Disney - Pixar - Marvel Movies Archives

May 13, 2018

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" Press Conference


"I have a good feeling about this."
--Han Solo


May 25th, Lucasfilm delivers the next installment of the Star Wars anthology films, "Solo: A Star Wars Story." It recounts the origin of the infamous rogue and scoundrel Han Solo and his initial encounters with some of his lifelong friends and frienemies.

In anticipation of the opening, cast and filmmakers held a press junket to discuss revisiting the legendary character and adding to his mythos. In attendance was Thandie Newton (Val,) Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L3-37,) Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett,) Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian,) Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo,) Emilia Clarke (Qi'Ra,) Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca,) and Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos,) along with screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan, and director Ron Howard.


Full video of the press conference (some dicey language:)

Some quotes from the panel:


Howard on what excited him about the film: "I'm very excited about the character relationships, because this is a little bit different from the other movies. It's really this one guy's adventure story. It's why I feel like in some ways it's kind of similar to 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' which Larry also wrote. It is a single hero's journey. There's a lot of fun in that journey and a lot of twists and turns, but it's really about that character. We had that going with this. And so all of the different relationships are very important to me because it's all about what impact all these characters are going to have on this young Han Solo. So that was interesting.

"The excitement was again, making even the action scenes be cool, be Star Wars, but really be about testing Han Solo. What does this mean? What does this tell us about Han Solo? And so it kind of defined the way the action scenes would be cut, would be shot, and roll out. It's challenging, but it was really fun and exciting work, and the big surprise for me was what a blast it was to do those action scenes."


The Kasdans on getting to tell Han's story:
Lawrence: "From the moment I was relatively young and I first saw Han Solo in the Cantina, I immediately sparked to him. He lifted up the whole movie instantly and I loved the movie, but at that moment I thought oh, this movie has got me. This is a kind of character that I have loved always...this is a character who's reckless, who's cynical, doesn't trust anybody, who's a little bit stupid--I love that--he just does things that he shouldn't do, he gets in over his head instantly."
Jonathan: "Andi I think he wanted me to write with him because I am all those things."


Ehrenreich on getting feedback from Harrison Ford: "Right before we started shooting, I wanted to talk to Harrison, just to kind of pay respect and have him give us the blessing for the film. So we had lunch, I guess, two years ago or something, and he was really encouraging, really supportive. Then we went off, shot the film and everything like that, and today I was doing an interview and they were talking about is there anything else you'd like to ask him, and I was like 'well, uhm,' and they're like 'well you have your chance' and he was behind me. And is just so effusive about the movie and it meant so much to me and I know for Ron and Kathy and everyone, you know it's such a huge deal to have him really genuinely love it, really genuinely enjoy the film and it meant a lot to me that he took the time to come out here."


Glover on taking on the role of Lando: "When I heard they were making these, I told my agent 'if they're doing anything with Lando, I have to be Lando" and he was like 'I hear you...I don't like your odds." That was exactly what I needed to hear, because I really did audition like it was the only role I wanted in the world, because it really was."


Suotamo on becoming the well-loved Chewbacca: "This was a life-changer for me. I was borderline jobless when I got this role, you know. My now-fiancee (my then-girlfriend) has seen me go from living with my Mom to becoming Chewbacca. That's the span of our relationship. She says I've been like this the whole time, it's just now that this behavior suits me."


Clarke on the femme fatale, Qi'ra: "We meet her quite early on, with Han, and then they get separated for whatever reason. When we find her again, she seems to have lived a pretty dark life in that time. So when you re-find her, you can't quite figure out what it is that's happened to her in the time you haven't been with her, and who it is that she is now. I think that's a question that keeps coming up throughout the movie."


Harrelson on how he sees Beckett: "Well, I felt it was a really easy character for me to play 'cause he's a scoundrel and a thief."


Newton on being on such legendary sets: "The first day I was on set, and I had my son with me and he was two years old, and he didn't know anything about Star Wars, he's two, right? And we were on this amazing set--it was extraordinary--and I was chatting with the crew and stuff, and my kid just started to walk away and we watched where he was going. He was going towards R2-D2. And everyone kind of moved to the side, and my kid just walked over, and the guy who was operating R2-D2's remote control saw my son, knew it was my kid, and started to make R2-D2 kind of chat with my kid...but not in language, in R2-D2 speak. And my son would sort of gabble back and R2 gabbled to him, and it ended, I kid you not, with my son hugging R2-D2. And that was the first impression my son has had of that character, of Star Wars, and what I mean is like, this is the stuff that dreams are made of."


Waller-Bridge on L3 as an individual: "She's a self-made droid, so she created herself out of parts of other droids which sounds kind of frightening when you put it like that...she creates herself out of astromech droids and protocol droids and so she turned herself into a unique creature that's kind of taller, stronger, more independent than she originally was. She's got a great attitude, she's very upbeat, she's very fun to be around...yeah, she's fearless, she's uncensored, she is very funny, and she's revolutionary--she has an agenda which is bigger than the sum of her parts...and it's great to play that. It's great to play a droid with a message."


Bettany on what he wanted to do with Vos: "Having texted Ron, having said 'hey Ron, have you ever spent long winter evenings like I have, wondering why you're not in the Star Wars franchise?' and he said 'give me a minute" I came on set really quickly and he whispered 'oligarch' in my ear and I went 'GOT IT.' It was just lovely to play somebody--having come from Avengers where Vision is fundamentally good--just to someone who's deliciously bad and really okay with it. Just no neurosis, no guilt, just super happy about being evil...he's really good at hurting people, and you know, some people are really good at piano or whatever..."

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” opens in U.S. theaters on May 25, 2018.

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April 28, 2018

Review: "Avengers: Infinity War" - Spoilers Noted



"We're in the endgame now."
--Dr. Strange

[Photos and video provided by Disney.]

"Avengers: Infinity War," the first half of the third installment of the "Avengers" films brings together a panoply of heroes from every Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise over the last ten years in a gargantuan confrontation with a truly universal threat.


For years now, one common background element of all the MCU films has been the mysterious and powerful Thanos who has been gathering the Infinity Stones for a murky, nefarious purpose. In "Infinity War," some two years after "Captain America: Civil War," that purpose is brought to light just as most of our heroes have reached their most fractured state.

[If, like me, you have lost track of the Infinity Stones through the decade, here is a Marvel Studios-provided cheat sheet:]


SPACE STONE (Tesseract)
Color: Blue
Power: Used to control space and create advanced weaponry
Currently in possession: Asgard

Color: Red
Power: Ability to warp reality at will, immense strength, durability, powers, and subjective
influence over the universe
Currently in Possession: The Collector

Power: Increases physical abilities, allows manipulation of energy. Can obliterate an entire
planet when unleashed.
Currently in Possession: Nova Corps

MIND STONE (from Loki’s scepter)
Color: Yellow
Power: Subjugate the minds of others, bending them to the will of the user. Increased
Currently in Possession: Vision

(Eye of Agamotto)
Color: Green
Power: Able to control the flow of time.
Currently in Possession: Doctor Strange

Color: Orange
Power: Unknown
Currently in Possession: Unknown

To combat this menace, all of our heroes, from Earth and beyond, will find that superheroism often makes for strange bedfellows while hoping that in unity there is strength. Whether they can muster up sufficient unity is only one of the questions posed in "Infinity War."


[For months, we've been reminded that #ThanosDemandsYourSilence about most of the plot points in an effort to avoid spoiling the movie. While I will try to stick with what I think is common knowledge about the film, if you want to go in to see it as a completely blank slate, I'd avoid reading anything about it, including the rest of this.]

The main attraction of "Infinity War" is its star-studded cast made up of principals from countless blockbusters. Whether new or old to the MCU stable, they all do as polished a job as you'd expect from folks who have been inhabiting the same characters for ages.


The number of characters is a mixed blessing, however, as even with a running time of almost three hours, we don't get the chance to spend as much time as we'd like with each of them. They do a good job of trying to give each person at least a moment to shine, but many of the main cast are more or less sidelined beyond the big action sequences. The film employs the technique of splitting everyone up into groups of varied combinations to break them into manageable story lines, and then focuses largely on a couple of them--mainly on just a few members of each.


The person who gets the most on-screen development is our Big Bad, Thanos. Determined to fulfill his destiny of annihilating half the beings in the universe, he has his own tragic backstory and twisted motivations that Josh Brolin uses to create a villain as sympathetic as he is fearsome. Few things make a being more indomitable than having the courage of their convictions, and whatever else you may think of Thanos, he does not lack for that.


The look of the film is, as always, MCU pitch-perfect whether on-location in Edinburgh or under the dome of Wakanda. Many of the characters' appearances have changed somewhat as a result of intervening events, Chris Evans' Captain America in particular. No longer the clean-shaven, Star Spangled Man With A Plan, Steve Rogers' years of being hunted by his own country seems to have beaten some of his trademark optimism and faith in humanity out of him. While he still operates on a strict moral code, his guarded nature is evident in his terse speech and physically manifested in his new beard. Set adrift from most of his old alliances, Rogers is notably free of the stars-and-stripes, even on his shields, when he gets them.


Thor looks much as we left him after "Thor: Ragnarok:" Minus his hammer, some of his hair, and one eye. We find, however, that while still pretty good-humored (Chris Hemsworth still unfairly funny for someone who looks "like a pirate had a baby with an angel,") the loss of almost all of his family and kingdom from Ragnarok has left him somewhat fatalistic and a long way from the exuberant dude who was initially banished from Asgard for his aggressive pursuit of battle and glory.


As usual, the lynchpin tying it altogether is Robert Downey Jr., whose Tony Stark is in the unenviable position of having finally achieved a measure of peace before all Thanos breaks loose. With the welfare of his Pepper Potts relationship and the well-being of his surrogate son Peter Parker on one hand and the fate of the universe on the other, Stark embodies the general theme of the Russo Brother's story: What does it cost to be a hero?


Ultimately, the main complaint that anyone will have about "Infinity War" is likely to be the ending, which has the transitory nature of the ending of any first half to a story. While some events seem likely to have permanent consequences, others seem equally likely to be reversed in the second half which detracts a bit from the gravitas of the moment. The other is that some of the big conflicts developed in "Civil War" aren't addressed here, but there is a whole other movie coming for that.


If you've been following along with our heroes all this time however, there's a good chance you won't be disappointed by "Infinity War." It has all the importance and grandeur of the event movie that it is, while preserving the small character bits that make the films endearing. When it chooses to be funny it is hilarious, with Banner, Drax, Spider-Man, and Okoye being standouts. For those fond of the long-standing MCU tradition of someone always getting their arm cut off in each Stage 2 film, there are a LOT of arms flying off in "Infinity War," usually in the course of the many spectacular battle sequences. While some of the fighting seems to go a trifle long, there are many beats that are perfect, such as the formidable trinity of Okoye, Black Widow, and Scarlet Witch going to town on yet another Daughter of Thanos.


It is a general rule for the conventional structure of a story, that the first half of it sets up the problem and the last half resolves it. "Infinity War" leaves a lot of balls still in the air with a lot of characters' fates in the balance. If some of our long-standing heroes have gotten to the point in their lives where they no longer want to continue with the stress and disruption of being an Avenger, it seems clear that some of their real-life actors feel the same. That being the case, there seems to be no security that we will ultimately end this story with all the players with which we started. Cleverly, the story manages it so that many of the newer characters from franchises we know will continue afterwards are benched by the end, leaving mostly the old guard to face part 2. Who is leaving? Who will return? Only Thanos and Kevin Feige know for sure.

Click to enlarge.

"Avengers: Infinity War" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillian, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Chris Pratt.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. Produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers were Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Trinh Tran, Jon Favreau, Jame Gunn, and Stan Lee.

Rating: PG-13. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes. The film enters general release on April 27, 2018, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

**You're gonna think there's no intra-credit scene but there is. They just make you wait for it.

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April 24, 2018

"Avengers: Infinity War" Press Junket


"Oh! We're using our made-up names!"


On April 27th, the culmination of the last ten years and 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe films comes together with the opening of "Avengers: Infinity War."

At a recent press junket, the bulk of the MCU pantheon (minus Chris Evans, currently appearing in "Lobby Hero" on Broadway,) assembled to answer one question each, moderated by Grandmaster Jeff Goldblum.


...That it still took almost an hour lets you know how many stars were there.


Full video of the press conference--some dicey language is used.

Some words from each of the celebrities:


Robert Downey Jr. on appearing in Avengers 4: "Yes, we already filmed it...I gotta see the screening tomorrow. If I die tomorrow, I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be confused. We'll see."


Letitia Wright on inspiring teens in math and science: "I'm really happy that this film and this character, Shuri, has allowed young kids to feel, like, learning is cool and that they can contribute to the world with science and math and technology and engineering and also young women as well getting pulled into that whole movement. I feel like it's not just a thing for the's also for young women to young men (young women, old know)...anyone to just get into and contribute positively."


Don Cheadle on continuing Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine's problems from "Avengers: Civil War:" "Where it comes to Rhodes, and I'm glad this is something that's carried through and wasn't just dropped, it's a line that...actually goes through both of the films and comes into play in a very important way (I won't give it away,) but it's something that factors in all the way through. So it's nice to have something that's cohesive, that continues and keeps me grounded and keeps the character grounded."


Chris Hemsworth on which scene he found challenging: "Thor meeting the Guardians. It felt like the first day at school for me because they all knew each other and I didn't, so I was the new kid and they all look at you...and it's a weird sort of nervous butterflies fluttering around my body...but I squeezed them out. Chris Pratt gave me a big hug and all the butterflies flew out of my ears...I've been in the hospital. I'm still trippin'."


Kevin Feige on what he uses to pull all the themes/characters/stories together: "You won't be surprised to hear, it's the comics. It's the comics that we look at when there's just a notion of let's do an Iron Man movie or let's have the audacity to do a version of the Infinity Gauntlet--it starts with those comics and us getting to rip pages out (or rip copies of pages out,) put them on the walls, and start to be inspired. And in every single movie we've made, up to and especially 'Infinity War,' there are direct images, storylines, rarely but sometimes actual lines of dialogue, that come from those pages that we put up around our development room for inspiration."


Zoe Saldana on Gamora's arc: "I will speak on behalf of also Karen Gillan's character Nebula--we had so much fun with the arc that the Russo Brothers and obviously Kevin Feige spearheading us, with the relationship that these daughters have with their father, because they finally get an opportunity to sort of address what it was like to have a dad that's so it was fabulous. It was great."


Scarlett Johansson on fashion elements of the movie: "I got the fashion question?! I honestly really don't know how to answer that question. I wear a leather unitard for most of this film, and I have been for the last ten years, so if you think of any fashion elements that you would like to include, please let us know. I have a new vest for once, so that was pretty exciting. And I have a new hairstyle as well, if you haven't noticed already--it's a little bit polarizing, I can see. It's fine. It was a choice I made and I'm sticking by it. So there you go."

Anthony Mackie on fighting for screen time: "A wise man once said, 'some men need an hour to make their presence felt, some men need 30 seconds.'" [mic drop]


Tom Holland on his new Spider Suit: "I didn't actually get to wear the Iron Spider suit because it's too amazing to exist in real life, so I...stood amongst these gods wearing pajamas. Wasn't quite as heroic as I'd liked, and I haven't seen the film yet so I can't tell you what it does in real life, but I can tell you it would be amazing, and we'll have to see."


Benedict Cumberbatch on whether he's read the top-secret final movie script
: "I read a script...whether I read the script is for them (the Russo Brothers) to know. And me to find out when I see the movie tomorrow."


Chadwick Boseman on whether "Infinity Wars" is "Black Panther 1.5:" "'Avengers: Infinity War' is 'Avengers: Infinity War.' It's not Black Panther 1.5 or Black Panther 2 or anything like that. I think we have a strong presence within the movie and it was great to have some of these (not going to say who, exactly,) in Wakanda, but it is its own movie. It's great to go from what we did in 'Black Panther' and bring some of that into Avengers--it was a relief, actually. It's its own thing."


Pom Klementieff on whether Mantis sees any growth in the new film: "Maybe a little bit, but she still has this kind of child-like way of thinking, and she asks a lot of questions. I think it brings up comedy and sometimes these movies need some...innocence. I think she's going to evolve a little bit more in the next one, but this one I think she's still kind of the same."


Josh Brolin on which characters most impressed Thanos: "I looked, in the trailer, like I was impressed with other people? Then obviously I didn't do my job correctly. Being a person of the color purple and being naked on the set the whole time I was doing this in order to create a vibe of fear, I really thought I scared everybody, but apparently not.

"Was there someone I was impressed by? Oh, Anthony Mackie. Strangely enough, it only took 25 seconds for me to be impressed by him. Everybody has their weakness, and Anthony Mackie is Thanos' weakness. Who was also naked on set, by the way."


Paul Bettany on any on-set anecdotes: "Well snitches end up in ditches and all the best anecdotes end up unsayable."


Chris Pratt on how Star-Lord feels to see humans again after 30 years: "That's a good question. You know, it borders know, it might be best for you to see it, so I'm going to talk about bass fishing. April, as you know, is a big month for open-mouth bass..."


Dave Bautista on Drax meeting Thanos and working with Brolin:
"Let me kill time while I think of a way to answer this without giving anything away. Man...ask me about my fashion sense...Back to your question, I can't answer it, obviously. I haven't seen the movie, don't know anything about the movie, don't know anything about the storyline, haven't read the script, haven't read one of the fake scripts...Back to my fashion sense..."

Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Anthony Russo on whether Agent Coulson will make a comeback: "All these unanswerable questions. What can I say, other than talk about bass fishing some more?"


Winston Duke on whether Wakanda gets destroyed: "As you know, I can't say anything...It's going to be a fun adventure. You're going to enjoy it. That's all I can tell you."
Johansson: "But tell us who made that fabulous jacket?"
Duke: "Armani. Giorgio Armani."


Mark Ruffalo on Environmentalism: "I try not to be that one person who's always going on about an issue, but I can't help myself. I think, more than anything, I try to use my time outside of the movies to make my friends know that it's safe to speak out about the things they care about, and that it's important for them and that it's actually enriching as artists...No matter what that thing is, whether it's environmental issues or social justice issues or equality issues or education or all the really wonderful things there are to do today in front of us. And in that way, I feel like I can be the most impactful with this gift that I've been given, of sitting up here with these tremendously talented people."


Elizabeth Olsen on Scarlet Witch getting a solo film: "Paul (Bettany) and I joke a lot about how much we would love to do like a 'House of M' spin-off, a really domesticated indie version of it. And I think that would be a lot of fun--that part of her story is why I love this character so much."


Danai Gurira on the rumor of an all-female Marvel movie pitch: "I know no details on that...But the awesome thing that I think is happening, that we see happening across many dimensions in the entertainment industry is we see more women take the helm in various realms, and is...not only about time, but it will make the world a better place. I think so, I look forward to the future."


Tom Hiddleston on who his favorite MCU character is: "I'm not going to pick anyone, actually. [gestures to Helmsworth] My brother from a different mother. I'm astonished that I'm still here, as you may be. And Loki has fallen through a wormhole and faked his own death and I never honestly expected to be playing this part for so long...the great privilege that I've had is working with every single person on this stage...Because Kevin and everyone that works at Marvel...the writing has been so great...they create these characters with such precision that what happens in the space between those characters is always unique. And you're guaranteed to see that tomorrow night."


Sebastian Stan on whether Bucky is accepted/back to baseline: "I think you definitely see shades of the 'old,' so to speak, Bucky...I guess the guy smiles finally. As far as accepted, I wouldn't necessarily go so far as saying that. He's just kind of seeing where his allies are, he's been enjoying coconut water in Wakanda, and everything else is peachy."

"Avengers: Infinity War," rated PG-13, will be released in theaters April 27, 2018.

April 16, 2018

Early Press Day for "Incredibles 2" Part 1.



Earlier this month, Disney-Pixar invited AllEars down to Pixar Studios to take an early look at their upcoming "Incredibles 2."

[Unattributed photos and video provided by Disney]

After we were shown a few sequences from the gorgeous but still-in-progress film, we were treated to a few panels by the "Incredibles 2" filmmakers. First off were Ralph Eggleston (Production Designer), Philip Metschan (Visual Designer), Bryn Imagire (Shading Art Director) and Nathan Fariss (Sets Supervisor) on "Creating the Worlds of Incredibles 2."

Bryn Imagire and Ralph Eggleston

--Production design and art directors come up with the overall look of the film and its specifics.
--They then build corrals of visual information that everyone can understand and utilize.
--Different areas for which they create the starting points: Character design, environments, props and dressing, sets, costumes and costume changes, textures, and lighting.
--One main architectural influence for the city was "mid-century mundane:" Mid-century elements that exist in-between iconic structures.
--The world of the Incredibles is not about "small." Structures are bigger than life, with the characters as small details.
--Safari Court is a motel where the family lives for some weeks after some unfortunate incidents.
--Iconic textures of this time period that were incorporated include sleek, simple furniture shapes and "nubbly" fabrics.
--The new Parr home was reworked after an initial design to give the impression of an arrow shooting upwards.


--Terrazzo floors were a big mid-century design element they used in the Parr house, with their appearance of a luxurious aggregate of materials.


--An effort was made to bring the "outside in" with plants, water features, dark exotic woods.


Philip Metschan

--The pre-vis department makes simple 3-D models that can serve as a prototype for subsequent iterations for easier collaboration.
--They create maps and try to choreograph how the characters live within the spaces.

Nathan Fariss

--The set department takes a lot of the concept art, research, and pre-vis, and turns it into the environments you see in the film--the props, architecture (inside and out,) vehicles, vegetation, etc.


--Sub-departments of modeling makes the objects, and set dressing arranges them in a design that creates and is consistent with the look of the film. Shading adds color and texture and determines how an object reacts to light, while set extension and skies fill out the world and create the world in long shot.


--Because the film utilizes so much of the city from so many angles, the set department took the time to create an entire virtual city for it.


--Even elements that were carried over from the original film needed to be reworked because the technology is so different and the purposes for which they were used in the film were often different, such as the Underminer's drill vehicle.
--To ease the viewer into the slightly different technical look between films, an effort was made to keep the very beginning of the film consistent with the first "Incredibles," with a progressive improvement in rendering, etc. as the drill vehicle goes first underground and then back up again.

The next group presenting was Ted Mathot (Story Supervisor), Mahyar Abousaeedi (Layout Supervisor), Kureha Yokoo (Animator), Amit Baadkar (Effects Artist) on "Anatomy of an Action Scene," in which they broke down the process of creating a high-speed runaway train chase with Elastigirl on her Elasticycle.


--Hand-drawn story reels are where the sequence starts, in the story department.


--In the first pass, Helen was the only active participant in the chase. It was decided that it would be logical for the police to be involved, which gives Helen more obstacles and introduces a world view into the scene.
--The key to the reality of "The Incredibles" is a balance between the mundane and the super, so Helen is required to field phone calls from her family on routine household matters regardless of her state of urgency.


--How Helen might enter and stop the train was reconceptualized in order to make her problem-solving solution distinct to her super abilities.
--Layout then takes the finalized story reels and cinematically translate them into film.
--While the chase kept its sensation of speed on the ground, alterations of the terrain and frequent checkbacks with the train were necessary to keep the action moving once Elastigirl takes to the air, leaping from building to building.


--Because the Maglev train wouldn't have conventional brakes, they needed to figure out how Helen could stop the train using her specific powers and thinking her way through, rather than muscling it as Mr. Incredible might.
--Creating the Elasticycle, their main concerns was that it match her style and be an extension of her powers--flexible and nimble.


--Although the bike had to enhance Helen's super-capabilities, it was important that it not make her so invincible that there be no stakes in the chase. The audience has to remember that Helen has her vulnerabilities as well.


Between panels, we were treated to a short tour of the terminally cool Pixar campus and the "Incredibles 2" concept art displayed around the atrium and corridors. Everyone wanted a job here by the time it was over.









More to come!

"Incredibles 2" comes to US theaters June 15, 2018.

March 12, 2018

Review: "A Wrinkle in Time"



From director Ava DuVernay and "Frozen" screenwriter Jennifer Lee, comes Walt Disney Studio's adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle's classic book "A Wrinkle in Time."


Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is the brilliant daughter of two talented physicists who, along with her even more brilliant younger adopted brother Charles Wallace ((Deric McCabe,) looks to have the perfect family life until her father abruptly vanishes. Four years later and her apparent state of abandonment has taken its toll on Meg who is angry, resentful, self-loathing, and subject to bullying by teachers and students alike at her school.


One night, she discovers that Charles Wallace has been in contact for awhile with three powerful and otherworldly beings--Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)--who believe Meg's father (Chris Pine) disappeared as a result of his discovery of tessering, which is a method of instantaneous travel based on frequency waves. They offer to help find him, and soon Meg, Charles Wallace, and Meg's earnest admirer/schoolmate Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) are tessering from planet to planet searching for clues as to his whereabouts.


Ultimately, what was a search party eventually turns into a rescue party, and Meg must use all her theoretical knowledge and strength of will to face down negative forces from without and within if she is to return home with her family intact.


The book "A Wrinkle in Time" has a complex and abstract storyline that has already defied successful adaptation once in a poorly-received made-for-TV movie in 2003. I read the book when I was little and remember it being conceptually difficult with a reasonable amount of it spent explaining the theoretical physics behind what was pretty obviously magic. Even with the access to the characters' internal thoughts that one has in a book and does not in a film, the actions and resolution were a little confusing to my seven-year-old understanding.


The film does a pretty good job of streamlining the dense plot, but almost falls to the other extreme of abbreviating the children's journey to the point of robbing it of impact. They travel to visually arresting planets and land in situations both creepy and bucolic, but often leave with barely an interaction with their surroundings. One of the more striking scenes from the book is when the kids arrive on the corrupted planet of Camazotz where everyone looks, acts, and thinks exactly the same. In what some feel is an allegory of 1960s communism, the evil force of "IT" explains how much better life is when everyone is of one Borg-like hive mind and there is no conflict because there are no conflicting points of view. For Meg in the book, this is a teachable moment where she learns to discard her earlier dreams of being able to be just like everyone else. In the film, while Meg clearly doesn't like who she is, her sense of individuality seems pretty strong even at the beginning, so it's hard to know how significant the scene is for her.


The characters too suffer a little from the necessity of condensing a book down to a screenplay. I vaguely remember Calvin in the book as having some specific part in helping the mission along--here, there really isn't much time to develop the character into more than an ego boost for Meg, much like the traditional female role might be for a male protagonist. We are constantly told that Charles Wallace is one of the greatest minds of our time, but hardly get to see him do anything more than an extroverted schoolchild would do normally. (The fact that in the theater I saw it, it was difficult to make out what McCabe was yelling at times probably didn't help.) Similarly the three "Mrs." Whatsit, Who, and Which have barely enough screen time to make distinct impressions (rude, quotations, Oprah.) It's a shame that they aren't used more, considering how interesting they are and how prominently they're featured in the advertising.


But the movie is beautifully done and has a nice empowering message for young girls. The parts of the film on Earth have a kind of dreamy contemporary feel, similar to that of the 2016 "Pete's Dragon" remake, and the concept of the kids getting recruited to visit a different space/time to fight evil reminded me somewhat of the 2015 "Tomorrowland." If you enjoyed those movies, or if you read and liked the book, or if you're ok with a little plot ambiguity, you should give this one a try.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is presented by Walt Disney Studios. Rated PG, it stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peňa and introducing Storm Reid with Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine.

Directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Jim Whitaker, and Catherine Hand. Executive Producered by Doug Merrifield . Screenplay by Jennifer Lee, based upon the novel by Madeleine L’Engle.

The film entered general release on March 9, 2018.

February 17, 2018

Review: "Black Panther"



"Don't freeze."
"I never freeze."
--Okoye and T'Challa

"Black Panther," the latest brick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe monolith, follows T'Challa shortly after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," as he struggles to adapt to his new role as King of Wakanda. The already-complicated political dilemmas of ruling a nation are compounded by his additional role of Black Panther; his slow-burning relationship with War Dog/Wakandan spy Nakia; a world that hungers for vibranium--the source of Wakanda's wealth and technology; and a man with an axe to grind who intends to use Wakanda as a whetstone.


While Coogler delivers plenty of action in the film--there are so many fight scenes, Wakanda's second major resource must be Bactine--the characters are where the movie shines. All the people in the world of "Black Panther" feel real and dimensional and capable of having opposing views while still treating each other with respect. It's a bizarre thing to say about a superhero movie, but I wish the action had been cut back a little so we could have spent more time building up the various interpersonal relationships.

Pounce in for the Black Panther collection at shopDisney!


Ironically, the supporting characters are so strong, Black Panther himself ends up being the least interesting one in the film. While Chadwick Boseman does a nice job of portraying the smart and decent T'Challa, he comes off a little bland compared to the dynamic Women of Wakanda.


From the coolly intimidating Okoye (Danai Gurira,) head of the Dora Milaje all-female fighting force, to the brave and empathetic Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), to the brilliant scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright who is pitch-perfect as the sister to whom T'Challa is both King and dorky older brother,) to the regal Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett,) it is in many ways the strong, independent women who drive the movie and embody the best of Wakanda.


Wakanda itself is a main character in the movie--beautiful and multifaceted, it is built up as a utopia of sorts, with equal parts environmental harmony and supernaturally advanced technology. Founded on the vibranium that landed there in a meteorite long ago, Wakanda enjoys a lifestyle rich with culture and tradition, supported by all the advanced science and medicine an enlightened society freed from the shackles of colonization or the paranoia of war might develop.


It is Wakanda's good fortune that brings about one of the main conflicts of the film: Does Wakanda have a right to keep all of its resources to itself, knowing how many suffer throughout the world they might help? Or does Wakanda's responsibility to keep its own people safe and preserve the purity of their lifestyle take precedent? The three main men of the film, T'Challa, W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya,) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) all have different visions of where the future of Wakanda lies. Poignantly, all three have suffered similar tragedies, pointing out again that heroism or villainy lies not so much in what life hands you, but in your response to it.


Ultimately, Coogler has managed to make "Black Panther" a fun ride with a meaningful core. It's the superhero movie that feels the least like a superhero movie, which is a breath of fresh air in a genre that's in danger of getting a little played out recently. The characters seem more realized and the issues more topically relevant than most movies out there, which is a big accomplishment in a film where drinking a flower gives you superpowers.


Because of the rarity of a superhero film written and cast with a predominately black viewpoint, it is difficult to discuss "Black Panther" without mentioning the significance of race in film. I am not a black person, and consequently it seems presumptuous to think that I could adequately express what it might signify for one to see a movie like "Black Panther." I am Japanese-American however, and I can tell you definitively what it would mean to me to see a tentpole blockbuster like this with a largely Japanese cast including even one empowered woman who doesn't either die in the first ten minutes of the film or spend the whole storyline helping/pining over a hero who never thinks of her as more than a swell kid: Quite a bit.


"Black Panther" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

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*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers are Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov, and Stan Lee. Screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole.

The film enters general release on February 16, 2017.

** With Infinity War coming down the pike, Shuri probably hasn't healed her last broken white boy.

February 12, 2018

"Black Panther" Press Junket



This week the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to theaters: "Black Panther."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

At a recent press conference the cast and creatives for "Black Panther" met to help introduce the world to Wakanda. In attendance: Chadwick Boseman “T’Challa / Black Panther,” Michael B. Jordan “Killmonger,” Letitia Wright “Shuri,” Lupita Nyong’o “Nakia,” Danai Gurira “Okoye,” Martin Freeman “Everett K Ross,” Daniel Kaluuya “W’Kabi,” Winston Duke “M’Baku,” Angela Bassett “Ramonda,” Forest Whitaker “Zuri,” Andy Serkis “Ulysses Klaue,” Director Ryan Coogler, and Producer Kevin Feige.


Select moments from the press conference video above:


Jordan on the film's effectiveness: "I call Ryan...the night before, or the day before, or the day of, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m anxious; I’m nervous, man. I don’t know...what to expect.’ And he says, ‘Look, man, just look at it and try to be a fan. Just watch it, you know what I’m saying, and try to enjoy it.’ And in the back of my head I’m like, yeah, that’s never gonna happen, but I’m gonna try. And when I sat down with my family and the audience...I had that same type of reaction. It was like, man, this is what it feels like. There’s nothing that I could have--I couldn’t describe that feeling before actually sitting down and watching that film...people who looked like you...empowered, and having those...socially relevant themes, but in a movie that you want to sit down and watch, and you can enjoy, that Marvel does so well. So I think it was a really good balance, and everybody won; everybody did amazing, amazing jobs in performances.."

Bassett on portraying a powerful woman on screen: "In African culture, you know, they feel as if there is no king without a queen...and I think in this story, it highlights the queen...the warrior...the general...the young sister, you know. So I was so proud to have my daughter, and my son there last night, because in their faces, and in their spirit, they were feeling themselves. And they stood taller after last night."

Gurira on having her head shaved for her character: "This pride around it, and this sort of embracing of this--this sort of symbol of power in these women. And then the beauty of how he wrote that moment; I loved that moment where she like, doesn’t want a wig. She doesn’t want to cover up. This is her joy, and her pride, is in walking in with that...with that bald head with that tattoo on it. And I was was so subversive, you know, and it’s so subversive in the right way, to say what’s not necessarily beauty. You don’t have to have hair to be beautiful."

Wright on whether Shuri is smarter than T'Challa: "I think what I love about it...with how it was written, is that the men are always behind the women, as well. So no one’s like undermined--the men are not, you know, ‘you shouldn’t be in technology, and you shouldn’t be in math,’ they’re like, ‘no, go ahead.’ So T’Challa is like, ‘go ahead, Sis. This is your department. This is your domain. Like--kill it.’
"But she's cooler than him, but not smarter than him."

Coogler on making a blockbuster film that also has meaning: "...I grew up loving comic books. I love not just comic books, but I love pop culture. I love toys, actions figures, you know, video games, all of that stuff. When I got older and...realized that I wanted to make movies, that’s how I fell in love with internationalism, and, you know, cinema that...left you with something to chew on, with something to think about. But I never fell out of love with those types of films, you know, and those types of stories. And I think the best versions of those stories, you know, do both things."

Feige on having the courage to address societal issues: "Well I think it’s happened for the comics, so it’s happened with the movie. Ryan wrote this for the most part, you know, a year and a half ago, two years ago, so things have happened in the world which makes the film seem more relevant. There are other things in the film that have been relevant for centuries, but the truth of the matter is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the whole Marvel bullpen created Wakanda and created T’Challa and created Black Panther and made him a smarter, more accomplished character than any of the other white characters in the mid 1960s. So they had the guts to do that in the mid 1960s. The least we can do is live up to that and allow this story to be told the way it needed to be told and not shy away from things that the Marvel founders didn’t shy away from in the height of the civil rights era."

Serkis and Freeman on being in a movie with a predominantly Black cast:

Serkis: "Actually we were just talking about that earlier on and it was very funny ‘cause you reminded me of a story of Ryan saying to us before we were about to do our scene. Ryan came up to us and said, you know, I’ve never actually directed two white actors before.
"No, it was just an incredible experience, you know, and to be part of it was...I just think this film is so important and to be able to be part of something that is so groundbreaking and yes, should have been made many years ago, you know...But now is the time and now is a brilliant time because things are changing rapidly in every single aspect of filmmaking and so it should and the needle should swing right the other way because we need to really change things."

Freeman: "...That was lovely and I have spoken to Ryan a bit about that sort of in the process before filming. And we both agreed that we didn’t want (Agent Ross) just to be a schmuck, you know, and we didn’t want him just to be a comic foil; that it needs to be a little bit more 3D than that and I was very pleased when I was reading...bits of the script and then new bits of the script that were coming in. They were making it more emphatic, more sympathetic, and a bit more can do...because clearly it’s not Agent Ross’s film by a long way, but he plays his part. There is sort of an ambivalence about Ross I think...‘cause you’re not quite sure if he’s gonna be down with T’Challa or not, but he ends up having his eyes opened by this country that he knew nothing about and a civilization that he knew nothing about and realizing that it had something to offer and he went away learning a bit from it, you know. So I was very pleased that Ross had his kind of moment of heroism at the end...He gets in his plane and he gets to help out. He has his little Hans Solo moment. So I was really pleased and I thought that was generous on the film’s part...‘cause like Andy says, you know, we’re not short of white heroes in movies, so I thought to make one of the two white characters...a bit of a hero, I thought spoke very well of them actually."

Boseman on having T'Challa speak with an African accent: "You know I think as actors this is separate from the movie, but...when you’re trained you’re trained very often from a European perspective. What is considered great or classical is very often British and its certain writers and I happen to come from a background that does not believe that, you know. I went to Oxford to study, but I went to Howard and we were taught to respect our writers and our classics just as much and believe that it takes the same skill level and same technique and sometimes techniques that are a little bit different to pull that off. And so I think you have to be, you have to tell the stories and be true to yourself as an artist. And, you know...there was a time period where people were asking me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke with that accent. (And it was not Kevin by the way, so just making sure you know that.) And so I became adamant about the fact that that is not true. That the intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one and that all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown and expressions can be shown through that accent and we have to take this opportunity to show that and he just wouldn’t, if he had never been conquered, if his ancestors had never been conquered and he’s never been conquered and Wakanda is what it is, he doesn’t have to go to Oxford to study. He doesn’t have to go to Cambridge or Yale or any place to study. He actually got his education at home and he would not then assimilate a language that is the colonizer’s language in order to speak to his people. So he had to speak with an African accent."

Kaluuya on how a country balances self-preservation vs. altruism.: "I don’t think there is a right and wrong. I just think is the cause just and if the cause is just you just do what you need to do...and then sometimes there’s sacrifices, but there’s also sacrifices if you don’t do it, and that’s the battle that we’re in. We’re putting it out there and everyone makes their own decisions."

Nyong’o on the film's takeaway message: "Well I would say what I love about the way this film represents women is that each and every one of us is an individual, unique and we all have our own sense of power and our own agency and we hold our own space without being pitted against each other. And I think that’s a very, very powerful message to send to children, both male and female this idea. I think often times in movies we fall into that trap where women, there’s very few of us and then we are against each other. There’s a competitive spirit and stuff like that and this film freezes all that. And we see women going about their business and supporting each other, even arguing with each other, you know; having different points of view, but still not being against each other. And I think that’s extremely important and...the fact that in this film there’s so many of us, we really get a sense of the fabric of Wakanda as a nation and we see women alongside men and we see how much more effective a society can be if they allow women to explore their full potential, yeah."

A variety of merchandise for all ages is available in conjunction with the movie's release:

"Black Panther" will open in theaters February 16, 2018.

December 11, 2017

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Press Conference



This week the eagerly-anticipated second chapter of the third trilogy in the Star Wars saga opens--"Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

On hand recently (accompanied by their Praetorian Guard and droids) to talk about the latest entry in the media phenomenon that is Star Wars were the main members of its extensive cast: John Boyega “Finn,”Daisy Ridley “Rey,” Andy Serkis “Supreme Leader Snoke,” Adam Driver “Kylo Ren,” Mark Hamill “Luke Skywalker,” Oscar Isaac “Poe Dameron,” Laura Dern “Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo,” Gwendoline Christie “Captain Phasma,” Domhnall Gleeson “General Hux,” Kelly Marie Tran “Rose Tico,” and Director Rian Johnson.





Select moments from the press conference video above:


Serkis on how "The Last Jedi" distinguishes itself: "I was blown away when I saw the movie. I just was so caught up with it, not least because it was really intimate and very emotional and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I mean, I knew obviously that it was going to go that way, but it was very, very powerful and it touches you and what Rian’s done incredibly is make this dance between...these great kind of epic moments and hilarious antics, you know, literally flipping on a dime and then going right into the heart of these beautiful characters."

Driver and Gleeson on Hux and Ren's relationship:

Driver: "I think...definitely there’s a competition and it’s maybe yet to be discovered where that comes from. If anything I think that’s more of a testament to kind of what everyone has been saying of Rian’s inability to not mind a character in every moment...So I love playing those scenes, especially with Domhnall, ‘cause he’s a great actor and there’s nothing...taken for granted where, you know, oh, this happens and it moves on. If anything, Rian slows the pace and there’s not a moment that’s taken for granted. It’s always broken up into little pieces and the story in our mind comes first before an explosion."

Gleeson: "I think it’s funny, you know, like there’s just such a huge amount of drama going on in that group of people but then also just a huge amount of bitchy infighting as well, which I think is really fun to see them kind of really hurt each other from the inside as well as from the outside. You know, the united front thing is difficult for them sometimes."


Tran and Dern on representing women in Star Wars:

Tran: "...It feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I feel like from the beginning when I initially found out I got this role, I just felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited that guys, the girls in this movie kick some butt! Every single one is so good, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it."

Dern: "I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever been able to bear witness the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity. To see a powerful female character also be feminine, is something that moves away from a stereotype that’s sometimes perceived (that) strong female characters must be like the boys. I thought that was a really interesting choice to get to witness."


Johnson on the perils of meeting your heroes in Star Wars: "You know, I think these movies to some extent are always really boil it down, you know, if you look back at Lucas...famously drawing from The Hero’s Journey myth that Joseph Campbell wrote about...the hero’s journey is not about becoming a hero, it’s not about becoming Hercules, it’s about really adolescence. It’s about the transition from childhood into adulthood, and finding your place in the world, and having these new powers that you’re feeling inside yourself for the first time. You don’t know what to do with them, you don’t know who it is you’re going to get help from, who’s going to be unreliable, who’s not. Navigating those very tricky waters that we all have to navigate--that’s why it’s so universal. So part of that is, you know, your relationship to heroes and people you thought were your heroes, people you don’t expect to become your heroes. And that’s definitely something that plays out in this film."


Hamill on returning to Luke Skywalker: "I don’t think any line in the script epitomized my reaction more than 'this is not going to go the way you think.' And Rian pushed me out of my comfort zone, as if I weren’t as intimidated and terrified to begin with, but I’m grateful, because you have to trust someone and he was the only Obi Wan available to me, not only in my choices as an actor, but my choices in sock wear."

Boyega, Isaac, and Ridley on their characters after Han Solo's death:

Boyega: "I think we’re just keeping it moving, to be honest with you, man. It’s true, the pressure’s on man, you know, there’s no time. I think that’s the one thing that’s unique to me about watching this movie was just the commentary on war. I think there hasn’t been a Star Wars movie yet that has explored war in the way 'The Last Jedi' does. It’s very messy, the categorizing of good and evil is all mixed together, so you know, in terms of Han, there’s know, I’m sure we all feel sentimental if someone was to sit Finn down or sit Rey down, but Rey’s off training, she’s got stuff to do. I’ve got back injury, I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t think about Han at the moment. He died."

Isaac: "I mean, I think it’s reverberating but he’s right. You know, it’s a dire situation, it’s critical. The Resistance is on its last legs. You know, they’re trying to survive. First Order’s right on top of us. You know, it is like war, where you go to just keep moving to try to survive, and so you feel, I think, the momentum of everything that happened in 'The Force Awakens' just pushing and getting to a critical mass in this film."

Ridley: "I will interject there, and I think this is the beauty of having storylines that are sort of happening in tandem and affecting each other, ‘cause I would say that Rey at least is very much affected by it...Rey, as a character, has been alone for a really long time and she’s really open to love and friendship, so Finn and BB-8 come along and it’s like this amazing adventure. And then Han, like without trying to...she seeks something from him because there’s an intimacy and there’s a sort of figure of something she’s never dreamed of for her, that gets, you know, snatched away...
"So for Rey at least there is some time. Everything’s moving forward, but she has some time to ask questions and wonder what it is that would have led someone to do something like that, and also how that directly affects the world around her...and then you know, she’s worried about Finn at home, so I would say she’s maybe a little more affected, at least emotionally on screen, than the others."


Christie on what Carrie Fisher as Leia meant to her: "Well, she was very significant because I was first shown 'A New Hope' when I was six, and I remember thinking, wow, that character’s really different. I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age but it stayed with me throughout my formative years, of she’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do. And she doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing--so that was really instrumental to me, as someone that didn’t feel like they fitted that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise. So it was a big inspiration for me. And you know, to play a character as well from what we’ve seen in 'The Force Awakens'...I was very excited when I was shown just the basic element of the costume, and here we were seeing character whereby a woman wasn’t--her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness. Those elements, that weird random group of elements which we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society. And I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity."

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will open in theaters December 15, 2017.

November 15, 2017

Celebrate the Holidays with "Olaf's Frozen Adventure"



"Olaf's Frozen Adventure," one of Disney-Pixar's holiday offerings for this season, is a 21-minute featurette scheduled to play in conjunction with “Coco,” opening on Nov. 22, 2017.

[Non-attributed photos and video are courtesy of Disney.]

Set some six months after the events of "Frozen," the newly reconciled Anna and Elsa eagerly anticipate celebrating the holidays with everyone, only to find their years of isolation have left them solidly out of their citizens' seasonal rituals. To help salvage their spirits, Olaf takes it upon himself to investigate what the holidays mean to people and to bring the best of the Arendelle traditions back to the sisters.


Along the way, Olaf meets with various upsets that ultimately challenge what defines traditions and family as he learns what the holidays are all about.


At a recent press day, Producer Roy Conli, Josh Gad “Olaf”, and Directors Stevie Wermers-Skelton & Kevin Deters met to discuss the making of "Olaf's Frozen Adventure."


--Gad on returning to sing as Olaf: "It's difficult when they write it as high as they keep writing it. Bobby Lopez, who wrote 'Book of Mormon'...he would always write it about an octave higher than I deserved to sing it, and carried that tradition over to 'Frozen.' So when the brilliant songwriters Kate and Elyssa came in and did this, I was like 'oh great, they've been speaking to Bobby and Kristen.'"

--Gad on singing "That Time of Year" at the 2017 D23 Expo: "It's a tongue-twister, and we had to sing it live at D23. So, before I got there, they're like 'we're gonna have a monitor right in front of you and you'll be able to lip-synch to Olaf's animation.' And I get there and I'm like 'that's great because I've never sung this live,' and they're like 'by the way, that monitor that we told you about? That doesn't exist. You're just gonna have to do it. You're going to have to wing it.' And I'm like 'wait...what?!' So we did heart was beating through my chest, but it was surreal, like we actually landed it. Once in a lifetime. I promise you, nine out of ten times that would have been a disaster."

Conli on attaching "Olaf" to "Coco:" "Yeah, I think it's interesting because it's the thematic connection. Both films have to do with tradition and have to do with family. And we actually showed this up at Pixar about a year and a half ago at a summit, a marketing summit, and that's when they said 'this is such a great pair.' So it became a very natural fit, a very easy thing."


Gad on what he would like kids to take away from the film: "I would love--it's funny because these holidays are so wonderfully rich with memories for me, growing up. Memories I have of these holidays. Holidays in general have become really commercialized, right? There's a lot about holidays now that's driven by we gotta go shopping, we gotta go do this, we gotta go do that...this movie is, I think, I hope, an emotional reminder about the bond of family...that to me is the power of 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure.' It is about traditions, but more than that, it's about family. And I love that. I hope that my girls, when they see this movie, they start to think about the traditions that they want to make with each other."


After the panel and screening, guests were treated to a variety of Olaf-themed snacks, photo-ops, and activities.




Finally, as a special treat, songwriters Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson were introduced and performed "When We're Together."

"Olaf's Frozen Adventure" opens with "Coco" in theaters November 22, 2017.

October 31, 2017

"Thor: Ragnarok" Press Junket



November 3rd, Marvel Studios will continue its slow march towards "Infinity War" with the next tale in the God of Thunder's narrative, "Thor: Ragnarok."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

On hand at a recent press junket to discuss the current state of Thor were Chris Hemsworth / Thor, Tessa Thompson / Valkyrie, Mark Ruffalo / The Hulk, Jeff Goldblum / Grandmaster, Tom Hiddleston / Loki, Taika Waititi / Director / Korg, Karl Urban / Skurge, Rachel House / Topaz, and Kevin Feige / Producer.


Select moments from the press conference video above:


Feige on picking Waititi to direct: "We wanted a new sensibility. We wanted to take Thor--and if you look at everything Chris has done as this character, there have been moments of humor--and we wanted to build on that. And if you look at the movie, it’s got the epic action. It’s got Thor arguably more powerful than he’s ever been in any of the films, with his powers going up against the Hulk, but at the same time embracing what Mr. Hemsworth does better than anyone up until now has ever been able to see, which is his acting chops expands to comedy in an amazing way. And Taika gave them the confidence to explore that, and to try things."

Urban on preparing to take on Thor: "The working out schedule was rather intense. In fact, Taika came to me and he said, ‘Listen, you need to tone it down. You can’t be bigger than Chris, okay?’ So I did, you know."


Feige and Waititi on what happened to Lady Sif:
Waititi: "Kevin."
Feige: "If she had been on Asgard, she might not be alive, so that's one of the advantages."
Waititi: "Lady Sif is an actor in New York, on a TV show at the moment."
Feige: "Oh, that's true."
Waititi: "She was busy."
Feige: "I've been quoting; I've been using 'A Force Awakens' quote today when people ask me that, which is to say 'that's a good question for another time.'"


Ruffalo on doing a Hulk movie: "I would love to do a Hulk movie, and I think we all would love to do one. But about a year ago, before I even had this part, or were talking about doing this--it was well over a year ago--Kevin had asked me to come over and have a script meeting. And basically he sat me down and he said, ‘What would you like to do if you had a stand-alone Hulk movie?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do this, this, and this; and this and this--and then this. And then this, and this, and this, and then it would end like this.’ And he’s like, ‘I love that. Let’s do that over the next three movies, starting with Thor 3 and carry it on through Avengers 3 and Avengers 4.’ And so that’s my stand-alone Hulk movie."


Thompson on playing an originally white character: "You know, the things that I thought about the particulars of Valkyrie had more to do with, like mass and size. For example, I thought, like ‘Oh, I’m short,’ you know. Or like, ‘I’m not buff enough.’ Or know, she’s arguably as strong as Thor. How do I stand, you know, next to a person like Chris Hemsworth and feel, and feel like that’s true, you know. So I didn’t think so much...I mean, satisfying Norse mythology, it’s mystifying, and fantastical, and glorious, and also very confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense, you know. And I remember someone online saying like, ‘You know, Tessa Thompson playing Valkyrie is white genocide.’ Which is just as mystifying as Norse mythology. I just figured like, you know, this thing that I’m tasked to do with any character that has its own iconography is to capture the spirit of the character, and I think the spirit of all of us, at the risk of sounding, you know, cheesy, has very little to do with what color we are. So I just didn’t really invest in that."


Goldblum on joining the Marvel Universe: " know, Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito, and Victoria Alonso, and Brad Winderbaum--the whole upper tier of creative leaders--do something unique. They know how to make these epic productions, and popular movies, but they want to make good movies. And they somehow uniquely know how to do them, that feels to me like an actorly, workshop-y, character-y, improvisatory, delightful experience...and to make a movie that I think skins the cat like this is just...I’m grateful, overwhelmingly grateful."


Blanchett on fight with Hemsworth: "I didn't do enough of it. I kept wanting to do more."
Hemsworth: "You wanted to hit me."
Blanchett: "...Look, it was, it was hugely enjoyable for me. And apart from working with these guys, obviously, the chance to finally, in my deep middle age, to get fit and to wear that much lycra was really exciting for me."


Hiddleston on Loki's ability to change: "...In a way, in this film, it is about, I think--I’m not spoiling anything--but the development of the relationship between Thor and Loki... Thor has evolved, and grown, and matured; and Loki in a way is stuck in his struggles of the past. And that’s, in a way, that’s the challenge for Loki in this, is that he’s got to confront the fact that time is moving on, and people change, I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see, we’ll see. There’s room to grow, and I’m still here. And we’ll see where he goes next."


Hemsworth on whether he misses his hammer: "It just helped to kind of shed anything too familiar. You know, I feel like, well, holding the hammer, or even the wig in the previous costume, certainly just put me in a place, and set me on a path of what I already knew. And I wanted it to be unfamiliar, and so everything from the hammer, to the costume, the hair...made me, and allowed me to move differently, and (the lack of them) forced me to move differently, and so that was a great thing. And--I don’t really miss it, no. I’ve got one at home."

"Thor: Ragnarok" will open in theaters November 3, 2017.

July 18, 2017

D23 Expo: "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films"


Expo time is here! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I'm attending this weekend and will try to report back on the highlights.

One of the highlights of the first day was the Animation panel "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films," in which John Lasseter and his special guests presented some of the many animation projects currently in the works for both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Pixar.

Introducing the panel was Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn who showed a brief montage of a lot of the upcoming films, animated and live-action. After the crowd went berserk over a quick view of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the remake of "Mary Poppins," he joked that the demand was such that they would bring back a version of "Mary Poppins" every fifty years.

[All photos and video provided by Disney.]


He then introduced John Lasseter who came out with a t-shirt cannon and merrily shot shirts into the crowds. (I did not get a shirt.)


After he finished lobbing projectiles into the audience, he began by introducing a clip called "Speed Test" from a Disneytoon Studio featurette as yet unnamed, which showed some fighter jets (with the trademark sentient vehicle eyes) and which will take a look at the future of Aviation. It will open April 12, 2019.


Next Lasseter turned his attention to Walt Disney Animation Studios and their next visit back to Arendelle, "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," which will open with Pixar's "Coco."


To help introduce the story of Olaf's quest to find some holiday traditions for the previously-estranged royal siblings Anna and Elsa, Kristen Bell took the stage.


Unfortunately, as they began to play a clip from the short, the audio mysteriously cut out and who but Josh Gad should come to the rescue, singing one of the songs, “That Time of Year,” written by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, live with the animation track running behind him.


Subsequently, Josh Gad noted that he was glad Olaf finally got a film where he was the star. Bell pointed out that it was really an ensemble effort, to which Gad replied "really? it's not called 'ENSEMBLE's Frozen Adventure!'"


Moving on to "Frozen 2," not a whole lot of information was given, except that the original cast would be back, and it wouldn't be titled "Thawed." The original production team of Co-directors Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Producer Peter del Vecchio are all returning, and have already gone on a research trip around Scandinavia to prepare for it. It will open November 27, 2019.


The next film up was the sequel to "Wreck-It Ralph," "Ralph Breaks the Internet." Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, who returns as the voice of Vanellope von Schweetz, showed clips of BFFs Ralph and Vanellope escaping their arcade into the Internet. A new character, Yesss, was introduced, with actress Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) doing voice duty for her.


They then showed a rough animation sequence where Vanellope and Ralph go to the Oh My Disney website and meet up with all manners of Disney consumers (I am reasonably certain the Tsum Tsum obsessed girl was not modeled after me.) Later, Vanellope has an encounter with a huge number of Disney princesses that is as hilarious as it is audacious for a company usually so careful with its property usage. It's not as coarse as, say, Shrek, but comes close to the same sensibility. All the original voice actresses came back: Auli‘i Cravalho (“Moana”), Kristen Bell (Anna in “Frozen”), Kelly MacDonald (Merida in “Brave”), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in “Tangled”), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog”), Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in “Aladdin”), Paige O’Hara (Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and Jodi Benson (Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,”) and in fact came out on stage for the largest grouping of Disney Princesses ever. "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2" is opening November 21, 2018.


Moving on to "Incredibles 2," they began with a video clip showing various models and designers giving tribute to one of the great design minds of our time, Edna Mode.

Subsequently Director Brad Bird did Edna Mode as a voice over where she finally agreed to come onstage "but only in the form of a disillusioned middle-aged man."


In their new, mid-century modern design house, the Parrs resume life as a family that just happens to have super powers. Mrs. Incredible fights crime while Mr. Incredible does a stint as a stay-at-home Dad to baby Jack Jack. For the story, Bird promises new allies and enemies, with appearances from old friends as well.


Bird was joined onstage with the cast of "Incredibles 2" which included all the original voices (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible--Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter, Violet--Sarah Vowell, and Frozone--Samuel L. Jackson) with the exception of Dash, now played by Huck Milner.


After all the actors took turns giving newcomer Milner some helpful career advice (Jackson: "Never read the comments.") they showed a short clip from the film, depicting Jack Jack still manifesting his powers while putting the smackdown on a raccoon. "Incredibles 2" is scheduled for release on June 15, 2018.

Lasseter then made the announcement that on "Toy Story 4," he would no longer be co-directing, but that Pixar veteran Josh Cooley would be the full director. While they had no footage ready at this early date, they did show a short docu/mocumentary on a typical day in the life of a Pixar director. "Toy Story 4" has an opening date of June 21, 2019.


"Monster's University" director Dan Scanlon then presented the concept behind "Untitled Dan Scanlon Movie." It will be set in a magical suburb, in a world where magic exists, but at a level of difficulty that most utilize contemporary technology instead. There are no humans--just elves, trolls, and sprites, and unicorns are rodents. The story is based on Scanlon's personal history of having lost his father at a young age, and revolves around two teenage elves in a similar situation, who embark on a journey to spend one last magical day with their father.


Finally, director Lee Unkrich, co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson presented "Coco," in which Miguel, a young boy from a music-hating family, dreams of a career as a musician. His desperation to follow in his deceased idol's footsteps causes him to defy his family's wishes and earns him a trip to the Land of the Dead.


Michael Giacchino is in charge of the score, while the main song "Remember Me," is penned by "Frozen's" Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. As a finale, guests at the presentation were treated to the first ever public performance of "Remember Me," with special guest Benjamin Bratt (voice of Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel's musical inspiration) singing it along with 160 performers including the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles.



"Coco" will be in theaters Nov. 22, 2017.


June 16, 2017

"Cars 3" Press Conference



June 16th, Disney-Pixar embarks on one more road trip with Lightning McQueen in "Cars 3."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

While in town for the film's premier at the Anaheim Convention Center, performers Owen Wilson “Lightning McQueen,” Armie Hammer “Jackson Storm,” Cristela Alonzo “Cruz Ramirez,” Kerry Washington “Natalie Certain,” Nathan Fillion “Sterling,” Lea DeLaria “Miss Fritter,” Isiah Whitlock Jr. “River Scott,” Larry the Cable Guy “Mater,” with Director Brian Fee and Producer Kevin Reher, gathered at a press conference to talk about bringing Lightning McQueen's last chance at the Big Time to life.



Select moments from the press conference video above:


Wilson on the enduring appeal of "Cars.": "I think that it's also the animators...did a pretty good job. 'Cause I know when they were first kind of animating the cars, before they figured out where they were going to do the eyes and stuff...there's something kind of human or inviting about the expressions, and so I think that helps to kind of make the cars more relatable and life-like to people. I think that's a big part of it. And the voice! The voices! Don't forget these voices! Pump a little life into this!" (gestures towards car stand-ins.)


Hammer on the how Jackson Storm measures up to McQueen: "It's definitely a change. He's part of this class of racers called The Next Gen, and they're faster, they're smarter, they're better looking...just saying! I mean look at that thing! (gestures towards Jackson Storm) Look at it!"
Wilson: "That does look pretty cool."
Hammer: "I want to put a motor in that thing and take it home!"



Alonzo on whether "Cars 3" will appeal to all genders: "It's not really about boys and girls for me, personally--I actually approach it as an economic level. 'Cause I grew up so poor...that I want poor kids to know that they have a shot at doing it. So for me, I think the lesson surpasses gender and actually goes to the childhood that somebody has...

"I love that you said that this is Pixar's 'Wonder Woman,' because for me, I think that we don't have enough stories about female characters actually in a world with male characters, where they get to succeed in a way that isn't romantic or anything--it's just being empowered and succeeding. So, I think it surpasses gender for me. It's just anybody, any kid, that feels disenfranchised, disappointed, feels like they don't belong, feels like what's the point...this is the story for them. For me, this is a story about hope. And we need more stories like that, because the kids are the ones that grow up and they're the ones who take over the country."


Washington on why "Cars 3" resonates with everyone: "What's so special to me about this film is not that the girl beats the boy, but that they win together. And I feel like that's such an important message, that she wins, but that they win together. That there's room for the Mentor and the Mentee. There's room for the girl and the boy. There's room for the Champion and the Newcomer, and that if we work together, there's room for everybody at the table. And I think that's the one of the most special things about the film."


Fee on the message of "Cars 3:" "It was a very important movie for me, personally, and for us as a studio. Again, coming at it from a parent, you know...There are certain scenes with McQueen and finding out what he meant to Doc Hudson--to finding out that he was the most important thing in Doc's know, that's a scene that I had with my kids, when I realized that being their father was the most important thing in my life. So it's a very personal story to try to get as a parent, going through transitions, right? But also, just having two daughters and again, wanting them to have the freedom and the courage to do whatever they want without any barriers. And if there are barriers, what do they need to break through the barriers? These are the things we tried to get into the film."


Next up was the second panel of the morning with the second half of the major cast.



Whitlock Jr. on the importance of knowing your history: "I really feel that we need to pay attention to a lot of the pioneers, a lot of the people who have come before us and some of the struggles, especially with the character that I play, Wendell Scott. We need to pay attention to that, to see how we got to where we are today and I know with Wendell Scott (River Scott that I play)...he did not have the sponsors and the equipment and especially racing in the segregated South...There were so many obstacles, and yet he was able to persevere. And I think that's the key word there is "perseverance"--overcoming a lot of those obstacles to be successful. That's sort of the heart of racing...when we think about racing, we think about the passion and the heart and what it's all about. I think the character I play exhibited that over time."



Cable Guy on Mater:
"I think Mater has a good role in this. Mater does what he's supposed to do, you know? Just when you're about to cry, Mater says something stupid and then you laugh again. There's no "Cars" without Mater. That's what it's all about! About McQueen and Mater and what's going on in their lives. I don't care if Mater's got one line, Mater's Mater and he'll always be Mater."



Fillion on working with Pixar: "Here's my theory: Nothing happens by accident in a Pixar movie. They tell a story one pixel at a time. So. By the time it gets to the point where I'm sitting there in front of a microphone, all the hard work has actually been done. I rely very heavily on the director, we get to play around a little bit, but in all honesty, you're looking at a Thanksgiving meal, and Nathan is the pepper. You know what I mean? The work is kinda been done. Just need a little pepper buddy! <snap> ...and you're done."



DeLaria on having input on Miss Fritter's design:
"They used my high school on the side of the bus, which I think is amazing. And the license plate is my birthday. It wasn't like...I didn't call them up "I WON'T DO IT UNLESS MY BIRTHDAY IS THE LICENSE PLATE!" They called me and said 'what's your birthday? What high school did you go to?' and the next thing I knew, I was actually saying my high school in the script and it was on the bus, and I just think that's kinda great."



Fee on 'Humphrey Hop:" "I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid, Disney Channel and...'Humphrey Hop' is one of those songs, now I'm 43 years old, and still a week doesn't go by that I'm not singing that tune in my head. It's just ingrained. It's a childhood's just one of those moments where you kind of realize well, I'm directing the movie. I can do whatever I want. I want the 'Humphrey Hop' in there! I'm glad someone else recognized it and got something out of it, because I thought that was just for me."


Reher on the Pixar method of filmmaking: "My favorite is when some...we've had a couple comments where people come up and said 'I was crying over a car! Come on! Wow, you killed me!' And then I'm like yeah, we did right. We did it right.


In conjunction with the two panels, we were treated to a presentation on the short "Lou" with Director Dave Mullins and Producer Dana Murray.


This was very similar to the talk the two gave at the Early Press Day that took place at Pixar previously this year (I wrote it up here.) In it, the duo described Pixar's method of developing an animated short which is as long and as painstaking as you'd expect of its quality of work.

"Cars 3" will open in theaters with "Lou" on June 16, 2017.

June 1, 2017

Cars 3 Early Press Day: On Writing and Racing



"Cars 3" is rapidly approaching the finish line for release this June 16th. To learn more about it, AllEars.Net was invited up north for an early look. (I detailed the first half of the presentations here.)

[Non-attributed photos and video are courtesy of Disney.]

So the second day of the press sessions began bright and early in the morning at the Sonoma Raceway.


To give us insight into Lightning McQueen's world of racing, we were taken in "hot laps" around the track, three cars at a time. Things I learned from this: 1) Toyota Camrys can go a lot faster than you'd think. 2) There are sheep and stuff out there around the Sonoma Raceway track. 3) Those cars come a LOT closer to each other while jockeying for position than you might strictly consider comfortable. Like really close. Like I could have stretched my arm out and high-fived the people in the car passing us.


At any rate, it was a lot of fun! And I didn't die!

The next "Cars 3" presentation was "The Story of Our Story," with writers Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, and Mike Rich, and Story Supervisor Scott Morse talking about the screenwriting process.


