Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Hope you'll forgive me, but I had to jump into the park for a few hours so I could scope out the new Diamond Celebration closing ceremonies and pay my respects to the new addition to my favorite theme park attraction of all time. For the record, the rest of the happy haunts seem to have welcomed Mr. Hatbox Ghost with open arms.
Now that I'm back at the computer I want to run through the rest of the live action stuff. Let's do it before I fall asleep on this keyboard!
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Jon Favreau was on hand to introduce some of his cast, including Lupita Nyong'o, Ben Kingsley and young Neel Sethi as well as show a nice little chunk of the movie.
Lupita voices Raksha, the mother wolf who adopts the man cub Mowgli and Ben Kingsley voices Bagheera ,the panther protector of said man cub. First they showed us the D23 poster, which is really well designed. Reminded me a bit of the clever composition of a Mondo poster, but done up in a shiny professional big studio way. You've seen it by now, but fuck it. Here it is again:
Favreau talked about wanting to really push CG with this film in a way that was hopefully invisible when finally realized and the footage he showed was no joke. He introduced it by saying “Everything you're about to see was filmed in Downtown Los Angeles.”
Scarlett Johansson's voice narrates the opening of the footage. She plays Kaa, the hypnotizing snake, in the film and her voice over here sets up the world of man and how sometimes man would leave the safety of his habitat and venture out where it isn't safe. But man possesses something powerful. “They call it the red flower. It brings warmth and light and destruction to all it touches.”
We see a glowing flower of fire burn out... see trees ablaze and then we're in a small hut where firelight glows from within. Toddler Mowgli and his dad are in there... and so is Shere Khan, the villain of the story, a vicious tiger that attacks the father who protects his son, hitting the tiger in the face with the fire before falling.
It's pretty brutal and the effects work on Shere Khan is better than Life of Pi good, even at this stage of the process. All the animals look photo real, which is an interesting contrast when they speak. But yeah, no. Shere Khan is going to give a whole new generation of kids nightmares, which means Favreau is doing something right.
We see older Mowgli with his wolf mother and Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba, by the way) returns, face a little scared by the fire, demanding the man cub. “Ask yourselves: how many lives is a man cub worth?
He leaves, but it is clear that Mowgli's in danger, so Bagheera is tasked to take him back to his people, the only place he'll be safe. Shere Khan jumps them en route and Mowgli barely escapes in a rushing river while Bagheera fights the tiger.
This is where Baloo enters the footage. He's animated as realistically as possible, just a big brown bear. Mowgli is sleeping and wakes up to find himself face to face with this bear. Naturally, he freaks out. Bill Murray's soft voice tries to soothe him. “Relax, kid. No need to get worked up.”
My two favorite moments of the footage were direct throwbacks to the animated feature. First was Mowgli and Baloo walking along and Baloo is humming something, softly singing to himself under his breath. Mowgli is confused. “What's that?” he asks. “A song about the good life,” Baloo responds. “What's a song?”
Baloo is shocked. “You've never heard a song before?!? Everybody has a song...” and then he starts singing Bare Necessities and no shit Favreau even worked in the shot of Baloo floating down the river on his back with his new man cub buddy sitting on his stomach.
The other great moment was what closed out the footage. Mowgli is in a weird structure and out of the darkness behind him a massive orangutan arm slips out of the darkness grabbing a banana on a table behind the kid. Mowgli spins around as Christopher Walken's voice comes out of the darkness. “I am the King. Call me Louie.”
Now King Louie isn't a regular sized Orangutan. He seems to be almost Raiders of the Lost Ark boulder size and we catch a glimpse of him chasing Mowgli, knocking down white pillars as he does so.
There were a couple other small glimpses of stuff, like Kaa coiled around Mowgli, hypnotizing him and Baloo arguing with Bagheera about taking the kid back to the humans. “If you take him back to the man village they'll ruin him. They'll make a man out of him.” It was all beautifully realized, shockingly so. Not to underestimate Jon Favreau's abilities as a filmmaker, but I'm always wary of movies shot mostly greenscreen. From the footage they showed I never felt like I was just watching something play out in a green box.
After the footage ended, Favreau asked the cast what they thought since none of them had seen it before the panel. Neel Sethi jumped in first with an adorably enthusiastic “It was neat!”
You could see why he was cast with his brief time on the stage. He came across as an authentic little guy, with no pretense or kid-actor fakery getting in the way of his naturally giant personality. We'll see how his performance shapes up in the film (most of the footage of him we saw was reaction shots, not interactions with his co-stars), but he's a charming little guy in real life and I think all 7500 people in the D23 Hall saw exactly how he got the part.
Speaking of wild child movies, let's touch upon another one Disney has in the works, a remake of a film that holds a very special place in my heart.
The original Pete's Dragon was the first film I saw in a theater and remains one of my favorite examples of that particular era of Disney movie magic.
So it might seem weird for me to say that I'm not dreading the remake. For one, I know that co-writer and director David Lowery is just as big of a fan of the original as I am and secondly, he's a real deal dramatic filmmaker. From what I've heard Lowery and Toby Halbrooks' approach is very different, but keeps the relationship between a boy and his dragon intact. In other words, it's doing what remakes should do: take the core of what works in the original and give us a different experience with it.
The location is now the Pacific Northwest and Pete's not a runaway from a hillbilly family trying to use him for slave labor. Pete's a feral child in the wilderness and one day a Forest Ranger, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, stumbles across him. Little does she know his imaginary friend, who happens to be a dragon, is maybe not so imaginary.
The thrust of the footage they showed was in building up the mystery of Elliot. First off, the cinematography was not your typical family film look. Think more Amblin and less Yogi Bear. Robert Redford also brought a lot of weight to the small amount of footage we saw.
Most of the Pete's Dragon presentation was a conversation between Bryce and Redford. She's telling him about this feral boy (we get glimpses of a dirty Oakes Fegley roaring at something), how she found him and how he's being integrated into this small logging town (some fish out of water looks from Fegley while in town)... and how he has an imaginary friend.
Redford isn't so sure the drawing Pete made of his dragon friend (not at all like the Elliot we know... on all fours, hair more a like patchy coat or mane instead of the purple tuft on the top of the head) is from the kid's imagination.
The last thing we see in the footage is Pete reaching out and running his fingers through the fur of his dragon friend. The fur changes colors in response and the title came up.
The tone of the whole thing was way serious. I can't wait to see what this thing ends up being.
They also showed some stuff from Alice Through the Looking Glass, but I honestly didn't connect to that stuff at all and don't feel like I have anything to say about it other than Sacha Baron Cohen's character (Time personified) looked like a rejected Jemaine Clement character in design and execution.
They did have a thing on the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, but all the news that broke there (that Orlando Bloom's Will Turner will return) has been posted here already. Johnny Depp came out in character, which I got a kick out of. Fuck it, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing no matter how eye-rolling it is for most people.
My favorite part of it was Cap'n Jack was eating a fistful of grapes as he addressed the crowd and decided to start throwing single grapes out into the crowd. Every time he'd throw one he'd simply say “Grape.” Another toss, then “Grape. Grape. Grape.”
It was silly. No footage, but we got a little show. Plus if he hadn't dressed up we never would have gotten these amazing pictures of a bewildered-looking Harrison Ford meeting him backstage. You're welcome!
And that's it from me for today. Hope you guys enjoyed the look at Disney's crazy packed upcoming schedule!