D23 Movie Report: Avengers Footage, 2 New Pixar Films & More

The Avengers movie footage Marvel held back from Comic-Con is premiered at the Disney Expo, and two new Pixar films are announced, and much more.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avengers movie

Just got back in the door after seeing the big-time movie presentation at D23, the Disney-specific expo show, now that Marvel is a part of the DIsney family.  I'm going back tomorrow to cover the actual Marvel Comics panel, but you should know the stuff that happened today as soon as possible – namely, Marvel Studios busted out the first look at The Avengers movie, which is currently filming in Cleveland, Ohio.

It was a good chunk of footage, too, suggesting they could've shown plenty at Comic-Con if they'd deigned to go, but hey, they're Disney now.  Gotta represent, apparently.  All quotations are approximate, as we had all electronic devices confiscated upon entry into the big Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center, even my measly audio recorder I wanted to use just to get these quotes right.  So it's their fault if I'm off a few words.

We open on a scene with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) imprisoned in a high-tech cage apparently designed to contain the Hulk, and a war of words and wills between the God of Mischief and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), wherein the latter tells the former "you talk of peace and you kill for fun.  You've made me pretty desperate.  You may not end up happy about that."  Loki goads him in a smiling, sly Loki style, while Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) observe and listen in.  Ruffalo's only line as Banner is a smart-alecky quip about Loki.  "He really grows on you, doesn't he?"  (As much as I like Ruffalo, it'll take a bit more selling to buy him as Bannery enough).

Later, we've got the inimitable RDJ snarking off to someone.  "Let's take a headcount!  We've got a couple of highly trained assassins [shots of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Johansson as Black Widow], a demigod [Thor], a living legend who kinda lives up the legend [Captain America] and you, big guy – you've managed to piss all of them off."  Cut to Loki, who's facing off with Tony Stark in the latter's home, saying "We have an army."  Stark instantly quips back "We have a Hulk."   Hot damn, that's a minor nerdgasm right there.

Cue face shot of the Green Goliath roaring at the camera, and we're done.  Now I couldn't tell for sure if that was new Hulk footage or not, but my guess is that it was cribbed from The Incredible Hulk, as one has to doubt that Joss Whedon is far enough along in the filmmaking process to have any actual CG Hulk stuff done. 

A lot of the cast put in an appearance – Johansson, Renner, Hiddleston, Hemsworth and Smulders – but RDJ was the only one who spoke, cracking wise about they're all happy to be in Anaheim visiting their parents, and calling for the footage to be rolled again.  A very Comic-Con thing to do.

Also announced were two brand new Pixar movies, neither of which has an official title yet.  One is a Bob Peterson film set in a world where dinosaurs never went extinct and apparently co-exist with humans – apparently destined to be referenced along with The Flintstones as proof of 'intelligent design.'  The second is a Pete Docter film due out in 2014 which sounds intriguingly different, as it takes place all inside the human mind.  Apparently, the plan is to depict just how the brain works, how thoughts happen and how they become ideas – I'm guessing it'll turn out that there'll be little weird brain people running around running the big brain factory and they'll have some trials and also some tribulations.

Pixar also showed some early designs for Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters Inc. set during Sully and Mike's college years, and even brought out Billy Crystal to tell us "Trust me, it's hilarious."  John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley and Julia Sweeney will all be playing voices alongside Crystal.

Also, their Spring 2013 movie will be Planes, set in the Cars world but about airplanes, naturally, starring Jon Cryer as Dusty, the cropduster with big dreams.  Before that, in November of 2012, director RIch Moore will bring us Wreck-It Ralph, a fantastic new idea about a bad guy (voiced by John C. Reilly) in an old 8-bit arcade game who hops from video game to video game at night to try and find a place where he can be a good guy instead of a bad guy.  The game he's in is very Donkey Kong-esque, but we must note that Ralph is not an ape.  They did say, however, that there will be appearances from "many video game characters we know and love."  The rough, unfinished footage shown seemed to indicate one of the ghosts from Pac-Man and Coily from Q-Bert, among others.  Also, Fix-It Felix is certainly not Mario.  He's a carpenter, voiced by Jack McBrayer, who was on hand to marvel at being cast as a voice in an animated movie, given how much his own voice irritates him.  Other characters from other, more modern games will be voiced by Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman, the latter of whom was also on stage discussing her love/hate relationship with Disney.  "I hate that they make me feel," she joked.  "I have a tiny, tiny heart." 