--When we last saw McQueen, he was on top of the world, living a great life...which is good for him, and bad for a story. Their immediate problem was to ensure that McQueen had a problem.
--"Cars 3" is actually the third act of the Cars story. When McQueen was young, he was brash and fast and had limited respect for the sport of racing. Now, he faces many of the same concerns as aging athletes--feelings of obsolescence and ending.
--Some athletes make the mistake of trying to stay young. The great ones adapt and learn to use the wisdom they've accumulated to find a place for themselves.


--Jackson Storm is the inverse of McQueen, with all the speed and swagger McQueen had when he was young. He represents the same thing McQueen represented to the older cars when he came along--the up-and-comer who can take their standing away from them.
--Cruz Ramirez was initially just a techie superfan, but failed to push McQueen to where he needed to be emotionally in that incarnation.


--Ultimately Ramirez evolved into a personal trainer that treats McQueen as an old guy...which is exactly what he does not want.


--The conversation that takes place between the two generations: McQueen refuses to face the truth that he is old, so he fails to accept it/move on, and Ramirez has accepted a bad "truth" about herself that she doesn't have what it takes to be a racer. As the movie progresses, the two heal each other.
--Cruz ultimately became an avatar of sorts for the lack of confidence/"imposter syndrome" that sometimes afflicts professional women both at Pixar and beyond.


--"Cars 3" is more spiritually related to "Cars" than "Cars 2," which was more Mater's movie.
--Homage was paid to the late Paul Newman by using pieces of his old recordings for Doc Hudson in this film.

Our final panel was with Creative Director Jay Ward and Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports Ray Evernham on the "History of Racing."



--NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
--After the war, the illegal production of moonshine became popular in the economically-depressed South.
--To distribute their product, Moonshiners would employ Bootleggers--fast drivers with souped-up cars that could speed their booze from the stills of the North Carolina woods to big cities like Charlotte and Atlanta.
--Rivalries eventually evolved to the point where drivers would compete in dirt fields to see who was fastest.
--As people began to come and watch the races, Bill France Sr. organized and promoted them into a money-making affair.
--The initial cars raced tended to be 1938-44 pre-war Fords. Bootleggers wanted cars that didn't stand out, and these cars were plain black with back seats that could be removed to run 100 gallons of product.
--Some of the legends of NASCAR are honored in "Cars 3" by having characters inspired by them, and in some cases getting to do the voices themselves.

From left: River Scott (voice of Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Junior “Midnight” Moon (voice of Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson), Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), Louise “Barnstormer” Nash (voice of Margo Martindale), and Lightning himself (voice of Owen Wilson).

After the panels we were treated to a brief walk around the racetrack in which we got to see a real-life Mack the Truck...


...And were taught how to change tires "pit-stop" style. Since I don't even know how to change a tire "normal" style, this was pretty interesting although given that the race car tires weigh about eighty pounds, I don't think I'll be volunteering for pit crew duty anytime soon.


But I got to use an air gun on the bolts! And didn't die!

Guido and Luigi look on in horror at my tire changing skilz.

"Cars 3" opens in theaters June 16, 2017.

May 24, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Press Junket



This week, Walt Disney Studios releases its fifth entry into the evergreen "Pirates of the Caribbean" series with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."

While in town for the premiere, some of the film's cast and creatives were made available for mini-press conferences on the process of telling Dead Men's Tales.

[Non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

Geoffrey Rush “Barbossa”

On the evolution of Barbossa: "...Of course, in the first film I got shot, you know, and I went well, it was fun. That was nice. Gore Verbinski phoned me up and said 'we're going to shift parts two and three to Asia--we're not going to just repeat the same sausage factory idea' and Jerry Bruckheimer is a very bold and creative producer on that level, and he said 'we're going to bring you back.' I said 'what, from the dead?' He said 'yeah, with voodoo!' I said 'not movie magic.' You can't just kinda go 'we want him back because he's popular.'

"But there was a purpose in that, in that I had to get all of the global pirate lords together to break Tia Dalma's curse in her association with Davy Jones and so forth. So I became the politician, and I liked that. And I think Barbossa's vanity liked the power base. I was going to get the G-20 of global pirates. And then I got to work for the King in the next film, and in this one, I'm kind of a corporate CEO--a rather vulgarly wealthy pirate. His taste is appalling. If he'd only spent some of the money on dental hygiene or his skin, you know...I always thought I'm in a commercial film, I should try to get an SK-II moisturizer ad, but no one's offered."


Joachim Ronning / Director, Espen Sandberg / Director

On making this part of the "Pirates" franchise their own: "Well, we really studied the other movies, and especially number one...we really wanted to have a very strong emotional core. Every character had a journey--like in the first one, you have this young couple that traveled through the movie and you have all the other strong characters surrounding them...

"But Jack doesn't really have a character arc, you know, he doesn't learn a thing. So we still wanted to explore him too, so that's why we created the backstory, and that's something that we brought to it because we were curious about that: How did Jack become Jack Sparrow? And also we tied in Salazar's story in that, so we made sure it became a personal vengeance. And of course, Barbossa, we wanted to give him a really strong journey as well because he's such a great character and we want to do him justice.

"The third was interesting also, with the family theme of the film, of the franchise. We tell this story of what's really the treasure for a pirate."


Jerry Bruckheimer / Producer

On continuing with the Pirates franchise: "Listen, I've made a lot of movies and I've certainly been very successful--I don't have to work anymore--but when I stand back in the audience and watch people really enjoy what we created...that's my thrill. We can take 'em for two hours and make 'em forget about whatever was bothering them and have a very positive experience--that's great! Because that's what I remember as a kid...I remember going to the theater and feeling great when I walked out. I forgot about everything that was going on in my life: The homework I didn't do or the test I failed or whatever it is, and I felt great. I just want to give that back to audiences, that's all."


Javier Bardem “Captain Salazar”

On becoming Salazar:
"It was three hours makeup...drives you nuts. The first thing they do is to give you a coffee. Very nice. It's five o'clock in the morning, it's cold, it's Australia, you know you have a fourteen hour day in front of you, and then they give you coffee...and the second thing they do is to put glue all over your face. Actual glue! With a brush! Like you have a dog [lick sounds] on your face. Then they put this chicken breast on you, because there are chicken breasts...then they say 'don't talk, eat, or drink for the next three hours.' Then you start to get crazy. Then when they say 'ACTION,' you have the rage of the character."


Kaya Scodelario “Carina Smyth”

Brenton Thwaites “Henry”

Scodelario on Strong Female Characters: "There's a reason why that question never gets asked to guys, because their characters are always fleshed out and interesting and they're assumed that they're going to be strong and independent and all these things but yet there still has to have this conversation over a strong independent female role. And it's such a shame, but I think it's great that we're speaking really honestly about it now and I'm happy to fight a fight for that. It's an honor to play a woman that is so layered and so interesting, because I don't know a single female that isn't. I don't know any woman that's just simple, that you can define in one word or one sentence, so why should that be what we see in a movie? There's so many stories to be told, there's so many layers to peel back, and she's great and I'm really grateful to Disney for making sure that is a part of this franchise, and still holding strong with it."

On the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction:
Thwaites: "I've been on the one in Shanghai a week ago, and the one in LA a couple days ago."
Scodelario: "A COUPLE DAYS AGO?"
Thwaites: "...Yeah? I took my family--I did the family thing."
Scodelario: "I've never been to Disneyland!"
Thwaites: "The one in LA is great for story, you know, because you're there and you see the old dolls drinking beer and it's kind of fun and soft and a great ride...I had my little kid with me and she was loving it. But the one in Shanghai is a spectacle. It feels like a fifty-foot screen, you know, 180 degrees in feel like you're at the bottom of the ocean. It's 3-D so water's spinning at you and there's air and people yelling and...yeah, it's crazy."




"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" opens in US theaters May 26, 2017.

May 3, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Press Conference


"All you do is yell at each other. You're not friends."
"No. We're family."
--Nebula and Drax, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2"


May 5th, Star-Lord and his ragtag band of miscreants are once again tapped to save the galaxy in Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

As part of the premier events for the movie, the cast and creatives involved gathered at a press conference to talk about the making of the film. In attendance was Chris Pratt “Peter Quill/Star-Lord," Kurt Russell "Ego," Elizabeth Debicki "Ayesha," Michael Rooker ‘Yondu,” James Gunn/Director, Zoe Saldana “Gamora,” Sylvester Stallone “member of Nova Corps,” Karen Gillan "Nebula," Dave Bautista “Drax the Destroyer,” Pom Klementieff "Mantis," Sean Gunn “Kraglin,“ and Kevin Feige/Producer.

[Photos and video courtesy of Disney.]


Chris Pratt on working with Kurt Russell: "You know, there’s this thing that promised yourself you’re not gonna do the thing where you geek out,’s a little inauthentic if you don’t, because if you just go in there and you be like, oh what is it, Kurt? Hey, nice to meet you. Chris. And if I don’t much I love him and what a fan I am, if you don’t get that out of the way, then it feels a little inauthentic. So I think I did that immediately, doesn’t really take that long to tell someone that you really love them, you really respect their work, and for them to go, yeah thanks. And then, that’s it. At that point, you move forward and there’s this really cool thing that is probably the one thing I never would’ve imagined looking for when I first moved to Hollywood, but like the greatest, the greatest part of it, the biggest secret, is you become somebody’s friend and somebody’s peer rather than a fan. And that’s really nice, and I think Kurt and I have become friends. We connected on a lot of things outside of just the movie. And you know, I have his cell phone number and I’ll give it to each and every one of you--"
Kurt Russell: "Yeah. 310..."


Zoe Saldana on her favorite part of the filmmaking process: "I think that what I loved the most and it may sound selfish but definitely the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I just, I’m one of three sisters. I have been itching and yearning to see more of a female presence in action films because I love action films. I’m not that deep...I love watching The Equalizer and I’ll watch that 50 times over any kind of dramatic piece. And so to have a film with three female characters that are adding such unique qualities to the film...they are very relevant and their relationships are explored deeply. I was appreciative and super excited and in a way anxious because I know that Gamora is a much more reserved character, so we couldn’t make it a soap opera like I would have wanted to. I wanted to be crying with nose goo and everything and James is like, “You’re like the Clint Eastwood of the movie,” and I was like, “Who’s that? What’s that?” But anyway, that was my favorite. And my least favorite was obviously the makeup process, so."


Sean Gunn on playing the dual role of Kraglin and motion reference actor for Rocket: "I played two roles in the movie… you know… when you act there’s both the input and the output. The input is the work you put into it and what you do on set and then the output is what you see onscreen, so for me the input is very similar for both characters, but the output is, is totally different because it takes a whole team of people to make Rocket. So, you know, I’m just a member of that team. But yeah, it’s interesting in this movie because Rocket and Kraglin have a few scenes that they’re in together, so…juggling the two things was a very strange and challenging experience for me. But I love it."


James Gunn on sequels: "...So many sequels are not good. The primary reason in studying them seemed to be that so many of them just kind of do the same thing the first movie did with different template, and so they say, oh people liked the dance-off in the first movie, so what’s our version of the dance-off? People liked “we are Groot” in the first movie, what’s our version of “we are Groot”? And instead of doing that, we really tried to let these characters grow and change. We want to watch them become new people and different people in every film that we come up with. And I think allowing them to be themselves and do their thing, I know that sounds strange because I’m writing what they say, but sometimes I’m just letting it happen inside my own imagination and letting the characters go where they want to go. I think the thing that I didn’t want to mess up was just trying to be a rehash of the first movie."

Gunn on belonging: "I never feel like I belong. I feel like Rocket, you know. So I think that...for me it’s a very personal film. I have always felt like I didn’t belong. And fortunately I have some people around me who maybe helped me feel like I’m not completely alone in the world, and just as importantly, I think I grew up with some art, some movies, you know, by people...everybody from David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg, movies where an outcast didn’t feel so alone or music by Alice Cooper, The Clash, for outcasts. Or maybe I was this little kid in Manchester, Missouri who felt like he was completely alienated from all his peers, and by listening and, you know, hearing music and watching movies, I felt a little bit less alone, and I hope that that’s what the Guardians does for people. It’s a movie about outcasts for outcasts. And there’s people all over the world that it touches, and that’s the most rewarding thing by far about making these movies."


Kurt Russell on becoming young: "Dennis Liddiard’s been my makeup man for 28 movies, and before we went in there...we assumed that it was gonna be all CGI. And he said to James and the cinematographer, hey, I can young this guy down. I got some tricks in my bag. Would that be helpful? And they said, yeah, as much as you can. That would be great. And I was speaking to the gal last night who does the CGI. She said, what did you think of what we did? And I said, I thought it was great. But I understand you didn’t do a whole lot. She said, no we didn’t...we touched it up here and there. He did a fantastic job. He does have a lot of tricks, not just makeup. Cosmetics I should say. But there’s a lot that goes into that actually. It’s not just what you think. Without giving away things, because I hate giving away tricks, you have to create an impression, not an image. And there’s stuff that goes into that. And you want them to look certain places and not look other places...then when you’ve got the help of modern day abilities with technology, I think it’s a much more natural look..."


Sylvester Stallone on becoming part of the Guardians Universe: "...Early on in my career I just always became fascinated with mythology and Joseph Campbell and you know, Man of a Thousand Faces and so on and so forth. So when I started doing Rambo, whatever...there was an evolution that takes place and each generation has to define itself and find its own heroes and find its own mythology and this is the new...generation, and maybe even the next generation’s mythology...When Kevin invited me on board I said, 'This is interesting because I haven’t gone here"...I mean, I’m kind of earthbound, I’m terrestrial. You know what I mean? This is something that takes place in a whole other sphere where James and the Marvel people have created their own world, their own reality. So I said, yeah, let me visit. Let me drop in here and see what’s up, where the future’s going, you know, and it was great. And it got me out of the house from my three daughters, which is really…Thank you. That’s why I gave you my salary back. My pleasure, my pleasure."


Kevin Feige on whether Stakar is assembling the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the 1969 comics at the end: "Yeah, they’re definitely the original Guardians. That was the fun of it, and when James had the idea to do more with the Yondu character who was also an original Guardians, the notion that he had a team once like Peter does’d be fun to see them. And he’s (Ving Rhames) definitely Charlie 27. Where we see them in the future, time will tell."

Feige on Stan Lee's cameo: "Stan Lee clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians was something very fun and James had that idea and we shot that, shot that cameo and loved it so see it a couple of times in the movie and it wasn’t in for a long time and we put it back in towards the end of the process where he references that time he was a Federal Express agent and we thought it would be fun to put that and keep that in there because that really says, so wait a minute, he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films."


Dave Bautista on what is "family:": "It just doesn’t have to be one definition to family. I think just the people you love in your lives, like these people up here are...we’re a family, you know. I think that’s what it is and I think that’s the message of our film, that you know, even though families may be dysfunctional, it’s still at the end of the day, do you love this person? Do you care for this person? Would you do anything for this person? And if that answer is yes, then they are your family.."

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" opens May 5, 2017.

April 26, 2017

Cars 3: Tales of Production, Design, and Lou



"Cars 3" is rapidly approaching the finish line for release this June 16th. To learn more about it, AllEars.Net was invited up north for an early look.

[Non-attributed photos and video are courtesy of Disney.]

The trip began with a visit to Pixar Studios for a screening of some scenes from the movie still in production.





Director Dave Mullins and Producer Dana Murray screened and spoke on the adorable short "Lou," that will accompany "Cars 3" in theaters.


Dave Mullins

--John Lasseter gave Mullins guidelines on the specific ingredients that make up a Pixar film: Heart, entertainment, setting, and animation.
--Heart: The main character is flawed, but experiences personal growth throughout the film.
--Entertainment: The story must be unpredictable and funny.
--Setting: The film must transport the viewers to a place both exciting and new.
--Animation: The film must call for being animated and must use animation's full potential.
--After eight years of pitching ideas, Mullins came up with a story revolving around a character who could hide in plain sight, and a character who longed to be accepted.
--The final story stars a Lost and Found pile that loves returning toys, but fights back when a bully starts stealing from kids.
--The characters were reworked several times to make them more sympathetic.


The next day, presentations on the making of "Cars 3" kicked off with "Start to Finish: Pixar’s Production Pipeline." Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta, Supervising Technical Director Michael Fong, and Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch spoke on the film's technical process.

Michael Fong, Jon Reisch, and Bobby Podesta

--Making something visually tangible is rooted in making something emotionally tangible.
--A sequence where Lightning McQueen is in a Demolition Derby is a physical manifestation of his intangible feelings of being out of his element.


--After a research trip to real-life Demolition Derbys, the animators tried to come up with ideas as to what it would feel like, to be different types of cars in that situation, and how different characters would react to that environment.
--Technical effects are vital to creating believable interactions that ground the characters in this world. At their best, by making physical jeopardy believable, they increase the emotional stakes.
--Simulating mud was one of their big challenges for this film, much like snow was for "Frozen," and hair was for "Brave."


--The mantra "Story Is King" effects every department at Pixar, including the technical ones.
--All the visual effects in the scene need to be adjusted to avoid stealing focus from the story beat, which is McQueen's emotional state.
--If McQueen's fear, anger, and embarrassment in this sequence isn't conveyed effectively, it makes his subsequent scenes where he lashes out feel unearned.
--The goal is not photorealism, which is not always aesthetically pleasing or best for the story. The goal is Directed Realism, in which physics can be broken if true physics would detract from the storytelling.


Next up was Directing Animator Jude Brownbill, Production Designer Jay Shuster, and Characters Supervisor Michael Comet talking about the new characters to "Cars 3"--"The Next Generation."


--Looking at the next generation of cars introduced to the world of "Cars," they display all the advantages of the technological advances since the first movie came out.
--With generally better aerodynamics, they are lower to the ground with a better wind profile than McQueen.
--The virtual construction of the cars mirrors actual car construction with various shading passes done for different layers of paint, gloss coating, etc.
--McQueen is the baseline, from which all the other cars should differ in comparison.
--Subtle changes were made to McQueen to make him appear slightly less stable and older on the track.
--Aspects of all the "Cars 1" models had to be revised because the rendering quality is so much better now and flaws more evident.


--McQueen's new nemesis Jackson Storm is designed in stark contrast to McQueen: All sharp edges and corners compared to McQueen's friendlier, rounded body.


--Low to the ground, Storm has a tight suspension so he has less vibration and can make tight turns.
--He drives with precision and calculation and appears to race almost effortlessly, which makes him more of a threat to McQueen.
--Personality-wise, Storm is overconfident, arrogant, and intimidating. He cares about nothing but winning and himself.
--Outside of racing, Storm holds himself relatively still, which helps give him the aura of power. Vocally, he over-articulates and often expresses with his eyes a disdain that is in opposition to what he is saying.


--Cruz Ramirez, McQueen's young high-tech trainer, has a design somewhere between Storm and McQueen.
--She's a powerful technologically advanced racer, but in contrast to Storm, also has a heart and a passion for the sport.
--Full of enthusiasm and energy, Ramirez has done all of her training on simulators and is a little out of control when it comes to real life racing.
--Ramirez's character is based largely on her voice actor, Cristela Alonzo: Smart, determined, funny, and from modest beginnings.

"Cars 3" opens in theaters June 16, 2017.

March 16, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" Press Junket



March 17th, Walt Disney Studios will once again captivate moviegoers with a Tale As Old As Time, their live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

To talk about the journey they took to revisit the animated classic, cast members Gugu (“Plumette”) Mbatha-Raw, Josh (“Le Fou”) Gad, Luke (“Gaston”) Evans, Emma (“Belle”) Watson, Dan ("Beast") Stevens, Bill (Director) Condon, Audra “Garderobe” McDonald, and Alan (music/score by) Menken gathered at a recent press junket.


First, however, we were treated to a short concert by Alan Menken, in which he played us some of the old and new songs from "Beauty and the Beast," with the help of a couple friends.


Select moments from the press conference video above:


Condon on the process of adapting "Beauty and the Beast" as a live-action film: "Get over the terror first, I think...but then you know, you just start with that basic idea: You’re going to take it into a new medium, which is live action. They’re going to be actors. Emma’s going to be playing a character on real locations who has to fall in love with the beast. So all the behavior which is, you know, let’s face animated film is sort of, you know, a little more exaggerated, has to come into reality, and once you start to investigate that, then you realize, wow, there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village where they’re outsiders, you know, and that leads to then new songs and suddenly you’re creating something new."


Menken on developing "Evermore," a new song for the Beast: "In the Broadway show there was a song called 'If I Can’t Love Her.' But you know, each iteration of Beauty and the Beast is a different medium in a way. There’s an animated musical, there’s a stage musical, and there’s this--and they all have sort of different shapes. And the stage musical is definitely a two act structure, so we wrote this song for the Beast, because at that act break is the moment where the Beast out of anger has driven Belle away and it was important--we needed at that moment for the Beast to sort of howl for redemption or just say I’ve given up. But in the structure of a live action film, which is more of a three act structure, Bill felt, and I agree with him, that the more satisfying moment is the moment when the Beast lets Belle go because she’s no longer his prisoner, and he loves her, and the spell will not be broken now, but at least he knows what love is."


McDonald on joining the cast of "Beauty and the Beast:" "...I said yes the minute that Disney called because you say yes when Disney calls. If they told me that, you know, you were gonna sell churros in the park, I’d be like, yeah, I’m there, I'll do it. But knowing not only did it have this incredible creative team but that Emma Watson was going to be Belle, and knowing how much Emma has affected girls of my daughter’s age--and my daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents, and that’s because of you, Emma--so knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was somebody who was independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film. That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.


