Hanks as Disney, 'Muppets Most Wanted,' Jolie's 'Maleficent,' and Marvel all shine at D23
12:00 - The next part of the presentation begins with a montage of Disney himself. They talk about his innovations, his creative drive, the things he believed they could do that no one else imagined. They refer to him as a "futurist," and they show how much he believed in Tomorrowland and how he wanted to create real communities, not just prototypes.
"I always thought 50 years beyond what I thought my life would be."
They talk about how many ideas where never fully realized, and how there are vast archives that are just filled with boxes and files and things that no one has seen for years. This is the lead-in to the "1952" box and how it was discovered.
"That box has a lot of special significance for us." They are doing a fair amount of myth-making here, and Bailey talks about how he brought up the box and the discovery of it with Damon Lindelof, and Damon talks out how they started by trying to figure out how all the things in the box relate to one another.
They brought in Brad Bird, and Brad talks about how he was a Tomorrowland fan growing up, and LIndelof talks about how the word suggests so much.
"A place where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else in the world," says Walt, and then we see the title treatment for "Tomorrowland" for the first time.
Clooney stars as a scientist who is involved with the Tomorrowland project in the film. Bailey says Bird is director, writer, and producer, and that Lindelof is a writer and "master of secrets" for the film. "These guys are pretty special and inventive minds," Bailey says, and then he brings both Bird and Lindelof out.
They bring out the "1952" box and say that this is the first real unveiling of what's in the box. They show the outside and how the "1952" is over a sticker that reads "That Darn Cat."
Brad brings out a photograph that was taken of Walt and Amelia Earhart. It's dated April of 1945, which was several years after her disappearance.
"That confused us," says Damon. They then show the two real photographs that were the source of what is not a real photo. In the original photo, it was Cary Grant, not Disney. "Our job as storytellers is to say, 'What if this was real? Why was it put in there?"
Brad shows the "Amazing Stories" from August 1928. There's also a piece of cardboard with a strange insignia on it, which is also on the outside of the box. There's a code on the sheet that led them to the story from "Amazing Stories," and when you put the sheet over the story, it reveals certain words like a code. "I have seen across the gap to another world" is the start of the coded message.
They both put on gloves for the next part.
They pull out a large dry piece of parchment, and it turns out to be the plans for the original "It's A Small World" from the 1964 World's Fair. The actual blueprints. And they point out that the same insignia they found in the box is right there on the blueprint, and how they found a hidden black light message on the sheet, a secret blueprint hidden inside the blueprint.
"Is it possible that Imagineering had something going on below the 'It's A Small World' attraction, and if so, what was it?"
Lindelof says that the artifacts are on display in the convention hall, and there's going to be an unveiling at 2:00 today hosted by Jeff Jensen.
"We're still a year and a half away," Lindelof points out, as they bring out the last item from the box. It's an acetate disc, with the same strange insignia on the outside. It's not a record. It's not a laserdisc. It's a big silver disc with scratches all over it.
"It's scratched up badly, like someone didn't want it to be read," Brad says.
Lindelof says there were miraculously able to extract the information, and while it's very degraded, they do indeed have something to show that looks like it was produced in the early '60s.
Which we're about to see.
12:15 - They really go all out to sell that this was "found" and not made.
The animation shows someone lighting a fire with flint. Cave paintings on walls. We see Egyptians building pyramids. The narration talks about how there is a dark side to innovation and invention and how there's a constant balance being struck.
They show the Paris World's Fair. They show inventors and science-fiction writers. They show that they formed a group that secretly met to talk about the fur and innovation and technology. We see weapons of war right there besides breakthroughs in power and transportation. We see a nuclear boom dropped on a city, and a mushroom cloud leading to burning ruins.
Finally, we see that symbol on the outside of a door, and inside, we see people "inventing without fear." Rows and rows of desks of people who are "building a better tomorrow."
"You are about to enter a world of miracles and wonders, and in just 20 shorts years, we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world. Tomorrow. Would you like to see it?"
12:20 - We're wrapping up today with "Saving Mr. Banks."
This is a pretty major moment for the studio, finally telling Walt's own story. You want to talk about pressure to get something right. This is not just a movie about Walt Disney and the making of "Mary Poppins," but it's also a look at the way that magic factory worked while Disney was still alive and part of the process.
