With Inside Out one of the most warmly received films here in Cannes, Disney and Pixar rode the wave of good will this morning during a two-hour presentation of upcoming titles from both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. In contrast to Disney’s 25-minute CinemaCon showcase which was followed by a screening of Inside Out last month, there was much emphasis placed on the upcoming toons for an audience that lapped up every second. Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and WDAS, John Lasseter, highlighted art and scenes from Thanksgiving release The Good Dinosaur; followed by 2016 sequel Finding Dory; animal tale Zootopia and Polynesia-set musical Moana.
A significant amount of time was devoted to The Good Dinosaur, a coming-of-age tale which has had its share of twists. It’s directed by Pete Sohn who stepped in for Bob Peterson after he departed in 2013, resulting in a release date change from May 2014 to November 25 this year. It will also play an exclusive preview engagement at Paris’ Grand Rex Theatre from November 14 in somewhat of a Disney tradition.
The Good Dinosaur follows teenager Arlo, who is separated from his family when he falls into a raging river and is swept hundreds of miles away. He comes across Spot, a human cave-boy orphan with whom he forms a bond as he attempts to get home. Lasseter said, “Our films ask ‘What if?’ questions. What if monsters really did live in your closet? What if a rat wanted to be the finest chef in the most beautiful city in the world? I think our next movie asks the biggest ‘What if?’ of all. What if the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs actually missed Earth?”
The footage shown today captivated the international audience assembled at the Olympia theater (lending extra overseas appeal, Lasseter noted that the hairdos on the film’s velociraptors are modeled after famous soccer players). Two French women sitting near me alternately gasped and whispered “extraordinaire” and “incroyable” when amazingly lifelike close-ups of CGI foliage were shown. The environment, Lasseter said, is “a living, breathing character” in the film. The level of believability we are striving to get into this film really is breathtaking.”
Next up was Finding Dory which asks the question “Where is Dory’s family?” Lasseter said, “That has been just bugging us since we made (Finding Nemo) and we thought this could be a great place to move forward.” Andrew Stanton returns to direct the movie that picks up six months after the original. Voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory’s memory of her childhood is triggered while she’s at school on the Coral Reef one day with Nemo. She makes her way to an institute that cares for undersea creatures and teams up there with Hank The Octopus who becomes her guide. Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy voice Dory’s parents and folks today were treated to some of their banter. There was also great footage of a kelp forest on California’s northern coastline (“a new look for us,” said Lasseter) and a glimpst of the Loons, to whom Lasseter referred as “the Seagulls of the new movie. They’re so startlingly dumb it’s hilarious.”
Once he was done with the Pixar slate, which also includes Toy Story 4 in a “brand new chapter that’s very personal,” Lasseter switched gears to Walt Disney Animation Studios. He marveled that it had been 10 years since he and partner Ed Catmull had taken over WDAS. “When we came in, we realized there was tremendous talent.” So they “redefined the culture to make it filmmaker driven.” Now, he says, after such mega-hits as Frozen and Big Hero 6, “Walt Disney Animation Studios is back. Ed and I always believed what would heal this studio — because it was quite broken when we came in, the morale was really low — what would really heal it is if we can make a movie to be a really big hit. These guys are on fire now.”
On deck for WDAS is Zootopia which looks like a whole lot of elevated fun and had the audience in stitches at certain points. Helmed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, it’s “classically Disney” in that there are talking animals. The story is set in a modern civilized world that is
entirely inhabited by animals from all over the globe who walk upright, wear human clothes and use technology. But there are biases among them and natural enemies, say rabbits and foxes, don’t get along.
Jason Bateman voices a sly con-artist Fox and Ginnifer Goodwin is the glass-half-full bunny who is the first of her kind to join the Zootopia Police Force. The two are forced to pair up to locate a missing mammal in less than 48 hours. Eliciting huge laughs was a scene in which the unlikely partners are rushing to get a run on a license plate, only to find the DMV is fully staffed by sloths. This one has a March 4, 2016 release.
Musical adventure tale Moana from directors Ron Clements and John Musker is “inspired by the people and music and stories of the South Pacific,” Lasseter said. It was also inspired by the group’s own experience on a research trip to Oceana. The story follows a talented young navigator whose father forbids her to sail beyond their island’s reef. When she sets out anyway and ends up stranded on another island, she meets the fallen demi-god Maui and they set off on an adventure. A song montage was shown to Cannes attendees who showered it with applause while Moana‘s rendering of the ocean, which is also a character in the film, received hoots and hollers. Moana releases on November 23, 2016.
Finally, Lasseter offered up a sneak preview of Pixar artist Sanjay Patel’s Sanjay’s Super Team, a short that has its world premiere at the upcoming Annecy animation fest and which will play ahead of The Good Dinosaur when it hits theaters.
It’s been a big week for Disney in Europe. Along with the Cannes premiere of Inside Out, the studio held a press conference for Tomorrowland in London on Monday. That movie rolls out beginning today in 65 overseas markets including the key European centers — it’s currently No. 1 in Paris after its first showing this afternoon.