Disney Taps Deep Into DNA In Unveiling Animation Slate
Due out on May 29, 2009, the film features the surprisingly poignant premise of a 78-year-old widower (voiced by Ed Asner, Hollywood's grumpiest old man) embarking on an unlikely adventure (one that involves sending his house aloft via helium-filled balloons) to fulfill his late wife's dream. Peterson described the film as "a coming-of-old-age story" and screened a rough sketch story reel.
As in the WALL*E excerpt, Pixar again proved its skill in dialog-free storytelling: a handful of images (a quick succession of ties being tightened, the vacation money jar repeatedly raided for emergencies) effortlessly compressed the couple's life together into a few moments of screen time. A brief CG test clip followed, showing the elderly hero and his spunky 8-year-old sidekick dragging the floating house through a forest like a Thanksgiving parade balloon. (And anyone who remembers THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW knows how Asner feels about spunk.)
Observing that "the castle is at the center of every Disneyland theme park," Lasseter announced that Disney's Christmas 2010 release will be the studio's first classic fairy tale story since SLEEPING BEAUTY -- a CG retelling of RAPUNZEL. Co-directors (again, freshmen helmers) Glen Keane and Dean Wellins were on hand with producer Roy Conli. Flanked by the much taller Wellins and Conli, Keane joked, "I feel like I'm talking out of a valley." The bald animator mused about a common thread in many of Disney's animated heroes: "Ariel and Pocahontas' flowing manes... Tarzan's dreadlocks... " Then, with flawless timing, he added, "Maybe I'm trying to make up for some lack in my life." A succession of concept paintings backed up the trio as they facetiously claimed, "We got Rembrandt and Michelangelo to do our boards."
Lasseter returned to extol Disney's upcoming series of direct-to-DVD releases: the long-delayed Tinker Bell movies. Lasseter credited the films' inspiration to a series of "amazing books" from Disney's publishing arm. The first of the four movies -- all themed to the seasons of the year -- will be released on Oct. 28 and reveals Tink's origins, with the remainder to be released at one-year intervals. A montage of 3D-animated footage (described by Lasseter as "stunning," but obviously overmatched by the clips that preceded and followed it) unreeled, followed by an onstage quartet of dancers portraying Tink and her pals. (Their performance ended with a burst of Mylar confetti sprinkling down from auditorium's ceiling.)
BOLT is this year's holiday release, due out Nov. 26. The canine film is another project that has seen its share of changes since Lasseter took over as head of Disney animation, with LILO AND STITCH director Chris Sanders leaving a project with a much different storyline and originally titled AMERICAN DOG. Lasseter highlighted the ten patents earned by the studio's new technology that gave the film's 3D backgrounds a hand-painted appearance. "But technology never entertains the audience," he quickly added before lauding BOLT's characters as "some of the most entertaining we've ever created." Lasseter noted the film's high-profile voice cast, led by John Travolta, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM's Susan Essman and (in a surprise announcement) super-hot HANNAH MONTANA star Miley Cryus.
BOLT's newbie co-directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard and producer John Powell (the former head of Disney's now-shuttered Orlando animation studio) presented a story reel of the film's first 15 minutes. In a tightly choreographed high-energy sequence (that put any of Michael Bay's film to shame), Bolt's adolescent owner Penny escapes from a super-villain's band of minions aided by her dog's super-powers. The reel's fake-out ending reveals the entire sequence was a chase scene from Bolt's TV show -- with the highly trained dog believing his adventures are genuine. (With the complex sequence presented as an animation-free story reel, and with less than nine months until the film's release, one might be forgiven for wondering if the studio is under the gun to finish BOLT in time for its release.)