Kelly Marcel's script is pretty great. The film takes place in 1961, when P.L. Travers came to Los Angeles to make sure that nothing was done to her source material that she found upsetting, and the relationship that develops between Disney and Travers is a contentious and fascinating one.
The first clip takes place on the Burbank lot, as Travers arrives for the first time. She is greeted by the Sherman Brothers (BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman) and by Bradley Whitford playing the film's screenwriter. Right away, she's not going to give them an inch. She corrects practically every word out of their mouths, and she tells them that there will be no songs at all.
They take her on a tour of the lot in a cart, and I have to say… it's convenient how little things have changed on the Burbank lot. They can just shoot it as it is today, and it's like a trip back in time. They warn her that Walt likes first names only, which seems directly counter to her. Disney makes his big entrance, and right away, he is working very hard to sell her. Hanks isn't really doing an impression of Disney, but what he gets right is the folksy persona that was always part of his public image.
Disney tells the story of his daughters falling in love with the "Mary Poppins" novels, and how his first reading of one of her books "set his imagination on fire." He says he promised his daughters that he would make a film out of her books, and that the 20 years from that moment to this meeting was a constant effort to get her to sell the rights to him.
"I have never broken a promise to my daughters. That is what being Daddy is all about."
He talks about how he's got huge plans, and how amazing it's going to be for her to see Mary Poppins walk and talk and sing. Right away, Travers is not interested.
"Mr. Disney, Mary Poppins does not sing."
"Yes, she does."
She goes off on a rant, ending with "I won't have her turned into one of your silly cartoons."
That finally knocks the smile off his face. He sits her down and promises her that he will take care of her. "I love Mary Poppins… and you have got to share her with me."
The second clip begins with Paul Giamatti driving Travers up to the front gate of Disneyland. He literally drives her through the front gates to where Walt stands waiting in front of the giant Mickey Mouse face, the train station just beyond that.
"Welcome to the Magic Kingdom."
"Is it all like this?"
She still doesn't look impressed at all. They are mobbed by people asking for autographs, and Travers basically shakes them off, resisting as hard as she can.
He takes her into the park, heading straight for the carousel. "Mrs. Travers, I would be honored if you would take a ride on Jingles here, my daughter's favorite horse."
She won't do it at first, and he finally gets a little cross. "Get on the horse, Pamela."
He starts to describe a new scene for the film about Mr. Banks, and she says, "You didn't bring me out here to talk about that, did you?"
"No. I brought you out here for monetary gain. I made a wager I could get you on a ride. You just won me 20 bucks."
BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman come out after the clip to talk about playing the Sherman Brothers.
Novak: "One of the incredible things about doing the movie was getting to meet Richard Sherman and to go through the songs with him and to imagine what that would have been like to come up with those."
I feel like you could have done an entire film just about the Sherman Brothers, and that's definitely one of the things I'm most excited about with this movie, and Jason says he learned how to play these songs on the piano directly from Richard Sherman, so he could pick up his phrasing and the way he would build a melody. It sounds like it was an amazing process, and Jason talked about how Sherman is a really good "winker."
"It's like a bigger high-five," Jason said.
Bailey talks about how surreal it was to stage the "Mary Poppins" premiere and to stand next to Dick Sherman watching the event unfold.
The final clip is a story conference with PL Travers, the Shermans, and Whitford sitting at a table, discussing the script and casting. Travers tries to convey her horror at the idea of Dick Van Dyke playing any part in the film, and when they start to sing to Travers so she can get a sense of the music, the look on her face is pure confusion. It's apparent that they have nothing in common creatively with her, and as the clip ended, a piano comes out from backstage, with Novak and Schwartzman singing "Let's Go Fly A Kite" live.
I've written before about how much "Poppins" means to me, and despite knowing full well that this is an event designed to hype a movie, watching Richard Sherman walk out to join them and get a standing ovation was genuinely emotional. His music is a huge part of our pop culture, and I'm glad he is alive to see his efforts captured in this way.
Gradually, the number got bigger and bigger, with costumed characters running in to fly kites around the inside of the arena. And there onstage, Schwartzman played with all the flair he could muster, the real Dick Sherman right there beside him. A gorgeous conclusion.
And with that, D23 Expo's live-action presentation came to a close. Lots of material to digest, and it's safe to say this was a very receptive crowd.
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