Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Snow And The Seven Find One...

Walt Disney Pictures has signed Francis Lawrence(Constantine, I Am Legend) to direct "Snow and the Seven", the Kung Fu interpretation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

The Hollywood Reporter describes the story as a fantasy adventure that follows a British girl raised in 19th century Hong Kong. She realizes it's her destiny is to conquer the forces of evil and has seven Shaolin monks prepare her to fight. Scott Rudin and Andrew Gunn will produce.

This is the production that was mentioned in one of our previous "Forgotten Mouse Tales" posts.


Something which never was or is no more: "Nevermores"...

In light of Disney's decision to ban smoking from its films I thought we should go back and examine what characters in classic Disney films have actually used the dreaded weed, tobacco. Disney's new edict got me thinking about what wonderful villains and other characters we would be deprived of if this kind of PC mentality had been in place fifty years ago.

The most obvious character I can remember is Betty Lou Gerson 's voice work as Cruella De Vil from "One Hundred and One Dalmatians". Remember her prancing around in her gaudy fashion outfits puffing on that cigarette?

Or what about the Richard Haydn's portrayal of the Hooka smoking Caterpillar from "Alice in Wonderland" ?

Some of these people dislike smoking so much they consider it a sin almost... maybe they're right. After-all, look at James Woods version of Hades in his underworld from Disney's "Hercules"... yep, that's right. He's a smoker. Nothing like making a villain without any vices... what an exciting bad guy he would be if you were to take away all that you hate about him.

There are others I can think of, but I'll leave that up to you.

What characters can you remember that smoked in Disney films? Now they don't have to be from an animated film. It can be live-action if you want. So put your two-cents in. What characters would we never have seen had Walt put this policy in himself? I know some of you will want to bring up the fact that Walt was a smoker and hid it from the public, that he died of it... but I'm not of the belief that people need a company to hide all the bad things in life from them. I also don't believe that a company should be making those kind of decisions for you.

A parent should.

So tell me... what or who would we have missed, had Walt Disney Productions had this policy in place during the Golden Age of Disney Animations?

Hat Tip to reader Greg for his suggestion for this article.

No Character...

A restraining order has been issued by the Delhi High Court on a Mumbai-based company that prevents it from making or selling products using Disney characters on a plea by Disney Enterprises Inc.

This is a priority of the Walt Disney Company in its Asian plans. One of the key stumbling blocks to building a theme park in India and mainland China is the rampant copyright infringement that goes on there. The Western understanding of intellectual property has yet to fully take hold in various parts of Asia. If Bob Iger and his executives can become confident that it can be contained then we can look forward to a much quicker expansion into those territories.

Story Of The Lamp, So Far...

Variety has a positive review of "The Pixar Story" up that discusses the Leslie Iwerks' documentary film of the little company from Emeryville that could. A rough cut of this played at Comic-Con this week. Unforunately, I didn't get to see it due to a really booked schedule. Go over and give it a read... interesting stuff.

Iwerks, btw is the daughter of Ub Iwerks.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Forgotten Mouse Tales 5...

Time for another look at what the Mouse has bought and forgotten. Sometimes stories get snapped up almost because there's a "I've got to have it first" mentality in Hollywood. This affects practcally every studio in Southern California and even Disney is not immune from this behavior...

The Greatest American Hero

Walt Disney Pictures had Stephen J. Cannell ready to produce this pitch, writen by Paul Hernandez, a super-hero fantasy based on the 80's televison series about a mild mannered teacher that finds a suit left by some form of aliens. He looses the instruction manual for how to operate the suit and the hilarity begins. Didn't they do this with "Condorman" already? Oh right, it was bad... wasn't it? Actually, I was a fan of this show as a little kid. With the right script and cast it could be a gem... just a suggestion to the casting agents, Steve Carell anyone?

The Three Pigs 

Walt Disney Feature Animation was supposed to make this retelling of the classic story that features the Pigs who take their book apart to confuse and keep the wolf away, build a paper airplane and fly off on a fairy tale adventure of their own. On their journey, they meet up with the cat and the fiddle and a dragon, cutting across many different levels of culture. The story was base on David Wiesner's best-selling children's book.

Modern Day Pirate Project

Not satisfied with rulling the seas of a period film, Walt Disney Pictures paid Daniel Taylor a mid-six figures for this modern-day story about pirates in the South China Sea. Jack Sparrow's great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson perhaps? Andrew Gunn and Ann Marie Fanderlin were to produce.

Untitled Danny Cannon Pitch

Jerry Bruckheimer was to produce this film, to be written and directed by Danny Cannon about a man is hired to protect a woman, during which time something goes wrong and the duo find themselves on the run. That sounds like something I've never seen before... where oh where did they come up with that original plot I wonder? Hmmm...