Stevens on the physical demands of portraying The Beast: "Well, it was a very physical engagement, I think just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before. I’ve definitely been taking a more physical approach to my roles in the last few years and just training myself in different ways. I think with the backstory we decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer, that he loved to dance, and so I trained myself like a dancer and learned, you know, three quite different dances for this movie and worked very closely with Anthony (Choreographer Anthony Van Laast,) just in terms of, you know, his general deportment, both for the prince and the Beast, you know, and there was a lot of work dancing in stilts. And getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably, you know, I think it’s a great way to get to know your costar, and I’m going to try and do with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.


Watson on taking Belle into the real world: "...I think when I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today. And so, you know, every time we would address a new scene that Bill or Steve or Evan had put together, you know...I just always had the original DNA of that woman in mind, you know, and I had my fists up. I was ready to fight because she was so crucial for me. And you know, it was just taking what was already there and just expanding it. And I love that in our version Belle is not only kind of odd and doesn’t fit in, and you know, you see her reading, and you see her not really a part of the community. In our film she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read, and you know, moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that, and yeah, that was amazing to get to do."


Evans on humanizing Gaston: "Well, I just think a villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy. A villain should end up being the bad guy, and I think with Gaston, outwardly, you know, to a lot of people in that village, he is the hero. He’s a bit of a stud, you know. He’s got the hair, he’s got the looks, he’s always impeccably dressed, not a bad singing voice...

"...So that when the cracks start to appear, which they do very subtly, even from the door slam, you know, there’s something inside of him that he’s like...this is not what she’s supposed to be doing. And although he keeps believing that Belle will change her mind, that’s where the cracks appear in my thought process and then slowly, you know, the jealousy takes over, and who he becomes, especially Gaston as opposed to other Disney villains, he has no book of spells, he has no magic powers. He’s a human being, and he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself, which is quite terrifying in a way. So I played on that, I played on the humanity of the character as much as he is larger than life. There was a lot to pull on, and obviously he was a war hero of sorts, we decided, didn’t we, Bill, from the past. That’s why his murals are all over the pub that he drinks in. And there is...this animalistic soldier, in him when he finally fights the Beast on the rooftops. You see this man out for blood, and it’s a scary moment to see the arc of somebody who was the loveable buffoon of the village to become the absolute Beast almost, the monster."


Gad on horseback riding:
"I learned a couple of great lessons on this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically overweight Jews. My horse was an anti-Semite...they told me was trained for this movie but I believe they found (him) in the wilds of England...So Luke and I are walking into the village on our horses, and on action all our horses need to do is walk side by side, it’s so simple. Luke’s horse does it. The two of them worked on 'The Hobbit' together, 'Three Musketeers,' have this incredible background."
Evans: "We share a trailer."
Gad: "Mm, hm, they share a trailer. Mine is a cold-blooded killer. And he proceeded to moonwalk, he walked backwards. Then, he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around--I didn’t even know it was possible--but ran through these like pillars around, up and back again. I heard 'cut' and I heard laughing, and the laughter was coming from the horse’s trainer, and he came up to me and he goes, 'I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen this happen before.' And it was so sad. It made me feel so awful about myself. Ironically, my horse’s name was Buddy. That is a true story. He’s nobody’s buddy. I’m begging Disney to press charges against him, and I’ve told my agents to never send me another script with a horse in it again."
Evans: "Unless it’s on wheels."
Gad: "Unless it’s on wheels. In the sequel to 'Beauty and the Beast' I drive a DeLorean."


Mbatha-Raw on doing voice work: "...For me it was, you know, working on the French accent, you know, both myself and Ewan had the same dialect coach, and then just playing in the studio with Bill encouraging us to, you know, embrace that sort of inner child and that real sort of let’s pretend kind of freedom. And for me, you know, having done a few serious roles that year, you know, to be able to embrace the feather duster Plumette and to also be able to really not be limited by your own face and your own body that you can really, as I say, just play, was so joyful."


Condon on representation and inclusion:
"You know, I talked before about how we translate this into a live act – that means filling out the characters. It’s also a translation to 2017, you know? And what is this movie about? What has this story always been about? For 300 years it’s about looking closer, going deeper, you know, accepting people for who they really are, and in a very Disney way we are including everybody. I think this movie is for everybody, and on the screen you’ll see everybody, and that was important to me, I think to all of us.


Menken on doing justice to the original film:
"My mantra throughout the whole thing was don’t screw it up. I mean, for myself."

"Beauty and the Beast" will open in theaters March 17, 2017.

December 14, 2016

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Press Junket



Fans of the pop culture juggernaut "Star Wars" will get their next installment in theaters December 16, when Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios present "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The first in what they originally called the Anthology films, "Rogue One" starts a series of standalone films that detail different parts of the Star Wars timeline, but are not directly connected to the Saga films that tell a continuing story of the Skywalker clan.

"Rogue One" details the events alluded to in the original "New Hope" title crawl, in which rebel spies steal the plans for the Empire's ultimate weapon--the DEATH STAR. It takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, at a time when Order 66 has all but destroyed the Jedi Order and nothing but the bravery and daring of ordinary citizens can hope to free the galaxy.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

Up at Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, the cast and creatives behind "Rogue One" gathered to briefly discuss the film and their roles in it. The first panel consisted of Producer Kathy Kennedy, Director Gareth Edwards, Diego "Cassian" Luna, Alan "K2SO" Tudyk, Donnie "Chirrut" Yen, and Executive Producer John Knoll, who was also the VFX Supervisor, and who contributed the original story idea.


Some video highlights from the press conference:


Edwards on getting George Lucas' feedback: "So two days ago, we got to show George the movie, and we all had a phone call and I got to speak with him yesterday, and I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I can honestly say that I can die happy now. He really liked the movie, so it meant a lot. To be honest, and no offense to anyone here, it was the most important review to me...what George thought of it. You know, you guys are important too, but come on, he’s kind of God when it comes to Star Wars."


Kennedy on diversity and representation in "Rogue One:" "I think, you know, having a cast that represents and reflects the world today and having characters that people can relate to all over the world, this is very much a global industry. Films mean something to people all over the world, and it was certainly important to this story...It lent itself very, very well. These are a group of people who come together in ways that are kind of inexplicable, but they share a very common belief and they feel very strongly in their desire to do the right thing and they work together incredibly well, and having that sense of diversity as people come together was really important to our story. Every movie has reasons for why you cast certain people, but I think what we’re doing today is just being much more mindful of that, and I think it’s important."


Yen on how his martial arts background helped him relate to the Force: "You know, I always think of the force–we all have the force, it’s just we don’t realize it. It’s kind of like–I think it’s interesting to me, the Star Wars story is about reminding us of the things that we neglect and forget. And the force is–we always have these kinds of ability, and to answer your question, I don’t think of it as having the martial arts ability, it’s just being a human being–you do have the force."


Tudyk on getting into character on set as the CG droid K2SO: "I was wearing a, you know, fully body jumpsuit sort of thing, and it’s such a new technology, even still. We’ve been introduced to it a lot of different ways. Sometimes people wear cameras on their heads, sometimes there’s dots all over their face, they have balls all over their suit. The way that ILM did it, I wore a suit that was very comfortable, it didn’t have all of that restriction on it, it just had interesting designs on it was very cool looking. Come on. It was like a luge costume from like the Italian team, like it looked cool. And yeah, I mean, it didn’t have the colors, but still–and then I was on stilts so I was 7 foot 1, so I towered over everyone most of the time, and it was great, you know, just even at that height it colors how you move and helped me get into character. It was fantastic."
Luna: "It wasn't."
Tudyk: "It was basically just acting, but then the makeup and the costume came later, but because you’re on set you are able to create a character with the other actors. Without that, you can’t tell a story with the true character who can react in a moment. With some of the stuff Diego’s throwing at you, you need to be able to throw it right back."



Luna on Cassian's moral complexity: "I think it’s a modern approach to Star Wars, and we live in a different world today, you know. If you revisit all the films, it’s kind of like a stamp of what was going on and a reflection on the world back then, you know? And ours has to do the same. And we live in a where racial and cultural diversity is in fact making us richer and more interesting. But it is a complex world we live in, and making the right choice many times looks horrible, you know? And these people are in war. You know, when you mentioned Cassian doing something not heroic, I would say, no, Cassian is a true hero, as Jyn and everyone in this team, you know? It’s just that they are the heroes we can be, just regular people doing amazing stuff you know, and no special powers, no Jedis, it’s just conviction and teamwork and yeah, that hope of actually being able to shape the reality we live in, and that makes them great, you know? But yes, they have to make choices on the way and war is horrible. I mean, no one wants war to happen, none of these characters would choose war, you know, but it’s the last chance, you know, and they have to do it."


The second panel then took place with Producer Kathy Kennedy and Director Gareth Edwards returning, along with Felicity “Jyn” Jones, Ben “Krennic” Mendelsohn, Mads “Galen” Mikkelsen, and Riz “Bodhi” Ahmed.


Jones on finding her Inner Warrior: "Yeah, well, it’s in Jyn’s head, it’s very clear. She hates the Empire. So anytime she sees Stormtroopers she has this kind of a very clear instinct to take them down. So I just tapped into that, into that energy that Jyn has. And I’d never done that kind of thing before. It was very new, the whole kind of physical preparation, that side of acting. I’m kind of used to lots of, you know, talking in corsets so it was really nice to be running around with a blaster and a baton to bash Stormtroopers with. But yeah, it was an extraordinary process and you work very closely with the stunt team who take you through every kind of move and moment and support you throughout the whole thing and I’m very lucky to have a great support from the stunt team doing it."


Edwards on working with Ben Mendelsohn: "And Ben is so relaxed in front of the camera that he would start like just messing around, like he’s very playful. And I thought he was reciting Shakespeare or something, like to get himself into character, and then I would listen carefully to the lyrics and realize he was singing Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, and even like Frozen, I think. There was like times where..."
Mendelsohn: "Oh yeah, I did sing a bit of Frozen."
Edwards: "Yeah. What was it – we used to be friends or whatever?"
Mendelsohn: "Yeah, that’s right, yeah, yeah, yeah. I did the we used to be friends – no, it’s escaping me now, but yes."
Mikkelsen: "I remember it vividly."


Mikkelsen on Galen's moral complexity: "...I think that as actors we always try to find, like, the two sides of a character, but definitely it’s in this one because he’s working together with this gentleman (Mendelsohn) something that he believes from the very beginning as a project that has the ability to change the world into a better place. And though be it that it turns out that he’s working on something that he didn’t know, and for that reason he’s in a gigantic dilemma. And for other reasons I will not spoil here, the dilemma gets even bigger. So yes, that’s a gray zone here. As you said, you used to be maybe in the ‘70s and the ‘80s a little more black and white, but there are a lot of grays in here.


Ahmed on becoming an action figure: "I did get an action figure. I was very pleased because I think he’s a lot better-looking than I am. I think they accidentally modeled it on Diego or something, we're easily confused. Yeah, it was a kind of surreal, amazing moment, to be honest. I remember kind of playing with those toys as a kid and so to be part of that universe, you know, in plastic, is an amazing thing.

"Rogue One" will open in theaters December 16, 2016.

December 7, 2016

7 Things I Learned from 28 Minutes of "Rogue One"



This last weekend, Lucasfilm and director Gareth Edwards screened 28 minutes of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" up at Skywalker Ranch. While the footage seemed deliberately cut to avoid major spoilers, it was enough to get some preliminary impressions.

*If you want to go in completely spoiler free, now is the time to cut out.*

1. As a move likely intended to distinguish the anthology story "Rogue One" from the main legacy movies, the film does not begin with the usual Star Wars title crawl--just the traditional "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.."

2. What I gather: Our heroine Jyn Erso's story begins when her family is fractured by Director Orson Krennic and his Death Troopers who need her dad, Galen Erso, to work on a secret Death Star project. In a jump forward, we then see a Rebel Alliance desperate to get the plans for the Death Star from Galen. In a bid to contact him, they recruit an adult Jyn to help them assemble the people they need--Bodhi Rook, a defector pilot, and Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel offshoot leader and Jyn's old protector.

3. Asians! For those of us who remember when JJ Abrams was asked at SDCC when Asians would figure into Star Wars, and his response was "go Asians!" Lucasfilm finally delivers with Donnie Yen's Chirrut Imwe--a blind monk who is one of the few remaining believers in the Force. As you'd expect from the martial art star, his fight scene in the clips we saw was suitably impressive.


4. "Rogue One" is clearly designed to show a grittier, morally complex side to the Star Wars Universe. Far from the black-and-white 1930's film serial view of heroism that influenced Episode 4, the rebels here have apparently accepted that war means occasionally distasteful compromise.

5. Alan Tudyk continues to earn his keep as Disney's good luck charm--his K-2SO droid is a hilarious CGI blend of HK-47 from "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and Marvin the Paranoid Android from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Easily my favorite part of everything I've seen so far, he is BB-8 for the disaffected set.


6. Things continue to be grim if you are a mom in a Disney movie.

7. Stormtroopers are still questionable shots.

"Rogue One" enters general release December 16, 2016.

November 16, 2016

"Moana" Press Junket



On November 23rd, Walt Disney Animation will debut its next Disney princess in "Moana"--a story of a young girl who must cross the ocean on a quest to save her island from a withering death. To accomplish this task, she must surmount any number of impediments, including a reluctant, egotistical demigod, coconut-wearing pirates, a shiny crab, a demon of earth and fire, and an intellectually challenged rooster.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

At a recent press junket, a collection of the impressive talent behind "Moana" gathered to talk about the film's creative process. In attendance was Dwayne (Maui) Johnson, Auli'i (Moana) Cravalho, Lin-Manuel (Original Songs by) Miranda, Ron (Director) Clements, John (Director) Musker, Opetaia (Original Songs by) Foa'i, and Osnat (Producer) Shurer.


Select moments from the video above:


Miranda on getting The Rock to sing: "I get a lot of questions from reporters this week being all 'how did you get The Rock to sing?' That's not what happened here. When Dwayne accepted the role, he said, 'so what are you giving me to sing?' He was really excited for this, and for me--I went to YouTube, where the answers always lie, and...I'm a big fan of his wrestling days and there was a time...where he would pull out a guitar and taunt whatever town he was in. And so I got a really good sense of his vocal range from that ten minute supercut, and then the rest of it was just writing lyrics that embody the spirit of Maui, who is this amazing demigod/trickster god...and once I had the title 'You're Welcome," which only Dwayne can pull off and still have you love him and root for him, we were off to the races."
Johnson: "...One of the best times I've ever had in my career was working on this project and certainly working on that song, because also like--we all love challenges, and this was a challenge that the bar's set so incredibly high in a Disney film to sing!"
Musker: "Dwayne's the new Angela Lansbury."


Cravalho on what it means to be Moana: "This is my first job. It's been an incredible journey for me. I'm fifteen going on sixteen, and I'm working with the best people in the entire world of whom are making a film inspired by my culture--a culture I have lived every day of my life. That is something so incredibly special for the rest of the world to see...for me, as someone who is hoping to continue in show business (now that I'm in 'show biz,' which is really exciting)...I was wondering how would I continue in this and still be Polynesian? And that might be an interesting concept...As I might potentially leave my home, what does that make me? Does that still keep me Polynesian? Am I still grounded and rooted in the way that I want to be? And I can honestly say 'yes." Because being surrounded by my family and by the Hawaiian culture every day, it seems as though I would never lose it. But to have a film like this that will inspire me, and to have a character that will inspire others as well to become rooted in who they truly are...that's something that inspires me and that I hope will inspire others as well."


Foa'i, Johnson, and Cravalho on what they hope Polynesians get out of "Moana:"
Foa'i: "My journey has been from the village to the city...There are many other cultures that will see this movie and be interested in it, but there are also, there will be Polynesians who were born in the cities who will then start the journey back to the village. That's what I'm thrilled about."
Cravalho: "I'm really excited for everyone to see this film. I know my friends are thrilled, my family is thrilled and I think we're all very proud of this film. I will admit, and I will admit this truthfully, that before I was working on this film, I was a bit wary of it. Because I think when anyone thinks of someone making a film inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. And Disney has done a wonderful job--the Oceanic Trust that has been put together, as well as the research trips that Ron and John and Osmat were on as well. All of that has created such a wonderful well-rounded film that I'm excited for my people to see and for everyone else to see as well as they'll hopefully be inspired to research on our culture. Because our culture is, like, awesome!"
Johnson: "What Opetaia said, I think, is very resonant in the pride that they will have in the film. And there were a lot (and understandably so)...there was some hesitance from a lot of people in our culture about 'well, what's going to happen if our culture's going to be showcased for the very first time on this level, this capacity from Disney? What's going to happen?'

"I feel like the Polynesian people are going to be incredibly proud of this movie. Overall, all cultures by the way...I think what's going to touch upon all of us, regardless of where we're at in the world, where we're from, cultures, class, religion, is the voice. So, our world today, so relevant in this moment, so full of noise, there's so much noise that's happening in our world, but
the little voice that you've always gotta listen to, your gut, your can do things. You can go beyond boundaries. And you have to trust that gut and instinct. So those are the things I think our people are going to take away and the rest of the world will take away."


After the "Moana" presentation, Director Leo Matsuda and Producer Sean Lurie gave a short presentation on "Inner Workings," the terminally adorable short that will play in theaters before "Moana." Taking a stylistic reference from the acetate anatomy diagrams that used to figure heavily in encyclopedias back in the day, the short demonstrates the perpetual battle between the responsible anxieties of the brain, and the careless hedonism of the heart.


"Moana" will open in theaters November 23, 2016.

November 9, 2016

"Moana" Press Day: Filmmaker Presentations



As the release date for "Moana" rapidly approaches, we continue our look at the film's development with presentations by the filmmakers. Jared Bush (Screenwriter), Dave Pimentel (Head of Story), David Derrick (Story Artist), and Sunmee Joh (Story Artist) came together to talk about developing the story of "Moana," in "Building a Legend."

[All unattributed photos courtesy of Disney.]


Jared Bush on writing a scene vs. storyboarding a scene: "'This is in a cavern of the ancestors, water rushing down to the boats. Walking amongst the huge canoes in awe, she spots a smaller canoe near the pool of water leading through a waterfall. Water jumps out of the hull from the nearest lagoon, and as the sails swell, it reveals a massive double-hulled canoe.' So something like that took me about three minutes to write, but then I hand it over to Dave...and it becomes a lifetime."


David Derrick, who has Samoan ancestry, noted that he was able to reconnect with it on various research trips, and put the pattern of his own family's tapa print throughout the film.


Sunmee Joh on Saving Heihei: "He was a character we had from the very beginning and he was in many versions of the story, but as the story progressed, we suddenly found Heihei on the chopping block. The directors really wanted to keep him, but we were having a hard time fitting him in...Then, I thought...what if we added him to the Kakamora scene?"


"Tell them what happened in this panel, when John Lasseter saw it."
"He got up with a big clap and said 'YES, HEIHEI IS SAVED!'"

Hank Driskill (Technical Supervisor), Kyle Odermatt (Visual Effects Supervisor), Marlon West (Head of Effects), and Dale Mayeda (Head of Effects) then presented some of the amazing special effects in "Moana."


--Water is an important and central figure both in the movie and in Polynesian culture.
--Conversations with colleagues at Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic helped to define what "state of the art" water rendering was, so that they could then determine how to then push the boundaries.
--80% of the shots in this movie have effects in them.
--In addition to making the water look believable, they also had to make the water a believable and interactable character.
--The general process was that the character animators would come up with a silhouette they wanted, the directors would make decisions on timing and performance, and then Effects would add fluid simulations along the surface, interior bubbles, and surrounding splashes.


Finally, animators Bill Schwab (Art Director, Characters), Amy Smeed (Head of Animation), Malcon Pierce (Animation Supervisor, Moana), and Neysa Bové (Vis Dev Artist) came together to introduce us to the film's heroine.



Neysa Bové on costume design: "Costume design is such an important part of filmmaking--you're not only trying to tell the story of the character, but you're trying to also put the personality, what they're about in it...For Moana, one challenge that I had was to come up with something that was...relevant to 2000 years ago in the Pacific Islands. We were lucky enough to have the Oceanic Trust and they were able to share with us that at that time they were working with two different fabrics--tapa and pandanus--and tapa is what she's wearing in her bodice, that's actually made from the mulberry tree, and the skirt is pandanus, (which is) sort of woven."


--Her Taualuga costume is for Moana's coming-of-age ceremony.
--Moana's costumes figure in red primarily, because it is a sign of royalty in the Pacific Islands.
--The red feather is a sign of currency.
--Construction of the costumes is taken into account during the design. Without sewing machines, the clasp on her back is a boar's tusk.


--A concerted effort was made from all departments to push the anatomy and clarify details like the interaction between eyelids and brows, folds in the hand while making a fist, and patterns of teeth and gums.
--180 different controls exist to pose just Moana's face.
--Even the eyelashes are posed separately to sell the eye motions.


"Moana" will be opening November 23, 2016.

September 7, 2016

"Moana" Press Day: Producer/Director Presentations and "Inner Workings."


Fresh off their popular/critical hit "Zootopia," Walt Disney Animation Studios invited us last month to take a sneak peek at what will be their 56th animated feature: "Moana."


[Non-attributed photos courtesy of Disney]


Leading off the day was Director Leo Matsuda and Producer Sean Lurie discussing the conception and creation of their fantastic short "Inner Workings" which will accompany "Moana" in theaters. The short portrays a working man caught in the middle of his brain and heart's conflicting desires.


Leo Matsuda on the "Inner Workings" inspiration: "As you can see, I'm Japanese-Brazilian--you can probably tell from my accent--I have a Japanese side that is very disciplined and logical, but I also have my Brazilian side who loves Carnival and parties, so I feel that I've always had this tug-of-war between the two extremes in my life, and I think this short portrays some of that."


