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Disney Announces Animation Slate Through 2012

The Walt Disney Studios unveiled an ambitious four-year slate of 10 new animated features from both Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Tuesday at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts at New York University. The press conference was hosted by Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, and John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

Among the new projects revealed for the first time:

--Pixar's UP, the latest from director Pete Docter (MONSTERS INC.), set for a May 29, 2009 release, and the first Pixar feature to be presented in Disney Digital 3D. Written and co-directed by Bob Peterson , and produced by Jonas Rivera, UP is a comedic adventure about Carl Fredricksen, who has spent his entire life dreaming of exploring the globe and experiencing life to its fullest. But at age 78, life seems to have passed him by, until a twist of fate (and a persistent 8-year old Wilderness Explorer named Russell) gives him a new lease on life. The unlikely pair encounters wild terrain, unexpected villains and jungle creatures. The voice talent includes Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger and Jordan Nagai.

--Pixar's NEWT, which marks the directorial debut Gary Rydstrom, the Oscar-winning sound designer from George Lucas' Skywalker Sound, who made last year's Pixar short, LIFTED. NEWT, which bows in the summer of 2011 and will also be released in Disney Digital 3D, ponders what happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can't stand each other? Richard Hollander producers and Rydstrom scripted with Leslie Caveny.

--Pixar's THE BEAR AND THE BOW from director Brenda Chapman (THE PRINCE OF EGYPT), who was previously a writer on CARS and story supervisor on Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LION KING. THE BEAR AND THE BOW, slated for Christmas 2011 in Disney Digital 3D, is a fresh fairy tale that takes place in rugged and mythic Scotland. The impetuous, tangle-haired Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a great archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her father's kingdom and her mother's life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right. Voice talent includes Reese Witherspoon, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson. Katherine Sarafian produces.

--Pixar's CARS 2, the sequel to Lasseter's CARS, will open summer 2012 in Disney Digital 3D. Directed by Brad Lewis, producer of RATATOUILLE, features the further globe-trotting adventures of Lightning McQueen and Mater.

--Disney's KING OF THE ELVES, a Christmas 2012 release in Disney Digital 3D, marks the directorial debuts of animators Aaron Blaise (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING) and Robert Walker (ALADDIN, THE LION KING, LILO & STITCH), and is produced by Chuck Williams. It is based on the Phillip K. Dick's short story about an average man living in the Mississippi Delta, whose reluctant actions to help a desperate band of elves leads them to name him their new king. Joining the innocent and endangered elves as they attempt to escape from an evil and menacing troll, their unlikely new leader finds himself caught on a journey filled with unimaginable dangers and a chance to bring real meaning back to his own life.

Meanwhile, the rest of the slate provided a clearer release schedule for previously announced features, along with a few surprises:

--Disney's BOLT, which is scheduled for a Nov. 26 release this year in Disney Digital 3D, will have HANNAH MONTANA'S Miley Cyrus voicing opposite John Travolta, in this feature directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard. For super-dog Bolt (voiced by Travolta), every day is filled with adventure, danger and intrigue -- at least until the cameras stop rolling. When the canine star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet -- a cross-country journey through the real world. Armed only with the delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and with the help of two unlikely traveling companions -- a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman), and TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball named Rhino -- Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero. Cyrus brings her vocal talents to the role of Penny, Bolt's human co-star on the television series.

--Disney's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, the studio's much anticipated return to traditional animation, will bow Christmas 2009. Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (THE LITTLE MERMAID and ALADDIN), the New Orleans-based musical features frogs, voodoo and a singing alligator. Produced by Peter Del Vecho, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG boasts the voice talent of Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Jennifer Lewis and John Goodman. Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman sets it all to a jazzy score.

--Pixar's TOY STORY 3 will bow June 18, 2010 in Disney Digital 3D, directed by Lee Unkrich (co-director of TOY STORY 2), produced by Darla K. Anderson and written by LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE'S Oscar-winning Michael Arndt. Voice talent includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger and Ned Beatty. Composer Newman is back on board too. The only plot detail revealed was that it begins with Woody and Buzz's owner, Andy, set to leave for college.

--Disney's RAPUNZEL has been set for a Christmas 2010 release in Disney Digital 3D. Directed by famed animator Glen Keane and Dean Wellins, the classic fairy tale will get an innovative, painterly 3D approach. Roy Conli serves as producer.

In addition, the first four in a series of direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray films featuring Disney Fairies from DisneyToon Studios were unveiled:

--TINKER BELL (Oct. 28 of this year), directed by Bradley Raymond and produced by Jeannine Roussel, introduces the characters of Pixie Hollow, in which the legendary Tinker Bell tries to change who she is when she doesn't believe that she is special.

--TINKER BELL NORTH OF NEVERLAND (a 2009 release), directed by Klay Hall and produced by Sean Lurie, has Tink being entrusted with crafting a great treasure that can rejuvenate the Pixie Dust Tree.

--TINKER BELL A MIDSUMMER STORM (set for 2010), directed by Carolyn Gair and produced by Margot Pipkin, has Tink confronting antagonist Vidia without considering the dire consequences.

--TINKER BELL A WINTER STORY (a 2011 release), produced by Sean Lurie, completes the cycle of seasons with Tink.

The studio also reaffirmed first-time 3D theatrical releases for the first two TOY STORY films on Oct. 2, 2009, and Feb.12, 2010.

Commenting on the announcement, Cook said, "We couldn't be more proud and excited about our upcoming line-up of feature projects. With so many great films literally on the drawing boards and computer screens, we felt that now was the perfect time to give moviegoers all over the world an update on the state of our art. In a year when our studio is marking the 80th anniversary of Mickey Mouse, the character that started it all for us, it seems especially timely to share our plans for the future of animation. With John Lasseter and Ed Catmull guiding our creative efforts both at Emeryville and in Burbank, this is as exciting a time as any in our history."

Lasseter added, "This is an amazing time for animation at Disney and Pixar, and it's a thrill to be working on such a diverse and original group of films with such an all-star team of filmmakers. The thing I love best about my job is that I get to work at both Disney and Pixar with filmmakers who are passionate about their projects and who are the absolute best in the business. We're excited to be pushing the boundaries of 3D and computer technology to tell our stories in the best possible way. At the same time, we're drawing on our past to emphasize memorable characters, original edge-of-your-seat stories and believable worlds. Walt Disney and his creative team taught us how to blend comedy, powerful emotion and action-filled excitement in our films, and this group of incredible filmmakers is bringing their own originality and sensibilities to the process."