Bartimaeus Trilogy 

This story by Jonathan Stroud, to be made by Miramax, was the first installment of a book deal he made called "The Amulet of Samarkand" is about an ancient djinni(a genie) named Bartimaeus who is summoned by a disobedient young wizard to steal a magical amulet from a powerful magician. If the book was a success there was going to a trilogy of books... and if the movie was a success then a trilogy of film as well. Obviously.


A comedey written by Jeff Nathanson about two young filmmakers given $3 million by a mysterious benefactor to make a film in Providence, Rhode Island. When they go to shoot their movie they discover that they have been unwitting players in an FBI sting operation. Based loosely on a true story. Nathanson would direct the film. David Permut and Larry Brezner were attached to produce for the Mouse.

Sweet Hush 

Disney paid a mid-six figures for this tale of a widowed, female head of an Appalachian apple-growing empire who is pitted against the White House when her only son comes home from Harvard after having secretly married the president's daughter.  Disney bought the film rights to this novel by Deborah Smith. Deborah Martin Chase was to produce this for Walt Disney Pictures.


Walt Disney Pictures paid 1 million dollars for the rights to this film, based on a sci-fi series of young adult books by John Christopher is about a young boy who resists aliens' attempts to brainwash him after the earth's apocalypse. Don Murphy is producing for Disney through his Angry Films production company.

Jack Sparrow Comes Home Christmas...

I forgot to mention this because I've been busy of late...

Disney announced that "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End" comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on December 4, 2007. The DVD version will come in 1 or 2 discs... Blu-Ray comes with a slew of games and additions that help the Mouse support its new preferred format. The holiday date gives the Johnny Depp film a good deal of time to still pass "Dead Man's Chest" though...

Thanks to Ultimate Disney for the cover art.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

D'oh! Lucky Number Seven...

Homer ruled the box office this weekend.

"The Simpson's Movie" came in at number 1 with just under $72 million here in America. The film's international gross was over $112 million. That's a whole lot of Butterfingers for Bart. The Simpson's keep this up and they'll be richer than Mr. Burns before too long.

"Chuck and Larry" get moved down to number 2 with a $71 million total since last week. That Wizard from Hogwarts stays in third place with around $17 million for almost $242 million in the states. Michael Bay's love-fest to the Summer Box Office, the "Transformers" stays at 5th place with $285 million at home and $192 abroad for a $477 million total.

Remy held on to the number 7 with a domestic total of a little under $180 million. It's still chugging along with over 2 million a day on the weekends. The foreign take at Box Office Mojo is around $37 million, but that figure hasn't been updated yet for this weeks numbers. Many of the release dates for "Ratatouille" are mid August through October so there are many countries yet to add to the final gross. Let's hope the bootlegs aren't flooding too many of these markets.

Just remember, all domestic takes are accurate up to the 29th of July, but the international tallies won't be updated till tomorrow.

We're deep into the second half of summer with only a handful of movies still to be released.

Observations On San Diego's Fantasyland Part 1...

Greetings everyone...

Back from Comic-Con where my friends and I had a great time wandering San Diego. The only problem is that the event has gotten so big since we first started going that it was difficult to move(attendance has doubled since we started going). I met up with several friends and a few Imagineers I know.

I love attending all the panels, the movies, the television shows, the comics, the dealers on the floor and all things there that are Disney(which is really only a small part), but every year when they have people come to ask questions I cringe. Not because of the silly, sometime very elaborate costumes, but what they ask. Some questions are just boring, while others make you wonder how these people's mother let them out of their basement. All in all, it was a fun, silly and sometimes embarrassing affair. Over the course of the day we got to talk and see many things(most non-Disney related). The Warner Brothers panel featuring Zach Snyder's "Watchmen" presentation was great except everyone was a little disappointed there was no "Dark Knight" presence. I got to hear from the director of one of my favorite movies "Blade Runner", when Ridley Scott, cast and crew spoke at a panel about the new DVD release. There was a large "Pirates of the Caribbean" presence on the main floor with a huge pirate ship and hi-def screens advertising the upcoming Blu-Ray disc of the film. Disney's presence was very clear here, although I surprised at how little there was related to movies like "Enchanted" or "National Treasure 2". It's clear though that Disney as well as the other studios are looking to this built in audience as a major place to do promotion for future projects.

There was a Pixar panel that announced the release on November 6th of the first 13 Pixar shorts on a DVD. A nice, little history of the company was presented as well.

I bumped into an idol of mine on the floor. Ron Clements, the co-director of "Little Mermaid", "Aladdin", "Hercules" and the forthcoming "Princess and the Frog" was there with his lovely wife. Both were very nice, very gracious and quite patient with my fawning praise upon him.

Next time I'll cover the panel on "Narnia: Prince Caspian" and Pixar's "Wall-E" as well as a few things I've found out over burgers and beers...

Friday, July 27, 2007


There will be no updates till the end of the weekend as I will be in San Diego at the Mecca of all Geekdom... "Comic-Con International 2007". I'll be meeting up with several like-minded friends and sources for our annual trek south.

