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D23 2017 : A Celebration of The Lion King



After displaying the stunning first look at Jon Favreau’s new take on the animated classic, the original creative team behind “The Lion King” gathered in the D23 Expo Arena to share stories of their time working on the classic picture. Moderated by Executive Producer Don Hahn, the panelists included Rob Minkoff (Co-Director), Mark Henn (Supervising Animator for “Young Simba”), and Tony Bancroft (Supervising Animator for “Pumbaa”).

Minkoff revealed to the audience that “The Lion King” almost didn’t happen due to the studio having more faith in the animated musical drama, “Pocahontas”. While “Pocahontas” was a success in its own right, “The Lion King” later out-grossed “Pocahontas” by nearly $200 million. A clip was also shown of his original storyboard pitch of the pivotal moment in the film when the spirit of  Simba’s father appears before him to guide him back to Pride Rock.

Henn and Bancroft each shared their experiences with the film as well, with Henn noting that he had originally campaigned to animate the villain, Scar, but was told by Bancroft that “Simba is the key to this movie; Without Simba, it won’t work.” Bancroft shared a humorous story in which his office-mate (Mike Surrey, Supervising Animator for “Timon”) made a mess of the office to make it seem as though a second earthquake had occurred after the ’94 Northridge quake.

The creative team then welcomed Ernie Sabella (Voice of “Pumbaa”) to the stage, where he sang an impromptu snippet of his signature song, “Hakuna Matata”. Sabella shared joyful tales of working with Nathan Lane (Voice of “Timon”) and how they were both originally slated to sing the eventual Oscar-winning song “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” in the film, but were replaced after Elton John expressed his dissatisfaction with having the “stinky, old, fat warthog singing my song!”.  It was also mentioned that Pumbaa’s frequent flatulence problem wasn’t originally in the script, but was rather a creation of Sabella in order to crack up an exhausted Lane, whom, at the time of recording, was also starring in “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway.

Cast members Jim Cummings (Voice of “Ed”) and Whoopi Goldberg (Voice of “Shenzi”) were welcomed next, with Goldberg being a complete surprise. As two of the three villainous, yet lovable hyenas (the third being Cheech Marin (Voice of “Banzai”), who unfortunately couldn’t make it) they shared their joy of working on the film and displayed rather humorous clips of Cummings’ maniacal laughter and Goldberg’s singing in the recording booth. As the panel drew to a close, Hahn introduced the audience to Carmen Twillie (Vocalist; “Circle of Life”) to sing the Oscar-nominated song that we all fell in love with 23 years ago, reminding us all that we are a part of the great Circle of Life.



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No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters



If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago. 

It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced. 

 Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game. 

From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.

Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.

The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.

What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?

And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Back to the movie. 

Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.

Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.

The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!

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Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023



Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).

Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).

Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm

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Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3



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