Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Teaser Trailer for 'Big Hero 6'

I, Robot meets the Pillsbury Dough Boy in this cute-clever-cool teaser trailer for Disney's newest animated feature Big Hero 6.

In Big Hero 6, a group of nerd geniuses with a passion for science, technology and robots, uncover a mysterious plot in the mash-up city of San Fransokyo. To solve the mystery, they join forces as high-tech heroes in a story based on the Marvel comics of the same name. At first glance, this one is looks like a lot of fun.

Big Hero 6 is co-directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt) and opens in U.S. theaters on November 7, 2014

Chillin' with Marvel Super Heroes in Disney Infinity 2.0

Disney Infinity has posted a new video teasing the release of the Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 edition. The playset storyline will see Thor's villainous brother Loki freeze New York City (and best as we can tell, the better part of the Earth) and send a cadre of evil beasties to wreak havoc. Taking on the role of your favorite Avenger, it'll be up to you to save the world (again and again) from imminent peril. You can also build your own super hero world in Toy Box mode and provide adequate parking.

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) will be released this fall and will be compatible with the existing Infinity universe of characters. Pricing will be in line with existing game components across all the major console platforms ($74.99 for a Starter Pack, $34.99 for Play Sets, $13.99 for individual characters, and $4.99 for Power Disc Packs).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Be in 'Star Wars: Episode VII' and Support UNICEF

J.J. Abrams has a special message for you from Abu Dhabi, where he is on location shooting Star Wars: Episode VII:

Win a trip to London's Pinewood Studios where you could appear in the next Star Wars film, directed by Abrams. HELLO! YOU COULD APPEAR IN THE NEXT STAR WARS FILM IN FULL HAIR, MAKEUP AND WARDROBE!

As little as a $10 contribution to UNICEF Innovation Labs and Programs will get you entered. There are free entry options, but come on, this is for a good cause. Pry your credit card out of your wallet and make a donation. Be a part of the new Star Wars: Force For Change initiative. It's pretty cool.

Entries must be received no later than July 18, 2014. For complete details, visit

Saturday, May 17, 2014

'Million Dollar Arm' is a Highly Entertaining, By-the-Numbers Sports Movie

Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm.
J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent looking to land the one big client that will rescue his foundering business. Desperate for ideas, he hits upon the notion of traveling to India to develop potential star pitchers from the country's glut of cricket fanatics--and dearth of baseball players. It's the premise of Million Dollar Arm, the latest feel-good sports film from Disney in the spirit of Invincible, Miracle and Cool Runnings. Million Dollar Arm is a predictable, by-the-numbers inspirational story, but it's also a well-written and well-acted one.

In a made-for-TV event that attracts would-be athletes, young and old, from across India, J.B. finds Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), his two contest finalists who have strong arms but not a lick of baseball knowledge. Tasked by his all-business financial backer Chang (Tzi Ma), J.B. must bring the boys to the U.S., develop their talents, and get them signed to pro baseball contracts in less than a year. That Rinku and Dinesh achieve their dreams by the movie's end will come as no surprise. That J.B. will learn as much about life from his charges as they will about U.S. culture and sports won't either. But, that's not the point. Million Dollar Arm succeeds by reveling in all the sports movie tropes and cliches it rolls out and executes them to perfection. It's tightly directed by Craig Gillespie and benefits from a smartly written script by Tom McCarthy that respects both characters and cultures and doesn't talk down to the audience. It tells its story honestly and sincerely while deftly avoiding cheap laughs and sloppy sentiment.

(l. to r.) Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Jon Hamm and Pitobash
The cast is rock solid. Hamm charms as the slick sports agent who puts too much emphasis on closing the deal and not enough on living his life. Even when J.B. acts like a jerk, you still like the guy. Sharma and Mittal are quite good as the would-be pitchers, exuding playful awe at their new American surroundings and just the right level of determination when the odds are stacked against them. I particularly liked Indian actor Pitobash as J.B.'s eager beaver go-fer Amit who loves baseball and longs to be a coach. He provides just the right balance of comic relief and pathos as he begins living a dream every bit as much as Rinku and Dinesh are. Rounding out the cast are Aasif Mandvi as J.B.'s practical business partner, Lake Bell as J.B.'s whip-smart and equally practical tenant-cum-girlfriend, Alan Arkin as the narcoleptic baseball scout J.B. brings to India, and Bill Paxton as the unorthodox coach who takes on the challenge of training Rinku and Dinish. They are all surprisingly good in a movie that offers few surprises, other than it's much more entertaining and satisfying than you'd ever expect it to be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'Maleficent' Executive Producer Don Hahn in the MCL

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
Elegant, graceful and evil to the core, Maleficent, the wicked fairy from the 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty, is one of Disney's most enduring villains--and one of it's most original. Is there anything more badass than holding a grudge for 16 years, then morphing into a fire-breathing dragon?

Maleficent has remained so popular that 55 years later, she's finally getting her own live-action film. Maleficent will star Angelina Jolie (you may have heard about it) and opens in U.S. theaters on May 30th. The movie is not just Maleficent's take on the whole Sleeping Beauty saga, but also the back story of how she became the mistress of all that is evil.

Don Hahn
The film's executive producer Don Hahn is quick to give credit for Maleficent's longevity to Disney Legend Marc Davis, who animated the character. "(Sleeping Beauty) was published in France originally, but there was a lot of oral traditions and there was no Maleficent. That's Marc and the story guys and Walt. And she's become this very popular villain."

Don is my guest in The Mouse Castle Lounge today and he talks not only about the character and the film Maleficent, but also about his own amazing career at Disney that's spanned well over 30 years. Don literally started in the basement at the studio, first working underneath the Ink and Paint Department, perusing animation art in the Morgue (which would eventually become the Animation Research Library). He would later assist on such films as Pete's Dragon and The Fox and the Hound before landing his first associate producer gig on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. His breakthrough would come as producer of Beauty and the Beast, the landmark film that in 1992 would become the first animated movie to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. This was the first of a string of producer credits for Don that included exceptional films like The Lion King (1994), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), and The Emperor's New Groove (2000). In 2009, Don would narrate, direct and co-produce Waking Sleeping Beauty, his honest and heartfelt documentary about Disney's second golden age of animation and the many lofty talents and loftier egos that made it happen.

Don is one of the giants of Disney animation and it's my pleasure to welcome him to The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!


Related: The Making of 'The Lion King'

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Angelina Jolie and the Cast of 'Maleficent' on the Blue Carpet in London

The cast of Maleficent, some guy named Brad, and the daughter of a Beatle strolled the blue carpet today for a "World of Maleficent" event at London's Kensington Palace. Select costumes and props from the film, which opens in the U.S. on May 30th, were on display not to mention a pleasant assortment of eye candy.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

Elle Fanning

Lesley Manville

Sam Riley

Fashion designer Stella McCartney

(l. to r.) Elle Fanning, Lesley Manville,
Angelina Jolie and Sam Riley