As I tell my friends, this is the one time of the year that I attempt to buy back my childhood. The only thing negative would be if we happened to run into a Suit from the powers that be.

Thankfully, I'll be incognito and most will never know I was even there...

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on the other side.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Very Big, Banner Year...

The Hollywood Reporter has an article about the successful year that Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International(formerly Buena Vista International) is having at the box office. It mentions that "POTC: AWE" will likely make much more than "Dead Man's Chest" in its final take. Also of not is that this is the 13th year the distributor has reached the billion dollar mark. Will it continue? Have no fear, Underdog is here. Or is he? I'm not sure if this film will be the hit that Disney hopes... it doesn't excite me like the original cartoon did. Perhaps some stories don't translate from animation as well as others. After that release I don't believe there's much on Walt Disney Pictures release schedule until "Enchanted" in the fall... which may have a nice little bonus in front of it if some of the rumors I hear are true...

Paris, The Happiest Place On Earth?

Euro Disney SCA, the company that runs the Disneyland Paris Resort(of which Disney owns 39 percent) released its third quarter revenue figures today.

Good news.

Revenue rose 322 million euros or 12 percent.

Theme park revenues were up 8 percent.

Hotels and Disney Village profits increased 21 percent.

The occupancy rate went up 4.7 percent.

Well this will certainly be good news for those Imagineers that are staring over those plans for expansion of the Resort, won't it. Oops... did I say thatt?

Good news, none the less...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thanks For Caring...

You've probably all heard that Bob Iger has announced that Disney films will no longer show cigarettes because of the image it presents to children.

No word yet as to when they will no longer show death and killing... we wouldn't want to influence kids into doing that would we?

I hate when anyone, be they a government or a company try and be my parents. I already have parents. Thanks anyway, Bob. Please... please... please... stop with the PC crap.


The Blessing Of A Curse (Theme parks)...

It's funny how life works.

I mean sometimes we expect something and when it doesn't happen we feel it's the end of the world. Or sometimes we focus on the negative things that have happened to us. And later down the line we realize that what happened helped us.

Made us stronger.

That is what has happened to the Walt Disney Company.

Most people feel that DCA is a disappointment. WDS would be a colossal disappointment. HKDL is an avoidable disappointment. But you know what?

I'm glad they happened. Really... I am.

Why, you wonder?

Well, if you examine the administration of Michael Eisner you can see a disturbing trend. If you look at the majority of the first decade he ran the company it was a very positive run. With the exception of a few things(ahem, Port Disney... ahem, WestCot) it was a very successful and smartly ran period. I've mentioned it before, but in 1994 when Frank Wells died in that helicopter crash the whole Disney world changed. Eisner lost his balance... the yin to his yang was gone. Wells was the counter-balance to Eisner. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire... he completed Eisner. With him gone the ego that was kept in check was let loose and we had the second half of Eisner reign. The one that turned out to be utterly disastrous.

But corporations like people, will make mistakes because they are ran by people. And just like people, corporations will go through times where they make bad decisions and if they are smart they'll learn from it. They'll grow... and respond to the bad decisions they made. Hopefully for the better.

Think about what would have happened had DCA been a success. What would have been the response had WDS been a roaring success in Paris. How Hong Kong would have responded had HKDL had unbelievably high attendance.

What would have happened?

Those parks would have shown Eisner the way for the future of the Mouse House. We'd be looking at Micro-Parks. Bland, unthemed parks would have become the norm for Disney. We wouldn't likely have a new park coming or an incredibly large makeover of DCA.

Instead we have a track record over the past decade of how NOT to construct a theme park. Now, since Disney has been designing these parks for over 40 years you would have thought they would have known better. Hubris can affect companies as well as people. Sometimes it's good to get their attitude adjusted. Eisner and his collection of Suits had their egos cut down closer to size. Maybe not down to where they belong, but closer to the point where they realized they had made a tragic error in judgment. The Suits thought that taking Knotts/Six Flaggs Land and slapping the Disney name on it was enough to bring people in droves. It didn't happen and they learned... more importantly, the stock holders learned. They finally realized the damaged Eisner had done to the company over the last decade.

It was painful. But it was necessary... Where do you think we would be today had this not happened.

Would we be getting the incredible reboot of DCA?

Would we be seeing WDI drawing up proposals to turn WDS into a much better park?

Would we be seeing the expansion ideas that are on the drawing boards for HKDL?

Would we be seeing the reworking and eventual growth of WDW that is supposed to happen in a few years?

No, we wouldn't. And I know it would have been nice that we could have avoided this painful chapter in a company we all love. But sometimes you have to go through the fire to realize what you have and where you're going. Sometimes you can't see what is in front of you. Sometimes you don't believe what is most obvious. Sometimes you feel you can do no wrong. As humans we fail all the time. Michael Eisner felt he could do no wrong... and he was wrong. But now that we're on the other side of it...

