Every year, Disney SA holds a delicious buffet stocked with some of the most scrumptious danishes, amazing smoked salmon and capers, delicious quiches and much more. Okay, so maybe the buffet is only what greets us media folks lucky enough to attend Disney SA’s Annual Showcase, but man, what a spread! The actual showcase though is a small bit of a meet and greet with Disney reps and the press, followed by a two-hour presentation of everything the House of Mouse currently has planned for the coming year, from kids programs on the Disney Channel to their adult drama slate on ABC and of course their feature films from Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and the rest. And this year’s event didn’t disappoint.
Run by Christine Camera, Disney’s Country Manager for Africa, the presentation boasted a lot of content, but I’m not going to swamp you guys with everything, like news about Doc McStuffins‘ new Pet Vet movie or how Jake and the Neverland Pirates will now be retitled as Captain Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Desperate Housewives Africa which simply has to be seen to be believed!
Instead here are few highlights (I’ve included video and images where I could, as provided by Disney, as we were obviously not allowed to record anything during the presentation), starting first with the ABC TV slate, as we got a look at a new FBI drama series titled Quantico, which seems like somebody mashed together 24 and Grey’s Anatomy, if it had been made by the CW. I’m still on the fence about this one.
We also got a look at The Catch, the new show from Shonda Rhymes, the TV series creator extraordinaire behind the huge hits Grey’s Anatomy, The Fixer (aka Scandal) and How To Get Away With Murder. The show appears to have a solid cast, led by World War Z’s Mireille Einos and Rhymes has such a strong fanbase that it will more than likely be a success, but I was a tad bit puzzled as to how the series’ main narrative – Einos is a top class fraud investigator who gets defrauded out of her life savings by her fiancee, forcing her to try and find him – could be maintained for a full season, as it definitely felt better suited for a movie.
On the Pixar side, outside of the new trailer for The Good Dinosaur, we also got to see some cute animation tests and artwork for the movie’s dino animals. For long awaited sequel Finding Dory, we saw slides of concept art, a sizzle reel of Ellen DeGeneres – who voices Dory – getting excited for the sequel, and a funny early animation test showing off Dory’s parents voiced Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton.
Also given was a description of the film’s story – the first that I’ve heard anything officially: The movie will look to answer the question of why Dory was alone when Nemo encountered her in the first film. This starts off when Dory accompanies Nemo on a school field trip to observe the migration of some manta rays, and she learns about how some animals have an innate sense of their home and how to return there. This triggers some latent migrationary instinct in Dory, and when Nemo and his father Marlin observe her swimming determinedly in her sleep, they realize that they have to help her find her way home.
For Disney Animation itself, we did get to view a teaser trailer and some concept art for the hilarious looking/sounding Zootropolis.
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootropolis is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.
It was when the presentation moved to Disney’s live action slate though that the surprises started rolling in. First up was a detailed look behind the scenes and of early footage for director Jon “Iron Man” Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the classic The Jungle Book. The movie will feature only a single live-action human actor in the form of newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli, while the rest of the animal cast will all be created via some of the most incredible CGI I have ever seen. Even at this very early stage, the photo-realist CG animals on their own were a sight to behold. The movie will make use of the live-action actor, a mixture of digital and real backgrounds, motion capture and fully rendered animals, and I cannot wait to see how Favreau combines all the elements into one spectacular package.
Directed by Jon Favreau (“Chef,” “Iron Man,” “Elf”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johannsson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela.
That unexpected reveal was followed by an extensive look at Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 hit Alice in Wonderland, which first introduced the world to Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as
Madonna with bad makeup the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the benevolent White Queen and Helena Bonham Carter as the decapitating Red Queen. The Muppets’ James Bobin takes over directing duties and we got to see lots of interviews with him, the cast and the production crew about the film, with Bobin explaining that this film will finally show us why the Red Queen is so nasty.
It was revealed that this sequel sees Alice trying to restore the Mad Hatter who has inexplicably gone sane – yes, sane – which leads her to Time, the bungling new lead villain played by Sacha Baron Cohen, which we also got to see in action for the first time. There was plenty of unfinished footage from the film shown, and it essentially appears to be more of the same as the first film, just not as needlessly Burton-ish, which is actually a huge plus in my book. Alas, we got no media from the movie to share.
The biggest surprise though was a very, veeeeeerry early look at Marvel’s Doctor Strange. While no footage for the film is available yet, we did get to see plenty of concept art and animatics that officially show Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role of Stephen Strange for the first time. And although none of the images showed Cumberbatch in the character’s iconic costume (he appears to be wearing a long brown trenchcoat in nearly all the images) it did show him sporting the famous goatee and casting various spells as he battled Lovecraftian looking monsters, which looked really good visually.
In an accompanying video, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige explained the film will be focusing on the arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange who is brought low by a career-ending injury, and in his quest to heal his broken hands ends up healing himself and acquiring vast magical abilities as the Sorcerer Supreme. Director Scott Derrickson also went on to explain that it’s the Sorcerer Supreme’s job to protect our four-dimensional world – width, height, depth and time – from beings that exist in fifth, sixth and above dimensional space. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the video was cut short just as Derrickson got into the technical nitty gritty of how Strange’s magic worked, even though several of us fanboys were loving what they were showing and really wanted to see more.
It was also confirmed that Baron Mordo would be in the film, though no mention was made of the recent casting of Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villainous character. In fact, Mordo wasn’t described by Feige as a villain at all, rather saying that Mordo was a good friend to Strange who had already walked the same path as he had, and who was acting as his guide. Interesting!
All in all, it was a pretty entertaining presentation by Disney, and I have to admit that it’s left me surprisingly more excited for both The Jungle Book and Through the Looking Glass than I ever was, and made my anticipation for Doctor Strange grow even further.
Last Updated: July 31, 2015