Disney unveils its new blockbuster and other animated films under the big top.
A tent full of animated characters, performing right in the heart of New York's Central Park? Sounds like Disney fantasy, but it was, in fact, Disney reality. Earlier this year, the Disney studio gathered members of the press in a huge tent on Central Park's Great Lawn, for a special preview presentation of two of their newest animated features, POCAHONTAS (which opened June 23) and TOY STORY, due in November.
This was no ordinary press conference or work-in-progress screening – this was a show! After all, not every tent has a screening room complete with a stage. C.E.O. Michael Eisner and Vice Chairman of the Board Roy Disney started things by placing POCAHONTAS in the context of both the current animation resurgence and past Disney tradition.
Last year's aptly titled THE LION KING reigned supreme at the boxoffice, so how do you top the biggest animated film of all time? For Disney Studios, the answer is: diversify. With POCAHONTAS, they have turned to the pages of history for the first time, in a film that centers on the real-life romance between the famous Native American heroine (voiced by actress Irene Bedard) and the British Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson).
POCAHONTAS' co-director Mike Gabriel related how he pitched the idea to the Disney execs. In his spare time, he fashioned a mock-up movie poster. With no idea what the main character should look like, he simply drew Tiger Lily (the Indian Princess from PETER PAN) underneath a logo of the title. Unbeknownst to the director when he unveiled the poster, Eisner and Disney had been kicking around the idea of doing a Romeo and Juliet-type animated story. Gabriel's pitch was exactly what they were looking for.