Don't you feel the Walt Disney Company is a better place? It's management is better. It realizes what went wrong in the past. It will try not make those mistakes in the future. Growing pains are not comfortable, but sometimes they are necessary. The next decade could be a Golden Age for Disney and its fan base. Hopefully Bob Iger will have the wisdom to avoid Eisner's mistakes... or at least most of the mistakes. He's not perfect of course.

After all, he's only human.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Orleans Open For Business...

No, we're not talking about the recovery after Hurricane Katrina.

We're talking about New Orleans Square. It opened on this day in 1966. This was the first new "land" added since the parks opening. While the area opened up, the attraction for which it is famous was still being constructed and wouldn't open till the following year.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blue Sky Alert Asia (Hong Kong): A Dragon's Secrets...

I believe it's necessary to give a brief update as to HKDL's status based on the majority of the reactions Blue Sky has gotten to the Anaheim Alert posted last week.

It appears that Disney is working it's leverage with the Hong Kong government. There's a report coming out of China that Bill Ernest, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort has been stating the Walt Disney Company's intent to build a third hotel. This one is supposed to be located in between the current two resorts. This is most likely the hotel we mentioned in our previous HK Alert. The only reasons that this news would be released is to apply pressure on the local government for negotiations of the expansion of the park and to portray to the world that HKDL is a success.

Is it?


And no.

While the Hong Kong resort has been a major disappointment, it is not a failure. Just as DCA is not a failure, but a disappointment of higher expectations for a lower investment. Under Bob Iger and John Lasseter, with a little encouragement from Steve Jobs, the plans for expansion over the next five years are incredibly robust. Although we don't expect the Walt Disney Company to start throwing around budgets like the Oriental Land Company, it will be comparably close in terms of costs and theming.

Now as we've said before... HKDL is a lovely park. Just under-built. Unlike Walt Disney Studios Paris which truly didn't deserve to have the Disney name upon it, Hong Kong has all the makings of a great park. But the days of Eisner's building small and then expanding out are over. With the history of disappointment behind it the current mantra from Burbank and Glendale will be elaborate theming and appropriate budgets to go along with them.

A compass that doesn't point north...

Development continues on the two E-Tickets that are being developed for the expansion into Adventureland. The POTC and Haunted Mansion rides will definitely be showcase pieces of entertainment that will expand the capacity of the park greatly. While the start date is still in question, the recent admission by Bill Ernest is an example of Disney trying to get out in front of the message and not play defense. Iger and company want to apply some pressure to government officials so as to have a better bargaining position for the upcoming projects.

The Downtown Disney projects are still in development but may or may not be called that. There are various groups fighting for prominence in WDI and no one knows which one will come out on top.

I've read several e-mails from people expressing worries about Paris and HK with the news that DCA will be getting such a large infusion of cash. While it is true Anaheim's Second Gate is going to be a busy place, it doesn't mean Hong Kong will be neglected. DCA getting a large amount of money doesn't mean it's being taken from HKDL's own budget. Bob Iger very much wants to expand in Asia and HKDL plays very much into those plans(along with Shanghai). Over the next year or so we'll be seeing a lot more posturing than building. Planning will still be going on behind the scenes, but Iger is trying to get the best deal for Disney.

Business is tough... but there is simply too much money to be made from the Chinese market for Disney to just sit around and hope that people will finally come into the park. To everyone that's feeling a bit disappointed I say be calm... be patient. Hong Kong Disneyland Resort will come into its own over the next few years. By the end of this decade you will finally start to see it begin to come to fruition. I would think that the beginning of the next Decade will find HKDL and almost every other park take on a much more positive outlook. The Mouse is trying to keep its secrets while dealing with Hong Kong, but slowly... the secrets are being revealed.

All you have to do is read between the lines...

Escape To Witch Mountain, All Over Again...

Walt Disney Pictures has signed Andy Fickman(The Game Plan) to direct the remake of "Escape To Witch Mountain", the re-imagined interpretation of the classic 1975 adventure movie. Andrew Gunn will produce through his Gunn Films banner which is shingled at the Disney lot. The movie is being put on the fast track for a 2008 release.

The original film was based on a science fiction novel by Alexander Key following a brother and sister with paranormal powers. The siblings go on the run after a sinister group discovers their abilities and attempts to capture them. I loved the film as a child. Although it's a little dated, the story is still very fun to watch and could be a great movie if handled properly.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Remy Attends Chuck & Larry's Wedding...

And now for our recap of the box office this weekend...

