John Lasseter gave Comic-Con International: San Diego a look into an interesting future for animation at the Walt Disney Studios and Pixar.Lasseter, who is perhaps best known as the director for the Pixar hits Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Cars, serves as the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The first hightlights were technical as the Disney Animation panel in Hall H kicked off with a showing of the opening of Toy Story 2 in 3-D.The film will be released along with the original Toy Story as a 3-D double feature for a two-week run this fall.
“We’ve always 3-D films at Pixar,” he says. “The theaters have finally caught up with us.”
He promised that the films will be untouched from the original — no new scenes or alterations.
The re-release will lead into next summer’s 3-D all-new Toy Story 3. The movie’s director, Lee Unkrich, said it was a challenge to find a story for the film. They ended up focusing on the day young Andy is all grown up and ready to go off to college and the effect that has on the toys.
Fans also can expect a bigger role for Barbie, and a new character in Ken, who will be voiced by Michael Keaton.
Also getting the 3-D treatment is Beauty and the Beast. Kirk Wise, the director of the film, says they went back to the original digital files and created new software to give the characters volume as well as add depth to the scenes.
“It is definitely not your father’s 2-D to 3-D translation,” he says.
Lasseter says both Disney and Pixar will become more visible on the web, with shorts and video blogs on Facebook coming right up.
They also are planning a new Christmas special, titled Prep and Landing, about the elves that prep each house for Santa’s arrival. The 30 minute special will be broadcast on ABC, and Lasseter showed off a clip from the special, which was created by Chris Williams, co-director of the movie Bolt.
Disney also is bringing back hand-drawn, 2-D animation, with The Princess and the Frog. Lasseter says he brought back John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) to direct the film, which also is a return to the Disney tradition of musical fairy tales.
“We wanted to do this as an American fairy tale,” says Musker. As such, it’s set in New Orleans during the 1920s. The film also features seven original songs by Randy Newman, who grew up in New Orleans.
“We love digital animation and are big fans of Pixar, but we feel there is something very warm and romantic and original about hand drawn animation,”
They then showed two sequences from the film, totaling about 8 minutes of footage.
Lasseter then introduced his friend Hayao Miyazaki, whose most recent movie, Ponyo, Disney is releasing as an Engligh-language version on Aug. 14. Miyazaki, who is considered by some as the Japanese counterpart to the legendary Walt Disney, is one of the most popular directors of anime and Japanese film in general.
A sequence from the film was shown, evoking gasps and cheers from the audience.
Lasseter asked a few questions of Miyazaki, who said through a translator that he gets his stories the old-fashioned way. “My process is thinking, thinking and thinking. Thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know,” he said.
Lasseter said he was always impressed with Miyazaki’s storyboards, which the Japanese animation master draws himself. “I think working on the storyboards alone is a custom we have in Japan. It’s not just I who works that way, but since I’m slow it seems like I’m working on the storyboard all the time,” he said.
Comic-Con then presented both Lasseter and Miyazaki with an Inkpot award, a Comic-Con award given out yearly since 1974. “Can we use this ink?”Miyazaki asked. “I am very honored to have received this. Thank you very much.”
A short Q&A panel followed with all the directors, moderated by stand-up comic and actor Patton Oswalt.
At the end of the panel, Lasseter announced Miyazaki would be presenting a free screening of Ponyo tonight at the Pacific Gaslamp Theater at 8 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.