The 2017 D23 Expo kicked off on Friday, July 14th, and the most anticipated presentation of the day was Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films Hosted by John Lasseter. After an introduction by Chairman of Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn, Lasseter took the stage backed by a cheer squad with t-shirt cannons. He was wearing his latest Disney Hawaiian shirt, which was a hot item at the Expo’s Disney Store, and a few shirts were shot into the audience.
Lasseter started the presentation with the revival of Disney Toon Studios, who hasn’t released a picture since 2015’s Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast. Some test footage was shown of an untitled film about space travel, which was really impressive. About a minute into the demo, one of the ship’s windshield’s became eyes, and this likely ties into the Planes series of films. Fans will get to see this whole new world in April 2019.
Shifting over to Walt Disney Animation Studios, Kristin Bell joined Lasseter on stage to talk about Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, a 21-minute short that will debut in theaters in November with Pixar’s Coco. In the short, Anna and Elsa host a Christmas party at their castle, but soon find themselves alone as their guests leave to spend the holiday with their families. Having no holiday traditions of their own, Olaf goes out into the kingdom to find some new traditions that he can bring to his best friends.
Kristen Bell teased that she would be showing one of the short’s new musical numbers, but the clip quickly glitched. That’s when Josh Gad surprised everyone by taking the stage and live singing to the animation for a song called “That Time of Year.” It was a catchy tune that lives up to the spirit of “In Summer” and had just as many funny moments. The songs in this short were written by Kate Anderson (sister of Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and Elyssa Samsel.
Next was Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and Lasseter introduced Directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, who were also joined by comedian Sarah Silverman to debut the teaser trailer. The plot of the film finds Flitwick’s Arcade adding internet connection to all of the games and when Sugar Rush breaks down as a result, Vanelope drags Ralph through the Internet to help fix it. Along the way, they meet a new character named Yesss (with three intentional “S”‘s), an algorithm designed to find current trends. Yesss will be played by Taraji P. Henson.
The Directors then said they would give us a sneak peak of some rough animation. Starting in storyboard form, Yesss takes Vanelope and Ralph to ohmydisney.com, which was realized as a Disneyland-style park with literally everything Disney owns. Avatars were being outfitted as various Marvel characters, Muppets were hanging far in the distance, and a Buzz Lightyear doll was being poked and played with by a child (with a long line waiting to poke him) and the scene cut away to a child playing a Disney phone app where they have to repeatedly tap Buzz’s buttons. Back to the internet, Vanelope sees some of the Disney Princesses being whisked away to a VIP room for a break from their adoring fans and V sneaks into their hideout.
At first, I thought this entire scene was a gag produced just for D23 as it was all in storyboard form, but once Vanelope entered the Princess room, it switched to rough and fully rendered CG animation where all of Disney’s princesses from Snow White through Moana were relaxing. When Vanelope came in, they all took defense, holding out appropriate weapons for each character (Cinderella took off her glass slipper, shattered it, and held out the jagged pieces!). Vanelope explains that she, too, is a princess and they welcome her into their crew. In fact, they are so inspired by her comfy attire that Cinderella’s mice make them all new outfits. Ariel’s shirt says “Gadgets & Gizmos & Whosits & Whatsits” while Rapunzel’s says “#BestDayEver.” All of Hall D23 was in stitches with the comedy of this sequel.
If you thought the room was loud during the clip, it erupted afterwards when the Directors explained that all of the Princesses were voiced by their original actresses (asterisk on “All,” as they are only referring to the characters created since 1989). Jodi Benson (Ariel) was welcomed to the stage and each Voice Actress introduced the next in chronological order: Jodi Benson (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Ming-Na Wen (Mulan), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Kelly MacDonald (Merida), Kristen Bell (Anna), and Auli’i Cravalho (Moana). The fans went nuts and gave them all a standing ovation.
Shifting gears to Pixar, John Lasseter brought Brad Bird to the stage to talk about The Incredibles 2. He explained that the Parr family has a new home that looks like a cross between 1960’s suburbia and a superhero lair. He showed some test footage in which Bob is sleeping while watching Jack Jack, who decides to take on a rabid Raccoon in his back yard. Bob wakes up hearing the noise to discover that his toddler has some amazing super powers. To wave to the audience, Bird brought out Actors Craig T. Nelson (Bob), Holly Hunter (Helen), Sarah Vowell (Violet), Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone), and introduced Huck Milner who will be taking over the role of Dash.
When John Lasseter returned to the stage, he surprised us all by announcing that he is no longer directing Toy Story 4 and introduced the film’s new director, Josh Cooley. He talked about his time at Pixar, which began on the first Cars film, and also explained what it was like meeting John Lasseter for the first time. He didn’t reveal any news or updates on the film and surprisingly, they spent more time discussing the film at the 2015 presentation. The only hint he gave is that one of the producers couldn’t make it because he’s on an RV trip… whatever that means. If you were nervous about this fourth installment before, the presentation did nothing to improve those feelings.
Dan Scanlon, who directed Monsters University, was next to take the stage. He announced an untitled film that is set in a suburban fantasy world where magical beings like elves and trolls evolved to live in planned communities, drive cars, and use tech gadgets like smart phones. The story centers around two brothers who set off on a quest to get to know the father they never knew, inspired by Scanlon’s own childhood.
To close out the presentation, Lasseter introduced Coco with Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina as well as Producer Darla K. Anderson. They revealed more of the plot, which involves a young boy named Miguel who loves playing guitar and idolizes a deceased performer named Ernesto de la Cruz, who is voiced by Benjamin Bratt. When his family takes away his guitar and forbids him to play music, he decides to steal the guitar in Ernesto’s mausoleum in order to perform in a Dia de los Muertos contest. But upon taking the item from the deceased, he finds that he can now see the dead and the living can no longer see him. What’s worse, is the longer he spends on the other side, the more his body becomes a skeleton. If he doesn’t break the curse soon, he could be stuck there forever!
The trio revealed that music plays a big role in the film and announced that the new song, “Remember Me,” was written by Frozen songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. To close out the show, a mariachi band and traditional Mexican dancers took the stage and filled the aisles. Benjamin Bratt took center stage to perform the new song, which is sure to become a classic. It was a fantastic way to close out the presentation and it left everyone in the room very excited to see Coco on November 22nd.
The presentation was a lot of fun and gave fans a tease of whats to come from the greatest animation studios in the world. However, it was odd that they didn’t make any mention of Gigantic, a film announced at the last D23 Expo. They have historically used this presentation to debut some new shorts as well and no shorts were even announced. It was also strange how the presentation only offered two projects from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.