phyllis Smith

Hader made his third appearance at the presentation to talk about the movie, joined by Smith. Locations in the film — and inside Riley’s head — are set to include “Long Term Memory,” “Imaginationland,” “Abstract Thought,” and “Dream Production,” all connected by “The Train of Thought.”

The plot sees Joy and Sadness lost within Riley’s mind, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust running the show. A black-and-white story reel showed Riley and her mom and dad eating dinner, with bonus peeks into her parents’ heads. Inside Out is scheduled for release on June 19, 2015.

Finding Dory

Finding Dory

Finding Dory
The Finding Nemo sequel, said director Andrew Stanton, was prompted by unanswered questions from the first film surrounding the character of Dory: “Where’s her family? What happened to them? How did she lose them?”

Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins disclosed that Finding Dory takes place about a year after the first film, with a “traumatic event” causing Dory’s “homing instincts” to kick in, leading to her searching for her original family, and Marlin and Nemo searching for her.

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Along with returning voice actors Albert Brooks (Marlin) and Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Dory’s mother Jenny will be voiced by Diane Keaton, with her father Charlie voiced by Eugene Levy. New “comedic sidekick” Bailey, a beluga whale, is played by Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell. Finding Dory is scheduled for release on Nov. 25, 2015.

Toy Story of Terror

Toy Story of Terror

Toy Story of Terror
A TV special was a pre-Toy Story goal for Pixar, Lasseter said, but it hasn’t actually happened until now — with Toy Story of Terror set to debut Oct. 16 on ABC.

The first 10 minutes of the Halloween special was shown, starring familiar characters Woody, Buzz, Jesise, Mr Potato Head, Rex, Trixie and Mr. Pricklepants; plus a G.I. Joe-esque figure named “Combat Carl.”


The Legend of the Neverbeast
The seventh film in the direct-to-video Tinker Bell franchise, The Legend of the Neverbeast is out in spring 2015 and directed by Steve Loter. It’s about Fawn seeing a potential friend in a monster called the Neverbeast, and inspired by Loter’s six-year-old daughter’s love of large dogs.

The Pirate Fairy
Peggy Holmes directs 2014’s Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, featuring the voices of Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks as fairy Zarina; and Marvel Studios’ Loki, Tom Hiddleston, as pirate “James” — who’s actually a young Captain Hook, with both hands still intact.

Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston

Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston

The two actors joined the presentation, with Hiddleston singing a bit of “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book, the same song he performed years back for acceptance into a theater school in London.

Planes: Fire & Rescue
The follow-up to Planes, released this weekend, is next year’s Planes: Fire & Rescue, directed by Bobs Gannaway. Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen joins the cast as “Dipper,” and Dane Cook (who appeared live in person) returns as the voice of Dusty.


Mickey Mouse: Get a Horse
Director Lauren MacMullan discussed new Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse,” which features classic characters including Minnie, Peg Leg Pete, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. It blends Steamboat Willie-era black-and-white visuals with CGI animation, and is running before this November’s animated feature Frozen.

Don Hall introduces Big Hero 6

Don Hall introduces Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6
Based on the Marvel concept, director Don Hall talked Big Hero 6 and revealed the titular six heroes: Hiro Hamada, GoGo Tomago, Wasabi No-Ginger, Honey Lemon, Fred and Baymax. A full report of the Big Hero 6 section of Disney’s presentation is up on Comic Book Resources.

Byron Howard and Jared Bush

Byron Howard and Jared Bush

Announced at the presentation, Zootopia is directed by Bolt and Tangled‘s Byron Howard, and written by Jared Bush. It depicts “animals in a modern world designed by animals,” in a comedic film devoid of human characters.

No voice cast was announced, but the main characters include a fox named “Nick Wilde” and a bunny police officer, “Lt. Judy Hopps.” Settings include “Tundratown” (where cold-weather animals live) and “Sahara Square” (home of the desert animals).



The three-plus hour presentation wrapped with a focus on Frozen, out Nov. 27 of this year. Lasseter said that Walt Disney himself was interested in adapting “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen,” thereby connecting Frozen to the company’s namesake.

