SDCC: Disney unveils Princess and the Frog footage

Disney unveiled previews of its upcoming animated slate of movies at Comic-Con in San Diego over the weekend, including Toy Story 3, The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo. Director and Disney president John Lasseter also introduced the filmmakers, who discussed the upcoming projects.

The only new footage regarding Toy Story was a short trailer to be played in theaters in which Buzz, Woody and Jesse marvel at the new 3-D that will be used to enhance the re-release of the first two movies. Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who worked on films like Monsters, Inc., also announced that Michael Keaton has been enlisted to play Barbie's longtime companion Ken in the new sequel. He screened a short interview featurette entitled "Groovin' With Ken" where the character defended himself against charges that he was simply "a male doll for girls" rather than a "action figure for boys."

In addition to Disney's introduction of material from their 3-D versions of the first two Toy Story movies, the studio announced that it would be releasing a 3-D version of the cel-animated Beauty and the Beast on Valentine's Day 2010. Director Kirk Wise screened a clip from the film, an opening scene with Belle and Gaston, her supremely self-confident would-be husband, but it remains to be seen if the film will retain its emotional effect.

Next, directors Ron Clements and John Musker previewed footage from The Princess and the Frog, Disney's trumpeted return to hand-drawn animation after a six-year hiatus (Home on the Range was their last theatrical effort using traditional animation). Screening a musical sequence sung primarily by actor Keith David, who plays Dr. Facilier, the footage was interesting, but it remains to be seen whether the finished film can truly resuscitate the largely-defunct technique in any lasting way. (That said, the film has already come under scrutiny for what some perceive to be its portrayal or reinforcement of racial stereotypes, and while the film certainly exercises some familiar character conventions, particularly with its depiction of voodoo and New Orleans, the film appears to be thoroughly and consistently sensitive to those objections.)

Finally, Lasseter introduced director Hayao Miyazaki, whose new film Ponyo is scheduled to be released in theaters in a few weeks.

After a brief Q&A session with the entire panel, who offered fans and attendees insights both about the technical and artistic processes, the group departed the stage with the audience buzzing about Disney and Pixar's future, in a number of dimensions.

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