Honestly, no one does it better than Pixar. However, over the last few years I’ve found myself slipping out of love with the studio.  I just chalked it up to me getting older and out of touch. The fact is I think the films the studio has been focusing on have been mediocre at best.  Going into the Walt Disney Studios Panel at D23, Pixar had a lot of ground to cover.  Let’s start out with the easy stuff.  Up until Friday the D23 Expo had been sort of a bust in the terms of any real newsworthy stories or announcements.  So I was afraid Saturday would bring about more info on projects already announced.  That was not the case once the Pixar segment of the presentation concluded.  Rockstar COO John Lasseter was on hand to whip the crowd into frenzy the only way he knows how. He discussed a couple of current projects, including “Brave” and “Monsters University”, which I’ll detail in a bit. I’ll actually work backwards starting with the last part of the presentation.

A couple of weeks back Disney announced arbitrary release dates for a few new film projects. A Fall 2013 date and a Summer 2014 release date have now been filled.  It was announced today that Pixar would be filling those spots with a Dinosaur film and a movie based around the mind. Here are the press releases for both films

Untitled Pixar Film about Dinosaurs
U.S. Release Date:            November 27, 2013
Director:                        Bob Peterson
Co-Director:                        Peter Sohn
Producer:                        John Walker

What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? This hilarious, heartfelt and original tale is directed by Bob Peterson (co-director/writer, “Up;” writer, “Finding Nemo”) and produced by John Walker (“The Incredibles,” “The Iron Giant”).

Untitled Pixar Film about The Mind
U.S. Release Date:            May 30, 2014
Director:                        Pete Docter
Co-Director:                        Ronnie del Carmen
Producer:                        Jonas Rivera

Pixar takes audiences on incredible journeys into extraordinary worlds: from the darkest depths of the ocean to the top of the tepui mountains in South America; from the fictional metropolis of Monstropolis to a futuristic fantasy of outer space. From director Pete Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and producer Jonas Rivera (“Up”), the inventive new film will take you to a place that everyone knows, but no one has ever seen: the world inside the human mind.

“Monster University” is also right smack dap in the middle of production so we were able to catch a glimpse of some cool concept art and were given a few choice details.  First and foremost, I think it’s important to note that Mike Wazowski and and James Sullivan will once again be voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman.  Today it was announced that Steve Buscemi would also return as Randall Boggs.  Here is the official synopsis from Disney-Pixar

Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn’t stand each other. “Monsters University” unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.

Screaming with laughter and fun, “Monsters University” is directed by Dan Scanlon (“Cars,” “Mater and the Ghostlight,” “Tracy”) and produced by Kori Rae (“Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.”). The film opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2013, and will be shown in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

As much fun as it sounds, it seems like a pretty straightforward prequel.  However, it gets better when you see what Mike and Sully looked like when they were college dudes.  Images are from Alex Billingtons Twitter page during the Monsters University panel. The first is the side by side of each character and the second set is close-ups.


How about that retainer? It also important to note that Mike and Sully initially didn’t get along because, since grade school, they both wanted to be scarers.  When they discover they are both enrolled at Monsters University, things get super heated. Billy Crystal stole the show when, during the middle of a pre-recorded message from John and Bill pretending they couldn’t make it, Billy walked off camera and on to the D23 stage.  The crowd went crazy and Lasseter and Billy showed us some images of Mike and Sully in their early years.  I loved “Monsters Inc.” so I think, like most people, I’m looking forward to that brand of comedy again.

That brings me to “Brave”, which opened the Pixar segment but I went ahead to save the best for last.  “Brave” is next years Pixar entry and it looks beautiful.

We were treated to a brief intro of “Brave” that finds Merida (Kelly Macdonald) right in the middle of horseback archery practice.  She rides through the woods hitting targets while riding.  As her horse approaches a fallen tree he stops short and Merida flies off.  When she pulls her face from the mud she throws it back on to the horses nose who then blows it right back on her.  The chuckling subsides when the horse picks up the scent of a bear.

After that opening tease, the directing/producing team of Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian arrived on stage to show us a few more things most audiences will never get to see.  We were treated to early pre-vis storyboards and animatics of the film.  First and foremost the film looks beautiful.  A lot of people have compared the look to “How to Train Your Dragon.” However, the fact is that is exists during the same time period so things will look similar, but I feel like they a very different in tone.  The official plot synopsis is as follows;

Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In “Brave,” a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts.

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

Headstrong Merida is basically being forced to choose a suitor to marry.  She feels doesn’t need a suitor and makes it very well known that she doesn’t agree with the idea of arranged marriages.  The highlight of the Pixar presentation came in the form of an entire sequence from “Brave.” Below is a brief description and reaction.

Lord MacGuffin(Kevin McKidd), Dingwall(Robbie Coltrane) and Macintosh(Craig Ferguson) all arrive with their suitor sons to claim Merida’s hand in marriage.  They are to take part in the Highland Games, a series of physical challenges to test their strength and worthiness.  Merida decides that they must compete in an archery contest, a skill at which she more than excels in.  They each take their time and struggle to hit their targets.  The first two suitors aren’t even close to the target while the third mistakenly hits the bulls’ eye, which marks the end of the competition.  However, at that moment, a new suitor arrives cloaked and forcefully plants his family’s flag in the ground announcing his intent to participate.  As the crowd gasps at this 11th hour challenger, the mystery man pulls back his cloak to reveal, in fact, to be Merida who claims,  “I’ll be competing for my own hand!”

Just then her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) begs for her daughter to stop what she is about to do, without a reaction from her daughter.  Merida readies herself and in one move walks in front of each man, walking as she fires 2 arrows directly at her target. As she approaches the third target she takes a moment to ready herself. As her mother races to stop her she releases the third arrow.  The scene plays out in slow motion and we get a shot very reminiscent of the bow work of Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”. The arrow wobbles slowly out of the bow and rights itself in the air.  Her arrow proceeds to split the young mans arrow in half as it punctures the bulls eye.

I wish I were a better writer to describe how amazing that scene actually is on screen. It’s both humorous and very dramatic.  That alone leaves me wanting more. Simply put, I cannot wait to see “Brave” next year.