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The stars come out for the D23 EXPO's "Inside the Walt Disney Studios" presentation

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The stars come out for the D23 EXPO's "Inside the Walt Disney Studios" presentation

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So how was your weekend?

Mine ... was interesting.

Take - for instance - how I spent my Saturday morning. While thousands of Official Disney Fan Club members were in the D23 area enjoying Rich Ross' "Building Worlds: Inside the Walt Disney Studios" presentation ...

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... I was out back with these guys. The entertainment press. Where I then got the chance to interview some of the talent before they then went out onstage to talk up their upcoming Disney and/or Pixar project.

Photo by Jim Hill

And let me tell you folks, as a guy from the woods of New Hampshire, it was a trifle surreal to suddenly be trading Muppet-related stories with Jason Segal. This guy clearly loves these characters. More to the point, he knows his Muppet canon inside-and-out. Jason actually recited for me - word-for-word - the speech that Kermit gave Doc Hopper in the third act of the original "Muppet Movie." So Disney clearly picked the right star to ride herd on its Muppet revival project.

Photo by Jim Hill

Likewise talking with Willem Dafoe about how he got to play a 9-foot-tall, four-armed Martian in "John Carter." Dafoe had so enjoyed working with Andrew Stanton on "Finding Nemo" that - without actually knowing that Stanton was prepping his first-ever live-action film, a big-screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' pulp adventure classic - that Willem actually reached out on his own to Pixar. Asking, in essence, "Is Andrew working on anything new? Because - if so - I'd really love to be a part of it." Which is why - six months later - Dafoe found himself in Utah, wandering through desert terrain while wobbling on a 3-foot-tall pair of green stilts.

Photo by Jim Hill

I also got to interview Scarlett Johansson about what it was like to be on the set of "The Avengers" the very first time that ... Well, the Avengers assembled. When all of the actors were on set together in costume as their Marvel characters. Scarlett described that point in production as " ... bring your kid to work day. Everyone came into work that day with their wives, their husbands and their kids. The people from Disney and Marvel all came down too. Everyone wanted to be on-set that day and have their pictures taken with the members of the cast. It was a pretty special day."

Photo by Jim Hill

Over the course of this press event, I also got the chance to quickly chat with Robert Downey Jr. & Chris Hemsworth from "The Avengers" ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... as well as a lot of the voice talent & creatives behind such upcoming Disney & Pixar projects as "Wreck-It Ralph," "Frankenweenie," "Brave" and "Monsters University." But the true highlight of the day came later, when I & a handful of folks from MiceAge, DK Reloaded  and Disney twenty three magazine got to sit down with this guy.

Photo by Florence Lange

Going into this last-minute interview, we had been told that we'd get 5 minutes of John Lasseter's time. Maybe 10 minutes if we were lucky. John wound up talking with our group for nearly 45 minutes. This far-reaching interview covered the early, early days of Pixar, Lasseter's thoughts about what's going on at the Disney Parks these days, even some great insights about his personal life.

I'm flying back home tonight to New Hampshire (provided - of course - I can get this hat past Homeland Security) ...

Photo by Florence Lange

... give me a chance to unpack and do some laundry. And I'll then get started with transcribing a pretty extraordinary pile of interviews.

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  • Hey, thanks for asking, it was a weird weekend... I sold my comic books, which was a win/win for both me and the buyer, I ran 9.6 miles training for the Disneyland half marathon... and couldn't sleep last night.  On the downside, my neighbor died, and my mom had to put her puppy-mill rescue dog down.

    I'm looking forward to the interviews, I hope you got some nuggets.  I'm glad to hear Jason Segal can chat Muppets hardcore, it gives me hope for the movie.

  • Whatever happened with National Treasure 3? Did you hear anything on it at D23, is the project dead, Jim?

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