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Depp Cast in 'Lone Ranger,' 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Pirates 4'; More from Disney

Yesterday's "Disney Showcase" at the Kodak theater featured a lot of surprise casting announcements, even more star appearances and a full-length screening of the well-received dog-meets-real-world cartoon Bolt (in theaters in November in Disney Digital 3D). One thing you can say about the studio...they do know how to "go big." The 10-hour presentation was like a combo ShoWest/Comic Con/mini-Disney Oscars. Here were some of the highlights:

Image Johnny Depp capped the event by showing up in full Captain Jack Sparrow regalia, accompanied by the USC Trojan marching band playing the theme song to The Lone Ranger. That's right. Depp is now officially signed on to play Tonto in the upcoming big screen version.

It was also announced that Depp will be returning as Captain Jack Sparrow in Jerry Bruckheimer's Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

And before those two projects, Depp will reteam with director Tim Burton to play the Madd Hatter in the motion-capture, 3-D animated version of Alice in Wonderland.

Speaking of motion-capture, Robert Zemeckis and Jim Carrey made an appearance to promote their 3-D digitial movie version of A Christmas Carol, which will be in theaters Christmas 2009. Based on the elaborate exhibit that was also on display, it looks like it could be an amazing technical feat from the makers of Beowulf and The Polar Express.

Pixar's John Lasseter, now in charge of all of Disney's animation division, also brought good news. Besides 3-D, theatrical releases of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, fans can expect to see Toy Story 3 in 2010, Cars 2 in 2011 (a year up from its previous release) and the original story Up in theaters next summer (the trailer went over well, featuring a cranky old miser voiced perfectly by Ed Asner and an overeager boy scout who wants to join him on his adventure across the world...travelling in a run-down house air-lifted by a million colored balloons).

Lasseter also previewed footage and conceptual art from the traditional, hand-drawn animated feature The Princess and the Frog, set in New Orleans, and accompanied at the event by a live perfromance from Dr. John. It was announced, too, that Oprah Winfrey has signed on to provide the voice of the princess's mother.

Other high-profile celeb appearances at the showcase included The Rock promoting next year's Race to Witch Mountain; Sandra Bullock looking good in her first romantic comedy in a while opposite Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal; Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage announcing a third National Treasure; Robin Williams and John Travolta hawking next year's Old Dogs; Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy live and on motorcyles for Wild Hogs 2; Miley Cyrus perfoming a track from next spring's The Hannah Montana Movie; Isla Fisher promoting Confessions of a Shopaholic; and Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, director Kenny Ortega and the rest of the cast of High School Musical 3.

Also receiving a warm response from the crowd of exhibs/journatlists/industry folks: footage of the new Tron (including old Tron star Jeff Bridges); the real chihuahua (eager to check out the side stage) who appeared alongside Disney chairman Dick Cook and Beverly Hills Chihuahua star George Lopez; and Cook's own playful digs at Jeffrey Katzenberg ("I heard that Jeffrey may finally release his first 3-D movie next year") and not-quite-so-playful digs at ex-Miramax honchos Bob and Harvey Weinstein (something about "not those old dogs" and a certain lack of "class and charm")...he did, though, poke a little fun at himself, too...the Bedtime Stories clip with star Adam Sandler telling stories of "moolah" to Cook was amusing.

Personal highlight: I'm an SC man, so of course seeing the band and Depp on stage was great (although I bet Traveler would have pulled off the whole Lone Ranger standing upright pose better than the horse they hired...who didn't pull it off at all). And sitting one row behind John Lasseter and the Pixar folks, especially when they played the Tron footage near the end, was a kick. Here's hoping their new version--and the rest of Disney's slate--lives up to its grand billing.
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