Pixar's Lasseter draws a crowd at D23

Toon maestro shows clips of 'Pooh,' 'Princess and the Frog'

ANAHEIM -- John Lasseter's mission to reinvigorate hand-drawn animated feature films has kicked into overdrive.

At D23 Expo's final day Sunday, Disney/Pixar's chief creative officer showed scenes from "Winnie-the-Pooh," coming to theaters in spring 2011, and "The Princess and the Frog" (Dec. 11), then told 5,000 Disney fans that studios made a mistake shunning hand-drawn to focus on computer-generated.

"What audiences don't like is bad movies," he said, not traditional animation. Studios have scapegoated traditional animation, Lasseter said, blaming failures on the medium instead of where the responsibility actually lies: in lackluster stories and dialogue.

During a news conference after a well-received presentation for expo-goers, Lasseter promised "a lot more" hand-drawn animation in the future, using such phrases as "squash and stretch" and "character and life" to stress the advantages the medium has over its CG-animation cousin.

Of course, Lasseter also treated the audience of 5,000 to clips and trailers of CG-animated films, and he made announcements that, more times than not, simply confirmed what most in the industry already know.

> Barbie is back in "Toy Story 3," and this time Ken joins her. He's voiced by Michael Keaton. Bonnie Hunt and Whoopi Goldberg also have joined the cast, and, as Lasseter mentioned last week in London, so has Timothy Dalton.

> There's a fifth Tinker Bell DVD in the works, titled "Race Through the Seasons."

> The lead in "Rapunzel" is Mandy Moore, and Zachary Levi has joined. "Rapunzel," scheduled for theatrical release Christmastime 2010, is Disney's 50th animated feature film but the first CG-animated film to be a musical.

> The crowd also seemed pleased with a clever scene from the upcoming ABC Christmas special "Prep & Landing," about a covert group of elves who prepare homes for Santa's arrival.

> And Lasseter gave a thumbs up to the Academy's decision to increase the number of best picture films to 10. Asked during a news conference whether the new policy (actually a return to an old policy) will increase the odds of "Up" getting a best picture nomination, Lasseter said, "Of course I have my fingers crossed."
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