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Greetings from the 110th edition of the American International Toy Fair. A trade show that Nancy and I love to attend because -- to be blunt -- it usually gives you lots of opportunities to learn about movies & TV shows that are still months ...
Photo by Nancy Stadler
... if not years away from being released to theaters.
Toy Fair is a particularly great show to cover / attend if you're someone who writes about The Walt Disney Company. Because if you're actually paying attention as you walk around the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, you actually learn quite a lot about what Mouse House managers are thinking. Take -- for example -- Merida from "Brave." When this Mark Andrews / Brenda Chapman movie was first out in theaters last year, there was all this talk about how this stubborn red-headed girl was Pixar's first princess. Well, that's not how the folks at Disney Consumer Products see this situation. As far as DCP is concerned, from here on in ...
Merida is an official Disney Princess. Which makes one wonder: Given the recent makeover that Disney's legacy princess characters (i.e. Snow White, Cinderella & Aurora) were given, was this contemporarizing of their look (and especially their hairdos) deliberately done because -- from here on -- DCP officials knew that Snow, Cindy & Sleeping Beauty were (from here on in) forever going to be grouped with more recent royals (i.e. Merida & Rapunzel) whose hair was going to upstage / pull focus from all those characters who posed around them?
I know, I know. That seems like a strange question to ask. But trust me, folks. Toy Fair is a strange sort of show to try and cover. Here at the Javits, the grand gesture -- like bringing in an entire marching band to help kick-off yesterday morning's "Monsters University" presentation ...
and/or misdirection are the order of the day.
And speaking of misdirection, when Dan Scanlon (i.e. the director of "Monsters University") was onstage yesterday, he respectfully asked that -- after the latest trailer for this "Monsters, Inc." prequel was shown to the press (FYI: If you'd like to check out this new "Monsters University" trailer for yourself, it's supposed to be released to theaters shortly. The way I hear it, it'll be attached to Disney's "Oz the Great and Powerful" when that Sam Raimi film bows at your local multiplex on March 8th. And -- given the way things work these days -- that very same trailer will go live on online on or about that same date. Anyway ... ) got onstage, he politely asked that the members of the press not reveal too much of what they'd just seen.
UPDATE: Well, so much for keeping the new "Monsters University" trailer under wraps. The very same footage that we were shown yesterday and then sworn to secrecy about has since been released to the Web. Anyway ...
EDITOR'S NOTE: And speaking of revealing too much ... JHM just got a note from someone at Disney Consumer Products. Who politely asked that we please pull down an image which had been previously featured in this article. One that showed a particular "Monsters, Inc." character who makes a surprise appearance in this soon-to-be-released prequel. Out of respect to the filmmakers up in Emeryville (who are still hustling to finish "Monsters University" in time for its June 21st release date), we've decided to honor that request.
Anyway, given that the "Monsters University" trailer is now freely available online, I guess that I can tell you now that one of the characters to get the biggest reaction at Monday morning's media event / product showcase was Art ...
... who's the purple U-shaped guy with the dangling arms in the picture above.
And speaking of big reaction ... One of the constant refrains at this year's edition of Toy Fair has been "Have you heard about Disney's 'Planes' ?" I can't begin to tell you the number of retailer buyers I spoke with yesterday who are over-the-moon about this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release. Not just because "Planes" has proven to be a very toyetic piece of intellectual property ...
with its collection of personable flying characters easily becoming the jumping-off point for a whole new line of playsets and collectibles ...
No, what really seemed to fascinate folks at Toy Fair was that the finished version of Disney's "Planes" turned out so well that the Studio decided to do this very unusual thing. Which was take this DisneyToon Studios production (which was originally supposed to have been a home premiere with a limited theatrical release in Europe) and then turn into a full-blown theatrical release. Not only that, but Disney was sending "Planes" out in wide release on August 8th of this year. Which is still technically summer blockbuster country.
Photo by Jim Hill
So hopes are obviously high for this new animated feature. Especially since word has already leaked that there's a "Planes" sequel in the works, a project that's supposedly called "Planes 2: Fire and Rescue."Anyway, Nancy and I will keep our ears to the ground & our eyes on the skies as we head back over the Javits later today to see if there's any more "Monsters University," "Disney Planes" and/or Disney Princess info to be uncovered at this year's edition of the American International Toy Fair.
Thanks for clearing up a mystery for me, Jim - I was wondering why the classic princesses were being given a slightly different look.
Where is Frozen?
EDITOR'S NOTE: I actually asked Candance, the PR rep who gave Nancy and I our walk-thru of the Mattel pavilion on Monday afternoon the exact same question. Because -- based on my experiences at the Toy Fairs I've previously attended -- the prototypes for the dolls for Disney's big holiday release for that year should have been on display. Candance explained that everything was fine. Everyone at Mattel is really excited about the "Frozen" product line. More importantly, that all of the dolls associated with this Walt Disney Animation Studios will be on store shelves six weeks ahead of "Frozen" 's November 27th release date.
Reading between the lines here, Sherry, I think that this was more a case that Mattel & Disney are just super-excited about the commercial possibilities associated with "Planes." And rather than have this DisneyToon Studios production be overshadowed by Disney's next Princess movie, they just opted not to bring those floor models & prototypes with them when they came to New York to do this year's American International Toy Fair.
If it's of any consequence to you, last year while I was Walt Disney Animation Studios, I got to see a lot of concept art for the various characters & settings featured in "Frozen." And that movie looks just amazing. And based on what I've been hearing from WDAS insiders about the way the music & the story are coming together (i.e. the second & third act of this movie are now ridiculously strong. They're just making some minor tweaks to the first act now to make sure that all of the later story beats pay off to maximum effect), it sounds like a pretty amazing movie.
So please hang in there, Sherry. I know that you're itching for "Frozen" news. But it sounds like this late November release from Walt Disney Pictures will really be worth the wait.