"I now pronounce you Chuck & Larry" came in first this weekend despite the critics. Harry Potter was in second showing surprisingly good staying power for such a young wizard. John Travolta was third place with "Hairspray" playing the ugliest woman I've ever seen. Michael Bay's summer fun film "Transformers" dropped to fourth. And "Ratatouille" took the fifth spot... the ironic thing is that it's been averaging 3 to 4 million a night consistently on the weekends. It's made a little more than $165 million domestically and almost $30 million overseas despite having a great deal of countries still to open in over the next two months. None of the figures for the international box office on Box Office Mojo are accurate though, as the foreign take hasn't been tallied since last week. We won't know the final figures till tomorrow. It's a numbers game for the rest of the summer for the Rat movie...

Also of note, "POTC: AWE" has made $950 million world-wide with final figures not yet in it appears this Johnny Depp film will make close to the second film, but not quite as much. Still a very impressive numbers if I say so myself. We'll see if Disney can keep up the hit streak when it premiers "Underdog" on August 3rd. Personally, I don't think this movie will do good, but I've been wrong before...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Goldielocks Economy...

Being positive has many reactions...

Some people on the web tend to believe you're a Lemming. That you go through life with a bias refusing to look at something from a clear perspective. I've had quite a few e-mails accuse me of this. That I'm a shill for the Disney company talking only about the good news, never addressing the underlying problems the Mouse has.

But what I've learned in life is...

Being positive is hard. Being negative is easy. It all depends on the perspective you view it from. Sometimes it's difficult to be positive... but I believe it helps when you go through life to try and find a reason to believe. It certainly helps you get through the hard times and really enjoy the good times.

Now for a confession.

I will admit I am a huge Disney fan... if you read this blog I don't think that will come as a surprise to you. I am not though, a Lemming. I do not intend to give people false hope when talking about the coming attractions that the Mouse House has in store for us. I will fully admit that Blue Sky Disney would have a lot harder time filling a weeks worth of news with a positive spin if it had been started three or four years ago. Let's face it... right now the Walt Disney Company is having a banner year. A couple even... and to be truthful, Michael Eisner would be having a banner year were he in charge. Though were that the case, we wouldn't be getting as many fun gifts.

But I will say that it's not just the Disney company that's having a grand time. The global markets are booming and it has an effect on practically everything, including Bob Iger's company.

What this economy is known as is "The Goldielocks Economy". This is an economy that is running on all cylinders, full steam ahead but not too hot and not too cold. Hence the name... We're going through a very profitable time for America and the world. The Dow Jones hit a record 14,000 yesterday and had a minor correction today. The Nasdaq is at a six year high. We've had 41 records on Wall Street since January 1st of this year. This economy is doing very, very well. This is having the affect of creating a great amount of profits that corporations are sitting on. Now the Street doesn't like to see that money just setting around. It wants it to be invested in something substantial... that's why we see Bob Iger so willing to spend money to expand the resorts... he can't just let it sit there and do nothing. If he does the analyst will punish him by reducing the stock price and therefore the value of the company would go down.

We are living in grand times... this is a moment when the economy has combined with focused leadership to very promising results. There is such a thing as having good management and prosperous times colliding to give us what could turn out to be the true "Disney Decade". Let's hope that the economy keeps on chugging along. If we don't have another terrorist attack like 911 or a unforeseen downturn in a foreign market then we could see an incredible spurt of growth, creatively and economically for the Walt Disney Company. This doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with the economy... but no economy has everything run perfect. There will still be companies that go bankrupt and people that get too greedy. But for a Disney Geek, the view almost looks like you're living in Fantasyland.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Life Under The Sea...

The stage version of "The Little Mermaid" which will open in November in New York at the Lunt-Fontanne(former home of "Beauty & the Beast") has got theater insiders wondering if Disney can still create its magic on Broadway. Expectations are high for this production directed by Francesca Zambello, which bows with previews in Denver starting July 26th. With the disappointment of "Tarzan" and the closing of "Beauty & the Beast", many say that Walt Disney Theatrical Productions needs to create a good deal of buzz for this stage version of the Disney classic. Next week, Denver audiences will get their first chance to see what the Mouse has in store for them. Keep in mind that these are essentially rehersals and what happens in Denver may not be what winds up in New York.

Of Mice And Yen...

The Japanese love all things Disney, this is true... but now comes word that "Pirates of the Caribbean: World's End" has become the first foreign movie to gross 10 billion yen ($82 million) at the Japanese box office this year, Walt Disney Japan announced yesterday.

It took "POTC: AWE" 53 days to reach this mark and it'll wind up making more than "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which came in with 10.02 billion yen ($82.1 million) in 2006.

Another country falls under the spell of Johnny Depp's Sparrow, it appears. The Cap'n will rule the Land of the Rising Sun until a certain wizard magically appears...

Summer Reading 2...

Ever wonder what 2 billion dollars worth of theme park looks like?

With all the talk about DCA and it's billion dollar expansion/makeover I figured there might be a good number of you that had never really seen a lot of pictures of Tokyo DisneySea. It's funny, the official site ran by the Oriental Land Company is kind of cluttered and not really a great place to go if you want to see or read about the Tokyo Disney Resort.

