Long before Disney started practising their lightsaber skills with their newly acquired Star Wars, was a newfound drive to make animated films which weren’t only box office succeses, but critical hits as well.
And the last couple of years have been good to Disney with that plan in mind. Thanks to the likes of Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph the House of Mouse is once again regarded as an animation juggernaut that doesn’t need to rely on Pixar in order to craft a great tale.
And that second renaissance is still going strong. Disney has several other projects lined up, with variety being a key factor here. And over at the D23 conference, Disney detailed their upcoming projects.
First up, a new take on Jack And The Beanstalk, in Gigantic. Described as the “definitive” version of the age-old story, Gigantic will feature songs from Frozen songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, with Nathan “Tangled” Greno directing.
“You have to look at the original story, the iconic imagery, and then you have to mix in some twists and turns,” said Greno of the film’s inspiration.
When John Lasseter asked us where are we going to set this film, we started looking around the world at different areas and countries, and we landed on Spain.
According to Greno, Jack will disocver an entire world of giants up in the sky, not just one castle. This will lead him to encounter a little girl (by giant standards) called Ima, who happens to be 60 feet tall and thinks that Jack is an action figure.
Next up, everyone at D23 began wondering what was cooking, eventually leading to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making an appearance on stage and landing several Rock-Bottoms on new details for the 2016 film Moana. Including an official synopsis!
Moana introduces a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. She meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage.
The key narrative theme behind the film, exploration, deals with how all exploration across the South Pacific stopped for all tribes of the time, around 3000 years ago. No one really knows why, but Moana’s title character is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, after a 1000 years of stagnation.
Moana is the daughter of the people’s chief Tui, and despite her father forbidding her to explore, the death of her grandmother sparks the flame within her that sees her set off to explore the world, alongside her trusty pet pig Pua and a grumpy rooster named Hei Hei.
Aiming to find a long lost island in order to embrace her heritage, encountering all manner of monsters and vengeful land spirits along the way.That’s where Johnson’s Maui comes in. A human raised by the gods, Maui fits in with neither side of his own heritage, which means that he’ll have something to learn from Moana. And she’ll have something to learn from him. In other words, the usual “be true to yourself” schpiel.
Here’s the cool thing about Maui: He happens to have some rather rad ink, as SlashFilm described:
Like Johnson himself, Maui is covered in tattoos. But Maui’s tattoos are animated and move on his skin, and he can also shapeshift into birds and other animals. In addition, he also carries with him a gigantic and mighty fish hook, not unlike the reliable hammer Mjolnir carried by Thor.
Johnson spoke about how wonderful it is to be a part of the Disney family now, even getting a bit emotional as he talked about his deep connection to the source material. After all, Johnson is half-Samoan and half-black, so for him to be a part of a true South Pacific tale at Disney is just a dream come true.
But there’s one more character in Moana, worth mentioning: The sea.
Maui isn’t the only one Moana has a connection with, either. One of the things the filmmakers learned when researching this movie is that these people had a very deep connection to the ocean, looking at the body of water as if they were a friend or person. And they illustrate this in the film quite literally.
A proof of concept clip showed a very young, baby Moana meeting the ocean for the first time. As she’s walking on the beach, the water comes into the shore, and then divides to show seashells hidden on the ocean floor for her to collect. Moana walks deeper into the ocean, the water parting for her to move through safely, allowing a glimpse into the water and its inhabitants like in an aquarium.
And then we see the water form into an arm and touch her gently. Suddenly her father calls her back, and the ocean picks her up and carries her to shore of a wave. Her bond with the ocean is strong, and as a teenage girl, she still has the seashell she found as a baby, showing that she still has strong ties to this old friend.
Next up, Pixar! Disney’s animated partner-in-crime has various other projects along the way, such as a sequel to The Incredibles and The Good Dinosaur, but they’ve also got their hands full getting ready to party. With the dead.
Yep, the next Pixar film will be having a ball at Dia De Los Muertos, the infamous day of the dead festival held in Mexico. Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3) also released the following statements about the movie:
“As artists and filmmakers, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the striking visuals of Dia de los Muertos,” said Unkrich and Anderson. “But it was the celebration’s core themes of family, remembrance and connection across generations that resonated within and truly inspired us. Dia de los Muertos is as singular as the Mexican culture, while at the same time completely universal in its message.
“In our story,” they continued, “the celebration of Dia de los Muertos serves as the perfect backdrop for our main character to ask where he comes from, what his place is within his family, and how families stay woven together across time through the simple act of remembrance.”
And finally, it was time for Ellen Degeneres to steal the show. Pixar is back with a sequel to the smash-hit Finding Nemo that focuses on Degeneres’s lovably absent-minded ocean dweller. It’s only been 12 years after all.
Director Andrew Stanton said (via MTV) that at the end of “Finding Nemo,” he needed to know that “this charming, forgetful fish would be okay — that she would find her way home.” But the director wasn’t exactly confident in Dory’s navigational skills. “So that’s when I knew we had a story,” Stanton said.
After getting caught up in an undertow, Dory remembers that she happens to have a family, and pulls in Marlin and Nemo to help her find them. The only clue that they have to the whereabouts of the wayward parents though, is that they’re in “the jewel of Monterey, California,”
“All I know is that I miss them. I really, really miss them,” Dory said in one of the preview clips shown. “Do you know what that feels like?” And with Marlin sufficiently guilt-tripped, the gang set off to find Dory’s parents, recruiting a squad along the way that includes Ed O’ Neil as the sectopus named Hank, Ty Burrell (voicing Bailey, a beluga whale) and Kaitlyn Olson (voicing a whale shark named Destiny who’s very confused about her own identity).
The only other problem? Dory and the gang need to find a way to escape an ocean sanctuary facility, which they happen to be stuck inside of. And with that, it looks like Disney and Pixar have another strong year or two ahead for them, with some great projects lined up.
Last Updated: August 17, 2015