Tongues wagged when Disney declined to peddle their upcoming cinematic wares at last month's Comic-Con: International in San Diego. But don't think for a second that the Mouse House was out of the self-promoting game. Far from it: They just opted to keep it all in the family by saving what would have been their Comic Con show reel for their own fan-friendly convention, the D23 Expo. Held this past weekend at Anaheim Convention Center, the event was a three-day celebration of all things Disney, promoting everything from Radio Disney and the Disney Channel to Disney.com and the various Disney theme parks. Not surprisingly, the most buzzed-about panels were the ones devoted to Disney's upcoming feature film slate, which includes such releases as Andrew Stanton's John Carter, Pixar's Brave and a little movie called The Avengers from the company's most recent acquisition, Marvel. Here are the bits of D23-related movie news we found to be the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:
Pixar Is Getting Back Into the Original Movie Game
Perhaps heeding the (deserved) negative reaction to Cars 2, Pixar announced that their upcoming Monsters Inc. prequel, Monsters University (due out in 2013), would be followed by not just one, but two original tales. The first takes place in an alternate reality where that infamous dinosaur-destroying meteor missed Earth eons ago and the giant lizards stuck around long past their extinction date. The second will be overseen by Up director Pete Doctor and take place inside the human brain. Pixar also showed off new clips from their 2012 summer blockbuster Brave, in which a rebellious princess (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) embarks on an action-packed adventure to save her kingdom. Sounds good to us. Hey Pixar, let's have more movies like this and fewer like your direct-to-DVD Cars spin-off, Planes.
John Carter Will Be a Better Taylor Kitsch Feature Than X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Friday Night Lights star certainly has the good looks and moody charisma to make the leap to feature films, but his first outing -- the ill-fated X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- didn't exactly help him build his big-screen brand. The mega-budgeted sci-fi spectacle John Carter should prove more successful in that department. An update of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs' pulp novel A Princess of Mars, about a Civil War soldier (Kitsch) who finds himself caught up in an intergalactic battle on the Red Planet, Carter marks the live-action filmmaking debut of Pixar's Andrew Stanton, who previously helmed Finding Nemo and Wall-E. While the footage that Disney screened didn't exactly blow the crowd away, we'll still choose to remain optimistic that this pairing of director and star will pay off.
Dust Off Your Old NES -- Retro Gaming is Back.
For their big 2012 holiday release, Disney is reviving the glorious days of 8-bit gaming with the animated feature Wreck-It Ralph, the story of the titular digital bad guy (John C. Reilly) who decides he wants to win gamers' hearts and minds away from his heroic nemesis Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). He gets his chance when he leaps from his game into the world of a first-person shooter where he's whipped into fighting shape by a bad-ass sergeant, who barks her orders in the voice of Jane Lynch. Disney screened five minutes of footage from the film, which will reportedly include visual and verbal references to dozens of iconic arcade games, including Pac-Man and Centipede. Between Wreck-It Ralph, TRON: Legacy and the recent nostalgia-driven nerd novel Ready Player One, it seems like the future of video games (in other media at least) lies in the past.
Speaking of Retro, Prepare For the Return of the Muppets and Frankenweenie
Sure, Jim Henson's Muppets have never really gone away, but it's been awhile since they've graced the big screen and even longer since they headlined a good movie. (Sorry, Muppets in Space fans... all one of you.) This fall's Jason Segel-penned feature, simply titled The Muppets seems poised to change that. The footage that screened at D23 had audiences cheering and the cast and crew have so far said all the right things about bringing Henson's creations back to their roots. November 23 can't get here soon enough. Meanwhile, for his next foray into stop-motion animation, Tim Burton is reviving and expanding the 1984 short film that put him on the map, Frankenweenie, in which young boy brings his recently deceased mutt back to life, much to the horror of his family and neighbors. Featuring the voices of Burton regulars Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Landau (what, no Johnny Depp for once?), the horror-tinged family film is scheduled to hit theaters in October 2012, just in time for Halloween.
Sam Raimi and James Franco Follow the Yellow Brick Road to a Wizard of Oz Prequel
Rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise worked so well for James Franco this summer, the actor has decided to take his talents to Oz, teaming up with his old Spider-Man director Raimi for the prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful. Set many years before Dorothy Gale showed up, the movie depicts the future Wiz's journey over the rainbow and how exactly he set up shot in the Emerald City. Wait, don't tell us -- was an alien symbiote involved?
Okay, Okay -- So What About The Avengers Already???
Sure, The Muppets, Brave and Wreck-It Ralph all sound great, but the highlight of the weekend was obviously the Marvel presentation and its centerpiece, early footage from Joss Whedon's The Avengers. The studio didn't disappoint, bringing two lengthy clips (one of which featured Sam Jackson's Nick Fury interrogating Loki, while the other had Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark offering up an opinionated "head count" of his new teammates) and four out of the six Avengers (Jackson and Chris "Captain America" Evans were MIA). The reaction to the screened sequences was largely positive, with a cameo by Mark Ruffalo's Hulk winning some of the biggest applause. (Take that Ed Norton and Eric Bana!) They can't possible screw this up... can they?
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