a Krypton Radio Special Report by guest reporter Anne Staszalek
The beloved and long lost character from Epcot’s original Journey Into Imagination pavilion, Dreamfinder has been missed since being removed from the theme park quite a few years ago. But D23 – Disney’s official fan club – understands how much he is missed and seized the opportunity to offer a brief chance to meet him once more.
Chaotic from start to finish, and honestly, those coordinating it might want to call a few people who run the larger SF/F Conventions for logistic ideas, the D23 Expo was, all things considered, an amazing adventure. Lines were elephantine, and most direction consisted of pointing from line to line, from corridor to corridor to an enormous empty ballroom. Friday was actually horrific if you, like me, were in a wheelchair, but by Saturday, they seem to have brought in actual people from Disney and things ran a bit better.
Friday opened the event, with a large ceremony for the special, filled to the brim Disney Store. This held items usually only obtainable by employees, had artists signing specialized items made just for the store, and one of a kind paintings, cels and lithographs. It was also rather non-wheelchair accessible unless you were in a compact wheelchair, something that admittedly annoyed a few patrons. But there was a huge sales room filled with neat, amazing and exclusive items and giveaway things, to be fair. And enough with the shopping aspect which, truth be told, was a part of this—Disneyana is a part of many fans lives.
The first panel I went to was the two and a half hour long presentation of upcoming animation from all three branches of the Disney studios. There were clips from The Good Dinosaur, which is the animated “what if the meteor never hit the earth and dinosaurs never died out. The worldbuilding here is amazing, and the animation lovely, but the plot devolves into an expected broad humor a la the movie “Ice Age” that to me, took away most of my interest. Clips were also shown for a movie that will light the heart of any and every anthro-loving Furry out there entitled Zootopia. It’s a buddy cop cartoon… with a fox and a rabbit and it is quite serious (yes, with some humor to leaven it) and again we were shown the time and effort they put into building this universe and it looks to be a must see. And then we saw a cartoon that we were asked not to talk about (sorry, my lips are sealed) but you can be on the lookout for Get A Horse fronting an upcoming release. And along with a preview of Planes (with the whole movie being shown after the presentation for all D23 Expo guests) we got previews and half renders of the sequel, ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’. Also upcoming is an amazing take on animated superhero-mixed-with-robot stories called ‘Big Hero 6” that will be out in 2015 and should be on your calendar to see now.
Another lovely surprise took place while we were being shown clips, pre-filming graphics and more for the upcoming entries in Disney’s ‘Pixie Hollow’ series—and one will be Tink and friends dealing with a Pirate Fairy and her “cabin boy friend” who is anything but; the lad is hiding the fact he is actually the Captain of this group, and his last name just happens to be HOOK. Yes, that Captain Hook, but this is prior to Peter pan and I happen to think Disney got a fantastic actor to voice him . When he’s not bust being an evil Norse god, that is. Yes, Tom Hiddleston is voicing the young, rather dashing Captain Hook, and when he walked out on stage and was cajoled into singing “Bear Necessities” everyone in the audience screamed. The final presentation is for the forthcoming ‘Frozen’ which looks to be a good, standard Disney movie with a Princess, Prince, comedic sidekicks and nasty bad guy. The bad ‘guy’ here is female, however, voiced by Idina Menzel, and she herself ended the panel/presentation by singing, live, her theme song for ‘Frozen’ which blew the house down.
Later that afternoon (sadly, you had to really choose 2 panels a DAY to see, due to the lines, even with the vaunted Express Pass they said was offered—often they offered the pass while another panel was running, and once a presentation began you sat in your chair or you were locked out) we stood on line for an evening performance of selections from the many Disney Broadway Musicals—sung by the many of the original actors in the roles. From Beauty and The Beast, Lion King, Newsies to Aida and even something from the new and upcoming Aladdin, for an hour and a half we were serenaded by some amazing musicians and singers, and entertained by our host for the event, Thomas Schumacher. There are honestly no words to go along with this—you really had to be there; it was, pardon the Disney pun, magical.
Saturday was slightly better organized; we stopped by the “waffle-inator” where you could play a game helping the cartoon Agent P escape the evil Dr. Doofenschmurtz. And if you do not watch the Phineas and Ferb cartoon, everything I just said was gibberish and please forgive me. Let’s just say it was a huge game with what looked like a three story wall outside in the courtyard of the arena, and people were shooting rubber waffles into the screen placed upon the wall and to all there, it made perfect sense.
We made it inside and got seats right before the start of what was a hugely popular event—premiering the upcoming Disney live action movies. Having sat through the whole of the panel, enthralled for the most part, it looks like we’ll ALL be in the theatre a LOT this coming year and next.
