LAS VEGAS – Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn presented the upcoming slate of new movies for Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios to the nation's theater owners on Wednesday morning and what was purposely not discussed was just as interesting as what was previewed.
Brad Bird's “Tomorrowland”? The title was never spoken out loud. It just appeared on the studio's release schedule.
Rob Marshall's star-filled adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Into the Woods”? Some character posters of each of the main stars in action and it was deemed “The Avengers of Fairy Tales” (cue composer Steven Sondheim gagging at the comparison), but that's it.
“Big Hero 6”? One new image of concept art and confirmation it takes place in “San Franshisko” (a combination of S.F. and Tokyo) and centers on boy, his robot and their crime fighting friends. Oh, and the word Marvel was strangely never used (it's based on a Marvel comic book). Curious that there wasn't even a finished still image to show and it's opening in seven months.
“The Hundred Foot Journey”? The only remaining DreamWorks Studios release for 2014 opens in less than five months and only a title treatment and stock photos of star Helen Mirren and producers Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg were shown.
Kevin Costner's “McFarland”? Just a photo of Costner, a title treatment and a reminder it's a small sports themed drama coming this fall (not to be confused with his other sports-themed drama “Draft Day” opening next month).
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day“? A still featuring stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and the movie's young cast. Oh, and joking acknowledgment this was gonna be a tough one for theater owners to throw up on their marquees.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron”? Horn smiled that he has the final script in his briefcase and its great (we can admit we're all jealous about that).
Granted, Disney's presentation wasn't for the general moviegoing public. This was about selling films the studio hopes theater owner will give extra attention to help open over the next year. It's one reason they studio presented Jon Hamm with the CinemaCon 2014 Excellence in Acting Award in person (Hamm joked, “I'm just glad Bryan Cranston wasn't eligible for this award”) and screened his new movie “Million Dollar Arm.” A movie Horn said was the highest testing movie of his career (that's saying something). It's also why they made sure to remind the audience that “Planes: Fire and Rescue” will have no animated competition when it opens July 18 and played the trailer of their pricey Angelina Jolie tentpole “Maleficent” which needs to be a hit. The real focus, however, appeared to be on two new flicks for 2015: “Cinderella” and “Inside Out.”
“Cinderella” is the Kenneth Branagh directed adaptation of the classic fairy tale and stars “Downton Abbey” veteran Lily James in the title role, “Game of Thrones'” Richard Madden as Prince Charming (no fear of a red wedding here), Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine (aka the wicked stepmother) and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, among others. Disney screened an extended trailer with unfinished effects and the picture clearly looks like it fits into the current craze young girls have with Disney Princesses. The story is set in Victorian England and at first the footage of a young Cinderella with her mother and father evoked thoughts of “Pride and Prejudice” (really). Then Ms. Blanchett shows up decked to the nines and, well, the fairy tale aspect really starts to come into play. It's unclear if Blanchett is going full “Hanna” camp on this one (she wears a leopard shall/dress at one point), but Carter is as goofy as you can expect as a Fairy Godmother. As the preview continued it all started to look more and more like 1998's “Ever After: A Cinderella Story” but with bigger sets, fancier costumes and less realism. That's perfectly fine, of course. The core demo will eat it up. Whether they can convince the rest of the family to sit through it will be the film's biggest marketing challenge.
The other major sneak was for Pete Doctor's “Inside Out” and this footage got more reaction out of the theater exhibitors than anything at CinemaCon so far. The movie is set in the brain of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. She's in a tough spot at the beginning of the flick because her family has moved all the way across the country to San Francisco. The real characters of “Inside Out,” however, are Riley's emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black). They huddle around a control panel — almost like a space ship — discussing how to react with each other and then hitting buttons and moving levers to make Riley emote. In the scene Disney sneaked, Riley is having dinner with her mother and father. While an everyday conversation transpires about how Riley's day at her new school went we cut between the emotions in Riley's brain and the subsequent same emotions in her mom and dad's brains. The reason it worked is because each “Fear,” “Joy,” “Anger,” “Sadness” and “Disgust” has a different personality (and voice) in each brain. It was a very smart and funny back and forth and the audience clearly loved it. It's unclear what the actual storyline is, but there is great potential here for another Pixar crowd pleaser.
It should also be noted that before the presentation got going Horn spent a minute explaining there would be no “Star Wars” update beyond what was in the press release a few weeks ago. It was the number one thing on everyone's minds and the fact they even addressed it probably earned them some brownie points.