I would call myself an above average fan of the wonderful world of Disney — I’ll go to Disneyland or watch any Disney movie at the drop of a hat, but I’m adult to not wear mouse ears because I think it’s cute. I’m all about the magic of Disney, but I realize that it’s fantasy. IT’S NOT REAL.
My love for Disney has brought me to my very first D23 Expo, which is essentially Comic-Con for everything Disney. It’s quite a spectacle. There’s lots of good cosplay, lots of bad cosplay, lots of lazy cosplay and lots of people who are in desperate need of the magic of body heat activated Degree deodorant and antiperspirant. It’s like any other con, but with lots more mouse ears and Disney charm. It’s quite an event with lots to see — specifically the movie panels.
The two big panels unveil lots of new projects, never-before-seen footage, and special guests on the movie side of things. One panel is for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, while the other is for all the live-action movies the studio is releasing (the upcoming Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book and all the Marvel projects). These two panels are the main reason I attended D23… that and the churros at the concession stand.
Today’s panel was everything coming up on the animation slate in the next year or so. It was quite an impressive one. It includes:
Zootopia: An animals living as humans ordeal starring Ginnifer Goodwin (who popped up on stage) and Jason Bateman. The footage shown is a strong indication that this will be another hit for Disney. Bonus: it also stars Shakira who’ll play a gazelle and sing a fun song.
Gigantic: Disney’s attempt at the “definitive” version of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The movie features a songs by Academy Award-winning “Let It Go” songwriters, Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez — and they performed one of them. It was quite a charming treat!
Moana: Star Dwayne Johnson made an appearance to give us a sneak peek at this movie that takes us on a journey through South Pacific mythology through the eyes of the title character and Johnson’s Maui, a demigod of the culture. It ended with a heart-tugging clip from the movie and the South Pacific music stylings by Opetaia Foa’i and Te Vaka.
Riley’s First Date?: A cute animated short that will appear on the Inside Out Blu-ray and DVD in the fall.
The Good Dinosaur: A story about a dinosaur who is separated from his family and while trying to find his way home, he befriends a little caveboy. It’s a new take on a “boy and his dog trying to find their way home” movie except the dinosaur is the boy and the caveboy is the dog. Also, the landscapes look real. Damn real. Too real to be CG.
Finding Dory: After years of hinting that she wanted a sequel to Finding Nemo, Ellen Degeneres finally gets her wish. This time, she is on a journey to find her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Degeneres surprised the audience as she casually came on stage to introduce some new stars of the franchise including Ed O’Neill who will play a seven-footed octopus named Hank; Ty Burrell who will play a beluga whale named Bailey who thinks he has a head injury; and Kaitlin Olson who plays Destiny, a whale shark with an identity crisis.
Coco: Pixar’s yet-to-be-titled Dia de los Muertos feature finally gets a name. Not much was said about the movie, but we were introduced to the main character named Miguel and a very colorful and nicely done “diorama” that represented what the film will look like.
Toy Story 4: Yup they’re making another one — and it’ll be a love story between Bo Peep and Woody. Don’t expect it to be cheesy and schmaltzy. Celeste and Jesse Forever writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack are penning the screenplay.
Fun lineup, right? I’m certainly excited. However, there was one thing I noticed about everything: how white and male it was.
I appreciate the strides that Disney is trying to make but it’s difficult for me to not call attention to the lack of diversity of what I saw on stage — I take that back. There were some great minority representation on stage: Rashida Jones, Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Peter Sohn, Dwayne Johnson — there was a good mix of actors, writers and songwriters involved in the movies. What I meant to say was that there was a huge lack of diversity when it came to the filmmakers. The producers and directors.
I was actually keeping a tally of the men, women and people of color who were filmmkers that walked out on stage (someone had to). I counted 14 men, 6 women and of those, 3 were people of color (I may be wrong on the people of color tally…there was some racial ambiguity). That’s a bit of an imbalance.
Considering the recent reports of diversity in Hollywood, this is no surprise — but it shouldn’t be. It could use work. Lots of work. We need more females directing. More than that, we need more people of color producing and directing.
I am very excited about the movies Moana, Gigantic and Coco because they are about people of color and a different culture outside of America — more so Moana and Coco. Gigantic only takes place in Spain, so I don’t totally expect it to dive deep into the history and cultural details of the Spanish. However, Moana and Coco are a different story.
Before I get into it, I think it’s wonderful that Disney is exploring cultures and educating the masses about these stories from people of color. These stories need to be told — but why aren’t they being directed and told by the people who are actual from the South Pacific? Or from Mexico? Why is a white man directing a story about a culture that he had to learn about? If Disney wants authenticity and the soul embedded in a movie about the South Pacific mythology, they should hire someone who has lived in that culture. If they want to tell a story about Dia de los Muertos, get a Mexican behind the camera. A white man could study every book about the South Pacific and Mexico culture, but he’s still white. There is no better way of telling a story from a culture than from a person who is actually from that culture — and I’m pretty damn sure that there is a talented director from the South Pacific and Mexico out there. I don’t want to say this is appropriation, but it is inching close to it.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m am overjoyed that these movies are happening. They are stories that need to be told. I mean, they could not be happening at all. Thank you Disney for culturing the uncultured. I’m glad that they dug deep into the culture, lived with Mexican families, studied everything you need to know about Dia de los Muertos, traveled to the South Pacific, casted Dwayne Johnson, hired Opetaia Foa’i and Te Vaka to give Moana a gorgeously authentic soundrack — it’s going to be wonderful. But it would be 100 times more wonderful if they employed filmmakers from the respected culture to be the vision of the movie.