--Other influences on the short include the works of Jacques Tati, Wes Anderson, Ward Kimball, Golden Books, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
--Paul, the main character, was initially envisioned as a generic white guy, but the crew insisted that Matsuda's sketches looked like him, and after his fiancee agreed, he changed the character design to reflect that.
--The overlying shape of things in Paul's office is square, indicating the rigid world of the brain, as opposed to the world of the beach which is wavy and curved and where the heart wants to be.
--The journey to developing an art style that would make bodily organs adorable vs. disgusting took influences from aquatic animals and how they move in water.
--Ultimately, the story is about finding balance between the demands of the brain and heart as opposed to either abandoning all responsibilities or failing to live life to the fullest.


Next up was Producer Osnat Shurer introducing "Moana."


Shurer on the journey to making "Moana": "A few years ago, after 'Princess and the Frog,' Ron (Clements) and John (Musker)...were talking about what their next feature should be. John had long been fascinated by stories of the...South Pacific. This incredible, beautiful area of the world that many of the residents call 'Oceania.' And he read a lot of Polynesian folktales and looked at the varied and really fascinating stories of the demigod Maui, and the various stories there. Ron loved the idea, and they went together to our Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter, and pitched some ideas."

--As part of the extensive research they conducted, the filmmakers went on several trips to multiple islands in the South Pacific which significantly changed the direction of the project.
--The Moorean phrase "know your mountain" became an important concept to the story: In order to know where you're going, you have to know where you come from.
--They were introduced to the concept that the ocean does not divide the islands, but in fact unites them as one.
--A variety of people they met on their voyages became regular references to them on matters of cultural representation--an "Oceanic Story Trust."
--The task of creating a soundtrack incorporating the musical rhythms of the South Pacific with a contemporary sound eventually fell to the team of Opetaia Foa‘i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
--All the leads of the film have South Pacific roots.

Auli‘i Cravalho, voice of Moana

Dwayne Johnson, voice of Maui

Directors John Musker and Ron Clements then took the stage.


After a short recap of their illustrious careers at WDAS, the two recounted the story development of "Moana": "In our research trips in the South Pacific, we learned first hand the importance of navigation to this culture. So really, we built the whole story around the true fact of the Pacific Islanders being the greatest navigators the world has ever seen. 3,000 years ago, they found their way across the Pacific starting in Taiwan, going through New Guinea, working their way from West to East. And in one of the greatest feats of nautical exploration, they used dead reckoning, they had no instruments whatever, and based on their knowledge of the stars and the currents, they found their way across the ocean in a great feat. And we wanted to celebrate that.

"But according to experts that we spoke with, about 3,000 years ago, everything stopped. All voyaging stopped. For a thousand years, everyone just stayed put and they didn't migrate. And then about 2,000 years ago, it started up again. And then they proceeded to populate the Eastern Pacific, including Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand. And because it was an oral culture, nothing was written down. To this day, no one actually knows why the voyaging stopped, or how it started again. It's a mystery.

"We came up with a theory, which is the basis of our movie...What if there happened to be one young girl that was responsible for things starting up again?"


--"Moana" means "ocean" in many different South Pacific languages.
--She is 16 years old, the daughter of a chief, fearless, smart, and high-spirited.
--Her pet pig is "Pua."
--Moana's desire to explore is at odds with her father's decree that no one ever venture beyond the reefs of their island, but is fanned by the stories of her Gramma Tala.
--Her intellectually challenged rooster is "Heihei."
--Maui has a magical fishhook "like Thor's hammer."
--He is covered with tattoos, and one in particular of himself--"Mini Maui"--was supervised in 2D by famed Disney animator Eric Goldberg.

Next time, we'll be recounting presentations from animators in charge of the environments, characters, effects, story, and more.

"Moana" will be opening November 23, 2016.

August 8, 2016

"Pete's Dragon" Press Junket



Opening in theaters this August 12th, Disney's latest live-action film "Pete's Dragon" reimagines the 1977 film's story of a lonely boy, the dragon who protects him, the shyster who threatens him, and the family that accepts him.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

Recently, a sampling of the talented folk involved in the making of "Pete's Dragon" convened at a press junket to discuss the film.


Bryce Dallas Howard (“Grace”) on comparing this movie to the original 1977 film: "I think there were no throwbacks, intentionally, other than what was at the genesis of this idea, which is that it's about a boy who is orphaned, whose family, in essence, is a dragon. You know, it's his best friend and no one believes that a dragon exists, and then we come to see that magic is actually possible. It's a story about what it takes to find your family. And I think that thematically, is very obviously similar to the first film, but this really's not even like 'inspired by''s really an original film. It's not meant to step on the memories of the 1977 version of 'Pete's Dragon.'"

Howard on what families should take away from the film: "I think it's the power of family, and I think it's the magic of family. You know, the miracle of family, honestly. Ooo--getting a little emotional!"


Director David Lowery on similarities between "Pete's Dragon" and his 2013 film "Ain't Them Bodies Saints": "A little bit of facetiousness on that part, but I really do think that both of those movies are about characters who are searching for home, searching for family. And in that movie, Casey Affleck was a guy who thought his family was one thing, and thought his life would be one thing, and turns out not to be the case, and in his pursuit of it, he realizes that he's missed out on something. And so here we have a story of a little boy and a dragon who...the little boy ultimately finds a new home as well, and the parallels became immediate to me when I realized the scene in this movie where the dragon goes and looks through a window and sees Pete, with his new family, curled up on the bed, and there's a scene in 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' when Casey Affleck walks up to a window and sees his wife and daughter sitting with a new guy on the couch...and like it's almost shot-for-shot the same. It wasn't conscious on my part, but oh, there you go."

Lowery on casting Robert Redford: "I'd been working on another project with him...but in the meantime I had been working on this script, and this one started to come together, and we were thinking of...actors to play Mr. Meacham. We had had a different idea of who that character was in mind and it was supposed to be sort of like a kind of crazier old guy, like a guy who, like, maybe doesn't have all his marbles, a little more comic relief. But then I'm like 'what if we got Robert Redford? That would be unbelievable.' And so I sent him the script and he read it and was all 'oh, this is really interesting, it's really cool--I'm not sure it's necessarily the right thing for me..." And then we rewrote the script for him, because I was like 'yes...this character is obviously not someone you could play, because...he's nuts, and you are clearly not. You are very put-together.' But we rewrote it for him, and then he agreed to do it."


Oakes Fegley (“Pete”) and Oona Laurence (“Natalie”) on their relationship to Disney:
Fegley: "I like all the animated 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' or 'The Jungle Book'...and I like 'The BFG'--I hope I like it, I haven't seen it yet, but it seems like something I would like."
Laurence: "I mean, Disney was my childhood, and it still is my childhood, so..."
Fegley: "Now it's even more."
Laurence: "...Yeah, I've seen almost all the Disney films, I love 'High School Musical,' I've seen it so many times. I love Disney. I feel so lucky to be in an actual Disney film."


Robert Redford (“Meacham”) on how he approached making this character unique: "Well, first of all, Lowery came to me and allowed me to step in and develop the character further than was written, so that sort of allowed me to take responsibility for the character and have a little bit of authorship. So my whole thing about the character was that he was a storyteller; and since storytelling was a big part of my life, growing up here in Los was a very difficult time, difficult life, lower working-class neighborhood...people didn't have much, so storytelling became a huge thing--a way out of a tough situation, and that played a big role in my life, as a kid.

"So I thought, well here's a story that really is storytelling. It involves fantasy and realism together. When I read the script, I thought, well this reminds me of my childhood, with the Disney movies that I saw, and how much I loved that when I was a little kid. "Bambi," "Fantasia"...things like that. And then he stopped making those films and went into adult stuff and I lost interest.


"What I love about it, is that (Lowery) has created a kind of atmosphere of magic. I think magic was such a part of my life, when I was young...that was your hope factor. That was that thing you hope...there's something out there beyond me, that's good. Something out there beyond me and this small world I'm living in, that's bigger and special...So you kind of hung on to that, someday I'm going to be out of here, and go.

"And what Lowery did with the character, was that, when I first read it, I was "well, it's a nice idea for a movie, but the character is..." I felt it was underdrawn, and he opened it up, and said, 'look, why don't you step in and be part of the development of the story,' so he allowed me to step in and work on the character. And then things changed. I felt like I was part of things, I felt like what could be developed was more in the storyteller, and more of him trying to see things beyond what you see in front of you. He tells his daughter, he says 'you only see what's in front of you. There's other stuff. Look around, look beyond.' I like that concept a lot."


"Pete's Dragon" will open in theaters August 12, 2016.

June 7, 2016

Tick-Tock Tea Time with "Alice Through The Looking Glass" and the El Capitan Theatre



On selected days throughout the run of "Alice Through The Looking Glass" at the El Capitan Theatre, a special tea service was offered in conjunction at the Chado Tea Room in the Hollywood and Highland complex.


"Tick-Tock Tea Time" took place about two hours prior to the start of selected showtimes, and provided guests with a pleasant selection of scones, sandwiches, and desserts, along with all the tea you could drink.


The service began with a choice of five teas, some of which were Alice-themed, and some of which were Chado's most popular blends. The servers were diligent in pointing out which ones were caffeinated and non-caffeinated in case parents had a preference in what their children ingested. Each person received their own pot of tea, along with a glass of iced tea.


The first tier of treats for each person was a scone accompanied with strawberries and cream, and assorted jam flavors.


Next up were finger sandwiches: An open-faced salmon, cucumber with cream cheese, chicken with cranberry-lingonberry sauce, and tea-marinated egg salad.


The dessert course consisted of cookies, strawberries, and a chocolate mousse cup.

For Gosh's Sake, don't throw your crusts under the bed!

As a parting gift, each person also received a nice "Alice Through The Looking Glass" mug, presumably in which to drink their own tea at home.


The food was very nice and the whole experience fairly soothing, despite the fact that every other table was generally celebrating a birthday. Although the menu sounded a trifle twee initially, it actually was a pretty hardy meal and after sucking down a pot of tea each we were all relatively full.

Afterwards, guests marched down the same stairs the Academy Award attendees walk to get to the Dolby Theater and crossed the street to the El Capitan Theatre to watch "Alice Through The Looking Glass." [Reviewed by Kristen Ford here.]


As part of the tea package, VIP tickets were provided that included drinks and a commemorative popcorn bucket.


Rob Richards started off the show as usual, with a snazzy performance on the theater's Wurlitzer Organ.


After previews, the audience was treated to a new psychedelic light and projection show featuring some of the film's prevalent images.




After the movie, guests could then appreciate a display of concept art, hero props and costumes on display around the El Capitan.







On the whole, the tea/movie package was a very pleasant way to extend the movie-going experience at the El Capitan, and a great way to celebrate a special occasion. For similar future events I would note that the room was pretty small--so if you were interested in booking it, you probably wouldn't want to wait, because the chance of it selling out is high. Also, the tea room validates parking for two hours, but the theater validates for four hours, so it's best to wait until getting across the street to take care of that. (Despite that, the chances are the tea and the movie will take longer than four hours, so be prepared to add on another $2-6 onto the usual $2 parking toll.)

Unfortunately, the Tick-Tock Tea has finished its last session--however, the Chado Tea Room offers very similar tea services on a routine basis, more information about which can be found on their web page here. "Alice Through The Looking Glass" continues at the El Capitan Theatre through June 12, 2016.


Daily showtimes are 10 a.m., 1:10 p.m., 4:20 p.m., and 7:30 p.m., with a 10:40 p.m. on opening weekend (Friday through Sunday) and each Friday and Saturday during the engagement of the film. Tickets are on sale now through June 12, available at the El Capitan Theatre (6838 Hollywood Blvd.), online at or by calling 1-800-DISNEY6. Special group rates for parties of 20 or more are available by calling 1-818-845-3110. Showtimes and dates are subject to change.

May 26, 2016

"Alice Through the Looking Glass" Press Junket



On May 27, "Alice Through the Looking Glass," the sequel to Tim Burton's hit film "Alice in Wonderland" opens in theaters throughout the US.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

As part of the recent appearances the cast and crew have been making to promote the movie's premiere, a press junket was held in Beverly Hills. In attendance was Anne (“The White Queen”) Hathaway, Mia (“Alice Kingsleigh”) Wasikowska, Director James Bobin, and Producer Suzanne Todd.


Some points of interest from the discussion:


Suzanne Todd on why she decided to make this sequel: "Well, it took us a long time now, after the first movie, to come up with an idea that we felt was worth taking on--as everyone here knows, these movies are very difficult to make. So we went back into the literature: We went back into what was so popular for 150 years, and themes came up that we were were interested in...that Linda Wolverton, the screenwriter, wanted to take on, and when James [Bobin] came on board, that he was interested in. And we really focused on what you see in the movie now, which is time, and the preciousness of time, and the importance of spending time with loved ones...and also what a pretty, kick-ass girl can do if she sets her mind to it! And she does!"


Mia Wasikowska on revisiting the character of Alice: "Yeah, it was the beginning of this film she has been traveling around the world for the last two years, and she’s the captain of her own ship, so she’s coming from a very empowered place. I just love that she has this really strong sense of who she is, and despite the fact that expectations for her are really low when she returns to England, she’s able to hold onto that sense that she’s worth more than what other people want for her. Yeah, I think she’s great.”


Anne Hathaway on wearing the film's elaborate costumes: "You know, I thought that Colleen’s [Atwood] costume probably created my character. I knew I had had certain kind of incorrect ideas about who she was, and then as I found the dress I just thought, ‘oh, she’s air.’ I also started to think about the relationship between her and Helena [Bonham Carter] and I thought, if you have a family member who has a very very large personality, who has a lot of emotions, you compensate by taking up less space...and so I thought, ‘here’s somebody who’s turning herself into almost weightlessness.’ And yet, it’s still so ornamented, so I just thought it’s very rich and very airy..and that’s how I kind of came up with my airhead.”


James Bobin on how to make the new film distinct from the original, while still paying respect to it: "Of course we really owe a debt to Lewis Carroll...having Time be a person was of course Lewis Carroll’s idea. Lewis Carroll wrote in the book, when the Hatter meets Alice for the first time, ‘I’ve been stuck here since last March, when Time and I quarreled,’ so it’s kind of those bits. It’s basically trying to incorporate elements of Lewis Carroll, whilst maintaining a Tim [Burton] world, but then bringing something of what you think those things are."


Suzanne Todd on her first introduction to "Alice in Wonderland": "Growing up in California, I went to Disneyland and I rode the Alice ride! There are actually two Alice rides at Disneyland, there's Mad Tea Cups and there's an Alice's Adventures ride, and yes, as a very young girl I was, and still am, obsessed with Disney--not just Disneyland, but all Disney parks. They're the happiest places to be! After going on the Alice ride, I did get very interested and I did read the books and have a very literary reaction to it, but yes, it all started with the rides at Disneyland."

May 3, 2016

"Captain America: Civil War" Part 1: Team IRON MAN - Press Junket



This May 6th marks the debut of Marvel Studio's latest film, "Captain America: Civil War." Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, the start of Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase III sees the Earth's Mightiest Heroes splintered into two factions over the question of government registration and oversight--Team Iron Man, advocating for accountability, and Team Cap, dedicated to free will and independence.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]


At a recent press junket the two sides made an appearance to discuss the new film--separately, of course. Team Iron Man was up first, represented by Robert Downey Jr., (“Tony Stark / Iron Man”) Don Cheadle, (“James Rhodes / War Machine”) Paul Bettany, (“Vision”) Emily Van Camp, (“Sharon Carter / Agent 13”) Director Anthony Russo, and Producer Kevin Feige. Guest Blogger Amanda Bulat attended for AllEars.Net.


Some points of note from the video above:


Robert Downey Jr. on Tony Stark's emotional center: "I'm still reeling from the fact that Paul Bettany was Jarvis and now he's Vision...If you just stop, you go 'so here's what's going on with Tony,' I go 'waitaminute. Did he make a guy?!' Look at him!"
Bettany: "Dad!"
Downey Jr.: "So proud of you."


Anthony Russo on technological advances in film-making: "You sort of reap the benefits and you sort of push forward every film and this movie has a very remarkable sequence I think where Robert Downey Jr. plays a twenty-year old man...which, you know, is pretty incredible."
[Downey Jr. begins to have a stroke.]
Bettany: (Reassuringly) "Wait a second, I don't think it's that hard to believe!"
Russo: "I mean, he plays someone who's around the age he was when we all first saw him on the screen."
Downey Jr.: "Aw. It's nostalgic. Very expensive nostalgia, I'm told."


Don Cheadle on War Machine getting new upgrades: "Thank God somebody finally laid it bare...I think we'll see. It's not over...unless it is, 'cause I haven't seen the movie. Do...I live? Does War Machine live? (That's some hubris.) You'll see in the next one...wait a minute..."


Kevin Feige on the casting of Black Panther: "It was relatively early on in the development process of the movie that Joe and Anthony and our screenwriters Chris and Steve thought it would be very valuable to have somebody...people who weren't quite as invested. We wanted somebody who perhaps was invested but didn't have allegiances to any one side. Who was essentially in it for very personal reasons himself. We knew we wanted to make a Black Panther movie at some point, but at that time we weren't sure exactly when that would be, but as these discussions were going on, we thought 'I think we're going to bring Black Panther into this movie...' I'm not kidding when I say Chadwick (Boseman) was the only choice. His performance in '42,' his performance in 'Get on Up,' how different those performances are...and my memory is that we called him on the conference room speaker when we were developing the movie, and...he was in his car either about to get out or had just gotten back in, and we said 'have you ever heard of Black Panther,' and he went 'YES. YES. WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THAT.' And we said 'do you want to play the part,' and he was very excited.


Emily Van Camp on hitting a stride in portraying Sharon Carter: "I think I was definitely slightly intimidated in the first one, in 'Winter Soldier,' you know, just kind of getting used to it. I think that lent itself well for the character, she was sort of more in like a rookie stage, and it's great to see her come back in a little bit more of a mature light, she's confident..."
Moderator: "And she's still good with guns, girl!"
Van Camp: "Still good with guns!"


Paul Bettany on Vision's process of finding himself while establishing relationships with other characters: "You find Vision in 'Age of Ultron,' he is just born and omnipotent yet naive, and then in this movie you find him trying to figure out what humanity is, and how you have loyalty, because logic doesn't afford loyalty. So I think he's really interested in working out what love is, and there's this woman who has a similar problem that he's facing, which is he doesn't know the limits of his power, nor does she. Of course, love can make you feel loyal, and at the end of this movie, I think it's double-edged sword, because his response at finally having a human response, is he makes a big mistake. Which is interesting."

April 13, 2016

Review: "The Jungle Book"



"The Jungle Book," a new live-action retelling of the classic 1967 animated feature from Walt Disney Studios and Director Jon Favreau, reinvents the Rudyard Kipling fable for our time in dazzlingly photorealistic CG.

While keeping some of the songs and whimsy of the Disney feature, Favreau's "Jungle Book" leans more towards the darker tones of the original Kipling tales. In it, Mowgli, a boy orphaned in the jungle, is raised by wolves until the vicious tiger Shere Khan declares open season on him and he is forced to leave the only home he knows.


As he makes his way towards the Man Village, Mowgli is alternately advised by the orderly, regimented Bagheera and the free-spirited Baloo...


...While eluding the grasps of both the predatory Kaa...


...And the ambitious King Louie.


To get the obvious out of the way, the CG on this film is amazing. Filmed in Downtown Los Angeles, it is astonishing how convincing it is--the environment, the animals, the wind and the water all are almost indistinguishable from real, and are absolutely convincing as characters and backdrop for the story.


The voice cast is used to good effect and is as skillful as their combined star power would lead you to expect. Bill Murray shows an impressive sensitivity behind the jovial Baloo and Lupita Nyong’o's Raksha has a goodbye moment with Mowgli with more emotion behind it than many a similar scene between human actors.


The only voice that rings a little light for the role is Scarlett Johansson, whose Kaa never really sounds quite as menacing as she looks. In contrast, the one voice I really wasn't sure about from the trailers was Christopher Walken--however he turned out to maybe be one of the few actors possessing the ideal skill set for the alternately creepy menace/song-and-dance man/Gigantopithecus, King Louie.


Speaking of music, one could hardly think about the 1967 "Jungle Book" without its deservedly popular score. While Murray does hum a few bars of "Bare Necessities," the big number is reserved for Walken and "I Wanna Be Like You," on which Richard Sherman consulted and wrote new lyrics.

Neel Sethi has the lion's share of the business on this one as the only physical character in the film. Fortunately he's naturally engaging, giving Mowgli a cleverness and initiative the animated one lacked, while easily avoiding the child actor pitfalls of annoying and cloying.


Ultimately, I think the film works well because it deviates strongly from both the original book and animated predecessor. Each version on some level reflects the time it came from: Kipling's story, in which Mowgli is abandoned/betrayed by both the wolves and mankind and winds up living solitary and apart is often thought to be commentary on British Imperialism in India. The 1967 feature, coming at a time of social revolution and the Vietnam War shows Mowgli retreating from the jungle and all its dangers, to the safety and familiarity of Man's Village. Today's Mowgli faces a Shere Khan as fueled by fear and hatred as revenge: Whose most chilling scene is that where he amiably teaches the wolf cubs that caring for others who are not your kind, is only to impoverish and weaken you and yours.


While the filmmakers tend to stress the themes of family in "The Jungle Book," what I found most prominent in the film was Mowgli's journey to discover what it means, to be a Man. Is it simply DNA and opposable thumbs? The ability to use tools and understand Physics? A facility for slaughter and destruction? Or a capacity for acts of compassion for others who look, speak, and act differently, at great personal cost? How interesting to live in a time where film animals often display the best of humanity, while TV politicians continually demonstrate the worst of beasts.


