Disney Characters Assemble in ‘Once Upon a Studio’ Trailer

As Disney Animation celebrates its centennial, the studio released the trailer for its nostalgic Once Upon a Studio, an animated short that the filmmakers describe as a love letter to the studio, its artists and fans.

During a press preview Thursday, Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee remembered the Zoom meeting during which writers-directors Dan Abraham and Trent Correy pitched the story. “I couldn’t talk. I was so emotional,” she said, as Abraham added, “I will never forget that pitch. She made us cry, right from the start.”

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It begins with a live-action shot in the lobby of Disney’s animation building, as a young employee chats with Disney legend Burny Mattinson, who joined the studio as a teenager in 1953 and stayed until his death this year.

Next, a picture hanging on the wall and featuring Mickey Mouse comes to life. The studio’s famous mouse is then joined by a long list of characters from Disney’s animated movies, including hand-drawn characters from films such as 101 Dalmatians and Beauty and the Beast to computer-animated movies such as Zootopia and Encanto. Wish’s protagonist Asha, voiced by Ariana DeBose, also makes an appearance as the character assembles for an anniversary portrait.

In all, roughly 40 voice actors returned for the project, including Paige O’Hara (Beauty and the Beast’s Belle), Dwayne Johnson (Moana’s Maui) and Josh Gad (Frozen’s Olaf). The filmmakers reported that the animation is all new, but they did incorporate some archival sound for the likes of Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s 1940 animated classic Pinocchio.

New voice actors also joined the production for additional classic characters, but underscoring the current climate, the filmmakers received applause when Correy asserted that “no AI” was used.

Once Upon a Studio will premiere Oct. 15 on ABC.

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