It happens only once every three or four years: an event so glitzy, so glamorous, so jam-packed full of movie stars that it makes The Oscars look small and inconsequential. I’ m talking, of course, about Walt Disney Studios’ large-scale unveiling of their slate for the next couple of years, which took place on Thursday in LA at the Kodak Theatre, in front of an audience of thousands, and featuring a cast worth millions.

It was a truly spectacular, star-studded affair, featuring appearances from the likes of Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey, Dwayne Johnson, Robin Williams, Tim Allen and Miley Cyrus. Then there were the musical numbers. And the marching bands. And the trailers. And the clips, from Tr2n to Prince Of Persia. And the 3D presentation of Bolt. And the announcements – of Johnny Depp in Pirates 4, Alice In Wonderland AND The Lone Ranger; of Nicolas Cage in National Treasure 3 and The Sorceror’s Apprentice.

But why squeeze all that into a list, when One-Very Lucky Bastard, Mark Dinning, was there to witness the event first-hand? Here are his reactions:

“The line-up of guests was just amazing: Tim Allen, Sandra Bullock, John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence, Isla Fisher, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Nicolas Cage, the High School Musical kids, Miley Cyrus, Johnny Depp, Robert Zemeckis, The Rock etc.

Some highlights:

  • The show was presented, brilliantly, by Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook. At the show’s climax, he presented the USC Marching Band, who played The William Tell Overture, better known as the theme tune from, bizarrely enough, The Lone Ranger. Cook then said: “We’re weighing up a few possibilites for the role,” and Depp then snuck out behind him, dressed as Captain Jack but with the Lone Ranger’s mask on his face, which he then presented to Cook, along with a six-shooter. Cue massive whooping and an initial presumption that Depp was going to play The Lone Ranger.

However, it has since come to light that Depp is more likely to be playing Tonto. So was he handing over the mask and gun for someone else to take? Interesting…