"The Jungle Book" is presented by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Rated PG, it stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Neel Sethi and Christopher Walken.

Directed by Jon Favreau and produced by Jon Favreau and Brigham Taylor. Screenplay by Justin Marks.

The film enters general release on April 15, 2015.

March 14, 2016

"Zootopia" at the El Capitan Theatre


People looking for the complete "Zootopia" viewing experience can head towards Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for some charming extras.


As usual, House Organist Rob Richards starts off every show with a rousing Disney medley.


After the trailers, a Wild Animal Encounter show takes place, in which audiences are given a glimpse of some of the prominent animals seen in the film, along with some short but informative presentations.




Subsequently, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde take the stage and dance up a storm to the tune of Shakira's "Try Everything."


The movie itself is presented in Dolby Vision™ and Dolby Atmos® and looks and sounds as great as you'd expect. (AllEars Blogger Kristin Ford reviewed it here.) Afterwards, moviegoers can enjoy a exhibit downstairs detailing some of the research and concept art that went into the making of "Zootopia."





On your way out, "Zootopia" photo ops are available, as is a wide variety of merchandise in the adjoining Disney Studio Store and Ghirardelli Soda Fountain.



So if it's your first time seeing it, or even your seventh (it's really good, you guys,) head on over to the El Capitan Theatre for a full night of "Zootopia."


"Zootopia" is currently playing at the El Capitan Theatre until April 10, 2016. On select dates, El Capitan guests may enjoy breakfast, meet Judy Hopps and receive a commemorative photo before seeing the 10 a.m. movie. Seating is limited and advanced reservations are required with purchase of movie ticket. El Capitan guests may also enjoy a Dave & Busters Movie & a Meal Offer, which includes a reserved seat for “Zootopia,” choice of entrée from the Dave & Busters Eat & Play menu and a $10 Dave & Busters game card. Reservations required 24 hours in advance with movie ticket. The El Capitan Theatre will also host a special Tiny Tot Tuesday every Tuesday at 10 a.m. during the run of “Zootopia.” During these screenings, parents and small children may enjoy the movie with lights dimmed and reduced sound levels.

March 1, 2016

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 4


So as you might recall from our first, second, and third installments, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."


[Photos provided by Disney.]

The next department to speak to us was Animation with Head of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Animation Supervisors Kira Lehtomaki (Judy Hopps,) Nathan Engelhardt (Clawhauser, Gazelle,) Jennifer Hager (Chief Bogo, Gazelle,) and Chad Sellers (Mr. Big.)


"Our great challenge was that our guys were walking around on two legs, and the real animals are walking around on four legs...We did a lot of testing, a lot of trying/figuring things out and we kind of figured that if you could capture, like, the movement of their head or the cadence of their walk then it really felt like the animal, even though it didn't really look like the animal."

--Although they looked at some of the classic Disney animated films, they wanted most of their animal modeling to reflect real life.
--While they had some animals come into the studios, they also went on a research trip to Kenya.
--An effort was made to reflect how prey animals tend to move in herds, almost like one large organism.
--Wildebeest turn out to be not the brightest animals on the Savannah.

"The African Cape Buffalo...we learned that these guys are one of the scariest, meanest animals in Africa. They're really nasty. They have a horrible temper, and we learned that if they see somebody coming...they'll just stop and turn and stare you down. It's very creepy."


--Cheetah have strong, piston-like legs and keep their heads relatively stationary as they run...which was a challenge to implement into the less-than-athletic Clawhauser.

"Another animal found in Zootopia is the weasel...You can see in the reference...this really erratic quality to the movement style and it's almost like it's very broken, too. We have a weasel in Zootopia and he's a thief, and so you see him running with this duffel bag over his head and really found fun areas to pepper in that erratic, ropy quality into his lower torso/hip area. You can see him bouncing all around while his upper torso is remaining isolated."

--John Lasseter, in order to illustrate something specific he wants in a scene, will occasionally film reference material of himself.
--Rabbits turn out to be relatively athletic, with a specific jump mechanism called "binky" in which they jump in the air and flick their head around. This was incorporated into Judy's movements as part of her police officer physicality.
--The character of Judy Hopps changed when Ginnifer Goodwin was cast, from a more seasoned, sarcastic, disillutioned police veteran to an optimistic, genuine personality.


After the main presentation, Renato dos Anjos and Kira Lehtomaki gave us a few minutes for some individual discussion.


On what was some of their biggest challenges to animate:

"Nick was a challenge with his long muzzle, because we're used to having human characters with the mouths more on the front of the face, but then suddenly we had this character that had this big long muzzle...and I think that's where "Robin Hood" came into it as a big help, looking back at it because you'll see as he opens up his mouth, his jaw is receded back because you don't want this kind of crocodile-look...where it's just hinged here and it just opens. But it was really tricky to kind of design all the mouth shapes around that long muzzle because it's so different from what we've got."


On whether the acting in animation is different for a more contemporary story:

"I think Disney always, regardless of whether it's more contemporary or classic...there's always sincerity, and there's always heart and that's always present so that's always what we're trying to communicate through our characters."
"What drives me, as an animator, is making our characters believable. My hope is, when people watch the film, they're not thinking 'oh, that's an animated movie," I want them to just enjoy the movie for what it is and the characters for the situations they're going through..."
"We want them to think it's all real."
"Because it is in my head!"


The last department was Story, with Writer and Co-Director Jared Bush, Writer Phil Johnston, Story Artist Marc Smith and Head of Editorial Fabienne Rawley.


The panel illustrated the process they go through revising the movie by showing both an older version of a scene and then the scene as it plays in the finished film.

--They took us through a scene at the end of the first act where Judy faces disappointment and showed how the initial pitch would have been acted, and then the fully animated and voiced track.
--Then they said they threw the whole thing in the toilet, because the movie had developed so that Judy was a stronger character and the scene didn't work anymore.
--They reworked it to be funnier to give it more energy as the story flows into the second act.
--New small actions give Judy more agency.

An example of the progression of a scene from a different part of the movie:





On what drew them to the project:

"I...was really attracted to the comedy...and then the themes of the movie. While it's not, in no's not a message movie, it's not preachy--it's a comedy, but it is about something. It deals with bias and the way we prejudge each other and I like that I'm going to be able to talk to my kids about that, using this as a tool to do that. And that to me was very attractive."

Finally, the day ended with Producer Clark Spencer giving us a few minutes to discuss how he came to be involved with "Zootopia."


"So what happens is, when you finish a film (I finished 'Wreck-it Ralph') you come off and there are lots of projects in development and they always want a team of people who are going to work well together. I had worked with Byron on 'Bolt,' and I love him. I had worked with Byron all the way back on 'Lilo and Stitch' when he was a supervising animator and I was producing that movie and I have always thought that I wanted to be able to work with him again because of the fact that he is so talented. He's got such a great sense of humor and a real warm heart so I know every story he tells is going to have all those elements in it, and a real sense of appeal because there is nobody who draws like Byron. His designs are unbelievable.

"Then he pitched me this story and when I thought about this incredible mammal world and this incredible city I was immediately drawn to it. But the most important thing was I loved the message of the film. I thought 'how bold to go out there and tell a story about predator and prey, two groups that assume something about each other and then realize that they're actually wrong.' I thought, in today's world, that was a really profound thing to tackle. And I knew it would be super hard--very hard to figure out the balance of it throughout the film--but I thought it was a really important idea that I wanted to be a part of."


"Zootopia" opens in general release March 4, 2016.

February 22, 2016

"Countdown to Zootopia," at the El Capitan Theatre


For seven days, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is having a special movie series called "Countdown to Zootopia."


Building up to the general release of "Zootopia" on March 4th, each night will feature a different movie from Disney's Second Renaissance/Revival period complete with giveaways, raffles, and appearances by special guests from the films' cast and crew at the 7pm showings.


In the lobby there is a display of concept art and maquettes from all the films, along with a variety of photo-ops.





People were calling him "Olaf." Just NO.

THIS is Olaf.

Everyone attending the 7pm shows will get a special piece of artwork designed from that particular film, with the first 75 people in line getting the chance to have it signed by the filmmakers!


"Wreck-It Ralph" director Rich Moore


"Frozen" Co-Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

After the traditional Wurlitzer Organ pre-show performance, the filmmakers take the stage for a short presentation and raffle.

Having attended the first two nights, I can say that it's a treat to see these animation classics (and their accompanying shorts) up on the big screen again--they look gorgeous and have all the beauty and cleverness you'd expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some of the older films have not been seen in the theaters since their original release, and others may have failed to get the full reception they deserved, considering Pixar was coming strong out of the gate, co-releasing such films as "Up" and "Toy Story 3" at the time.

For the price of the ticket, which includes the giveaways, potential autographs, presentations, and popcorn and soda, "Countdown to Zootopia" is a great way to pass the time while waiting for WDAS to release their next classic.


Tickets for "Countdown to Zootopia" are available at Prices: Single reserved seat admission -- $10 includes small popcorn and drink; Single VIP preferred reserved seat -- $20 includes VIP popcorn and drink. The El Capitan Theatre is located at 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood CA 90028

January 20, 2016

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 3


So as you might recall from our last installment, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."


[Photos provided by Disney]

Different departments took turns revealing some of the process involved in creating a big animation project like Zootopia. The first subject was "Characters: Creating the Citizens of Zootopia," with Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis, Character Look Supervisor Michelle Robinson, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski and Simulation Supervisor Claudia Chung Sanii.


"Early on in the film, we partnered with Cory and Cory has drawn us this lineup of the kinds of characters we wanted to place in Zootopia...we quickly found that scale was going to be a big issue because our smallest critter is our mouse, over there, and our largest character is our giraffe and actually the discrepancy is such that it would'd have to stack 97 of those mice head to toe in order to reach the top of the giraffe's head."


Other considerations:
--Shots had to be framed so that Judy Hopps, the protagonist, is visible and on the same level with animals both much larger and smaller than she is.
--Each habitat had to have representation, so animals from all ecosystems needed to be developed in both male and female varieties, using color and shape.
--Clothing specific and appropriate to each animal and environment had to designed.
--Quadruped animals required adaptation to bipedal movement, without losing their distinctive animalness.

"One of the things we discussed were all the classic Disney animal movies...we ultimately decided that it was the personalities that were so memorable about them. We wanted to make sure those personalities came across in the characters of Zootopia, and that's not necessarily through the design, but you have to give the animators all those dials to push so that they can get the performance to get that character across."


--Pants proved a specific problem, as animal and human anatomy had to be blended to make them look like they fit right.
--Some animals couldn't wear pants because their legs were too short, so they were kept in shorts.
--The hardest part was getting the cloth of the clothes to move believably, given the different anatomy and movement of each species.
--Designs for both Nick and Judy evolved throughout development to accommodate the changes made in their characters.
--Research started at Animal Kingdom Lodge and San Diego Wild Animal Park.
--A small team went on a two-week safari to Kenya.
--The differences in fur became apparent after many trips to the Natural History Museum: Texture, light refraction/reflection/transmission, etc.
--At the time, there were around 400 unique species and costumes that dress the world of Zootopia.


Afterwards, Loftis gave AllEars a few minutes to talk about differences he noted working on video game-related animation ("Wreck-it Ralph") versus actual video games ("Wildstar.")


"The work itself is actually very similar...what we spend our time focusing on is very different...When you're running around in a game, you're always thinking about the player, right? And they're doing all the action, they're making their own story, so you're trying to put as much cool stuff in front of them as possible. Give them the coolest armor and the coolest creatures to kill and the coolest environments to be in and the coolest stuff to ride--you're always doing that. But when you go to film, you're trying to create the same things, except all those things are in service to the story. So if that cool thing is distracting from the performance happening on the screen--it's no good, right? Everything is in service to that acting, that performance, that scene, and that's the biggest thing it took to get used to, is trying to make stuff not too cool and not too distracting in the background and have it add to the story instead of distract from it."

The next panel was "Production Design/Environments: Building a Magnificent Mammal Metropolis," with Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner and Environment Look Supervisor Lance Summers.


"When we designed the city of Zootopia, we wanted to make it feel like a real city. Not just some typical future city, but with dirt...buildings from different eras, some better kept up, some falling down...all the stuff that you find in a real city."


--On arranging the various habitats of Tundratown, the Rainforest District, etc., around the downtown of Zootopia where all the animals mix, the layout ended up slightly resembling that of a Disney park with a central hub and surrounding lands.
--Sahara Square is the first part of the city Judy Hopps encounters--a ritzy area with beaches and lots of nightlife, given that most of the animals are nocturnal.


--A surrounding wall radiates heat from one side for Sahara Square, and cold from the other, to create Tundratown: An city covered with ice and snow, and influenced heavily by Russian architecture.


--The Rainforest District is marked by constant rainfall and moist vegetation. With a preponderance of vertical structures, aerial forms of transportation are necessary.


--Little Rodentia is designed to be a perfect tiny town that's set off so it won't get trampled by larger animals.
--Of course it gets trampled by larger animals in a madcap chase.
--Elements of the city appear to be repurposed elements from larger structures. Vegetation is strategically placed to reinforce scale.


On whether the hub-and-spoke transportation system of Zootopia was influenced by the Progress City models: "Well, it's Zootopia with utopia in it, so yes, that's part of what you were supposed to see when you look at that city. It's also a very green's a nice environment. You get a chance to make a city, you might as well make a nice one."

Next time with "Zootopia:" We hear from the Animation and Story departments.

December 12, 2015

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 2


So this last October, Walt Disney Animation Studios invited us in to their studios to see and hear about their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

[Photos provided by Disney.]



The day started off with a presentation of some footage by Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and Producer Clark Spencer.



Clark Spencer: [On the four ingredients in every movie WDAS makes] "First, we strive to tell timeless stories for today's audiences. Second, we make these movies to be entertaining for all ages around the world. Third, our films must contain a combination of both great humor and deep emotion; and fourth, these films must live up to the standard of Walt Disney--after all, his name is on each and every one of these movies."

[On the genesis of Byron Howard's concept for Zootopia] "...One day he came up with the idea of an all-animal city named "Zootopia." When he pitched it to John Lasseter, John literally picked Byron up and hugged him--true story. John had always wanted to do a talking animal film and he was so excited to return to this great legacy. But he charged Byron and the team with one very important thing: He said we have to make an animal movie that no one has seen before. And that's been our mantra on this film as we've been making it."


Byron Howard & Rich Moore
: [On the construction of Zootopia] "Zootopia had to be built for every size animal and safety was a big concern for us--mice had to be able to cross the street safely near elephants and rhinoceroses...hotel beds have to safely and comfortably accomodate a rhino, an elephant, a fox or a mouse or a shrew..."


"...For desert animals, this is Sahara Square, a huge desert area which is hot and dry. It's kind of like an upscale Dubai or Monte Carlo with lots of casinos and high-end shops--just glitz through the roof. We actually took a research trip to Vegas..."


"...Tundra Town, where the cold weather animals live like polar bears, moose, and arctic shrews, and the cool thing about this is that they have coolers and refrigerated coolant under the sidewalks to keep it cold, they have something called a 3 o'clock blizzard...and lucky for us, we get to reuse a lot of that snow from 'Frozen!'"


"And then there's the Rainforest District...where it's wet and humid....And the question was, and this all goes back to research, how do you get a Tundra and a Desert into one city?...We talked to people who were experts in air conditioning and they said if you had enough money and determination, and these animals do, you could build a massive air conditioning and heating wall that stretches across the city."


"And there's also in town a little itty bitty neighborhood called 'Little Rodentia'...and there is Bunny Burrows which has millions and millions and millions of adorable super-cute bunnies."


[On casting Shakira as Gazelle] "...(After the pitch) she walked up and said 'I love it guys, I hope you guys keep me on the list and I hope you call me,' we're all like 'NO NO NO, IT'S JUST YOU, THERE'S NO ONE ELSE ON THE LIST,' and so she said 'oh, well then I'm in,' and it was like the shortest meeting, the shortest deal in Hollywood history."

[On having a moral vs. becoming preachy] "We never want to preach...what we like to do is to take an issue and examine it, and not try to beat it over the audience's head...What I take away from this film, if there's a message, a moral, or a theme to it, it's that you define you. The world has opinions, of who you are, but you ultimately define yourself, not the world....What we always discussed in creating this story is...we're going to give Judy this mantra, that "anyone can be anything," and we are going to test it for three acts of a film, and how are we going to have her walk away from this thing?...Personally, that's what I take away from this film."

Next time: We hear from the specific animation departments involved in creating the world and denizens of Zootopia.

December 1, 2015

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 1



Earlier this year, Walt Disney Animation Studios gave us a sneak peek at some of the work they've been doing on their 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

[All photos and video provided by Disney]

"Zootopia" tells the story of Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) Hopps--a bunny from out-of-town, whose dream is to come to the big city of Zootopia and become the first bunny on the police force. Unfortunately, this proves more difficult than she anticipated, when the larger, more predatory animals on the force relegate her to the position of meter maid.


Still determined to do the best job she can, Hopps pursues her job with enthusiasm until she runs afowl of Nick (Jason Bateman) Wilde: A con artist fox with more angles than a dodecahedron.


When Judy's big (and only) chance to become a real police officer ends up depending on getting Nick's cooperation to solve a dangerous case, Judy's determination and Nick's wits will be tested to the utmost.


On the way to untangling Judy's case, the two unwilling allies also abut ideologies--Nick's fatalistic view that each animal's position in the natural order of things is immutable, and Judy's optimistic belief that in Zootopia, no matter what you are, you can be anything.


In the next installment, we'll look at the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus, where filmmakers Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Clark Spencer, and many other talented animators shared insight into the detailed research and development they did for "Zootopia."

November 23, 2015

"The Good Dinosaur" and "Sanjay's Super Team" Press Day



Coming out this week is Pixar's latest film, "The Good Dinosaur." Helmed by Peter Sohn, it follows Arlo the dinosaur as he tries to navigate his way past his fears in order to make his mark on the world.

[All photos and video courtesy of Disney/Pixar.]

At a recent press day, some of the cast and creatives sat for roundtable discussions about the movie and their thoughts on it.


First up was Jeffrey (Poppa) Wright, and Raymond (Arlo) Ochoa.



Jeffrey Wright: [On what the movie says about fatherhood.] "...That's the core issue/challenge for Papa, for my character. And so, what I tried to draw on in order to understand the emotions and the dynamics of...this relationship, was to draw on my relationship with my son and my daughter. And it's a lesson I think that, we all, if we're trying to be responsible parents, come up against in our work with our kids. It's really the central question of how--what level of encouragement or what level of...when pushing your kids does more damage than good. And how do you strike that balance between a nurturing posture and one that's a bit too overbearing? All parents go through that. And so that's what is so wonderful about this movie, because you are experiencing this movie through the relationships you have through either your parents or your children. So we, as audience members, therefore bring a lot to the table as we're watching this. I think it's a fantastic story to take in--for parents to take in with their kids, or for kids to take in with their parents.

"...And on Thanksgiving, too, I mean, come on. What else you gonna do, right?"


Raymond Ochoa: [On what he liked best about the movie.] "Well, on a movie side, where it's like, 'what is your favorite scene?' That was really when my Papa takes me out to the field and he shows me when you move your tail these fireflies come out...and I like that scene so much because I felt it was a bonding moment between me and my dad, and the reason why is because later on, I do the exact same thing to Spot. I show him the fireflies. And I felt like I connected with him in a bonding moment.

"...You know at the beginning of the movie, I hated Spot. I did not like him. So, to know the change in the level between you not liking him and bonding with him, like he's my pet, that's what I found so cool about it."

Following them was AJ (Nash) Buckley, Anna (Ramsey) Paquin, and Sam (Butch) Elliot.




Anna Paquin: [On getting called to be a Pixar character.] "Well, I'd already said yes before they actually told me what I was about...and, I want to say that they seemed ever so slightly nervous that I might be offended that they wanted me to be this like, big, bad-ass T-Rex, that I was...I was so bracing myself to be like, some little thing like this, that's really wimpy, 'cause I'm a girl. And I'm like, 'That's fantastic!' And they're like, 'really?' And I'm like, 'yeah, that's awesome! I get to be, you know, one of the dudes.'

"Except a girl! Even cooler!"


AJ Buckley: [On developing his character.] "I asked (Pete Sohn) when we sat down, 'why did this happen?' He said, 'I saw your character on Justified, and I loved the sound of your voice.' And these guys were already cast, and they took scenes from Justified, and examined it, and mixed it with them, and it fit, and I was like, 'okay.' He said, 'I just want you to do Danny Crow,' and Danny Crow on Justified was this horrible, like, sociopath...And I'm like, 'Huh?' So...We were trying to find the voice and I was trying to figure out like, how to be a dinosaur...and so, my character on the show chewed--on Justified, chewed. So, I needed chew. And they only had Jolly Ranchers there. So I picked up a Jolly Rancher, and put the Jolly my lip there, and Nash came out."


Sam Elliot: [On being part of the Pixar legacy.] "Well, I think it's huge. For obvious reasons. It's huge for me, personally, because the 25th of November, if my mother were still living--she passed away three years ago--would've been her 100th birthday. So that's like, a milestone for me. But, I mean, anytime you get to be involved with a company like Pixar, it doesn't matter what day it is, or date it is, or anything else. I mean, this is a gift. I just look at this as a gift, and a grand opportunity, over the long haul...and the great reward is gonna be on Tuesday. I'm going to be seeing it with an audience, see it with my family, and I know my mom's up there, thinking, 'that's my boy.' Pretty cool."

The next session was with Director Peter Sohn and Producer Denise Ream.


