Tagged: disney

Disney bought “Star Wars,” will make more “Star Wars” movies

I’ve been mildly busy with all things Hurricane Sandy (by which I mean “reporting on Hurricane Sandy,” and also not having power, and so obviously I hope everyone suffering to whatever degree from the storm is doing as well as possible) (I am sure you are now 100 percent okay, now that someone wished you well on a blog), but anyway I had to note this craziness: George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion dollars.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

There are three major components to consider here. First, the “Star Wars” angle, which I will return to in a moment, which in hindsight makes it kind of silly that I listed it first but whatever, moving on. Also, there’s the ILM/Skywalker Sound angle, which means Disney just acquired the visual effects goliath responsible for the spectacle you saw in “Jurassic Park,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and, obviously, the “Star Wars” films.

The “Star Wars” thing is the biggest part of this whole story, because of this: Continue reading

Joss Whedon and Marvel are making a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show

When Joss Whedon signed a new deal with Marvel to write and direct “The Avengers 2” (or whatever it will be called), he also signed up to help develop a live-action Marvel TV series. (That is to say, a TV series set in the same universe as “The Avengers” and the related movies, not a TV series about Marvel.)

What would the show be about? Nobody knew! But most people figured it might have something to do with S.H.I.E.L.D., the spy organization headed up by Samuel L. Jackson in the movies. And yep, that’s exactly what is happening.

The Toldja Tribune reported on Tuesday night that ABC has ordered a pilot for “S.H.I.E.L.D.” (ABC, like Marvel, is owned by Disney.) Whedon will co-write the pilot with his brother, Jed, because apparently Joss Whedon has a brother named Jed Whedon, and despite my many years of Joss Whedon fandom, I had no idea that he had a brother named Jed Whedon. One more time: Jed Whedon. Anyway, Joss could also direct the pilot.

We don’t know anything else yet about the show’s premise. Will it be about lower level S.H.I.E.L.D. agents? Maybe it will be set in the S.H.I.E.L.D. cafeteria? Will Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury or any of the other stars make very rare appearances, presumably during sweeps? (I’m already imagining every episode beginning with “Okay, so we just talked to Nick Fury, and he said…” or “Man, that was a crazy fight we just had with the Hulk, am I right?”) Something else to ponder: How will it tie into the chronology and storylines of the movies, considering there are currently four interconnected but distinct film franchises (“The Avengers,” “Iron Man,” “Captain America” and “Thor,” each with at least one sequel in the pipeline, and presumably more to come) and other Marvel movies on the horizon (like 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and any other movie they might make, i.e. “Ant Man” or something)? And we also don’t know when the show will premiere.

But we do know that Joss Whedon is working on another TV series, so that’s good enough for now.

Breaking news on that long-awaited “Rocketeer” reboot

I bet your Google Alert for Disney’s “The Rocketeer” has been going crazy today. Here’s why: Disney is finally getting around to rebooting Disney’s “The Rocketeer,” a movie Disney released in 1991. You can stop writing letters to Disney demanding that they finally give the world what it wants, because Disney is going to relent and allow us to see additional movies about Disney’s “The Rocketeer.”

Did you see Disney’s “The Rocketeer”? I remember liking it, and more than anything I remember thinking it was SO cool that the bad guy was killed flying a malfunctioning jetpack into the Hollywood sign. (Spoiler alert, for a movie that came out in 1991, I guess?) To my younger self, that was all kinds of nifty, though I have no idea why. Now when I see bits of the movie, I just think it’s goofy. It’s one of those movies I saw as a little kid and liked because of something stupid, but when I see bits as an adult, I can’t understand what I liked in the first place. (“Hook” lands in the same category. Lots of people my age loooove “Hook,” for some weird reason.) And there are movies that fall into the opposite category, like “Die Hard” or “Cocktail,” where they just get better as I age.

Anyway, back to the point. The point is that Disney is going to give you a new “Rocketeer” movie.

“The Lone Ranger” still unnecessarily expensive, generally unnecessary

Johnny Depp is making a “Lone Ranger” movie because of course he is, that’s how Johnny Depp rolls, he doesn’t care about the movie star game or doing what people expect of him, and if people expect him to put his considerable talents to use tackling challenging roles in interesting films, well he simply must go in the exact opposite direction and make grim, unmerciful shlock. Oh, the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” wasn’t enough for you? That “Dark Shadows” remake didn’t inspire you? Then he’ll find an even older show with even less resonance for today’s audiences, and he’ll star in an even more expensive adaptation of that show, and for some reason it will involve werewolves.

