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A 5-Year Plan

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Disney has done an impressive thing and announced a full slate of feature animation titles over the next 5 years through 2012.

Ignoring the direct-to-DVD Tinker Bell series and 3D Toy Story re-releases, there are 10 planned theatrical releases:
  • Wall-E (Pixar) - June 27, 2008
  • Bolt (Disney Animation) - November 26, 2008
  • Up (Pixar) - May 29, 2009* The Princess and the Frog (Disney Animation) - Christmas 2009
  • Toy Story 3 (Pixar) - June 18, 2010
  • Rapunzel (Disney Animation) - Christmas 2010
  • Newt (Pixar) - Summer 2011
  • The Bear and the Bow (Pixar) - Christmas 2011
  • Cars 2 (Pixar) - Summer 2012
  • King of the Elves (Disney Animation) - Christmas 2012

Of some interest in the pure scheduling of it is that in 2011 Pixar will for the first time release two movies in a single year. Meanwhile Walt Disney Feature Animation will skip that year and go two full years between releases.

Also interesting is that historically Disney has released big animated features around Thanksgiving but 2009 through 2012 those releases are listed as Christmas. We won't know what dates those actually mean for a while yet but if they really are Christmas releases it is an interesting change in release strategy.

So some initial thoughts on the next two years of Disney animation.

Wall-E (Pixar Animation)
Directed by Andrew Stanton (a bug's life, Finding Nemo)
Written by Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, a bug's life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo)

I must admit that I don't have a strong feeling about Wall-E. On the one hand I almost always feel this way about upcoming Pixar movies when all I've seen is the trailers. I suppose it is better to undersell and over deliver but it does make it hard to get excited.

My biggest concern about Wall-E is that it will play too much to the boys in the audience. Animation for boys generally seems to have trouble finding a big audience but Pixar seems to have skirted that line with The Incredibles and Cars.

It is also worth noting that it appears that Wall-E could be the last Pixar title for a very long time not released in 3D.

Bolt (Walt Disney Animation)
Directed by Chris Williams (directorial debut) and Byron Howard (directorial debut)

If you'll pardon the pun, this one really feels like a dog to me. The really big surprise is that it is the only title on the release that sounds bad on the surface.

John Travolta voices a dog who portrays an Underdog type character in a TV show. Unfortunately Bolt doesn't realize he isn't really a superhero, which causes problems when he is forced into a cross-country trek with Mittens (a cat, Susie Essman) and a hamster. Miley Cyrus also provides her voice (non-musically one presumes).

This one just feels completely obvious to me. I feel like I can already predict half the gags and the end of the movie. Hope I'm wrong.

Up (Pixar Animation)
Directed by Pete Doctor (Monsters, Inc.)
Written by Bob Peterson (Finding Nemo)

Up has the look of another male-focused adventure movie but for some reason this one appeals to me out of the box.

Carl (Ed Asner) is 78 years old and has lived a life dreaming of travel and exploration without ever actually doing it. Of course circumstances send him on a globe trotting adventure with a young Explorer Scout.

It'll be very interesting to see Pixar tackle a story entirely focused on humans without the crutch of anthropomorphic rodents (Ratatouille) or extreme stylization (The Incredibles).

The Princess and the Frog
Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (co-directors of The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet)

This one has been generating a fair amount of attention for quite a while for a couple reasons. First, it will be a "princess" tale where the princess in question is not white without the story requiring a non-white character (obviously, Mulan needed to be Chinese and Pocahontas had to be Native American). That's the important element for social and cultural observers, but for animation fans there's something more important.

It will be Disney's first 2-D animated movie since Home on the Range in 2004 and represents a reversal from the idea that Disney was out of that business.

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