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D23: Disney Unveils 'Zootopia' and Offers Up New 'Frozen,' 'Big Hero 6' Details

Walt Disney Animation Studios also previewed a new short, "Get a Horse," at the expo Friday.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As Walt Disney Animation celebrates its 90th anniversary, the studio opened the D23 Expo on Friday by unveiling Zootopia, a new animated feature built around animals who live in a modern world that they created, which will be released in 2016.

Disney and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and a lineup of filmmakers and voice actors were on hand to introduced new clips, art and details about the Disney animation slate, which includes the upcoming Frozen and Big Hero 6 as well as future titles from Pixar Animation Studios, including The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out and Finding Dory, and Disneytoon Studios, including a Planes sequel and two new Fairy films.

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Director Byron Howard and writer Jared Bush introduced the look at the world of Zootopia, with includes such sites as Tundra Town, for cold weather animals; Sahara Square, a cross between Dubai and Monte Carlo; a Rain Forest district; Little Rodentia, home to mice; and Burrow Borough, home to rabbits. A giant air-conditioning system maintains the various climates, and the animals use “Rabbit Transit” for public transportation.

The movie's main characters are Nick Wilde, a fox; and Lt. Judy Hops, a rabbit, who are natural enemies who form an unlikely friendship. Other characters include Gizelle, an outspoken pop star.

Director Don Hall previewed Disney Animation’s 2014 release Big Hero 6, which he noted combines his love of Disney animation and comic books. Set in "San Fransokyo" -- a mix of San Francisco and Toyko -- it is the story of 14-year-old tech wiz and his team, including a robot, Baymax; as well as Gogo, Honey Lemon, sushi chef Wasabi and fanboy Fred.

The studio then focused attention on its November release, Frozen, which is loosely based on Hans Christina Andersen's The Snow Queen and tells the story of two sisters: Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elza (Idina Menzel), who has magic powers to control the snow.

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Bell appeared onstage, saying that she wanted to make Anna “awkward and weird, like me. … Maybe she talks too much, and she wears her heart on her sleeve.”

Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee introduced a series of clips alongside actor Josh Gad, who provides the voice of a magical snowman named Olaf. They showed off a clip during which Olaf meets Anna, her friend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer, Sven. In the clip, Olaf -- unaware that snow melts in warm weather -- sings of his longing to see a beach and the summer.

The clip ends as Kristoff says to himself, “Someone’s got to tell him.”

Lasseter emphasized that music -- from Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez -- will play a big role in Frozen.

The presentation concluded with Menzel appearing to sing “Let It Go,” an original song from the film, as “snow” fell from the ceiling of the Anaheim Convention Center’s Arena.

Disney also previewed its new short, Get a Horse, directed by Lauren MacMullan, which features Mickey Mouse and his friends and skillfully weaves classic hand-drawn 2D and stereoscopic 3D animation. Get a Horse will open before Frozen in November.

The Disney history and legacy was emphasized throughout the presentation, which also featured Burny Mattinson, who is celebrating his 60th anniversary at the studio and is the last remaining animator to have worked with Walt Disney. Mattinson received a standing ovation and recalled how the security guard at the Disney gate helped him to get his job.

D23 runs through Sunday.