If you do want to get a better perspective and see why so many people are disappointed with what Anaheim got, then go check out "Chris's Tokyo Disney Resort Fan Site." It's a fantastic site... there are a great deal of wonderful photographs and good descriptions of the park in general. It focuses on the entire park including Tokyo Disneyland, the Hotels and Ikspiari, which is TDR's version of Downtown Disney. If you just want to see Tokyo DisneySea then click here. But I'd highly recommend you check out Chris' entire sight. Seeing TDS you get a variation of what we were supposed to get with Port Disney in the early 90's.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Live Action Treasure...

Walt Disney's first live action picture(that didn't include animation) was released on this date in 1950. The premiere of "Walt Disney's Treasure Island", based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, was the true beginning of Walt Disney's move into live action film making...

I wonder if the year 2011 will be the same for Pixar? Hmmm...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Disney's Boo-Ray... Errr, Blu-Ray Tour...

The Walt Disney Company will be have the traveling shows set up around at shopping malls across the country to give people a glimpse into the future of entertainment. The format that Disney and every other studio except one has chosen as it's preferred format to succeed DVDs is Blu-Ray for those that don't know.

What is Blu-Ray?

Blu-Ray is one of two formats competing for dominance of your non-downloaded entertainment. It was created by Sony and can hold 25 gigabytes in single layer, 50 gigabytes in dual layer per side... so one disc could hold 100 gigabytes each if it's double sided. Now compare that to DVDs which can hold approximately 5 gigabytes. Sony's Playstation 3 just so happens to use Blu-Ray, btw and most Blu-Ray machines are backward compatible... which for you technophobes means you can still play your DVDs in it. The other format is HD-DVD, created by Toshiba which can hold 15 gigabytes and 30 gigabytes respectively.

I know, yada, yada, yada...

So Disney is sending out traveling salesman, 21st century style, to spread the word about how it's going to put out it's product in the future. There will be video games, posters, interactive displays and a mini-movie theater to show what Blu-Ray is. Versions of Disney animated hits like "Cars" and "Meet the Robinsons", and gamers can play the Liar's Dice game from the Blu-ray edition of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". No word as to when "Monster's Inc." will be out in Blu-Ray, but it along with Disney's entire line will slowly make its way to the new format. The tour will be going to 18 malls for 3 day stays each and is sponsored by Panasonic.

Bob Iger and Disney are determined to get the public to see the benefits of this technology it'll be interesting to see how quickly it's adopted. Of note is that the differing camps for each format... Apple for example has chosen to use Blu-Ray while Microsoft has settled on HD-DVD. It's Beta vs. VHS all over again... the Mouse and many others have bet on Blu-Ray. We won't know the winner for another 3 to 5 years. Hopefully Disney has bet on the right horse... errr, format.

Blue Sky Alert-America (Anaheim): California Dreaming...

The meeting is over...

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Board has left the room.

Now, this won't be a long alert since what I'm reporting has been covered to a degree by Al over at Miceage when he spilled the beans Tuesday on some of what I was intending on reporting Wednesday. I would've posted it earlier, but have been waiting to hear from a couple of my sources. Still, I feel it's probably better to give a few of the details that I've received about what the Walt Disney Company has been up to for the last couple weeks.

I can't give all the details but the budget has been approved. Projects have been approved. Plans are now being finalized.

The Board approved a budget for the expansion/makeover of Disney's California Adventure. Let's just say it's a great deal of money and the figures my sources gave me are close to what Al mentions. Let's be clear that this is far more than what would have been approved under old management. More than it had when it was originally built and greatly more than Eisner would have ever given an underling like Pressler to play with. This will definitely be a "Bob Weis" park. Two of Bob's most famous creations were never built...

Disney's America and Disney-MGM Studios Paris... both plans crash and burned in the mid 90's. The end of this decade will find the park across the Esplanade a worthy sister park. A park that from what I've heard will rival the best parks WDI has designed(yes, even Tokyo DisneySea some say). We'll start to see things pick up come fall. By the beginning of the year the hive of activity around DCA will be hard to miss. Many of the people asking when is it going to get started will finally notice that it already has...

The plans for the DVC units has been approved. Plans have been drawn up for the grass field behind the hotel to become Disney's first time share... but certainly not the last.

The plans for the Disneyland Hotel have been approved. This radical retheming will turn this drab series of boxes into a hotel that is more in theming with the Disneyland park. The exterior will be dramatically different as well as the front entrance and valet sections, not to mention the renovation of the room's interiors(wait till you see some of the suites planned). The plans should start either late this year or early next, but each tower will have about a nine to ten month renovation and be ready by the end of the decade. Also as reported in Miceage, the towers will be given new names that more fit the Disneyland Resort... not its previous owner Mr. Wrather.

