Most of the 2 ½ hour Walt Disney Studios panel was spent with animation, in some form or another.  We got looks at Walt Disney Animation Studio’s new projects including their direct-to-dvd feature spinoff, “Planes” and a new project, the surprise of the presentation, “Wreck-It Ralph.”  We got a look at Tim Burton’s newest Stop-Motion project “Frankenweenie” and spent a good 40 minutes with Pixar.  So when it came time to dive into the live-action medium, people seemed excited.  They started off this segment with a bang.

Besides “The Avengers”, next year also plays host to Disney’s Spring event movie, “John Carter.”   All three of the main actors from the film (Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collin and Willem Defoe) were present on stage and were actually allowed to talk about their characters in some detail.  Because the film is released early next year, this was their moment to shine.  Director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) mentioned that they were still very much in editing mode to get the film completed by March, they were able to show us quite a bit of the film.  All-in-all we were shown 4 individual clips from “John Carter” including a nice behind the scenes featurettes.

Clip 1 – John Carter (Kitsch) awakes to find himself somewhere he’s never been before.  Not unlike what the affects of a long drunken night might cause. However, things are different here.  He stumbles upon a nest of eggs that begin to hatch.  His fears are realized when, out of the eggs, emerge hundreds of tiny, green aliens with six legs.  As he fixed on what’s happening in the nest a small group of fully grown aliens, Tharks, converge on his location, protecting the nest I assume.  John is about to be capture when he discovers the power to leap a great distance.  He leaps into a hiding place amongst the rocks.  Thark Tars Tarkus (Defoe) orders his men to stop and attempts to introduce himself to this creature.  The clip shows a bit of comedy within the film as Tarkus and Carter attempt to understand one another.  Carter introduces himself and claims he is fromVirginia, at which point Tarkus begins to call him Virginia.  Tarkus is impressed by his ability to jump and asks Carter to show him.  Not yet a trusting individual, Carter is happy to oblige as he jumps away from the aliens surrounding him to a weapon on the ground near him, he lands, grabs the gun, rears up and fires a shot as the screen goes black.

Clip 2 – In this second clip we get another demonstration of the humor and skill of Carter on this planet.  Carter is chained in a dungeon guarded by, what I consider, one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen on film.  Think a dog, mixed with a sea lion mixed with a giant caterpillar.  It, like all the creatures of mars, sprouts six legs. Carter is able to free himself from bondage and attempts to slip past the lumbering beast.  As you might expect the creature wakes up and Carter is forced to utilize his new skill.  As Carter bounces up and side of the cavern, the creatures is there is soon as he lands, allowing him little in the way of freedom.  At first it appears that there are several animals in the cave but it’s quickly revealed that these large animals’ six legs allow them to be lightning fast.  The physics remind me of a bee. It’s a creature that shouldn’t be allowed to move that quickly, but does.  The animal grew on me a bit.

introduction to the relationship Carter and Dejah Thoris (Collins) will develop on screen.  Thoris is attempting to recruit Carter to help save her people. He wants to return to Earth but she knows that he can make a difference on her planet.  It is revealed that he has more than just a longing to be back on Earth when it is revealed he is wearing a wedding ring.

Clip 4 – The last scene shows off the action/adventure present in the film.  Tars Tarkus and John Carter have been sentenced to death in the Thark Arena.  Think the arena scenes in  “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” mixed with “Gladiator”.  They are both chained up to a pillar and Tars looks as though he has been seriously injure.  Carter is attempting to help Tarkus and save his own skin.  The foe released into the arena, for the death sport, is called the White Ape.  Aptly named as the creature looks like a 20 ft. tall white gorilla with, yup, you guessed it…six legs.  Carter once again proves that he is more than capable of helping himself. However, with an injured Tarkus, their lives may be in peril more than Carter is equipped.

I’m not sure what it is about this project, but I feel nothing.  It’s sad really because it seems like all of the people involved are really very passionate about the project.  I have never read the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs but that never stopped me from adoring other famous adaptations on film before.  The clips didn’t really sell me on the Martian world or on John Carter himself.  I think the Thark design is really very interesting and the aliens look great.  In that regards, I’m a believer.  It was shown to us that in order to achieve a certain level of realism, the actors who are portraying these 12ft. tall aliens walked around on set in stilts.  That way, the actors could actually look each other in eyes while filming.  Because there aren’t very many 9ft tall actors, many sets utilize the old tennis ball on a stick routine so actors have something to look at for reference.  It’s good to see people are going old school. Again, while I enjoyed the panel tremendously, I don’t see myself flocking to “John Carter.”

The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Jennifer Garner was on stage to present “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”, which stills looks very odd.  She gushed about the unique film and the actor who portrays the title character.  She talked about her role as a mother both on and off screen and how that inspired her role.  I think Disney really needed cover a lot of ground for this project but failed miserably.  They showed the trailer for film which has been out for a couple weeks.  Sure it’s always nice to see Jennifer Garner, but I believe people who had never heard of the project before D23, care even less about it now.

Oz, The Great and Powerful
They followed that up with a quick look at Sam Raimi’s “Oz, The Great and Powerful.”  As they are right in the middle of shooting, none of the cast was present to talk about the project.  However, Sam Raimi sent over a pre-recorded intro and a look at some of the set filming currently taking place.  The story is a prequel to the original Wizard of Oz.  It follows the story of how Oz became the wizard from his point of view.  The cast is as good looking as it gets as James Franco is set to play the great and powerful. The trifecta of witches includes Mila Kunis (Theodora), Rachel Weisz (Evanora) and Michelle Williams (Glinda). We were shown a few concept art from the film including Oz’s air balloon landing in Oz.  The film seems to take a lot of aesthetic cues from the original, always a good sign. I hate when a film is made in a time period similar to an original and they look nothing alike.  I can’t wait to see more from this world, which is weird, because I don’t like “The Wizard of Oz.”

Last but not least, the rock stars of the convention were, without a doubt, The Muppets.  Jason Segal was present along with Kermit to introduce two clips from the movie, neither of them featuring Miss Piggy, a fact that prompted her to storm off stage on a motorcycle.  For fans of the old Muppet movies, this one seems right on track to make you a fan as well.  The story follows Gary (Segal) and his pal Walter (A muppet himself) who are trying to keep The Muppet Theater from being torn down.  In order to save the theater, they attempt to enlist the help of Muppet superstar, Kermit the Frog.  I love the idea that Kermit, and the rest of the original Muppets are celebrities in this world.

When Gary and Walter arrive at Kermits mansion he is not at home.  Just as they begin to leave, a large figure, backed by lights from heaven, approaches the group from the street accompanied by a choir of angels. As the lights of the passing bus of choral singers fade, we see him in all his green glory.  It was truly a classic Muppet moment of misdirection that had the arena howling.   The second clip was a musical number in which all the Muppets have returned to the theater to help whip it back into shape.  Animal goes crazy when he see’s his old drum set.  Fozzie mocks an old photo of himself saying his hairdo back in the 70’s was outrageous, even though he hasn’t changed a bit. Swedish Chef opens up a refrigerator of spoiled animated food that seems to have been there since the original Muppet Movie and quickly takes a blowtorch to it.  All the while the horde of cloth covered characters rock out to “We Built This City.”  This looks like a Muppet movie for Muppet fans. I cannot wait.