However you may feel about Disney, no one can say that they don’t put on a great show. At the first day of the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar joined together for a massive super panel that had some major surprises.
Animation legend John Lasseter hosted the panel, and he kicked it off with a look at DisneyToon Studios’ newest Planes spinoff: “Space…to be filled when we think of one.” Disney should have just gone with Space, since the fans gasped at the greatly improved animation of DisneyToon Studios. The footage shown was very impressive and rivaled Pixar in complexity and beauty.
After that, Kristen Bell and Josh Gad took the stage to promote Frozen 2 and the upcoming short film, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. They faked an audio problem with the footage from the upcoming special as an excuse for Gad to sing a new showstopping number live. They noted that the special has four new songs. As for Frozen 2, footage from the research trip was shown after Lasseter offered some comedic alternate names for the sequel.
Surprisingly, the highlight of the panel came when directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston presented an advance preview scene from Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, which found Ralph and his surrogate daughter, Vanellope von Schweetz journeying from the arcade to the internet. Empire star Taraji P. Henson was announced as Yesss, the online algorithm that serves as their guide.
In a brutally funny preview, Vanellope encountered all of the Disney princesses, as voiced by the surviving actresses who originally voiced them. No description could do this justice, and it was an instant classic moment. Then, to the shock of the fans, Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Paige O’Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in Aladdin), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in The Princess and the Frog), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in Tangled), Kelly MacDonald (Merida in Brave),Kristen Bell (Anna in Frozen), and Auli‘i Cravalho (Moana) shared the stage with Silverman as the largest gathering of the Disney princesses to ever assemble.
What could possibly follow that? There was only one choice: The Incredibles 2! After a video tribute to Edna Mode from the first film, director Brad Bird introduced the returning voice cast members Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, and Samuel. L. Jackson. Huck Milner was also introduced as the new voice of Dash. Bird shared a few test clips of the new animation models, which seemed odd considering the film is supposed to be finished next summer. However, Bird did debut a preview scene in progress which featured Jack-Jack taking on a hapless Raccoon and demonstrating his many superpowers in the process. This also appears to be the first time that Mr. Incredible realizes that his youngest son has super powers.
Going from strength to strength, Lasseter began the Toy Story 4 presentation by announcing that he is stepping down as co-director. Instead, Josh Cooley will serve as the solo director on that film. Unfortunately, Lasseter and Cooley didn’t bring any film footage to share, but they showed off a video that features the Pixar team working on the film in their Northern California studio.
Next, Lasseter offered a glimpse of a future project by director Dan Scanlon that doesn’t even have a title yet. It takes place in an urban fantasy world that abandoned magic and spells thousands of years ago. There are no humans there, only elves, trolls, and sprites. Scanlon revealed the personal inspiration behind the film. When he was a year old, his father passed away. Scanlon and his older brother had no memory of their father, and he recalled the time that they finally got to briefly hear their father’s voice on a recording. The story of the film will be about two brothers who go on a journey to spend one more day with their deceased father.
Finally, the panel came to an end with an extended preview of Coco, the next Pixar film by director Lee Unkrich. In a preview scene, attendees witnessed young Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) get trapped in the land of the dead after stealing the guitar of his great-grandfather. It had a very Beetlejuice vibe. To close out the event, the cast of Coco sang “Remember Me,” one of the primary theme songs from the film’s soundtrack. Now, that was an epic panel.