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Disney Studios exec delivers an "Up" lifting Mother's Day present

Disney Studios exec delivers an "Up" lifting Mother's Day present

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What with it being the Mother’s Day weekend and all, Donald Evans wanted to do something special for his mom, Claire.

Of course, when you’re the senior vice president of Marketing for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, you don’t have to just settle for sending candy & flowers. You can do something truly spectacular. Like – say -- arrange for “Up” to have its unofficial world premiere in your old hometown of Hartford, CT.

Donald Evans, senior vice president of Walt Disney Animation Studios & Pixar Animation Studios.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Well, okay, this new Peter Docter film will have its really-for-real world premiere this coming Wednesday night at the 62nd Festival de Cannes. Which is a really big deal considering this is the first time an animated feature has ever been selected to be this prestigious film festival’s Opening Ceremony movie.

But as Evans stated this past Saturday afternoon in front of a packed house in the Aetna Theater at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, “this is technically the world premiere of ‘Up.’ The first time this film has been screened for members of the general public.”

And having already seen this new Pixar film at least 20 times while it was in production, Donald said it was gratifying to hear how “real” people react to “Up," to see which moments made them laugh & cry.

Russell and Mr. Fredickson in "UP"
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, the other reason that Donald enjoyed being back in Connecticut is that he brought samples of his work. As in trailers for upcoming Disney & Pixar animated films. Which Evans joked “… will finally make my mother understand what I do for a living.”

Among the clips this audience got to see was the teaser trailer for “Toy Story 3.” Woody supervises the construction of a logo for this 2010 Pixar film, built entirely out of items found in Andy’s room. Only to then have his logo upstaged by the slick, hi-tech version that Buzz Lightyear has built all on his own.

In addition to the "Toy Story 3" teaser, the crowd at the Antheneum got to see the new “The Princess and the Frog” trailer. Mr. Evans also showed a featurette for this new Ron Clements / John Musker movie that’s sure to make animation fans smile once it begins popping up on the Web. With the high point being when Andreas Deja does a happy dance when he recalls the moment that he learned that Walt Disney Animation Studios would actually be getting back into the hand-drawn animation business.

The Princess and the Frog
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

After “Up” was screened, Evans returned to the stage at the Aetna and fielded questions from the audience.  He talked about the many challenges that Disney & Pixar faces when marketing their movies overseas (EX: Because France is extremely protective of its home-grown film industry, it refuses to allow non-French motion pictures to be advertised on television. Which is why, when the Mouse is launching a new movie in that country, it’s forced to spend most of its promotional dollars on outdoor advertising like billboards, posters, etc).

Donald also talked up some of the other films that Disney & Pixar had in the works, including Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Which, according to Evans, will feature a spectacular sequence of Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole that mixes live action, CG, stop motion as well as hand-drawn animation.

When asked about any upcoming sequels, Donald admitted that he knew which films Disney & Pixar had in the works through 2013 but wasn’t at liberty to talk about any unannounced projects. But that said, Evans insisted that it wasn’t a co-incidence that the two sequels that were already in the works (i.e. “Toy Story 3” and “Cars 2”) were based on John Lasseter movies.

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

“Pixar is a director-drive studio. And we only go forward with sequels if the person who originally created that film then comes up with an idea that they're really passionate about,” Donald explained. “And John, he really knows those characters. He’s got lots of other stories that he wants to tell that are set in the worlds of "Toy Story' and 'Cars.' ”

And speaking of "Cars" ... Since Pixar insists on changing genres whenever it makes a sequel, you shouldn’t expect that same-old-same-old with “Cars 2.” Whereas the first “Cars” was a kind of a fish-out-of-water story, the “Cars” sequel (which is set on the international racing circuit) will have an entirely different style and tone.

Saturday’s event ended with Evans wading out into the auditorium and then having his picture with friends & family. Many of whom had made a special trip into the city just to attend this screening of “Up.”

And as Donald met with these folks after the screening, Claire stood by his side. Clearly thrilled to be sharing her very special Mother’s Day present with the people of Hartford.

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