  • Movie-Con attendees were lucky enough to see about 20 minutes of Disney’s next animated movie, Bolt. Well, today we saw the whole thing in 3D – and, even though it’s still 80% finished, it blew me away. Very funny, thrilling and the 3D sequences was genuinely breathtaking at points. I think the next twelve months is going to be a watershed period for 3D films, and it looks like Bolt is leading the way.
  • It was announced that Johnny Depp will be playing the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, marking the 9138th time the old pals have hooked up. We saw some amazing, very Burton concept art of the Queen Of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, etc. The live-action/CG movie is out in 2010.
  • We saw some brief clips and animatics from Mike Newell’s upcoming Prince of Persia, which looked really strong and could be the movie to break the curse of the videogame adaptation. Jake Gyllenhaal, in the title role, is really buffed up, and we saw a couple of cool but brief swordfight sequences which proved he could cut the mustard as an action hero. Gemma Arterton looked stunning, and we also saw some really interesting concept art of the bad guys, some of whom can shoot snakes at people. We also got a brief animatic look at the way Gyllenhaal’s character can pause time. This looks like it could be a very nice surprise.
  • Tron 2 – or Tr2n, as it’s apparently going to be known – just looked fucking ace. It was the standout piece of footage for me, even if it was the footage that was shown at this year’s Comic-Con. Basically, it’s a massive bike race between a green and blue bike. Blue goes through green’s wake, gets smashed up, and the green rider walks up to him and kills him off. Then comes the reveal – that he is a young Jeff Bridges. Pretty awesome and this is only a teaser. If the movie’s anything like this, it will be truly special.
  • Jim Carrey and Robert Zemeckis were on good form for a quick glimpse at their 3-D mocap version of A Christmas Carol. Zemeckis: “Why am I doing it? Well, you know, the writing’s pretty good! And besides, it’s one of the greatest time travel stories of all time!” We saw some concept art of the seven characters Carrey plays. “It means there’s a lot going on in your head,” said Carrey. “But then again, there always is! It’s a party up there and everyone’s invited!” It’s also the first Disney movie he’s ever done.
  • Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage came on, announced National Treasure 3 and a live-action version of The Sorceror’s Apprentice (with Cage as The Sorceror).
  • American comedian George Lopez, on hand to promote Beverly Hills Chihuahua (for which he’s on voice duty), came up with the following quality line: “The best dog movie ever made. It’s Citizen Canine.”
  • Kenny Ortega, director of High School Musical 3, said: “I think these movies have inspired a lot of kids to get into acting, dancing, singing and making movies. I hope they remember me when they take over the business.”
  • There was a very funny faux trailer for Bedtime Stories in which Adam Sandler is reading a bedtime story about an amazing movie that makes a huge amount of money, piles of it. Cut to Dick Cook tucked up in bed, in pyjamas and cuddling a Mickey Mouse toy, fast asleep with a satisfied grin on his face.
  • The Rock on Race To Witch Mountain (which we saw an unfinished but action-packed trailer for): “It’s about classic Disney brand values: heart, humour, smarts and Dwayne Johnson.” Gotta love the guy.
  • We saw a funny clip from Old Dogs, in which Robin Williams and John Travolta accidentally take each others pills, causing Travolta’s face to spasm into a Joker-style grin at a funeral, while Williams plays golf so pilled-up that he keeps accidentally hitting people in the nuts with golf balls. Williams: “Initially it was called Hot Bitches, which got me interested. Then they changed it to Dead Dogs but we realised they only had one trick… ‘Stay!'”
  • Talking about Hannah Montana The Movie, Miley Cyrus revealed she’s holding her 16th birthday party at Disneyland. Which is just showing off, really. Then she belted out an amazing performance of the movie’s title track. No, seriously.
  • Clips from UP, Pixar’s first 3-D. Looks predictably ace. More to come on this later.
  • The Princess and The Frog looks terrific. Set in Jazz-era New Orleans, and directed by the guys who did Little Mermaid and Aladdin, the production art and animated storyboards look just beautiful. They also revealed that Oprah Winfrey will play the leading lady’s mother, Eudora. Huge cheers.
  • Cars 2 has been moved ahead by a year and will see Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) travel the world. In the meantime they are producing a series of short cartoons – “Cars Toons” as John Lasseter put it – called Mater’s Tall Tales. We saw the first one, in which Mater makes out he was a fire truck and a doctor back in the day. Later ones will see him as a Stuntman and a Bullfighter. They will premiere on the Disney Channel.
  • Toy Stories 1 and 2 to be re-released in 3-D (the first in Oct 2009) in the build-up to Toy Story 3 in 3-D, in which Andy goes to college and “Ken (as in Barbie Ken) gets his first acting role,” says Lasseter.
  • The Proposal – the Ryan Reynolds/Sandra Bullock rom-com – looks really funny, so much so that they’ve dated it for next summer. It’s by Anne Fletcher, the director who did 27 Dresses and looks quite smutty and funny. Bullock on why she hasn’t done a romcom in ages. “I just didn’t feel funny for a while. But I do again now so I’m back!”
  • Saw a trailer for Jonathan Mostow and Bruce Willis’ mega-budget sci-fi, The Surrogates, which looks like if the whole world was the Westworld theme park. Some great stuff of Willis’ surrogate – it takes place in a world where almost everyone has a robot surrogate – getting smashed to shit and then hung up like a sort of robotic Jesus.
  • Wild Hogs 2! And they all turned up on bikes!!
  • Daniel Battsek from Miramax talked about their slate, showed their new logo (very similar but a slightly more accute, cool font) and showed the trailer for John Patrick Shanley’s intense drama, Doubt, which I think looks ace.
  • And last but not least, G-Force, Bruckheimer’s animal spy action caper looked fun but it’s clearly aimed at kids. Great voice cast, though, in Penelope Cruz, Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi and Jon Favreau.”

There you go. Movie Blaze, readers, making great personal sacrifices so I can bring you the news first! Much more on all these projects as it comes…

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