Disney | Aug. 1 Director: James Gunn Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman Created by: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (Marvel) Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin Story: When American pilot Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan, he must team up with a group of alien misfits to take a stand for the fate of the galaxy. Paramount | Aug. 8 Director: Jonathan Liebesman Writers: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty Created by: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird (Mirage) Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Megan Fox, Tony Shalhoub, Will Arnett Story: The latest reboot for the heroes in a halfshell sends them into the darkened streets of New York to face off with Shredder and his evil Foot Clan with the help of fearless reporter April and her wise-cracking cameraman. Dimension Films | Aug. 22 Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller Writer: Frank Miller Created by: Frank Miller (Dark Horse) Starring: Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Joseph GordonLevitt, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Stacy Keach, Jaime King, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis Story: The long-awaited sequel will weave Miller’s “A Dame to Kill For” and “Just Another Saturday Night” comic arcs with two original plots, subjecting Dwight, Ava, Marv, Nancy and the rest of the degenerate Sin City dwellers to violence, plots and bad behavior. Fox | Oct. 24 Director: Matthew Vaughn Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman Created by: Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons (Icon) Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine Story: Said to closely mirror the comic, the film centers on a veteran agent of a supersecret spy agent tasked with taking a recently recruited street kid under his wing in the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. Disney | May 1 Director: Joss Whedon Writer: Joss Whedon Created by: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (Marvel) Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader Story: The Avengers reassemble to face a high-tech threat: the AI known as Ultron whose enormous god complex drives him to take over the Earth. The brother-sister team Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver also join the party this time out. Fox | June 19 Director: Josh Trank Writers: Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater Created by: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (Marvel) Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey Story: At WonderCon, writer Kinberg said the reboot is meant as “a much more grounded, gritty, realistic movie.” Word on the interwebs is that the Doombots will be showing up.
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After more than seven decades as icons among icons, Disney’s original animated family — the seven dwarfs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fame, of course — are getting a long-overdue makeover.
The results will be on display for all to see when Disney Junior debuts July 7 the new animated comedy series The 7D, updating Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey and Happy with a new vision designed to bring them fully into the 21st century.
That’s a tall job, requiring some top talent to pull it off, and Disney has assembled just that with a voice cast featuring some of the most vital actors working in the business today: Bill Farmer, Disney’s longtime voice of Pluto, plays Doc; Maurice LaMarche as Grumpy; Kevin Michael Richardson as Happy; Stephen Stanton as Sleepy; Billy West as Bashful; Scott Menville as Sneezy; and Dee Bradley Baker as Dopey. Rounding out the cast are Leigh-Allyn Baker as Queen Delightful, Paul Rugg as Lord Starchbottom, Jess Harnell as Grim Gloom and newcomer Kelly Osbourne as Hildy Gloom.
Pulling all of this together is Tom Ruegger, whom Disney execs tapped in 2011 to run the show because they admired and wanted to in some ways recreate the madcap comedy energy of his work on 1990s Warner Bros. shows.
“I was asked to put my comic spin on it, thanks to my previous work on things like Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, so they wanted this comic irreverence added to this classic Disney property,” he says.
Going in a New Direction
That sat well with Ruegger, who felt that, given a TV budget and the audience the studio was attempting to reach, it was better to go with a new look and style rather than be beholden in any way to the original Disney version. “We went in a completely different direction with the art, with the design of the characters, with their outfits, with their voices.”
Tapping into his long experience in animation, Ruegger called on many familiar names to join the production. He hired many colleagues from his Warner Bros. days — writers including Sherri Stoner, Paul Rugg, Deanna Oliver and Randy Rogel, and directors such as Alfie Gimeno and Charlie Visser.
One voice in particular set the tone: Once Richardson was cast as Happy, Ruegger says they were able to build the voice cast around him.
Farmer, who voices Doc and has voiced some of the classic versions of the dwarfs over the years, says he mostly ignored what had gone before for the characters and sought out something new.
“When you devise a voice for a character, you first look at any previous material, and since this is a departure from the classic seven dwarfs, you don’t necessarily want to do a voice match or copy. You want to give him a new personality and new life,” says Farmer, adding his path to the new voice started with the new Doc being the sole bespectacled dwarf this time out. “Glasses usually show intelligence. He’s the inventor ... He’s the professor, in a way. That’s how I saw him ... So I kind of pinch the voice a little bit and get a little higher, and kind of made him a little scatterbrained, and before long this voice came out and it just seemed to stick.”
Making Villains from Scratch
Harnell came on board with a brand-new character he had to figure out from scratch. With one of his other roles playing the nomi- nal villain on Disney’s Sophia the First, he has his own ideas on how to find the right tack for playing Disney villains.
“These are not villains in the classic sense of the word because they’re not really evil, they’re just sort of inept,” he says. Grim Gloom, he says, takes that idea to a new level. “You know how they say, ‘ He’s a few bricks shy of a load’? This guy doesn’t have any bricks. No bricks. And he’s married to this character named Hildy, who is Kelly Osbourne, and she’s definitely the brains of the operation. But between me and you, she’s not all that bright, either.”
But deep down, there’s more to Grim than being dim. “Grim is so awesome because he’s totally stupid but he’s got a really good heart. He’s actually not a bad guy, he’s just trying to keep up with his wife, which I guess a lot of us can relate to.”
Oct. 30, 2012, will be a day long remembered by movie fans everywhere as the day Disney announced its deal to buy Lucasfilm and its iconic Star Wars franchise.
It was news that made a lot of jaws drop, but for others — like the creators and executive producers of Disney Channel’s hit animated comedy Phineas and Ferb, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh — it was opportunity knocking.
“We were actually in a mix and the news broke that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and our post-production manager sort of gasped and showed us on her Blackberry, and the very first thing I did was draw Doofenshmirtz as Darth Vader and take a picture of it and text that picture to Eric Coleman the head of (TV animation at Disney), and I just wrote under it ‘I smell crossover!’” says Povenmire. “He took his phone with that picture on it and brought it to a meeting with Bob Iger on a different subject entirely and then said, ‘Oh, by the way, Bob,’ and slid his phone across the desk and said, ‘Dan Povenmire sent me this.’ And Bob said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve gotta get right on that.” I wasn’t in the meeting but that’s the apocryphal story that’s come out of it.”
Not being the first animated series to do a Star Wars special, Povenmire and Marsh opted to go a different route than having their characters take on roles in the movie in Phineas and Ferb Star Wars, airing July 26 at 9 p.m. ET/ PT on Disney Channel.
“We just got this idea kind of like the old Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where we follow these two minor characters in Hamlet’s play while the play is going on and we thought that would kind of be a cool thing to do in this; leave the story of the first Star Wars movie exactly the way it was, the way we loved it, not mess with any of those characters and just build a story for our guys that kind of follows along beside that,” says Marsh.
Playing Around the Edges
The result is a special in which all the action takes place on the periphery of the story of Star Wars. In this version, Phineas and Ferb are happy campers growing up on Tatooine, a planet they love to death and never want to leave, and are friends with that mopey teen Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Perry the Platypus is revealed as the spy who stole the Death Star plans and delivered them to Princess Leia and Candace is happy as a low-level Stormtrooper looking to move up from such menial tasks as fetching Darth Vader’s socks.
The movie’s main characters interact with the Phineas and Ferb characters — though always off-screen in a moment not seen in the film.
Casting those characters was one of the few limitations Povenmire and Marsh faced in making the shows as they were told not to approach the original cast.
“Those guys are busy right now shooting Episode VII, so we were not allowed to use any of them, including Mark Hamill, who we have on other shows and have had on our own shows before,” says Povenmire.
“We got somebody who does the best Harrison Ford impression that we’ve ever heard and we got him to come in and it was very weird to hear it. ... We’ve been having a harder time getting people to sound that much like the other characters but Han was an important one because he has a pivotal scene at the end so we’re getting as close as we can with everybody, especially when it’s dialogue from the movie where we want it to sound exactly like it.”
Sing it with Force!
Of course, this being Phineas and Ferb, there are songs. Povenmire says they typically come up with the story first and then figure out songs that would work with it. “This one was pretty easy,” he says. “You do a big Broadway
ser blasts go by and stuff like that.”
The Unthinkable Showdown
The special also finally offered Povenmire and Marsh a chance to do something that had not been done in the entire run of the show: Pit Phineas against Ferb.
“I couldn’t imagine anything they’d disagree on to turn them against each other or