Part 1 of 2
While photos and video were not permitted in this presentation, Disney has released a few publicity photos and short video clips. Click here to view on LP Lotion.
Even though I’m not a fan of going to movies, typically going to less than 6 each year, the Walt Disney Studios presentation with Dick was among my “must see” experiences for the D23 Expo. Several years ago Dick Cook offered a presentation to the NFFC (an unofficial Disney fan club). He shared that his history with the Disney Company went back to his youth as a steam train and then Monorail driver. Clearly illustrated throughout his talk was his affinity for Disney and a connection to Disney fans. So I was eager to see what would happen when he had a crowd far larger to engage.
Entering the theater we noticed an orchestra setup and were excited about the possibility of a live performance. As the lights dimmed, the screens above showcased the familiar smile of Capt. Jack Sparrow as the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean filled the arena. The 10 minute or so “sizzle reel” continued to feature various scenes from the popular films accompanied by the live musicians and then segued to “A Pirates Life for Me” from Peter Pan and “Whale of a Tale” with scenes of the Nautilus (the crowd cheered wildly). In hopes of sharing as much of the imagery as possible I began to scribble down notes furiously, here’s a small sample – Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Jack Skellington (huge ovation), Pinocchio, Robin Williams (Flubber), Remy from Ratatouille, WALL-E, Carl from Up, Toy Story characters, the kiss from Roger Rabbit, Giselle, Cars characters, Bolt, scenes from High School Musical 3, and Wild Hogs. Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” plays and we are treated to Julia Roberts, The Proposal’s Sandra Bullock, as well as Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries. Scenes of Phenomenon which I’d forgotten was part of the Disney family is shown and moments from Father of the Bride 2. As “Reflection” plays Mulan fills the screens but fades to Tim Allen viewing his growing mirror image from “Santa Clause”, then it’s the transformation of Miley Stewart to Hannah Montana, Daryl Hannah’s return to the sea in “Splash” and Whoopi’s turn as a nun in “Sister Act.” “He’s a Tramp” plays as various Disney Dogs are featured from “Old Yeller” to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”. As the clips keep coming, scenes from “The Incredibles” and “Beauty and the Beast” were received well while Pocahontas captured only a smattering of applause. The magic continues with scenes from the Disney Studios action films including “The Rock,” “Sixth Sense,” “Flight Plan,” “Ransom,” and the “National Treasure” films. Brief refrain of “Two Worlds” with scenes of Tarzan, then “George of the Jungle” played with scenes of Brendan Fraser crashing into trees and the Jungle Book’s I Wanna Be You Like You continued the jungle theme that faded into scenes of The Lion King’s Circle of Life and then the famous diaper change from “Three Men and A Baby”. While “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” played scenes of polar bears at play from “Earth”, Boo playing with Sulley, Lilo with Nani, Dumbo with his mom, Bambi with his mom, and Nemo with his dad. Bette Midler in “Beaches” was showcased a bit later as well as footage from “Dead Poets Society.” The montage built to the finale with scenes from Disney’s heroic moments in “Armageddon,” “Miracle,” “The Rookie”, and “Remember the Titans” before concluding with close-ups of the pantheon of Disney characters both animated and live-action as “You’ll Be in My Heart” filled the arena. The Studios put together a tremendous reminder of the range of Disney movies with their unique characters and musical scores that have been produced over the past 75 years. I’d love to see that sequence again, I wonder if it could become a DVD extra.
Then Dick Cook took the stage. He has slimmed from the first time I saw him but still has that warm inviting smile. He takes the moment to introduce the talented woman behind today’s presentation including the amazing intro reel, Barnette Ricci. Later I learned she was the director of Fantasmic! who is also credited with the show’s conception. I wish he would’ve mentioned that, too, as I’m sure the crowd would’ve erupted in cheers. As part of his own introduction Dick Cook briefly touches upon his career at Disneyland but quickly moves on to the subject at hand – what’s next for the Walt Disney Studios. While I was hoping to hear some of his stories from those early days I was eager to hear about the upcoming films, too.
After briefly touching on the limited engagement of “The Princess and the Frog” at the Disney Studios lot later this year, snow begins to fall over the arena audience, “A Christmas Carol” logo appears on screen. Dick Cook introduces the film’s director Robert Zemeckis who has previously worked with Disney on Roger Rabbit. Zemeckis explains that he has a love of Dickens classic novel and feels that the technology available today allows the story to be told in a new and exciting way. The film will star Jim Carrey in numerous roles. Cook couldn’t recall whether it was 7 or 8 but based on the image displayed above them it appears that Carrey will portray 9 roles in the film including the lead Ebenezer Scrooge in various stages of his life, along with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Zemeckis talked about the success of working with Carrey as he “uses every cell of his instrument” while acting which will be captured for the motion capture computer animated pic. After introducing the trailer, Zemeckis and Cook left the stage Based upon the trailer this 3-D movie has moments that jump off the screen along with using the technology to provide depth to a scene such as the city streets. Cook also highlighted Zemeckis’ upcoming performance capture 3D adaptation of the 1968 film Yellow Submarine, which will include 16 licensed Beatles songs.
Dick Cook moved on to discuss the upcoming “Old Dogs” starring John Travolta and Robin Williams. Cook described Travolta as his lucky charm for more than 10 years with such films as “Pulp Fiction”, “Phenomenon,” “A Civil Action,” “Ladder 49,” “Wild Hogs,” and “Bolt.” “Old Dogs” not only stars John Travolta but also features his wife Kelly Preston and marks the screen debut of their daughter Ella Travolta. Cook invited the Travolta family to join him on stage. The arena audience rose to their feet to welcome the Travoltas. The thunderous applause seemed to be a long distance hug as it was difficult not to think of all this family has been through in recent months. John thanked the fans for the love over the years and was quite obviously a proud papa as he discussed Ella’s role in the upcoming movie. Ella shared her love of acting and hope that she would continue to make movies in the future. Following their brief appearance, an extended scene from “Old Dogs” was screened that had many in the audience doubled over in laughter as we were treated to the ridiculous situations created when the medications of two aging men are accidentally mixed up by their kids.
Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” was presented next. The film’s director came out to thunderous, rock-star applause. Burton wearing a cherry red shirt with spooky eyes that reminded me of the Haunted Mansion wallpaper simply stood with arms crossed. He seemed to looking down towards the floor. As the cheers continued without uncrossing the arms he simply motioned with one hand as if to stay, “oh stop it” As the cheers subsided Burton corrected Cook’s assertion that he was an animator explaining that he was an “in-betweener”. Cook then asked about the decision to bring “Alice in Wonderland’ to the big screen. Burton explained that he’d not ever seen a film that he felt did the story justice apologizing to Cook as he knew Disney had created one. Cook followed up asking what has made his “Alice in Wonderland” such a complicated project. Burton’s reply, “Me.” Burton went on to talk about the film’s amazing cast that permitted him to warp them into the bizarre and in some cases grotesque inhabitants of Wonderland. As images of the Mad Hatter appeared Burton quipped that he was happy to finally permit Johnny Depp to be seen as he really is. Cook replied that “whenever we put him in a funny hat, it’s always been golden.” The duo also announced that Burton’s short film “Frankenweenie” will be brought back to the big screen as a full-length stop-motion feature.
Once again the arena fills with thunderous applause as Dick Cook talks about the company’s partnership with the lovable Muppet characters and introduces the gang for a performance. But something “surprisingly” is amiss. Fozzie and Gonzo appear on the screen to address the situation and are joined by Pepe the Prawn. Much of their dialogue was drowned out for me by audience reaction but I did catch Pepe the Prawn telling Dick Cook to “go green light something” as the executive threw his hands up in disgust and left the stage. The curtain below opens revealing a mock up of the Mark Twain with the trio. They perform a Muppet take on “Prince Ali” celebrating Pepe the King Prawn. As their song concludes the boat moves forward, pivoting to reveal several rows of Muppets. They sing about Miss Piggy to the tune of “Winnie the Pooh.” As the Mark Twain continues across the stage we discover it is powered by Sweetums. But then as the piece de resistance Kermit appears in the wheelhouse as the oh-so-familiar banjo notes fill the arena. The ladies in front of me begin to sway and I join in singing along “the lovers, the dreamers and you.” And yes, I tear up. As the song, concludes and the famous steamboat disappears behind the curtain, Statler and Waldorf appear on the screen above mocking the just concluded performance and start chanting for their favorite performer, Grumpy. Wow!!! I’d forgotten just how much I loved those movies. But in that moment it all came rushing back and so Dick Cook’s announcement of the new Muppet feature film “The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made” is even more warmly welcomed.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was Dick Cook’s next guest. Disney has worked with Bruckheimer previously to bring the Pirates series to the big screen and is now working with him on “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”. The audience was treated to a trailer of the adaptation of the popular video game that teams Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in an action adventure set in the deserts of Persia. Among the footage were various signature moves recognized by gamers.
Coming Soon … the rest of the presentation including a spectacular appearance by Captain Jack himself.