Johnny Depp

Buena Vista Pictures

The entire Disney empire is turning into a one-man show. Luckily, that man is Johnny Depp.

The easy-on-the-eyes box-office heavyweight has signed on to appear in no less than three tentpole flicks for the Mouse House, chief among them reprising his Oscar-nominated role of Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

In addition to the almost inevitable announcement of another Pirates go-round—during which the names Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley went unmentioned—Disney also announced during a showcase event at the Kodak Theatre Wednesday that Depp would be joining the masked man in a remake of The Lone Ranger.

Depp will essay one of Hollywood's best-known sidekicks, Tonto.

And that's not all.

Disney's Cars & The Frog Princess


Completing Disney's casting coup trifecta, Depp has also come onboard Tim Burton's live-and-CGI reworking of Alice in Wonderland as the unbirthday-celebrating Mad Hatter, the Hunter S. Thompson of Wonderland's tea-party set.

This will be Burton's eighth time directing Depp.

Meanwhile, Disney pulled out all the stops at its showcase event, as Depp proved by taking to the stage dressed as Sparrow with the added prop of a Lone Ranger mask, followed up with a performance by Miley Cyrus.

And as if that wasn't enough of a draw, the studio's next announcement surely was.

Disney confirmed that none other than Oprah Winfrey will pass down one of the all-time pieces of woman-to-woman wisdom, signing on to lend her larynx to The Princess and the Frog.

The hand-drawn silver-screen offering will be set in New Orleans and feature Anika Noni Rose as the lovelorn Princess Tiana, who learns that sometimes you have to kiss a frog or two before you find Mr. Right.

Winfrey, already a mama bear to millions and previously the woman behind animalistic characters in Bee Movie and Charlotte's Web, will voice Eudora, the mother of the first black princess in Disney's long line of lunchbox- and PJ's-ready royal heroines.

Randy Newman has penned six new songs for the 2-D film, which is due out Christmas Day next year.

Disney and Pixar chief animation officer John Lasseter made the announcement and another revelation. Contrary to recent trends in the economy- and strike-battered biz, Cars 2—the sequel to the 2006 blockbuster—is ahead of schedule and will be zooming into theaters in 2011, a year earlier than planned.

A Cars Toon, a series of Cars-themed animated shorts featuring some of the sidekick characters from the movie, will also be screening in theaters, as well as airing on the Disney Channel.

"You’ll see them everywhere,” Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said. “We’re going to keep this Cars thing going."

They're also going to keep that National Treasure thing going, announcing a third installment of the action hit.

Rounding out their massive slate of upcoming projects is a 3-D motion-capture version of holiday blockbuster-in-waiting A Christmas Carol, in which Jim Carrey will make like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy and play no fewer than seven of the story's characters.

The same technology that was used on Tom Hanks in The Polar Express will be employed for the project.

"It's pretty much a party and everyone's invited," Carrey said.

(Originally published Sept. 24, 2008, at 4:12 p.m. PT.)

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