Peter Sohn: [On being the Pet Collector.] "Every character that Arlo meets was all in terms of support of Arlo's journey. In terms of the world, of the frontier, that he was kind of this...transient character that's been living out in the woods too long. But it was almost meant to represent...the end-of-the-line version of Arlo. Like, if he was stuck out in the woods, would he be afraid of everything...and so terrified that he would come up with these protection things that would project him from there. Like, would Arlo fall into this world. 'You have to keep him, so that he can protect you.' And never grow up, essentially."


Finally, from the fantastic short "Sanjay's Super Team," we had Director Sanjay Patel and Producer Nicole Grindle.


Nicole Grindle: [On conceiving the short.] " So, Sanjay has written a number of books. He's been at Pixar for 20 years, doing traditional Pixar animation, art, but over the years, he developed an interest in pursuing South Asian art and learning more about his culture, and that led to him writing these books, and that led to there being several shows of his work at the Asian Art Museum.

"And eventually some folks at Pixar sort of figured he was doing all of this cool stuff. And they said, 'oh. Let's bring your artwork in-house. Let's do a show at Pixar.' We do that every now and then. And when we did that, John Lassiter saw this show, this beautiful artwork, and said, 'Sanjay, you have to make a short film.' That's not usually how short films are chosen at Pixar. People don't usually get invited. So, Sanjay was invited to do this and he said, 'no,' at first. He didn't want to do it, it wasn't what he had set out to do. And he was eventually persuaded to do it."

Sanjay Patel: [On the emptiness of the portrayed home environment.] "This is an immigrant that left all of that ethno-stuff back in the home country, and they got nothing here in some part of Southern California...that choice was really, really important to me and the artists that we were explaining this to, they got it instantly. Especially the immigrants. They were like, 'oh, I had apartment like that, we got it.' And, you know, story-wise, there's other reasons why we did's incredibly important that that room have--it's kind of like this room. There is...nothing in here. And it really creates a vacuum. So, imagine if there's a big-screen TV in here, playing awesome cartoons. Of course this kid's gonna escape into that world, because his home is just this beige-on-beige box, without detail, without color, without any kind of interest. We save all of that for when he wakes up in his daydream--that's the payoff. And that's also the truth of most immigrants. The truth of my parents' experience as well."


Sanjay Patel: [On the importance of representation.] "When you don't see any reflection of you, or your community, or your parents on TV, or in pop culture, other than a show, you just kind of figure out a way to exclude yourself. You figure out a way to...not be included, or you're suddenly told that you're...not important. You don't matter.

"This is the number one reason I wanted to make this short. This is the number one reason, that I have nieces and nephews, and...I make all this great stuff for Pixar, but they were never going to get stuff that had any reflection from--that looked like their families, and so the second I had this opportunity, that was the purpose for me."

September 25, 2015

"Emperor's New Groove:" 15th Anniversary Celebration at the El Capitan


Recently, as part of Oh My Disney's annual Throwback Week at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, they celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the classic animated film "Emperor's New Groove."


Theatergoers were treated to a night of Kuzcotainment including a Mickey Ear headband decorating station, trivia contest, spinach puffs (non-poisoned,) and costume contest.



The heart of the evening was a hilarious panel with the film's creators, including Executive Producer Don Hahn, Director Mark Dindal, Producer Randy Fullmer, Screenwriter David Reynolds, Head of Story Steve Anderson, and Story Writer Chris Williams.


Some panel highlights:
--The Peruvian-influenced art direction was the only constant during the switch over from the originally planned/boarded "Kingdom of the Sun," to the existing "Emperor's New Groove."
--"We learned very quickly that the best way to make a movie is to use up most of the money and most of the time, and then get some really wacky people and put them in a room and a good movie comes out." --Randy Fullmer
--Steve Anderson had actually wanted to work on a different movie, called "Sweating Bullets," which ended up as "Home on the Range."
--"Sting had written a song or two for her (Eartha Kitt) in the first version, that was incredible, that we had to explain to Sting that we would no longer be using. And that was a bad moment, but we had a lot of bad moments." --Randy Fullmer
--"This is actually like group therapy, fifteen years later." --Don Hahn
--David Spade had grown a little tired by the time he was recording the second script. "We had embraced that we were incompetent, but it was new to him." --Randy Fullmer
--"I remember I boarded that scene where the angel and devil Kronk were talking to each other, doing the one-armed pushups and all that, and it went over and it seemed like 'this is actually going to be in the movie!...This movie can contain this!' But then I remember another day, I pitched a scene that involved live-action footage of the space shuttle...and I could tell by their faces that it was not going to be in the movie. So I figured out one of the boundaries." --Chris Williams
--They showed some clips from the documentary "The Sweatbox," which recorded the struggle the film went through, from initial development to its eventual metamorphosis. As far as I know, it has never been released in its entirety, although it does pop up online from time to time.
--Adam West recorded a deleted character for the film.
--"It was a terror ride." --Randy Fullmer
--"Physicians are standing by for Randy." --Don Hahn

September 23, 2015

"Aladdin" Back at the El Capitan



One of the classic jewels of the Disney Animation Renaissance Era, John Musker and Ron Clements' "Aladdin" returns to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for a limited engagement from September 17 to October 7, 2015.


As part of a special opening night presentation, the first 50 applicants that showed up for auditions at the El Capitan earlier that day were winnowed down to five who each got to sing parts of "A Whole New World" with Aladdin's singing voice Brad Kane, American Idol style. The audience then selected one lucky winner who then sang the whole thing with him over the animated sequence on stage.

As part of every showing, audiences will be treated to a song and dance by the Genie, as well.


Along with previews for "Zootopia" and "The Good Dinosaur," the new Pixar short "Sanjay's Super Team" is showing with "Aladdin." Giving an insightful (based on the director's own experiences) and non-pandering glimpse at the difficulties of reconciling different beliefs and traditions with American pop culture, it is a thoughtful and touching piece that I think is the best short Pixar has done in awhile.


As a film, Aladdin still holds up to repeat viewing. The art direction and character design is great, and the whole project is given added poignancy when you remember it was the last film Howard Ashman worked on before passing. Still and all, it's hard to think that it would still remain in our collective consciousness as vividly as it does, without the genius mix of Robin Williams and Eric Goldberg. Perhaps never before or since has a voice and caricature so seamlessly blended together to realize the potential of the animated character.


Not all frenetic standup (unlike some of his live action performances,) Williams does some impressive acting as well. On rewatching, it is the Genie's need for freedom that becomes the more compelling storyline, versus a young boy's struggle for self-validation.


Daily showtimes are 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. Tickets are on sale now, and available
at the El Capitan Theatre (6838 Hollywood Blvd.), online at, or by
calling 1-800-DISNEY6. Tiny Tot Tuesday showings are at 10am each Tuesday, and a special breakfast with Genie can be reserved in advance--call for details.

July 17, 2015

Review: "Ant-Man"


"I know a guy."

"Ant-Man," the final entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Phase Two," is a lighter, smaller film (in more ways than one) than its world-shattering brethren, and serves as a refreshing change of pace as we head into what appears to be a grimmer time for all our heroes.

Our story begins when Scott Lang, a Quixotic modern-day Robin Hood, is released from jail from stealing one too many times from the rich and giving to the poor. Turning over a new leaf, his only concern is to be a part of his daughter's life from which his incarceration has long absented him.


Unfortunately, his ex-wife and her policeman fiancé somewhat rightfully expect him to present himself as a financially responsible father figure before they will let him see Cassie, and in a world where not even Baskin-Robbins will give an ex-con a job, it looks like she might be ready to leave for college before he can fulfill his obligations. Desperation sets in and leaves him vulnerable when his good-tempered ex-cellmate Luis brings him a plan for a heist that could net him the money he needs.


It turns out, however, that fortune comes in different manifestations, and what he takes from the Pym vault may bring him something more valuable than money--a second chance to prove himself a hero, both to his daughter and to himself.


Like all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the big splashy action scenes are expertly done and look wonderfully convincing as Scott navigates a miniature world of ants and water droplets and toys. Probably the most impressive effect however, is in the beginning flashback, where we see Michael Douglas some thirty years in the past as SHIELD scientist Hank Pym refuses to share his Pym Particles with a suspiciously militaristic world. Now, it's not like I don't know that Michael Douglas is some years past his "Romancing the Stone" years, but minutes went by before I remembered that, because the job they did digitally making him younger was amazing. Not a hint of the "Tron Legacy" plastic-y look, this looked like the real deal.


As Pym, tortured by guilt over both the implications of his scientific discovery and his inability to keep his family together, Douglas does the masterful job that you'd expect from a star of his caliber. Strong enough to sell his past turn at super-heroics, he's professional enough to keep the more teary interactions with his daughter, Hope van Dyne, from becoming maudlin.


If there is one aspect that rings a little tired, it's the variation on the "Chosen One" trope present in Hope van Dyne. As one more super-competent female character who is relegated to hating/helping/liking the goofier male character fulfill his destiny, she takes her place in a wide pantheon of girls from "Matrix's" Trinity to "Lego Movie's" Wyldstyle. It is true, though, that the movie is called "Ant-MAN," and at least here, we're given a rationale for her status and the hope that she will evolve past it in future movies.


Ultimately, "Ant-Man" is a self-contained heist movie, as much as "Ocean's Eleven," with just enough references and cameos to connect it to the rest of the MCU. This does it the favor of not burdening it with the sometimes-ponderous backstory of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet that peppers the main timeline movies and keeps its storytelling light and nimble.


While the film has more than its share of laughs, it also tries to maintain an emotional core of how people are shaped by the belief others have in them--whether it's Scott, trying to "become the hero (Cassie) thinks (he) is," or the villainous Darren Cross, trying to overcome his hurt at Pym's rejection, or even the comical Luis stepping up to infiltrate Pym Technologies.


"Ant-Man," much like last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy," is both fun and funny. With it, Marvel Studios adds the heist film to its superhero subgenres next to "Winter Soldier's" spy thriller and "Guardians'" SF movie and gives us a breathing moment of levity before hurdling into next year's divisive and dramatic "Civil War" storyline.


"Ant-Man" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly,
Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I. ” Harris, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Peyton Reed and produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers are Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Stan Lee, and Edgar Wright. Screenplay by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd, based on a story by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish.

The film enters general release on July 17, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

**Looks like we're coming up on the end of the line.

June 15, 2015

"Inside out" Press Conference


"Do you ever look at someone and wonder 'what is going on inside their head?'"


Blockbuster factory Disney-Pixar's fifteenth film "Inside Out" examines the turbulent mechanisms and dynamics of the five primary emotions driving an eleven year-old girl's mind.

At a recent press junket, Director Pete Docter, Producer Jonas Rivera, and cast members Amy Poehler (“Joy,”) Bill Hader (“Fear,”) Mindy Kaling (“Disgust,”) Phyllis Smith (“Sadness,”) and Lewis Black (“Anger”) gathered for some equally unruly panels discussing everything from emotions, to Pixar, to Islands of Personality.

[Photos provided by Disney/Pixar]



Some notes from the panels:

Pete Docter

--Pete Docter on the influence of "Cranium Command:" "I actually animated on that when I was at Disney in '89, and at the beginning, there's a preshow with all the heads. So I did a lot of the Xerox, and my head was in it, so that was kind of cool. But I think it actually showcases kind of the difference between the approach."


"In this film, we really made it − well, let me talk about that one. It was like they were talking to the stomach and the heart and the liver and different things. In this one, we said, let's just differentiate from the body and make it the mind. And so that allowed us a whole different playground."

Jonas Rivera

--Jonas Rivera on the Pixar synchronicity: "I'll tell a quick story about Michael Giacchino because he scored both films. We got into the car. This is the first scoring day on 'Up' back in 2009...Michael had done some of the films at Pixar, but we had never really worked with him. And we get in the car at Warner Bros. after we're done scoring that first day. We were gonna do what you do. You go to Disneyland after you're done scoring your movie...And so we're driving down the freeway. We get in Michael's car. And he turns on his car, and he had had some CDs...Blasting out of the stereo was the theme of the Muppet Show, right? And I'm in the back, and Pete says, 'Oh, wow, I was listening to that same disc on the way to the airport.' And I thought, oh, my God. What two cars on the planet Earth had those two songs in, right?"


*Caution: While the panel was hilarious in parts, they also used mature language and referenced mature topics.*

Phyllis Smith

--Phyllis Smith: on life with the characters beyond the film: "I'm very happy to be Sad.'"

Mindy Kaling

---Mindy Kaling on relating to her character: "...The character Disgust has a lot of qualities of a very impatient, judgmental adolescent girl and because I seem to be recurring in playing that role over and over again in my career – she just says the things I say on a really bad day – the thing I really wanna say but then don’t say it. Basically, in my mind the parenthetical role or her lines is 'I can’t, I can’t with this;' it’s just like what she’s always thinking."

Bill Hader

---Bill Hader on how he would convince a child to see "Inside Out:" "...What’s so great about this movie is that they chose to make a film about a time in your life that we all have to go through – when you go from being young and then you start to go – when you’re an adolescent, things start to change and things start to get a little hard for you and a lot of normal movies don’t talk about that. I wish I had that growing up because I would go through that and you look for answers and you think you’re the only one going through this thing and they did in this film in such a beautiful, fantastical way and that’s why you have to see it. It’s a movie I wish existed – my life would have been a little easier I think if this movie existed when I was a kid."

Amy Poehler

--Amy Poehler on the emotionally sophisticated themes of "Inside Out:" "Pixar doesn’t patronize their young audience and they don’t underestimate the intelligence of their audience...So they keep raising the bar and also they assume that you and your big brain is gonna show up and your big heart. They assume you’re gonna take all those things with you when you go see their movies; and you’re so rewarded when you do."

Lewis Black

--Lewis Black on his own Islands of Personality: "Barbecue Island...Pork in a variety of fashions served in all sorts of delightful ways lathered with sauce. That’s a big island and the other is Tahiti...That’s where I go. When you look at me and you’re like 'Where’s Lewis?' He’s in Tahiti."

After the panels, Director Jim Murphy and Producer Andrea Warren gave a presentation on the adorable short "Lava," which is playing with "Inside Out."


Murphy briefly recounted his long-standing affection for Hawaiian music and culture, and then displayed some of the concept art that was produced during the project's long development phase.


Additionally, he sang a rendition of the equally adorable song "Lava" that he wrote himself, which involved him traveling to Hawaii, buying a ukelele, and then learning to play it.

"Inside Out" and "Lava," rated PG, will be released in theaters June 19, 2015.

May 22, 2015

Review: "Tomorrowland"



"If I was walking down the street and I saw somebody with a jetpack flying over me, I'd believe that anything's possible. I'd be inspired. Doesn't that make the world a better place?"
--Frank Walker

"Tomorrowland," Brad Bird's latest oeuvre, is a paean to a time when the future was perceived as bright and limitless, and technology inspirational rather than oppressive.


The filmmakers have been fairly insistent on maintaining secrecy over the details of the plot, but in brief, "Tomorrowland" tells the story of why an essentially optimistic world might lose its sense of wonder and turn towards cynicism and despair. It does so through the eyes of a bright young girl named Casey Newton who gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland--where the best of all possible futures is being developed--and then is determined to see more.


On her adventure, she will encounter any number of dangers, and enlist the help of Frank Walker, a bitter loner who knows more about Tomorrowland than he would like to admit, and Athena, a young girl who is at once much more and much less than she appears.


Long-time Disney fans might remember that the first reveal on this film was in the summer of 2013, when Disney unveiled an alternate reality game called "The Optimist." Based around the story of another bright young girl investigating a secret society of visionaries, players traveled around Disneyland and Los Angeles to different Walt-Disney-related landmarks, uncovering clues and special items. Ultimately, the game revealed that Walt Disney (among others) was a member of the Plus Ultra society--people who believed in and worked to make a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. They operated out of a secret/hidden locale that was accessible through the "it's a small world" exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair.


The game culminated at the 2013 D23 Expo, where people solved riddles, took a ride on the Lily Belle, and ended up in the Main Street Cinema, where a short film confirmed the society's existence and proffered membership pins for those ingenious enough to make it to the end.


At the same Expo, Bird and Lindelof uncovered the "Dusty Old Box" that apparently was found in the Walt Disney Studios and dated back to 1952. In it were articles and blueprints that seemed to verify Walt Disney and his Imagineers' Plus Ultra involvement. The contents, along with a variety of other artifacts were on display and viewable through a mobile app:


I go through this backstory, so that, like me, you can go in with a knowledge and appreciation of the depth of thought that went into the world of this movie, and unlike me, will not have the expectation that it will all have much to do with this particular movie. The retro World's Fair segment and the futuristic Tomorrowland are beautiful and beautifully done, but make up relatively short sequences in the beginning and end of the film. The bulk of the film is the "Wizard of Oz" style journey Casey takes that spans time and space, and utilizes motorcycles, bicycles, rockets, and a Chevrolet Volt.


George Clooney, although not making an appearance until after the film is well underway, is a good choice for the part of the cranky, defeated Walker. His innate charm keeps the character likeable despite his initially forceful repulsion of Casey and complicated relationship with Athena.


The highlight of the movie however, is Raffey Cassidy who is fabulous as Athena. In some ways carrying the bulk of the film on her tiny, sturdy shoulders, she has all the bright appeal of a young girl, but the depth and maturity of something quite a bit older.

"I'm the Future, Frank Walker."

At the end of the day, "Tomorrowland" proves to be an enjoyable action-adventure movie with some nice performances and some beautiful set pieces. As you'd expect, from someone with Bird's eye for detail, the World's Fair recreation (keep a look out for Composer Michael Giacchino as the "it's a small world" ride operator) and especially the Tomorrowland visions are spectacular--so much so that it comes as something of a let-down that after a brief glimpse it's taken away from us, just as with Casey.


The movie's message, that the Future is likely to be as good or bad as you make it, is a positive one, and the emphasis on a teenage girl's intelligence and perception over her romantic proclivities is refreshing. If I still think wistfully on the film that might have been, that focused more on Walt Disney and Disneyland's involvement in "Tomorrowland's" secret society (material that was included in the film's precursor novel "Before Tomorrowland") it is more on me than on Bird or Lindelof. It's hardly their fault, after all, that I went in wanting "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and they gave me "In Search of the Castaways."


"When I touched this pin, I saw this place--someplace amazing. And it felt like anything was possible. And then it was gone."
--Casey Newton

"Tomorrowland." Rated PG, it stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Robinson.

Directed by Brad Bird, with a screenplay by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, based on a story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeff Jensen. Produced by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeffrey Chernov. The Executive Producers are John Walker, Bernard Bellew, Jeff Jensen, and Brigham Taylor.

The film enters general release on May 22, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

May 16, 2015

"Tomorrowland" Walks the Blue Carpet



On May 9, 2015, Walt Disney Studio's "Tomorrowland" had its world premiere at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 in Anaheim. Celebrity attendees walked a futuristic blue carpet down to the theater, greeting media and enthusiastic fans alike.

Present for the opening of the film were cast members George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim McGraw, and Thomas Robinson, as well as Director/Producer/Writer Brad Bird, Producer/Writer Damon Lindelof, Producer Jeffrey Chernov, Executive Producer John Walker, Executive Producer and Story Writer Jeff Jensen, Composer Michael Giacchino, and Co-Producer/VFX Tom Peitzman. Other luminaries attending included Disney Legends Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, and Richard Sherman, along with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, TJ Miller from "Big Hero 6," and Brett Dalton from "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD."

Among those kind enough to share a few words with us were Jeff Jensen, Richard Sherman, Tom Peitzman, Tony Baxter, Alan Horn, Michael Giacchino, Brett Dalton, and George Clooney.

"Tomorrowland" will be opening in general theaters on May 22, 2015.

April 27, 2015

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" Press Junket


"Avengers...Time to work for a living."
--Tony Stark


So, excluding those currently undergoing life in a hermitage, most of the movie-going public is likely aware that the new and upcoming addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

As part of the media blitz for the movie's opening, the extensive cast, along with Writer/Director Joss Whedon and Producer Kevin Feige stopped by the Walt Disney Studios for a brief press conference.



(In the interests of making this a family-friendly blog, one word has been clipped from one of Robert Downey Jr.'s responses.)

Some notes from the panel:

Scarlett Johansson

--Biggest challenge for Whedon: Making sure everyone in the cast ("there are like...47 of them...") got their moments and fit together into the same narrative.

Joss Whedon

--Whedon's starting point for creating a sequel to "The Avengers" was to think of the smallest moments he hadn't covered yet: "How can I get inside their hearts; how can they be funny?"

Elizabeth Olsen

--Make sure you open your press conferences with a question for RDJ.

James Spader, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth

---James Spader on his experience with motion-capture: "I really don't have any idea what was all happened very quickly. I was really just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very very quickly..."

Robert Downey Jr.

---Chris Hemsworth's favorite superhero growing up was Superman, on the basis of it being the only superhero film available to him then. James Spader had no comic books growing up.

Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans

--Jeremy Renner on Hawkeye's development: "I speak in this movie, which is awesome."

Chris Evans

--Scarlett Johansson on Black Widow's development: "...She had this moment of false hope where she kind of felt like she had put in the work and there should be some sort of personal payoff...she realizes that her calling is a greater one...that is what is most heroic about her..."

Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, and Cobie Smulders

--Mark Ruffalo on creating Bruce Banner a character distinct from the Hulk: "I was helped out by the fact that I'm GREEN and HUGE, that helped me with the distinction between the two characters so I can't take full credit for that."

Aaron Taylor Johnson and Kevin Feige

--Whedon used to be in love with a woman named Betty.

Kevin Feige

--"Veronica" is the opposite of "Betty."

"Avengers: Age of Ultron," rated PG-13, will be released in theaters May 1, 2015.

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