Kristen Bell, who voices main character Anna, joined directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee on stage. “I was so excited to be a Disney heroine one day that I already had all of these ideas growing up, how I would make her relatable to me,” Bell said. “I was not a kid that was eloquent or graceful. I put my foot in my mouth all the time.”

The Book of Mormon‘s Josh Gad, who plays a snowman named Olaf in the film, also appeared in person, leading to a clip of an Olaf-driven musical number where the blissfully ignorant snowman expresses a desire to experience summer.

Tony-winner actress and singer Idina Menzel, who voices Frozen‘s Elsa the Snow Queen, closed the presentation with a live performance of “Let It Go” from the film’s soundtrack.

Also a part of the proceedings: A tribute and appearance from animation veteran Burny Mattinson, marking his 60th year working for Disney; and a playful confrontation between Bill Hader, who’s acting in three straight Pixar films, and Pixar “lucky charm” John Ratzenberger, a voice in each of their productions thus far.

Bill Hader and John Ratzenberger

Bill Hader and John Ratzenberger


  • GC001

    I have to admit I’m utterly bored by most of the films Disney/Pixar put out now… Ironically, the best animation they’re doing now is the TV stuff (aside from the Kiddified Marvel stuff). Unfortunately, even “Phineas and Ferb” has kind of outlived itself and is in danger of becoming just as stale as “The Simpsons” and “Spongebob” which are long past their welcome/extended family visits… (You know — those visits by relatives that last longer than the respectful 2-3 days and last a week and longer? Except in the case of better-known TV animation, those stays extend to 10 years and longer!)

    The only “classic” Disney animation that’s really good now surprisingly is the new series of Mickey Mouse shorts. That’s the first time in a VERY long time I’ve seen these characters act consistently like themselves. I like this and the fact that they went with a new Mickey Mouse design that’s closer to the iconic look of the late 1930s — right before they ruined the character after redesigning him for “Fantasia”. The animation, while Flash-lite, works with the designs.
    This business of sequels and telling the same type of story over and over again at a VERY young kids’ level is why people over 9 tend to drop animation viewing in the US. (NOTE: Walt’s original animated features did NOT talk down to young audiences. Look at them again — they are surprisingly adult even by today’s standards. Post-1950s animation is where the dumbing-down happened at everyone’s studios in the US — especially the TV product!) If you want something a bit more grown-up (without being a porno or overly violent), you either have to start watching superhero animation (which is basically the only type of action/adventure that gets done consistently in the States) or look elsewhere which is generally the Japanese stuff which is really just as hit-and-miss as most of the US/European series I’ve watched over the years.

    Outside of a few features and a small handful of directors (Miyazaki, the late Satoshi Kon, Shoji Kawamori half the time when he’s doing a Macross project), the better Japanese stuff is generally found on TV. Still, there’s much more diverse offerings overseas than we’ll see in the cookie-cutter factories in the US.

  • Ben

    Well I’m on the flipside – this sounds like a great upcoming line-up. The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out sound really interesting to me, Big Hero 6 should be a great action movie, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the TinkerBell films. Learning that Tom Hiddleston is going to be in one just makes me all that much excited for more. Bolt and Tangled were great movies (Bolt had some problems, but overall it was fun), so hopefully Zootopia will follow suit. And Frozen looks amazing. I get not being a fan of the sequels – and I fear we’ll end up with a glut of bad sequels like most Disney direct-to-VHS/DVD ones – but Pixar’s been doing well with theirs.

    I’M pumped. Sounds like an awesome string of movies!

  • fp3

    what happened to the incredibles 2

  • Doug

    It’s always been stated that “Incredibles 2″ won’t happen til Brad Bird wants to do it, and right now I think the main issue is the story..

  • Mikey Ramone

    Out sounds like a rip off of Hermon’s Head

  • batGRRRl4ever

    And STILL no Incredibles: II. Sigh, when Pixar, WHEN??

  • batGRRRl4ever

    The obvious answer is to jump ahead ten years so Violet is an adult, Dash is a teen, and Jack-Jack is a kick-butt kid. And finally the parents are ready to retire and pass on the mantle.