Disney/Pixar's 'Up' to open Cannes

First 3-D film selected to kick off Riviera festival

The Festival de Cannes is about to enter another dimension.

The world premiere of Disney/Pixar's digital 3-D offering "Up" has been tapped to open the fest May 13, organizers said Thursday.

Directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Bob Peterson and produced by John Lasseter, "Up," Pixar's 10th feature, is an adventure story about an old man who ties balloons to his house and flies away to South America with a young boy in tow.

While the movie marks the first time in Cannes history that an animated 3-D title will screen in the opening-night slot, the festival has always been animation-friendly. Several toon titles have made their way into the Official Selection, including Disney's "Dumbo" in 1947, 2001's "Shrek" and last year's Israeli documentary "Waltz With Bashir," among others.

Disney showed the fest's organizers an early version of the film several weeks ago, Mark Zoradi, president of Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, said. "We knew we had a wonderful movie, and they absolutely loved it," he said of Cannes' decision to spotlight the film, which will screen Out of Competition. "A Cannes opening is a real coup."

"Sometimes the calendar works in your favor," Zoradi added. The film opens in the U.S. on May 29, plus a few other territories day-and-date, but the bulk of its international release is timed to take advantage of school holidays in individual countries so it will roll out during the course of the summer, bowing in France on July 29.

Zoradi said that Disney projectionists will work with Cannes' technical team to ensure that the Palais will be equipped for digital 3-D projection. "It's going to look spectacular," he promised.

While "Up's" voice cast doesn't include the sort of dashing actor or glamorous actress who serve as paparazzi magnets on the red carpet -- Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer and Pixar regular John Ratzenberger head the cast -- Disney will probably bring along the French actors who are dubbing the characters for the movie's Gallic release.

"The real pedigree is coming from the film," Zoradi said, "and, of course, Pete Docter and John Lasseter will be there."

Disney hasn't yet decided what sort of opening-night festivities it might throw beyond the festival's opening-night dinner. But the studio has pulled out all the stops in the past for events like its "Pocahontas" premiere in New York's Central Park and its "Pearl Harbor" premiere aboard the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier. So the evening is likely to combine Gallic savoir faire with Disney showmanship.

Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook called the Cannes invitation "a real honor," and Lasseter, chief creative officer for both Disney and Pixar, said: "This is a huge step for animation, and further supports our belief that a great animated film is simply a great film."

Rebecca Leffler reported from Paris; Gregg Kilday reported from Los Angeles.
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