On the Marvel Comic end of things, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ reminded me a LOT of the feeling of the ‘Evil Dead’ movies with that mix of humor and action. The upcoming ‘Thor: The Dark World’ is already a must see; but those of us at the Expo were given a gift of an extended trailer as well as a fast visit on stage by Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and the man who got an extended standing ovation, Anthony Hopkins. There was also a trailer for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that moved it from ‘interesting’ to MUST NOT MISS in my own mind, and yes, the visit onstage by Chris Evans (who actually invited the whole audience to come with him to Disneyland), Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie who is thrilled beyond reason that he is The Falcon did add to this.
And from superheroes we moved into puppet… er Muppets. The forthcoming ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ with a clip from the movie, a video from the Muppet cast wishing they could be there and on stage, one of the stars, driving up in the universes tiniest compact car, actor Ty Burrell. This seems to be the usual slapstick funny with a sweet edge that the Muppet movies carry as their heart, and their fans should receive it well.
From there we segued to ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, the story of how Walt was finally able to get permission to bring Mary Poppins to the silver screen, starring Tom Hanks showed to be a mix of humor and serious story, and lets you see more into how both Disney and P.L. Travers. Had to change and adjust to bring a well-loved literary character to life with both learning something about themselves along the way which sounds sappy, but comes off well in the excerpts we were shown.
And then we ended with fantasy… LOADS of it… an upcoming Cinderella directed by Kenneth Brannagh (we were shown concept art that looks breathtaking), breaking news about the start of filming of ‘Into the Woods’ and finally the upcoming Maleficent which is offering a second side to things – not every villain is a villain and not every hero is truly a hero. Angelina Jolie looks breathtaking in the role, and when she emerged on stage, she was thrilled to be there and eager to explain her take on the character, how she played her, how she felt that this was a character she’d always wanted to play… and how she terrified every baby that was to play the young Aurora so that her own daughter had to be used in the role. As I said; be ready for a lot of popcorn in your future!
Sunday had two major ‘must sees’ for me; the first was a presentation/demonstration of upcoming Disney software. There was an iPad ap that anyone who loves Disney animation cannot be without. Literally, you will have a reference library for every single animated feature Disney has ever made. They dug deeply into their archives and every film and short is listed chronologically, with proper information and in many cases, archival resources no one but those who work for Disney have ever seen. There is concept art, animation roughs, music clips for each feature, some more detailed, of course than others – one notable example being that you can view Zazu flying in to Simba’s presentation in the start of The Lion King in the known animation, in blue pencils, or in the early renders… and you can watch it over and over. There are links in case you want to purchase any available music, and along with the timeline, there are a huge selection of apps-inside-the-app where you can manipulate a fully rendered Venellope, control Elsa’s signature snowfall with your fingertip, and so much more.
There was then an introduction to what will be an online stop-motion animated serial using their well-known and heavily collected Vinylmation figures entitled Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story. We were treated to most of the first episode, and told that subsequent ones will be available on the Disney website. It was cute, and as expected, quite well done.
And then we moved to games. Have you ever wanted to be a mage? How about controlling light and sound with a gesture? If you’ve seen ‘Fantasia’ you know how important music was to Disney in making a fully immersive feature that treated nearly every sense and the upcoming game Fantasia: Music Evolved” where YOU are the one controlling the whole thing with gestures. Whether you, like me, are in a wheelchair and not the most agile, or whether you are a gymnast in your spare time, you can make your gestures as you wish and my following the music and making beams of light follow the beat and specified pattern you unlock more and more until the game became more a musical instrument and you the wizard controlling it all.
Along with having an amazingly graceful woman on stage who demonstrated the game, they chose to end this part of the panel with the Disney Chamber Ensemble playing Winter from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons which is one of the many songs available in the game, with a violinist who was truly gifted in her playing.
The final game demonstrated was Disney: Infinity which will allow gamers to purchase various well known settings and figurines of certain characters to play in those worlds both at home and online. The amazing part of that was the building mode that will exist where you and friends can build whole interactive areas—houses, castles, islands, racetracks and you can all interact on it together. Think of the best sandbox you ever heard of and imagine how it would be if you could play with friends on opposing coasts, states away. We were shown upcoming character packs and themes, and as a thank you, as we all left, we were each given an early release figure of Mickey as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a character who will not be out for a while.
All in all, the D23 Expo was interesting; you never lost sight that this was a corporate event, despite all the saying over and over how this was ‘for you fans”, and admittedly, most who were there had an amazing time—people were wandering around in costumes worthy, in many cases, of World Con judging, and the staff were as polite as they could be in sold out after sold out events and entire days of the Expo. Having been to my share of conventions, however, I could feel the difference; there was less connection, more display of things—Disney is trying, however; they just need someone to connect the amazing resources they have with the feel most cons have at their heart.