The “Lone Ranger” movie was temporarily shuttered by Disney while they tried to lower the budget from $250 million dollars to $215 million dollars; this was accomplished when Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer all cut their upfront fees and agreed to trim some action sequences. These are the sacrifices you make when you just have to bring the story of “The Lone Ranger” to modern audiences. But they did it! They made the difficult decisions and we’re still going to get a “Lone Ranger” movie that absolutely no one wants, and it’s going to cost $215 million dollars, a comical amount of money for this movie, but at least it won’t cost $250 million.

And now please sit down — are you sitting down? Okay, now that you’re sitting down — so that I may deliver utterly shocking news to you: The movie might be back up to (or even north of) that original $250 million figure. Oh, and it’s “days or possibly weeks” behind schedule, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the official trade magazine of costly disasters.

Verbinski is again being asked to make cuts after “he already made such sacrifices as losing a major train sequence in the first round of trims.” He lost a MAJOR TRAIN SEQUENCE? Nobody told me that. Where are the telethons for Gore Verbinski’s major train sequence? Where’s the Kickstarter project raising money to restore his major train sequence? Today, we are all “The Lone Ranger’s” excised major train sequence, etc.

Also, because this movie is a $250 million documentary about one director’s obsession with trains, we get this gem of a line:

Period trains are a huge element in the movie, say sources, and Verbinski opted for the production to construct its own locomotives from scratch rather than employ existing railroad vehicles.

That’s just an utterly defensible explanation for this movie’s budget overages. Alan Horn, the new Disney chief who officially started work this week, can easily explain this one away. Look, when you’re making a movie based on a TV show that went off the air 53 years before the movie version is scheduled to come out, sometimes you just have to spend more than $250 million dollars making a movie about period trains and, also, Johnny Depp wearing wacky costumes and using up his remaining public goodwill. It’s like William Goldman always said: You can’t make an omelet without breaking $250 million dollars worth of period trains.

Damon Lindelof makes big money (yes, despite the final season of “Lost”)

Damon Lindelof, one of the driving forces behind “Lost” (and occasional target of this blog’s ire), has gone and hit it big. Deadline reports that Disney is giving him a lot of money to write something that will inevitably fall apart in the third act:

In its latest attempt to hatch a large-scale film that can play to a family audience, Disney has made a seven-figure deal with screenwriter and Lost exec producer Damon Lindelof to write and produce an original large-scale science fiction feature film.

I’m confused. Is it going to be medium-scale, or what?

Other than the fact that the project has a working title of 1952, I couldn’t pry plot details out of anybody.  I’m not sure if the title connotes a period the film is set in, or if it is a Lostreference. I’ve also heard that this project isn’t just being conceived for movies only, but that it has multiple platform aspirations.

I am just going to say right now that I would bet the entire yearly earnings of this blog that “1952,” which is apparently the working title for this movie, is not a “Lost” reference, and Fleming is probably just saying that for SEO purposes, the sly fox.

Anyway, Lindelof won’t work on this until after he’s finished the “Star Trek 2” script, so expect this movie to be written sometime around 2019. (Yes, I pretty much wrote this post just to say that.)

In a race against time, Disney wants to film two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels back-to-back

The upcoming fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” might seem like a fitting swan song for the series — more Johnny Depp, an Oscar-caliber director (Rob Marshall), enhanced costars (Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane) — but apparently Disney wants to bleed this sucker dry for as much cash as they can. HitFix reports that with the fourth film wrapped, Disney is quietly telling the cast and crew to set aside time to film the fifth and sixth movies back-to-back in the near future.

On the one hand, this makes financial sense. These things are astronomically expensive, to the point where the third film cost $300 million and this one reportedly cut the budget significantly and it still cost well over $200 million. So filming back-to-back helps them spread the costs out a little bit, using sets and crew members and such over one window and for one set cost.

On the other hand, the second and third films were shot this way. They exhausted director Gore Verbinski, and the films themselves ranged from so-so (the second one) to downright horrid (the third one), perhaps owing in part to no coherent strategy, an inability to edit, the maddeningly compressed editing timetable and the fact that who cares these things print money for Disney, so it worked out, despite clearly being bad for the creative aspect of the series.

The smart logic says Disney isn’t just doing this because they liked the fourth or they want to save money. Johnny Depp has been playing this part since 2002. When the next sequel comes out, he will have committed nine years of his life to this thing. He will be doing “Dark Shadows” and “The Lone Ranger” (for Disney) next year. If they shoot these new sequels over 2012 or 2013 and they come out sometime between 2013 and 2015, that will represent 13 years of Depp’s career chained to one character, one role, one series. The longer they wait, the more time he has to sign up for more remakes and adaptations with Tim Burton, and the less likely it’ll be that he would want to come back to this gig.

