Though The Odd Life of Timothy Green and the nature film Chimpanzee had trailers shown (and Jennifer Garner talked briefly about Green), the majority of attention for Disney’s live Actions films at D23 went to The Muppets and John Carter. The Muppets went over like gangbusters, while Carter just busted. There was also a brief presentation on Oz: The Great and Powerful, which just started shooting. Our report follows.

John Carter

  • John Carter‘s presentation began with director Andrew Stanton fumbling his way through a  teleprompter, talking about how he and the writers loved the books when they were younger. Then they brought out stars Taylor Kitsch, Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins to talk about the film, and though Kitsch spoke passionattely about his enthusiasm for the project, Collins came off as a blank, and Dafoe was relegated to talking about how he did his part (as a motion captured nine foot tall, four-armed martian) on stilts. The first clip showed John Carter (Kitsch) during his first day on Mars, and his first experience with Dafoe’s Tars Tarkas as they try to understand each other. Perhaps the desert settings make it a little colder, but there was no sense of wonder there as a CGI creation and a guy in a desert who can jump really high try to communicate for the first time.

  • The second clip was probably the best as Carter is captured, put in a semi-prison and then meets a martain dog who wants to play with him. The dog has a large head and mouth and can run real fast. Again, the problem with the footage so far is that everything is a little too familiar. The dog looks like when the Dog in The Mask puts on the Mask.
  • In the third clip, Carter is with Dejah Thoris (Collins), and she gives him a magical trinket that has the power to transport him back to Earth. The two have a lovers argument as she wants him to stay and fight, and then at the end of the footage Dominic West shows up (and immediately made it seem like The Wire vs. Friday Night Lights) and Carter seems gone. The problem with this clip is that if this is a scene with the hero and the leading lady at ninety minute mark of the film, him leaving is not really dramatic, because he can’t. He’s the hero of the piece (hence the title).
  •  The last clip had Carter and Tarkas in an arena facing off against a giant four armed ape. Yes, everyone in the auditorium started thinking “hey this is like Attack of the Clones” at the same time.
  • With the third clip having no great context, and the rest looking like familiar empty spectacle, the footage didn’t win over many converts. There was no hint at the pulp origins of the material, nor and it didn’t seem very propulsive – the model would seem to be Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with a dour hero, perhaps they’re going The Dark Knight/”moody” route. There might be a good movie in there, but when Stanton said that the teaser trailer suggested the tone of the film, well watch it and see if that gets you excited.

The Muppets

  • The Muppets brought out Jason Segel, Kermit and Miss Piggy to talk about the film. Though their antics were kept short (and Piggy arriving to “Born to be Wild” wasn’t a great joke), they showed two scenes from the film, and both were great. The first had Segel, along with a new muppet named Walter, and Amy Adams arriving at Kermit’s place, where Kermit has become a recluse. After running into an electric fence, Kermit takes them in, and in his house we meet Kermit’s stuck-in-the-80′s robot, who is designed a little like Wall*E, but also the robot in Rocky IV as it offers the guests the options of Tab or New Coke.
  • The second clip shows the Muppets cleaning up the Muppet theater in a musical number staged to Starship’s “We Built This City,” and they couldn’t have found a more winning sequence to highlight. The Swedish Chef, the Muppet band (Animal!) and many other regulars make an appearance as they clean in a montage of funny bits (the chickens dust with their rumps, old food gets blow-torched, etc.) If you love the muppets, it looks liek they got the tone right, irreverent, but childish.

Oz: The Great and Powerful

  • Oz: The Great and Powerful just started shooting in Detroit, but Sam Raimi gave a personal introduction via video, and a featurette played, with interviews with James Franco, Zach Braff and the film’s witches Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz. AS this is just going, the interviews with vacuous. Everyone followed the standard interview procedures of talking about how great it was, and right at the end there seemed to be a shot from the film – in black and white and 1.33:1 – that is meant to mimic the 1939 Wizard of Oz. The stills shown of the storyboards and conceptual art seemed familiar to the ’39 version, but of a greater (and CGI enhanced) scale. It also reminded a little of Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland. At this stage, it’s hard to know how it will turn out.

What of these films do you most want to see?