If it’s summer, you can be sure of a few things: Crowded theme parks, Olaf finding out what frozen things do, and San Diego Comic-Con.
This year’s SDCC, along with almost every other con I’ve attended recently, was lighter on Disney material than in the past–no doubt due to their need to keep fresh material for presentation at the 2017 Expo. The recent loss of Disney Infinity and their annual pop-up store also subtracted from the Disney footprint this time around.
Nevertheless, there were still an abundance of relevant panels to attend–more than anyone could reasonably hope to see in one weekend–but I managed to make it into a few.
[Non-attributed photos and video, courtesy of Disney]
One of the first SDCC panels was Walt Disney Animation Studio’s “Moana: Art of Story,” in which directors Ron Clements and John Musker were joined by producer Osnat Shurer, co-head of animation Amy Smeed, and writer Jared Bush. They were later joined by voice of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, however we were asked not to take any photos (this would be a continuing theme throughout the con.)
–Clements and Musker recounted the research trip they were “forced” to take to the South Pacific.
–Shurer spoke of the musical team creating the score for “Moana:” Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
–The loudest screams from the audience occurred whenever anyone mentioned Miranda.
–Bush (co-director of Zootopia🙂 “None of the animals in ‘Moana’ talk. I’m not really into talking animals. Not my thing.”
–Bush did not get to go to the South Pacific, but instead got the coveted trip to Burbank.
–The panel briefly describes the crux of the film as being a fictitious explanation of an actual historical period in which the Pacific Islanders, who were renowned as great navigators, just stopped traveling anywhere for about 1,000 years.
–While the film is computer animated, Maui’s tattoos, particularly “Mini-Maui,” were hand-drawn by famed animator Eric Goldberg.
–Moana as a character is one that is going on a Hero’s Journey to empower herself and discover the world around her. She does not have a romantic interest in the film.
–Dwayne Johnson sings.
The next WDAS panel I saw was “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary.” This was actually a little similar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tribute that took place a few months ago, but with more of an animation focus, versus voice talent. Moderated by producer Don Hahn, the talent consisted of directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise along with animators James Baxter, Dave Pruiksma, Nik Ranieri, and art director Brian McEntee.
–Wise and Trousdale had just finished their first foray into animation direction before “Beauty and the Beast” with “Cranium Command” for EPCOT.
–Angela Lansbury was the only one of the cast that did not have to audition for her part–Ashman and Menken wrote the song “Beauty and the Beast” with her in mind.
–Wise and Trousdale on reacting to their casting director’s suggestion for the voice of the Beast: “Robbie Benson? ‘ICE CASTLES?'”
–Jeffrey Katzenberg on having Robbie Benson pitched to him for the Beast: “ICE CASTLES?”
–The song “Be Our Guest” was originally storyboarded for Maurice, instead of Belle.
–A clip of Howard Ashman working with the voice actors touched on his massive contributions to the film.
–Baxter, on the difficulty of animating Belle: “The intimidating part was, she’s got to be beautiful. It’s in the title.”
–A selection of some of the concept art for the characters was displayed.
–The filmmakers remembered having to fight for Belle’s yellow dress (taken from a Chris Sanders’ sketch) as marketing told them everything should be pink and lavender, because “that’s what little girls wear.”
–Baxter attributed his experience with the crazy camera moves in “Roger Rabbit” as enabling him to create the ground-breaking ballroom scene, where the hand-drawn couple dances on a CG background while the camera swirls around them.
–“When people say, ‘well what was the software that was used,” I was like it was inside James’ skull.”
–McEntee recounted how he ended up contributing the original design for the movie poster, and some subsequent revisions.
–Hahn closed the panel by recounting how they had hired Celene Dion to sing the pop version, but the marketing department didn’t trust that she could sell it on her own, since at the time she had yet to have a US hit.
Going to the last day of SDCC, Disney and Marvel Comics brought us “Disney Kingdoms: Theme Park Stories with Marvel Comics.” Actress/producer Amy Dallen moderated a panel consisting of Imagineers Josh Shipley and Andy DiGenova, Creative Director, Themed Entertainment at Marvel Brian Crosby, cover artist E.M. Gist, Animator/producer/writer/past-Imagineer Tad Stones, and writer Jim Zub.
–The panel recounted the process of pitching the comics to Joe Quesada, noting that they could expand the universe of the attractions much like the films did for “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but at a vastly reduced cost.
–“Seekers of the Weird” is based on “Museum of the Weird,” the original concept for “Haunted Mansion.” (Someone else has the copyright on “Museum of the Weird.”)
–Zub spoke of his experiences writing the “Figment” comics, and how gratifying it was to have them received so enthusiastically and finding them for sale at Walt Disney World.
–Zub also writes “Thunderbolts,” which is led by the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes. In the latest issue, Barnes is seen reading a story to a little girl–“Figment.”
–Zub: “This is the most indulgent thing.”
–Zub on the question of a third “Figment” run: “I think you guys are going to be really happy next year.”
–Stones described his early career with Disney, which included work on the World of Motion pavilion, a Space pavilion with George Lucas, and finally the Imagination pavilion.
–Interestingly, Stones said that the color of Figment changed from green to purple to match the Sherman Brothers’ song–not, as is popularly said, because of the color conflict between Fuji Film and Kodak packaging.
–Stones notes that the name of Dreamfinder was “The Pretender” for about an afternoon before it changed back.
–DiGenova spoke about the “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” comics, in which they based the likeness of one of the characters on Tony Baxter. The character was initially written more villainous, but became less so after Baxter didn’t see the resemblance.
–DiGenova commented on Big Thunder originally having been conceived as a much grander attraction that would have been the gatepost to Baxter’s original concept for a separate land: “Discovery Bay.”
–In working on the books, the team had to do research to find out what commonly held theories/names for things in the attractions were official and which were fan-based.
–Gist did covers for “Haunted Mansion,” (in addition to variants by several different artists, including Crosby and frequent Disney artist, Jody Daily) which are intended to be a tour of the attraction.
–Presales on “Haunted Mansion” were the biggest of any of the Disney Kingdoms titles.
–Free copies of “Haunted Mansion” issue one will be given out in October for “Halloween Comic-Fest” at various comic book stores.
–Shipley then announced that the next Disney Kingdoms title will be “Enchanted Tiki Room.”
–Cover artists so far have included Brian Kesinger, story artist at WDAS, and Imagineer Jason Grandt.
–“Enchanted Tiki Room” will debut in October.
–The series will have more of an episodic feel than the other lines, a la “Fantasy Island.”
–Similarly to “Lost,” each book will also focus on the group of people who arrive at the Tiki Room, how they make contact with it, and their perspectives.
–Dallen: “How do you plan to get that song out of our heads?”
–Shipley: “By singing ‘it’s a small world.'”