No news as to wether the Paradise Pier hotel will be getting a face-lift yet, although I know several Imagineers that want to give it an extreme makeover as well. Any retheming of PPH had to wait for the final design for Paradise Pier so as to blend in with its surroundings. The current plans for the parking area near the PPH call for at least two of the four proposed hotels to be built there. The plans for these hotels should begin being leaked out by 2008.

One aspect of the Disneyland park will be a increased collaboration with Lucasfilm. By early 2008 there will be some form of an announcement about Star Tours 2.0. The folks at WDI are hard at work creating a sequel to our current attraction that will be designed to mimic the lines at the Finding Nemo Submarine Ride. There will be more of a synergy between the two companies regarding the Star Wars properties, both here in Anaheim and WDW(more on that in a future post). There has been talk of having some form of promotion to coincide with the new Star Wars television show that will debut in about a year and a half. These plans are in the very early stages and it will probably be until next year this time before anything starts to gel.

There will be some exciting news come Memorial Day 2008 when we have a new Indiana Jones film to work into the park activities. There is good news for Disneyland and WDW as well(again, more on this later). If adventure has a name it may be Indiana Jones but his location will definitely be at Disney resorts... or as Jay Rasulo says: "Disney Parks"... sigh.

Tony Baxter does have quite a few plans for the park and just because DCA will be getting the lion's share of the money, doesn't mean he's going to just sit around and let the original lose any of it's focus. There's a lot of momentum for one of several proposals of a new advanced People Mover that we could see completed near the end of the decade. There are several examples that are being batted around but right now Baxter wants to make sure everything works in unison with the plans he has for the rest of Tomorrowland. Nothing on this will be settled until sometime next year, but we'll keep a watch on the progress.

Well, that's it for this alert... we'll have more posts near the end of the month with new info... but I wouldn't be surprised if the Mouse revealed a few of it's details sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Green Joins Old Dogs...

One of the funniest guys I know, Seth Green, just signed to play in Walt Disney Pictures' new film: "Old Dogs" starring John Travolta and Robin Williams. Walt Becker is helming the project.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

On this day in 1955 Walt Disney opened his version of a theme park...

And in doing so he reinvented it. It was the first, it was original and unheard of. Disneyland became the park that all others would emulate. Doesn't look too bad for 52 years old, does it? Fear not, it's got a great future... more on that tomorrow.

Through most of his life Walt struggled to get money for his projects, from shorts to films... after Disneyland opened he never again had trouble getting financial backing for anything.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Peace In Our Time?

The Orange County Register is reporting that there may be a truce in the war between Disney and Anaheim developers. It appears that a crucial vote scheduled for this week will been postponed according to Frank Elfend, a consultant for SunCal, the proposed developer of the land in dispute. The two sides met over the weekend at the request of SunCal and progress was made to the point where the developer was going to ask the city council to put off a vote planned for Tuesday.

Could it be there won't be a battle at the ballot box afterall?

Emeryville In Evolution...

On January, 24th 2006 the entertainment and business world thought that Disney had done what they had to do to save Disney animation.

They were wrong.

What Bob Iger had done was far, far more ambitious.

When the Walt Disney Company bought Pixar it wasn't just buying the animation company. It was banking on it's stable of talented directors and story people. It was telling John Lasseter and his crew that the Mouse was going to back the things they wanted to do... and to do so without Suits intervening.

It was going to trust the talent.

Not that it was being foolish. Pixar did have an impressive track record. But in doing this deal, Iger had even bigger plans. Plans for the animation unit, the film unit and the parks as well. I'm sure he didn't intend certain things to have happened, but he's adapted along the way. With each day the influence of John Lasseter becomes more of a presence. Along with him, behind the scenes we've seen the steady influence of Steve Jobs over the course the company has made as well. His effect on the board is an example of the track record he's had with Pixar and his little fruit company. Though everyone hasn't noticed it Apple has had a underlying effect on the Mouse House. Iger has a superstar executive on the Board in Jobs and a superstar executive inside the company with Lasseter. The parallels between Apple and NeXT Computers are striking. Just like NeXT came in and virtually took over Apple's business... Pixar seems to be doing the same with the inner workings of Disney. Now this doesn't mean we'll be seeing Jobs take over from Iger. I think he's going to be a "Kingmaker" at Disney more than he is a king, but he will have a behind the scenes affect on what happens in the forthcoming future. We'll have more about Jobs in a future post.

So if Jobs is the Kingmaker and Iger is the King, then what does that make Uncle John? The heroic Prince of course... I can see the negative Nabobs rolling their eyes at that. But I don't mean it as a Pollyannish metaphor, only as a fairy tale analogy for a company built on fantasy.

