Just in case anybody was wondering if the want-to-see factor for Disney's May 2012 "Avengers" movie (and the ongoing franchise) was lagging, the world’s largest focus group has already voted.
The answer from the 9000 or so fans attending today’s “Building Worlds: Inside the Walt Disney Studios” event at the D23 gathering in the Anaheim Convention Center was noisily affirmative for a blockbuster release.
The excitement had been building for two-plus hours when Disney Company Chairman Rich Ross turned the event over to Kevin Feige, who guides Disney’s sibling Marvel Studios. With the sugar rush from Ross’ earlier “Cupcakes for everyone!” moment that capped the Pixar presentation still working, Feige trotted out Scarlet Johansson and, um, some other people who weren’t wearing tight orange dresses.
Actually it was Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner and—now came the loudest roar of the day—Robert Downey, Jr. The huzzah was so loud you could almost see Downey’s wheels turning behind the eyes, as in, “Is this scary or do I have one crazy Q factor?”
Downey called for a second unspooling of the brief clip in which Sam Jackson, clearly the perfect anchor for the super hero ensemble, mocks Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston, also onstage).
We got a fleeting glimpse of ScarJo’s Black Widow and a line from Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, but Downey owned the footage as well, via the ending moment when Tony Stark confronts Loki: “Let’s do a head count,” he says, naming the fellow Avengers (Chris Evans was not present but his "Captain America" character also won cheers whenever he appeared).
“I have an army,” says the haughty Loki. “We have the Hulk,” ripostes Stark.
A trifle corny maybe, but after this Joss Whedon picture rakes in its worldwide tally next spring, Disney will be able to pay off the national debt.
Ross was an easeful emcee, bringing out a series of studio talents that kicked off with John Lasseter. Wearing a sports coat over the inevitable (“Cars 2”) Hawaiian shirt– “because the coat makes me look like the Chief Creative Officer”–Lasseter noted that “I do what I do because of the films of Walt Disney”.
Touting such upcoming films as “Planes” (a Cars reimagining starring a crop duster voiced by attendee Jon Cryer) and “Wreck-It Ralph”, Lasseter issued the majority of the eight or 9 “awesome”’s voiced from the stage to describe the slate.
Sarah Silverman, for her part, (which is to say, Vanelope Von Schweetz in the latter film), never went blue, though she did snark, “I always wanted to go to Anaheim but not go to Disneyland.”
If Comic-Con is a kind of Hell, Disney’s pointedly different gathering was a kind of cozy purgatory, with a controlled population who nonetheless stood in some very long lines with their fellow fans in the sell-out crowd.
A Disney staffer did warn that the exhibitors’ part of the hall would be “intense—but Disney intense.”
Indeed, by contrast to the San Diego swarm, there were no bloodied zombie nurses to scare your kids.
Among the projects the presenters extolled were Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter” (due March 2012), Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” (October 2012, a black and white motion capture project), Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful”, the nature fable "Chimpanzee", and “The Muppets”.
This last was rapturously received by a crowd full of grown-ups, perhaps reinforcing Chairman Ross’s pertinent quote from Walt Disney that he didn’t make films for children, “but for the child in all of us, be he six or sixty.”