Take a standing-room only arena, toss in a live orchestra, amazing movie sneak previews and oh yeah — surprise appearances from John Travolta, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage and Miley Cyrus, and you’ve got one of the most unbelievably memorable events so far at the D23 Expo. And it’s only day two!
To kick off the “Disney Movie Magic: Inside the Disney Studios” panel, a full orchestra with vocalists provided the live score for a brilliant 15-minute montage of clips from Disney’s spectacular and vast library of films ranging from Mary Poppins and Pollyanna to Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted, not to mention favorites like Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries and The Proposal.
Dick Cook, the former chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, then took the stage and began an exciting presentation chockful of breaking news and never-before-seen trailers from the newest Disney films. “What is coming up is the most creative slate of films in our Studio’s history,” Dick told the crowd. “We have the best talent in the business, the best technology out there, the best tradition in filmmaking and today, we’re honored to have you — the best possible audience to preview what’s ahead.”
“Simply stated,” he continued. “Our goal at Disney is to find the world’s greatest stories and enlist today’s very best filmmakers to turn them into Disney classics of tomorrow.” And with superstar talent on board, they’ve certainly created a power roster of some of the biggest and best directors in the world — Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis, just to name a few.
Shifting from one remake to another, Tim Burton joined Dick on stage to talk about the unique 3D effects he’s using in the much-anticipated Alice in Wonderland due in theaters March 5, 2010. “It’s not that we’re using any technique that hasn’t been done before, we’re just sort of mixing it up a little bit,” he explained. “Live action, animation — it’s just done in a way where we’re just mixing up the technologies which I think is making it feel like it’s a new thing.”
One of coolest surprises of the morning came when John Travolta, Kelly Preston and their daughter Ella Bleu came out to talk about their upcoming film, Old Dogs. The crowd went nuts for the superstar and he was clearly humbled. “I really appreciate the audience’s love for me and I hope they love Old Dogs as much as we do because I’ve got my baby [Ella Bleu] in it and my other baby [Kelly] in it. And if you keep making movies, we’ll be in them!” Kelly added, “For me, this is a dream come true because it’s Ella Bleu’s first movie and I got to work with my beautiful husband!”
Nicolas Cage also dropped by to introduce his new movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (in theaters July 16, 2010), a concept he came up with based on the Disney classic Fantasia. “To me, I think Fantasia is the most beautiful movie ever made and it was also my introduction to classical music as a child, something that’s very dear to me,” Nic said. “And I still watch it every year and whenever I want to transport myself into this world of color and sound, I just turn on Fantasia.” And before showing a clip, Dick asked Nic if he’d be interested in doing another National Treasure film… and Nick enthusiastically said, “Absolutely!” Another exciting moment for his numerous fans in the audience.
To round out the talent appearing on stage, Miley Cyrus arrived to help promote the Nicholas Sparks movie she just finished called The Last Song. “I love all of his other movies and to work with someone who kind of inspires you is really cool,” the superstar revealed. “And I remember growing up, my mom would always be reading his books and I always wanted to read them. So now that I can and I’m working with him, it’s really great.” No movie clip was available, but instead, the pop icon thrilled the crowd by singing her smash hit “The Climb.”
Throughout the morning, the stunning movie announcements kept on coming! In 2011, fans will be treated to the eagerly awaited animated version of Tim Burton’s early live-action featurette Frankenweenie. And to the delight of the crowd, Dick also revealed that coming down the pike will be Yellow Submarine, a 3D performance-capture version of the classic 1968 Beatles animated film complete with one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. And lastly, Disney will soon be making a brand-new Muppet movie called The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! Seriously — that’s the title. To celebrate the occasion, everyone’s favorite cast of characters, including Piggy and Kermit, sailed onto the stage on a replica of the Mark Twain boat to sing a few songs, ending with “Rainbow Connection.” Looking around the room, smiles were everywhere.
And just when you thought the morning couldn’t get any better, the curtains on stage parted and there was good ol’ Jack Sparrow, aka Johnny Depp in full costume, on his pirate ship, drunk as a skunk asking, “Has anyone else witnessed a talking frog? Where has the frog gone?” (Pirates of the Caribbean — On Stranger Tides is due in the summer of 2011.) The ecstatic screams and shouts from the fans were deafening — the perfect way to wrap up this unforgettable movie preview experience.