Finishing up our recaps from today’s D23 presentation, including a look at Disney/Pixar’s upcoming slate and new projects from Walt Disney Animation Studios, we have the direct-to-video production wing of Disney, DisneyToon Studios. Their contributions to D23 include two new Tinkerbell pictures titled Legend of the NeverBeast and The Pirate Fairy, plus a new Planes sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue. While these DVD/Blu-ray films might not appeal to the broadest base, the D23 presentation did feature some fun guest surprises, including Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Dane Cook (Dan in Real Life). Hit the jump for my recap.
After a brief video tour of DisneyToon Studios, the presentation revisited past successes in the direct-to-video market that include five Tinkerbell features and one TV series. Then, two new Tinkerbell films were introduced.
Disneytoon Studios director Steve Loter revealed plans for “Legend of the NeverBeast,” which takes the Disney Fairies on an epic action adventure that’s full of heart and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Fun and talented animal fairy Fawn believes you can’t judge a book by its cover—or an animal by its fangs—so she befriends a huge and mysterious creature known as the NeverBeast. While Tink and her friends aren’t so sure about this scary addition to Pixie Hollow, the elite Scout Fairies set out to capture the monster before he destroys their home. Fawn must trust her heart and take a leap of faith if she hopes to rally the girls to save the NeverBeast. Directed by Steve Loter, “Legend of the NeverBeast” roars to life in Spring 2015.
Loter was on hand to share a personal anecdote behind the inspiration for this film. While he grew up harboring a fear of large dogs, his daughter embraces her natural instincts to see all animals as her friends; the bigger and shaggier, the better. Fawn’s unusual friendship with the massive creature known as the NeverBeast came out of Loter’s firsthand experiences watching his daughter interact with animals.
The Pirate Fairy
Disneytoon Studios’ “The Pirate Fairy” brought pixie dust to the festivities, unveiling the newest and most exciting adventure in the Disney Fairies franchise. Director Peggy Holmes (“Secret of the Wings”) introduced Christina Hendricks, who gives voice to Zarina, and Tom Hiddleston, tapped to voice a young James aka Captain Hook.
When a misunderstood dust-keeper fairy named Zarina steals Pixie Hollow’s all-important Blue Pixie Dust, and flies away to join forces with the pirates of Skull Rock, Tinker Bell and her fairy friends must embark on the adventure of a lifetime to return it to its rightful place. However, in the midst of their pursuit of Zarina, Tink’s world is turned upside down. She and her friends find that their respective talents have been switched and they have to race against time to retrieve the Blue Pixie Dust and return home to save Pixie Hollow. With comedy, heart and epic thrills for the whole family, “The Pirate Fairy” sets sail Spring 2014.
While news of The Pirate Fairy pleased fairy fans in attendance, the big surprise was the arrival of Hendricks and Hiddleston to the stage. While it’s a bit unfortunate that the press release and presentation spoiled the fact that Hiddleston’s James is in fact Captain Hook, it was worth the price of admission to hear Hiddleston talk about the awesome experience of meeting the film’s animators and then singing a bit of The Jungle Book’s song, “Bear Necessities”. Hiddleston was heard singing once again in a clip from the unfinished film that featured pirates aboard a flying frigate belting out the jaunty tune, “A Frigate That Flies”.
Disneytoon Studios’ “Planes: Fire & Rescue” landed on stage at the D23 Expo, welcoming Dane Cook, the voice of Dusty in “Disney’s Planes,” the action comedy adventure that landed in theaters today. Cook, who returns to voice the character in the follow-up, joined director Bobs Gannaway (“Secret of the Wings”) on stage. Julie Bowen was announced as the voice of Lil’ Dipper, and fans were treated to story details for “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” plus character images, concept art and footage from the film.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” features a quirky crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from a raging wildfire. When world famous air racer Dusty (voice of Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of wildfire air attack. Dusty joins forces with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger and his courageous air attack team, including spirited super scooper Lil’ Dipper (voice of Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, ex-military transport Cabbie and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire, and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero. “Planes: Fire & Rescue” ignites July 18, 2014.
With Disney’s Planes opening this weekend, star Dane Cook was in attendance to talk about his return to the role of Dusty Crophopper in Planes: Fire & Rescue. While I haven’t seen Planes, it’s getting some rough reviews out there. Director Klay Hall was on hand to invite the audience to view a special screening at D23 and played a montage of some of the movie’s action sequences for the crowd. Then, Planes: Fire & Rescue director Roberts “Bobs” Gannaway took the stage to talk about the direct-to-video sequel. I’d be much more inclined to check out this follow-up as it’s based on the real-life rescue teams and airborne firefighters that combat dangerous wildfires. Emulating the heroic actions of aerial firefighting smokejumper, hotshot and helitack teams, Planes: Fire & Rescue takes viewers to the remote airstrip of Piston Peak. Dusty finds himself there after he’s no longer fit to race and finds a new purpose as a S.E.A.T. (single-engine air tanker) on a firefighting team. We get a glimpse of this team in action, called in to quench a fire to the sounds of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”. The characters are every bit as goofy and cartoonish as seen in the original film (though I did laugh at the bright green John Deere deer tractors running from the forest fire), but there’s a heroic thruline that could actually pay off at the end.
Be sure to check out our other D23 recaps below and tune in tomorrow when we’ll have more from Disney and Marvel’s live-action film slate: