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.
Leading up to D23 I was most eager to learn more about the upcoming Bruckheimer project “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as I was curious to know the motivation behind transforming the animated short starring Mickey Mouse into a live-action feature. As the film’s logo appears onstage Dick Cook invites the movie’s lead Nicholas Cage on stage. Cage reveals that not only will he be starring the film but he is also a producer on the film. Cage describes the film’s inspiration “Fantasia” as “the most beautiful film ever made.” He credits it with his introduction to classical music and watches it each year. Taking a brief moment to recall today’s date 9/11, Cage shares his desire to make films such as “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” that can carry families away from the darkness found in today’s news. Before screening the preview Cook asks Cage if he would be interested in “National Treasure 3” The crowd cheers as Cage replies, “Definitely.” The preview of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” shows the film is set in the streets of modern day Manhattan follows the adventures of Sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicholas Cage) and his reluctant apprentice (Jay Baruchel) as they battle against the evil villain played by Alfred Molina. The trailer offers high speed car chases, head to head battles of sorcery, and a dash of humor. Sharp eyes also spot images of enchanted brooms and the signature blue triangular hat.
Dick Cook highlights Disney’s new label Disneynature. Earlier this year the Disney Company pledged to plant a tree for each ticket purchased during the first week’s release of its film “Earth.” Cook announced that Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has arranged with The Nature Conservancy to plant 2.7 million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, one of the planet’s most endangered rainforests. The film set box office records for its genre. On Earth Day 2010 “Oceans” the next film for the new label will hit theaters.
As the presentation continued Dick Cook introduced famed director Guillermo del Toro who appeared in a pre-recorded message as he is currently on location filming “the Hobbit” Disney will team with del Toro on a new label Disney Double Dare You. Beginning with “The Trollhunters” the new label will offer scary yet fun animated films as well as books and other merchandise. In describing the new label del Toro drew upon memories of trips to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. He recalls their immersive environments and the thrills they offered and wishes to bring similar experiences to Disney Double Dare You. He also shared that the films will be linked together “by one feature that shall remain secret, but that you shall soon be very familiar with.” It’s clear that that director of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy” is delighted by the opportunity to create Disney canon as he expresses his hope that we will take the dare.
As the logo for “the Last Song” appears on stage Dick Cook welcomes teen sensation Miley Cyrus to the stage. Miley talks about her role in the coming of age story. She touched briefly upon her unique position as the inspiration for writer Nicholas Sparks. He had the teen superstar in mind as he created the screenplay and subsequent novel. Cook teased Miley for her unceasing texting. Having recently watched the special features of the Hannah Montana Movie dvd I knew that her co-star was cast in part due to her texts about him to her mom during his screen test with her. It was fun to hear the Disney Studios chief mention her texting passion and showcased Cook’s rapport with the studio’s talent. Miley treated the audience to a performance of her current hit, “The Climb” During a close-up of the pop star, I noticed her white nail polish was badly chipped. Knowing her busy, busy schedule and that’s she 16, the less than perfect manicure endearing. As her song concluded I jumped to my feet cheering for the starlet and quickly discovered I was alone in my enthusiasm in my section.
Following Cyrus’ performance the crowd cheered at the sneak peek of “Tron Legacy” The 3-D footage of the light cycles and other familiar Tron elements was met with oohs and aahs but when original Tron actor Jeff Bridges appeared on screen cheers could be heard throughout the arena. It’s a film that’s been a long time in the making and clearly its fans are eager for the film’s release.
Cook also highlighted the recently announced partnership with Dreamworks’ co-founder Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks’ CEO Stacey Snider. As part of the agreement, Disney is expected to handle the distribution and marketing for approximately six DreamWorks live action films each year. He also briefly touched on the Summer 2012 film “John Carter of Mars”, a live action film based on the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs from Pixar director Andrew Stanton.
“The Lone Ranger” logo appears on stage, knowing that Johnny Depp will be performing the role of Tonto. I quietly begin to chant Johnny Depp. The ladies in front of me turn and nod in agreement. But it’s hard to imagine that after the stellar line up of celebrities Johnny will be making an appearance. And then Dick Cook remarks that it’s seems he’s forgotten something. The Pirates score fills the Arena, the logo for the upcoming film appears “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and then the curtains open. The unmistakable silhouette of Captain Jack Sparrow appears on a pirate’s sail. Briefly I consider that it’s all a tease and that the stage will go dark but as audience cheers and screams grow the set rotates to reveal Johnny Depp as Captain Jack. He asks Dick Cook and the gathered crowd, if we’ve seen a talking frog. Cook shrugs offers no response. The Captain obviously concerned over the visions asks again. Among the crowd screams it’s difficult to hear the conversation on stage. During close-ups of Depp it seems a delighted smirk crosses his face as the audience roars in laughter at his expressed desire for rum. I’m not a fan of the Pirates films, seen only a few Depp movies but am completely mesmerized by this live performance. What an amazing conclusion to a high energy, star-studded presentation by the Walt Disney Studios chief. As the lights come up many guests are spotted dashing for the doors. They hope to reclaim their checked phones before the rest of the crowd to text, call, or tweet about the fun. Leaving the arena all are abuzz about Depp’s appearance. It’s a defining moment of the inaugural D23 Expo and guarantees that Dick Cook’s presentations will be among the “must-see” moments in years to come.
Epilogue: Since this article was written Dick Cook has left the Disney Studios. As a fan I’m terribly saddened by the news. He was always tremendously gracious to all of us at LaughingPlace.com, making sure to greet those behind the camera as well as the interviewer. He was a show man who knew how to get people excited about the product whether it was organizing the premiere of “Pocahontas” in Central Park, offering sneak preview screenings of upcoming films for the NFFC or bringing an unbelievable non-stop array of celebrity guests at the Studios presentation / pep rally for the D23 expo. I’m kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to get a photo with him. He impressed me with his support of his team members as I spotted him standing at the back of Muppets presentation by Lyelle Breier and he was the only executive that I noticed simply walking the Expo floor casually but smartly dressed chatting with anyone who happened to stop and say hi. Knowing that he began his 38 year Disney career as a Disneyland steam train operator gave me confidence in his ability to navigate the difficult path of the protecting the Disney films brand, farming some projects out to the Touchstone label, etc. Knowing he was the gatekeeper I knew what to expect when the castle appeared on screen. Mr. Cook, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and thank you so much for the years of Disney fun you’ve provided.