In a gala adorned with Hollywood stars, The Walt Disney Co. wowed an industry crowd Wednesday in a showcase of its upcoming films that included a sequel to its 1982 sci-fi flick "Tron" and a "Lone Ranger" remake starring Johnny Depp.
The daylong presentation at the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars, delivered repeated surprises as actors emerged onstage to tout animated 3-D movies, live-action thrillers and comedies — with animal co-stars ranging from guinea pigs and chihuahuas to humpback whales.
Jim Carrey, starring in his first Disney film, a 3-D motion capture remake of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," summed up the chaos of his performance, in which he plays seven characters including Ebenezer Scrooge.
"It's pretty much just a party and everyone's invited," he said.
Commenting on Disney's lengthy rollout, which included a full screening of the animated dog-hero movie "Bolt," Carrey told out-of-town guests, "You can go back home and say these saddle sores came from Hollywood."
Disney made a similar presentation of its animated films to investors in April in New York, but held its last live-action movie showcase three years ago.
The 17 films presented then grossed over $5 billion at the box office, said Dick Cook, the chairman of Disney studios. He called the upcoming film slate the "most creative" in Disney history.
Among other casting announcements, Disney said Oprah Winfrey will be the voice of the character of Eudora in the hand-drawn animated movie set in New Orleans, "The Princess and the Frog."
The film features an African American heroine, Tiana, played by Anika Noni Rose. Winfrey plays Tiana's mother in the movie set for release on Christmas in 2009.
A brief snippet from "Tron 2" featured a louder, crisper and more thrilling bike race and a cameo of an older Jeff Bridges, who starred in the original version.
Miley Cyrus, star of an eponymous movie and television show, performed a live song from "Hannah Montana: The Movie"; Robin Williams and John Travolta, stars of the upcoming "Old Dogs," yucked it up on stage; George Lopez appeared to promote "Beverly Hills Chihuahua"; and Dwayne Johnson was on hand to tout "Race to Witch Mountain."
The University of Southern California marching band even made an appearance.
The Pixar and Disney animation studios' chief creative officer, John Lasseter, also broke the news that "Cars 2," the sequel to the blockbuster he directed for Pixar Animation Studios, would be released in the summer of 2011, a year earlier than once planned.
Along with a wide-ranging slate of films starring Sandra Bullock ("The Proposal"), Tim Allen ("Wild Hogs 2"), and Zac Efron ("High School Musical 3: Senior Year"), Cook boasted Disney would release five 3-D movies next year, more than any other studio.
Cook fired a barb at former Disney studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, now chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., ribbing: "I read that even Jeffrey Katzenberg may release his first 3-D movie next year," in reference to "Monsters vs. Aliens."
The company also previewed films from its labels Touchstone and Miramax, the latter of which produced the 2007 Oscar winners "No Country for Old Men," and "There Will Be Blood."
The most promising Miramax release, set for release in December, was "Doubt," starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a dark tale about a nun's fight against a priest who she suspects of sexually abusing a black student.
During Disney's preview today in Hollywood, the studio questioned who could possibly play the titular character in its upcoming feature The Lone Ranger. At that, Disney rolled out the USC marching band to come down and play the Ranger's theme song. This was followed by an appearance by Depp himself who took to the stage in full Captain Jack Sparrow attire...wearing The Lone Ranger's mask.
However, according to Disney reps, Depp is officially signed to play Tonto and not the Lone Ranger as initially implied. The Lone Ranger is said to be an origin story, is written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.
Disney officially announced today that Johnny Depp will star as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.
It was also revealed Burton is shooting the film in 3-D.
The film is based, naturally, on the Lewis Carroll classic "Alice in Wonderland," and will combine performance-capture imagery, similar to Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf, with live-action footage.
Depp is joining previously cast actors Mia Wasikowska (as Alice) and Matt Lucas. Disney has set a release date of March 5, 2010.