ANAHEIM, Calif. – Disney has found Dory’s parents – and a school of celebrity voices for its upcoming animated films.
The Walt Disney Co. kicked off its three-day, fan-centric D23 Expo with a Friday presentation focused on its upcoming array of animated films, which includes the “Finding Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory,” prehistoric comedy “The Good Dinosaur” and manga-style Marvel adaptation “Big Hero 6.”
“We’ve installed seatbelts on all of your seats,” Disney animation chief John Lasseter told the crowd of 4,000 fans gathered Friday morning across the street from Disneyland inside the Anaheim Convention Center. “I recommend you fasten them, and if you don’t have a seatbelt on your seat, just hold the person next to you. You’re gonna need it because this is an exciting slate of films and an amazing bunch of filmmakers.”
Among the many announcements made was that Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy will voice the parents of forgetful fish Dory in “Finding Dory,” which is slated to debut in November 2015. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks will reprise their respective roles as Dory and Marlin from the original film, and “Modern Family” co-star Ty Burrell will join the cast as a beluga whale named Bailey.
The studio revealed that “Up” director Pete Docter’s “Inside Out,” which is also set for a 2015 release, would feature the voices of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Phyllis Smith of “The Office” as characters representing different emotions inside the brain of a young girl.
Disney-Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” will include the voices of “Raising Hope” star Lucas Neff, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer and Hader as an apatosaurus farming family.
Hader, who recently departed “Saturday Night Live” and played a comically slow slug creature in this summer’s “Monsters University,” was on hand at the presentation. Despite being cast in both “Inside Out” and “Good Dinosaur,” the funnyman appeared on stage in a sea cucumber costume to jokingly angle for a part in “Finding Dory.”
“I’ve been reading the Disney-Pixar fan blogs, and I know you don’t have a sea cucumber in ‘Finding Dory,”’ said Hader. “Yet.”
Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston later came on stage to hype their roles in the upcoming “The Pirate Fairy,” which transports the Disney fairy characters from Pixie Hollow to Neverland. Hendricks will portray a captain sprite named Zarina, while the villainous “The Avengers” actor has been tapped to portray a young Captain Hook.
“He’s Hook before the hook,” teased director Peggy Holmes.
Disney also showed off footage and concept art from such other projects as the “Disney’s Planes” follow-up “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” which is set in the world of Disney-Pixar’s “Cars,” and the recently announced “Zootopia,” which imagines a modern world populated by animals like overpopulated bunnies and not-so-smart wildebeests.
“If you are a wildebeest, you will be offended by this movie,” joked screenwriter Jared Bush.
The new “Monsters University” short film “Party Central,” Mickey Mouse short film “Get a Horse!” and the first 10 minutes of a “Toy Story” special airing on the company’s ABC network this October were also screened for fans in attendance.
Thousands of attendees, some dressed as Disney characters, began lining up early Friday morning to be among the first inside the extravaganza, which includes special musical performances, presentations and previews of upcoming projects.
However, the Force apparently won’t be with the 45,000 expected D23 attendees. The company’s chairman and CEO blasted any speculation the expo would include a peek at the next “Star Wars” film.
“We’re just as excited as you are about ‘Star Wars: Episode VII,”’ Bob Iger told the crowd at the beginning of Friday’s presentation. “In fact, we’re speechless. At least, we’re going to be somewhat speechless at this expo because we aren’t ready to share too many details just yet.”
Disney bought George Lucas’ Lucasfilm empire last year for $4.06 billion and plans to unleash a new “Star Wars” trilogy and two spin-off films beginning in 2015 with “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is being directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Michael Arndt.
Among the live-action films expected to be teased during a Saturday presentation are “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland.” There might also be glimpses at “Maleficent,” which stars Angelina Jolie as the “Sleeping Beauty” baddie, and new intergalactic and superheroic exploits from Marvel.
Patterned after San Diego’s wildly popular Comic-Con, the biannual D23 Expo, which Disney launched in 2009, isn’t just about movies. On the show floor, attendees can snap up exclusive merchandise, trade collectible pins and meet stars from Disney Channel properties like “Teen Beach Movie” and “Sofia the First.” There will also be presentations about Disney history, theme park attractions and video games.
The event could also offer an update on “Avatar” land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Fla. The company announced in 2011 that it had struck a deal with filmmaker James Cameron to build attractions based on the top grossing film of all time, which is set on the lush alien world of Pandora. He’s currently working on three sequels to “Avatar.”
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang