Disney's computer-animated films to be exclusively 3-D


All computer-animated features from Disney and Pixar Animation Studios will be released in digital 3-D, starting this year with the release of Disney's "Bolt."

The decision underscores Disney's belief in the emerging format. The studio has been an aggressive 3-D pioneer, with computer-animated 3-D fare including "Chicken Little" in 2005 and "Meet the Robinsons" in 2007. Now, Disney has adopted the same strategy that DreamWorks Animation announced last summer: going exclusively 3-D with computer-animated titles (DWA begins this effort in 2009).

Tuesday's news came as Disney revealed its animated release schedule through 2012, which includes six films from Pixar Animation Studios, four from Walt Disney Animation Studios, newly converted 3-D versions of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" and a series of direct-to-DVD films featuring Disney Fairies from DisneyToon Studios.

There are slightly more than 1,000 3-D-capable digital 3-D screens in the domestic market, and estimates suggest that that number might approach 4,000 by May 2009. "As we approach 1,500-2,000 screens, that probably will (provide) the coverage we need across the country," Disney chairman Dick Cook said. "As there is more deployment, hopefully we'll release (some titles) only in 3-D."

Summer 2012 will bring "Cars 2," Pixar's sequel to its Oscar-nominated "Cars." "Ratatouille" producer Brad Lewis will direct the film, in which "Cars" characters Mater and Lightning McQueen find themselves in escapades around the globe.

Disney will then present "King of the Elves" for Christmas 2012. Phillip K. Dick's short story is the basis for this tale about an average man living in the Mississippi Delta who becomes king of a band of elves and joins them as they attempt to escape from an evil troll. Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker will direct.

Disney's 2011 schedule will include Pixar's "Newt" (summer), the directorial debut of Gary Rydstrom -- a seven-time Oscar winner for sound and director of Pixar's short "Lifted." "Newt" revolves around the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet, who are forced together by science to save the species.

Pixar's "The Bear and the Bow" -- featuring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson -- is slated for Christmas 2011. Brenda Chapman will direct the story of the impetuous Merida, who though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a great archer.

The 2010 slate includes Disney's "Rapunzel" (December), directed by Glen Keane and Dean Wellins, and Pixar's "Toy Story 3" (June 18). Lee Unkrich (co-director of "Toy Story 2" and "Finding Nemo") will direct "Toy Story 3" from a script by Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine"). The voice cast includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger and Ned Beatty.

The studio's 2009 animated slate begins with Pixar's first 3-D feature, "Up" (May 29), from director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson. The film will feature the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger and Jordan Nagai.

Miley Cyrus has joined the voice cast of "Bolt," which also features the voice of John Travolta and was previously announced as a digital 3-D release for Nov. 26.

Disney also has had success with live-action 3-D. The studio's 3-D "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Best Worlds Concert" opened No. 1 at the boxoffice in February and has grossed roughly $65 million. When asked about Disney's strategy for 3-D live action, Cook said that in the foreseeable future, it would not be as aggressive as with computer animation. "Production is more difficult to do, and there are a limited number of cameras available," he said.