Even before that, in June of 2012, is Brave, which looks to be a fantastic bit of work from Mark Andrews, giving Pixar their first ever female lead character in Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a princess adept at archery fighting to be able to choose her own destiny in the medieval Highlands of Scotland.  Billy Connolly will voice King Fergus, her father, and Emma Thompson takes on Queen Elinor, her mother.  Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Julie Walters also have vocal roles.  MacDonald was there and seemingly giddy about being given this role, saying "It's like I was asked to play Woody!" 

The other animated film isn't from Pixar, but rather Tim Burton's crazy love of stop-motion animation, as he's remaking his old short film Frankenweenie into a black-and-white-yet-3D spectacular coming in October of 2012.  Producer Don Hahn joked that the voice cast is the "Friends of Tim ensemble, without Johnny Depp."  Meaning Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara are providing their talents to the proceedings (and Danny Elfman on scoring duties, natch).  The story is about young Victor Frankenstein, a misfit living in a town described as "Transylvania meets Burbank," who first tries out his ideas about reanimating the dead on his dog Sparky after he gets hit by a car. 

On the live action side, we got to see a handful of cool clips from March 2012's John Carter, from director Andrew Stanton, and stars Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe were there to talk some shop before each clip.  Dafoe and Samantha Morton are both playing tall, four-armed Martians, and they had to act in motion-capture suits in the desert while walking around on stilts.  That's just nuts.  As one might expect from an animator, the CG aliens look pretty damn impressive, and the film looks like it could be pretty entertaining, provided Kitsch is able to churn out a little more charisma than he showed as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  But we're not blaming any of the actors in that film for what it turned out to be.  Collins, for her part, looks to be stepping far in the right direction to get away from that movie as well, playing Deja Thoris with some gravitas.

Also big shakin's in live action is Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful, which stars James Franco as the titular character from The Wizard of Oz, giving us a new back story for the wizard himself and how he came to be what he is and where he is, complete with some fantastically beautiful set sketches of what Raimi's land of Oz is going to look like.  Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams will be playing the witches Theodora, Evanora and Glinda, respectively, and we're told we won't know which one of them will turn out to be wicked.  Oh, and Zach Braff is Frank, Oz's long-suffering assistant.  Oz here is described as a bit of a cad and a seducer, with a good heart that's been lost somewhere along the way.  No real footage here, as they've just started shooting, but there are some behind-the-scenes shots.

Jennifer Garner also appeared to sell The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a weird Peter Hedges film about a couple (Garner and Joel Edgerton) who find out they can't have kids, so as a farewell to the idea, they get drunk, write down a bunch of things they would've wanted out of the child-rearing experience and traits their child would have, put them in a box and bury them in the backyard.  Only to discover that, through the magic of a thunderstorm, Timothy Green (CJ Adams) emerges from the earth in their yard to change their lives.  It certainly sounds odd, but Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) could certainly make it work.  Just a trailer to be seen here.

Disneynature will be returning on Earth Day 2012 with a film called Chimpanzee, which sounds amazing.  It captures the story of an orphaned chimp who is adopted by another older ape to raise the young one as his own.  It almost sounds like it would have to have been some kind of nature reality show to get a set-up like that, but hey, chimps are amazing.

Lastly, we had a great look at Jason Segel's revitalization of The Muppets, and I've got to say, even as an adult, being in the same room with the real live Kermit The Frog doing schtick is still a lovely little thrill.  Miss Piggy rolling out in the sidecar of a motorcycle driven by a bearded biker dude that bore a resemblance to Tommy Chong was also pretty fun.  From the two clips we saw, the gist seems to be that there's a Muppet named Walter who is also a fanboy of The Muppets and is trying to get the whole crew back together to bring The Muppet Show back, with the help of Segel and Amy Adams.  The first clip involved tracking down Kermit in his big mansion and inexplicably goofy "80s Robot" servant who keeps offering him Tab and New Coke.  Another fun joke is apparently Kermit's first appearance in the film, where he's backlit and a choir sings like he's an angelic arrival, only to note that it's just the headlights of a passing bus carrying a choir as they drive by. 

The second clip is a full on musical number, featuring the gang mostly together, getting into the old condemned Muppet Show theater and setting to work on cleaning it up to the tune of Starship's "We Built This City."  It's really surreal, seeing these beloved characters updated and mocking the 80s and such, but it's very obviously a labor of love for Segel, and it certainly seems to be well on its way to capturing that old Muppet Movie kind of feel.  However, let's hope there's some original music involved as well, although it's hard to imagine topping "Movin' Right Along."

So that's what the D23 movie showcase showed us.  Sadly, they said no one is going to see that Avengers footage for a few months, so bait your breath now.