For more than two hours, the house that Celine (as in, Celine Dion) built, the Caesars Palace Colosseum, belonged to Disney…with a little Pixar mixed in. Going into the presentation, all of us in attendance were alert and ready for a peek at the upcoming “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and a potential, wishful thinking, appearance by Johnny Depp. But, just as we did in the theater, you’ll have to wait to get to that movie a bit later.
Pixar is celebrating its 25th year and will release its 12th animated feature, “Cars 2,” on June 24. The studio gave us an extended look at the new movie, which features the returning voices of Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen and Larry the Cable Guy as Mater. Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer join the sequel, both as British intelligence. Lightning McQueen’s biggest competitor in the World Grand Prix is Francesco Bernoulli, voiced by John Turturro.
Larry the Cable Guy joined Disney’s new Executive Vice President of Theatrical Exhibition Sales and Distribution, Dave Hollis, in presenting two big scenes from “Cars 2.” Larry the Cable Guy expressed his love for the sequel, claiming it is one of “the greatest movies of all time.” So good, adding, “I’m ashamed I was in the first one.” Of course the jokes didn’t stop there, as he pointed out that he is the only actor to gain 70 pounds for a voice-over role. And if “Cars 2” doesn’t perform well at the box office, Larry the Cable Guy assured the theater owners in the audience not to worry because, since cars are involved, they can get a government bailout.
As for the “Cars 2” footage – all 26 minutes of it in 3D, all exciting and visually incredible – you’re transported into a James Bond-esque plot (including music that, if it isn’t from a Bond movie, it sounds undeniably similar) from the first frame. There is an intense and explosive car chase/fight sequence set atop a massive oil rig, Michael Caine’s Finn McMissile equipped with state-of-the art gadgets, gizmos and weaponry. Quite impressive, really.
During the first of three races of the World Grand Prix, Mater is mistaken as a spy and, unbeknownst to him, is caught up in a potentially deadly scenario. His attention distracted from the race, Mater jeopardizes Lightning McQueen’s chances at a win.
Hollis also showed concept artwork from the Pixar movie “Brave,” currently in production, set in the Highlands of Scotland. Slated for June 2012, Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson voice the royal family and Julie Walter (“Harry Potter” franchise”) as the “wise woman,” as she likes to be called. Defending the kingdom are three brawny lords voiced by “The Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Robbie Coltrane (“Potter”’s Hagrid).
And Billy Crystal and John Goodman are reprising their roles of Mike & Sully from “Monsters, Inc.” in the prequel to that movie, “Monsters University.” Scheduled for the end of 2012, the Pixar movie will tell how the two met. As it turns out, they weren’t always friends. In fact, they couldn’t stand each other, as Hollis explained it. So this story will tell how they overcame their differences and became the famous duo.
On the Disney Animation side of things, we were first treated to what may have secretly stolen everyone’s hearts, “Winnie the Pooh.” From the movie’s classic look to spot-on voice work (including Jim Cummings, who first voiced the title character in the early ‘90s, as well as Craig Ferguson as Owl), not to mention classy and intelligent writing and humor, “Winnie the Pooh” could be an enormous crowd-pleaser and box office champ when it hits theaters on July 15. In the one extended scene shown, the gang is trapped in a hole in the ground and Piglet is trying to rescue them, to no avail. So before reluctantly setting off to find Christopher Robin for help, Owl gives Piglet a little pep talk, of which the content and circumstances I’ll keep hush-hush to not ruin the scene. It’s pretty genius.
Then, onto some other classic characters … it was time to hear about the rebirth of “The Muppets” – in theaters November 23rd – from stars Jason Segel (also an executive producer and co-writer) and Amy Adams. Segel explained the movie has been a passion project of his for a long time, the thing that he is “most proud of” in his whole career. As for the story, Segel and Adams are a married couple, off for an adventure to Los Angeles. Accompanying them is Segel’s muppet roommate, Walter – a new addition to the decades-old clan. They soon discover the muppet’s studio is rundown and decrepit, the muppets themselves no longer working together and living around the country. So it becomes their quest to reunite them. One in particular, Fozzie Bear, has a new “day job,” we’ll say – he’s a lounge singer in Reno.
Speaking of music, Adams said there are four original musical numbers written by Bret McKenzie of “Flight of the Conchords,” in addition to some classic Muppet songs.
Although we didn’t get to see any full scenes, there was a teaser of sorts that showed all of the characters. Before leaving, Segel assured the audience, “I do not do any full frontal nudity,” referring to his “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” role. But he couldn’t say the same for all of the characters, adding, “Kermit, on the other hand…”
And although there was no footage to show for “The Avengers,” slated to begin shooting in April, Disney teased the Summer 2012 event where Marvel superheroes Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and other familiar crime-fighting faces join forces. Joss Whedon is directing what is sure to be a box office record breaker. “The Avengers” is scheduled for May 4,2012.
And last, but certainly not least, uber producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Oscar nominated director Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Nine”) introduced what we were all waiting for, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Notice I only said Bruckheimer and Marshall. No Depp. That’s okay, because the main event was three 3D scenes – one in London, one at sea and one in the jungle – as Captain Jack Sparrow and newcomers Black Beard (Ian McShane) and his daughter, Angelica (Penélope Cruz) search for the Fountain of Youth. In classic “Pirates” fashion, Captain Jack escapes his captors, thanks more to brain than brawn. Nonetheless, he outwits them all, including the recently retired pirate, Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), now a Privateer. Though we’re not entirely convinced Barbosa is all that “retired.”
As Captain Jack and his men attempt a mutiny on Black Beard’s ship, they all come face-to-face with the infamous pirate’s magical and mystical ways. And lastly, those scenes from the trailer where Captain Jack screams loudly – and for an extended time – and then takes the plunge over a big cliff were put into context.
The fourth and most likely final installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise sails into theaters May 20.
Always family-friendly and rarely too disappointing, it seems Disney manages to satisfy the kid in all of us, be it with a new franchise or a bit of nostalgia. Theater owners at CinemaCon certainly appear excited for the mouse house’s offerings to help them make some money as well.