But Disney continues to mix it up with "Big Hero 6" (November 7, 2014), the first Marvel collaboration featuring a boy and his huggable bot and a gang of misfit superheroes from San Fransokyo, which could be a big hit, and "Zootopia" (2016), a potentially fun and funny throwback to anthropomorphic animals dressed as humans that have designed their own world, highlighted by a mismatched fox on the run and a rabbit cop.
On the Pixar side, they're back doing originals: "The Good Dinosaur" (May 30, 2014) is their first prehistoric buddy movie between an agrarian Apatosaurus named Arlo (Lucas Neff from TV's Raising Hope) and a little boy named Spot. It's all about visually dealing with scale and venturing into unknown territory outside the comforts of home. And Pete Docter's "Inside Out" (June 19, 2015) is arguably the most unique Pixar movie yet, going inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl, who's ruled by her five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). You can't help but see some of the hand-drawn caricaturing that goes all the way back to the Seven Dwarfs.
But the Walt factor has cunningly seeped into Disney's live-action movies as well, including noteworthy spin-offs "Maleficent" (July 2, 2014), the origin story of the iconic villain from "Sleeping Beauty," starring Angelina Jolie (who charmed the crowd with her love of Disney and dazzled in the teaser trailer), and "Cinderella" (March 13, 2015), directed by Kenneth Branagh, who seems more at ease here than with "Thor." In a video message, he promised to do right by our childhood memories by delivering the charm, glam, romance, and spectacle.
Brad Bird's super-secret "Tomorrowland" (Dec. 12, 2014) starring George Clooney has Walt's visionary DNA all over it, though we still don't know precisely what it's about. However, judging by a delightful '60s era animated teaser presented by Bird and co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof, it hints at the idealism of invention pitted against the dark forces of the Cold War.
Yet "Saving Mr. Banks" (Dec. 20), the studio's Oscar bait for this season, pays tribute to Walt himself (played by Tom Hanks) and his enduring ethos that was celebrated at D23. He tries to woo the unwitting "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) into selling him the rights to make what would become the beloved live-action/animated musical. If the rest of the John Lee Hancock-directed drama is as witty, charming, and devilish as the meet cute scene unveiled between Walt and Travers, then Disney will have a legitimate Best Picture Oscar contender. (More details on the movie, which closes the London Film Festival, here.)