D23: Pixar Announces Two New Feature Projects

7830841.jpgAfter the major critical and box-office success of writer-director Christopher Nolan’s Inception, an intricate leap into the human subconscious disguised as an intense heist movie, it was inevitable that other filmmakers would attempt to duplicate its combination of commercial savvy and (literally) cerebral intelligence. Still, who would’ve ever guessed that the creative, um, minds at family-friendly computer-animation pioneer Pixar would ever dare to pursue a study of the brain’s inner workings—a subject that has puzzled many reasonably intelligent adults?

But, at a Saturday-morning preview of Pixar parent company Walt Disney Studios’ upcoming film slate that took place at this weekend’s Disney fan convention D23 Expo in Anaheim, the studio revealed for the first time that its shrouded-in-secrecy summer 2014 release will take place inside the human mind. The film’s working title is the hilariously inelegant The Untitled Pixar Movie That That Takes You Inside the Mind, but one fitting alternate temporary moniker could be Baby’s First Inception. It’s safe to assume that no Marion Cotillard-esque busty, suicidal femmes fatale will figure into this head trip.

The project is in such an early stage of pre-production that it’s unclear at this point what kind of story and characters will emanate from its cerebral folds, but the fact that director Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Best Animated Feature Oscar winner Up) is taking the helm is a very encouraging sign. Taking the stage at the Anaheim Convention Center, Docter reaffirmed Pixar’s interest in “explor[ing] new worlds,” and teased that TUPMTTYITM (what an acronym!) will take moviegoers to a world that “everyone has been to but no one has ever seen.”

The Pixar presentation at Disney’s preview offered a couple of less elusive sneak peeks as well, including an in-depth look at Brave, a Scottish fairy tale that will be the studio’s next release. A behind-the-scenes featurette of the film, opening June 22, 2012, showed off its impressively mossy and misty visual design, while raising the potential red flag of a potentially overstuffed cast of characters (the heroine apparently has three rambunctious younger brothers and three would-be suitors viewers will have to keep track of, and that’s before mentioning the cave-dwelling witch voiced by Julie Walters). Luckily, though, the one extended Brave clip fans got a glimpse of, in which spirited heroine Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) tears off the more physically limiting parts of her royal gown to challenge her hopeless suitors in an archery contest, demonstrated Pixar’s usual precision-tooled filmmaking, as well as a willingness to boldly acknowledge the film’s status as Pixar’s first movie centered on a female protagonist.

Billy Crystal appeared in person to promote the Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University, which will follow Brave on Pixar’s release calendar in June 2013. Pixar honcho and Walt Disney Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter’s promise that the prequel, which depicts a shaggier, slimmer Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and a retainer-clad Mike Wazowski (the green, one-eyed beast voiced by Crystal) locked in an academic rivalry that predates their adult friendship, would play as an “animated college movie” was borne out in concept art that showed plenty of campus protestors, letterman’s-jacket-clad jocks, and even a band of Goth monsters.

Making the leap from imaginary monsters to historical ones, Pixar will then transition to The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs, a project announced at the D23 Expo and set for release in the holiday period of 2013. The film envisions an alternate universe in which the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs actually misses Earth, allowing humans and brontosauruses to live in harmony.

Which is certainly promising, but it’s the following summer’s release, with its voyage into the recesses of the human noggin, that will surely lead to the most intense fan speculation. But, even after the minor critical and commercial disappointment of this summer’s Cars 2, there’s no doubting Pixar’s ability to win over hearts and, um, minds.

Check out the Brave teaser trailer: