Disney pulls out all the stops at D23

Studio backing Guillermo del Toro production shingle

ANAHEIM -- Disney has teamed with director Guillermo del Toro to create Disney Double Dare You, a new label with a mandate to produce spooky animated feature films.

Studio chairman Dick Cook made the announcement Friday in front of 5,000 enthusiastic fans of all things Disney during the second day of the company's four-day D23 Expo.

The first film from the new studio is called "Trollhunters" and based on an original story by del Toro. He'll also produce the movie.

Del Toro was in New Zealand directing "The Hobbit" for MGM and New Line. However, there was plenty of star power on hand to wow the crowd. And Cook had other official announcements up his sleeve.

Cook confirmed that Disney will remake the 1968 Beatles' film "Yellow Submarine," to be written and directed by Robert Zemeckis and turned into a 3D motion-capture spectacle.

Zemeckis showed the attendees scenes from his upcoming take on "A Christmas Carol" that stars Jim Carrey in "seven or eight roles" (he couldn't quite remember which). "And we only had to pay him once," Cook quipped.

Johnny Depp also hit the stage to a standing ovation. Playing a drunken Jack Sparrow, he and Cook announced that the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie will be subtitled "On Stranger Tides" and hit theaters in summer 2011.

Tim Burton also joined Cook -- rousing almost as much passion from the audience as did Depp -- and showed some "Alice in Wonderland" clips. He confirmed that he is working on a feature-length version of his 1984 short film "Frankenweenie."

John Travolta, wife Kelly Preston and their daughter Ella Bleu Travolta showed scenes from their upcoming comedy "Old Dogs," which also stars Robin Williams. It's 9-year-old Ella Bleu's feature-film debut.

Miley Cyrus, who stars in next year's "The Last Song," sang her hit tune "The Climb," and Jerry Bruckheimer showed snippets from "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

Nicolas Cage told Cook he's interested making another "National Treasure" movie and he showed scenes from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a live-action film inspired by Disney's 1940 animated "Fantasia," which Cage called "the most beautiful movie ever made."

Cage also took a few moments to get serious, noting that Friday marked the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Turmoil like that inspires him to make family-oriented movies, he said.

The nearly two-hour event at the Anaheim Convention Center began with a lengthy montage, accompanied by a live orchestra, of Disney films through the ages, with fans showing their appreciation with various degrees of applause. For those keeping score, the crowd made the most noise for "Mary Poppins," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Beauty and the Beast."

And not only did directors, stars and movies receive love from the fans, so did Cook, providing evidence that the Disney studio itself attracts the sort of loyalty usually reserved for celebrities.

That sort of reaction must have been like music to the ears of Steven Clark, head of the D23 Expo. The conference ends Sunday, when Disney-Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter will head a presentation similar to Cook's.

Clark wouldn't reveal how many attended the conference -- beyond "tens of thousands" -- nor would he guarantee a repeat performance next year.

He did, though, say that if D23 Expo is to be an annual event, he plans to keep it in Anaheim.

D23 is the name of the $75-a-year fan club that Disney launched six months ago. The D23 Expo is its "signature event," Clark said. The number "23" is an homage to 1923, the year Walt Disney founded his animation studio.

Clark says Disney's intent is to break even on D23 Expo, though it's obviously a marketing effort and -- judging from the positive reaction from fans and attention it has been getting from mainstream media outlets -- a successful one.

Attendees paid $37 a day or $111 for all four days, with discounts for children and D23 members. Clark said attendees have come from all 50 states and several countries, "including large contingents from Australia, the U.K. and Japan."
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