Depp was 40 when the first “Pirates” came out. It was a life-changing and career-changing role for him. It netted him his first Oscar nomination, it reignited his career when it was flagging, it opened the doors to do films like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Alice in Wonderland” and many other films (of big and small budgets) that might not have been greenlighted without his burgeoning superstar presence. Oh, and they made him rich and successful as all hell. Next summer, he turns 48. Even if they wait until 2013 to film this, their swashbuckling star, performing his globally famous and beloved role, would be 50. How much longer will he want to put on eye makeup, braids and a blouse to jump around with a fake sword?

With no Depp, there is no “Pirates.” That much is clear. This isn’t “Spider-Man” or Bond or any other franchise. (Yes, I know Universal is trying to launch a Damon-less “Bourne” series, but that clearly won’t take unless it’s its own amazing thing, which seems highly unlikely, plus Universal is releasing it, so obviously it is going to flop.) This franchise is solely and entirely tied to his presence as Capt. Jack Sparrow. Disney knows this, and if they rush into production in late 2011 or 2012, they’re trying to wring as much Depp as they can before he — to say nothing of audiences — tire of this and move on.

Well, this is nice to look at

“Tangled” hit theaters last Wednesday, marking the 50th animated movie from Disney. (No, that doesn’t include Pixar.) So they put together this montage showing glimpses at all 50 films. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia, but wow, the last 15 years have not been kind to the Disney animation factory.


“Tron Legacy” will be rated PG, gunning for family bucks

“Tron Legacy” has been given a PG rating from the MPAA. This might not seem like big news, but considering it’s got Disney’s marketing machine behind it, this is actually rather important. The studio can now push this thing full-throttle to families with young children as well as young boys, nostalgic adults and twenty/thirtysomethings who like cool visuals. I may have said this before, but this thing easily earns $225 million and possibly quite a bit more, topping the December box office. [BOM]

Disney giving up on princess movies and fairy tales

The L.A. Times had an interesting story this weekend about Disney and their upcoming movie “Tangled.” The movie, a retelling of the Rapunzel story, comes out tomorrow; it will also be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation department for a good long while.

It’s an interesting read for a variety of reasons. The animated “princess movies” have been Disney’s bread and butter since “Snow White” in 1937. But the years of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine dominating at the box office is long gone. Their most recent attempt to regain the princess-driven mojo, last year’s “The Princess and the Frog,” underperformed.

In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizable investment, Disney discovered too late that “Princess and the Frog” appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral “Tangled” and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider.

Disney hopes “Tangled” will draw boys, teenagers and adults to the theater, succeeding where its frog-prince saga failed. But it’s taking no such chances in the future.

The big performers for Disney these days all have something in common:

Now, different kinds of Disney characters are elbowing their way into the megaplexes and toy aisles, including Pixar’s “Toy Story” buddies Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Capt. Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a platoon of superheroes from the recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment.

Yep, the common theme stands out a bit: gender. The princess movies don’t succeed as much because no guys (young or old) have an interest in seeing them, and young males are considered the driving forces of box office revenue. Plus, the notion of princesses (and what those movies represented) is outdated:

Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of “tween” TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel’s Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon’s Miranda Cosgrove.

“By the time they’re 5 or 6, they’re not interested in being princesses,” said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children’s lives. “They’re interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values.”

MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, knocked the toy industry’s blond bombshell off her stilettos by recognizing how little girls’ interests have morphed.

Disney can spin the failure of traditional animated films any way they want, but the issue isn’t just the princess movies. The issue is the movies themselves. The old-fashioned hand-drawn animated films reached their zenith in 1994 with “The Lion King,” and the next year “Toy Story” came out and rewrote the book on animation. Sure, there were some moderate hits (“Tarzan,” “Lilo & Stitch”). But the era of these films being megahits was over. The fault wasn’t the gender of the central characters (see: “Treasure Planet,” “The Iron Giant” and “Titan A.E.”). The problem was the films themselves, which lacked the storytelling oomph to raise their profile above just “Oh, some old-fashioned animated movies, how quaint.”

But there’s a broader problem here, and that’s the dual suggestions that A) Movies aimed at little girls are not worth the investment and B) If they want to reach little girls, they need to reach them like the execrable Bratz dolls do.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think movies like “Up” succeed because there’s a big audience for movies centered on crotchety old men. That movie succeeded because it was a Pixar film, which meant it came from filmmakers of great talent who had delivered great films in the past. Wouldn’t it solve all of the problems for Pixar to just center a movie around a female character (not even a princess, but simply a lady of some sort)? Oh, right.