Now as to how this is more than just about animation I must first address that subject. The basic deal that Iger made was for animation. He knew that to bring the company back to it's glory days, he'd have to not only offer Lasseter the head of animation title but something else. This was the offering of carrots. The big carrot was putting Uncle John in charge of Imagineering. Iger was originally intending on him having just an advisory role, but Lasseter has essentially made WDI run under his control through the power of his success the way he's done the same with Jay Rasulo. Slowly we've seen all of the animation the company does fall under his sway so that he can keep a tight control over how the companies properties are dealt with. The only exception is the Disney Television animation unit, which will have a peaceful existence with Uncle John so long as it's not going to step on his territory(read: DisneyToons' Tinkerbell situation). But because of Lasseter's position in the company, you can bet that they'll run certain things by him so as to not provoke a situation.

The other deal that Iger made with Lasseter and Jobs was to let Pixar be an autonomous unit which essentially funds it's own projects and answers to Lasseter and no one else unless the studio starts to have some sort of financial problems. A highly unlikely proposition in the near future, I believe. But in giving Lasseter the power over Pixar and Disney, Iger is letting Lasseter spread his seed through the rest of the company in the hopes that Pixar's success will spread over into other divisions.

With Pixar in this position, it will undoubtedly evolve. The way that Pixar is evolving is in the same way that Walt Disney Productions evolved as Walt got more and more powerful and had more money on which to risk his ideas. After silent shorts, Disney moved into sound shorts, then color, then animated features... and then live action features before going into theme parks. All along the way making a mint merchandising his creations.

See the line?

Now Pixar already makes shorts... it already has the power of Disney to merchandise it's products and the parks are filled with rides based on it's films. Earlier in the year everyone read that article that talked about Brad Bird's next film and how it would be live action. Then there are the rumors that Andrew Stanton's involvement in the "Princess Of Mars" live action film that Pixar is making. And these are not the only ones that Pixar is developing for its live action slate.

By the end of this decade we'll start to see the fruits of this evolving as Pixar becomes a studio that makes live action as well as animation. It will be a company that defines itself by the stories it tells, not that they are in animation. And that credit on the posters for "1906" or "Princess Of Mars" that says: "Executive Producer John Lasseter"... well, it's going to continue to grow. Pixar is on a path where within a decade we could see it have its own slate of films just like Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and Miramax Pictures. It has the potential to become another brand for the Mouse, not just an animation brand but a fully developed brand.

And Uncle John's title as "Executive Producer" will continue to grow. It will expand beyond the walls of Pixar as the films of Walt Disney Animation Studios go... so does his influence over other films. I would be surprised if we didn't see his name on several live action movies from Walt Disney Pictures or even Touchstone in the future.

Some people don't believe in evolution, that it's make-believe. Up in Emeryville, they're taking advantage of the fact that they create make-believe to move forward evolution. The Walt Disney Company we know today will be vastly different place come the next decade... but that's expected. Everything changes. Everything evolves. So long as it's for the better, change is good. It provides us with new worlds of wonder to explore. So all I say to Iger, Jobs and Lasseter...

Surprise me.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wizard Triumphs Over Robots, Rat Keeps Cooking...

The young wizard, Harry Potter ruled the box office this weekend in his attempt to foil "He who cannot be named"...

Coming in first, to no ones surprise is "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" with $140 million in America and $190 million around the world for a five day take of $330 million. I guess magic is always popular wether it's made by a wizard or Disney, hmmm? "Transformers" was second with $222 million domestic and $97 million international for a total $320 million so far. Pixar's little rat came in third as we expected, much to the surprise of many skeptics it's pulled in $143 million at home with a limited international release that's garnered $17 million for a combined 161 million worldwide. The film has yet to open in several markets overseas and appears to have a good wind so far. We don't yet know if it'll match "Cars" domestic take but it's performing admirably so far against a great deal of summer competition. There are no more release hurdles "Ratatouille" has to overcome... from now till the end of summer it's just a matter of how strong its legs are.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stealing Third...

With several new movies released since its opening, "Ratatouille" appears to be holding its own at third place. With the surmountable threat of "Transformers" over, Remy faced a teen wizard this weekend. While Pixar's latest won't be its most profitable, it's certainly doing much better than some of the doom-sayers were predicting. Maybe some of those Suits are hiding in the shadows going: "Rats! Pixar didn't fail again?!"...

We're only half-way through the weekend so the final tally is still a day away, but with ticket sales of the movie up 61.3 percent, John Lasseter and Brad Bird seem to have defied the negativity...


This eighth movie from the little studio in Emeryville may have not been a home run... but I think Pixar will be happy to settle for third.

Friday, July 13, 2007

When Loud Shirts Talk...

There's a nice, short interview with Uncle John at the Manchester Evening News where he talks about what it was like to produce "Ratatouille" to how it feels to run Walt Disney Animation Studios... it's a good read and shows how positive Lasseter is about Disney, Pixar and animation in general.

It was nice of John to take time out from walking on water to give this interview...

Thanks to "UpComingPixar" for the hat tip.

Disney Heads To Junction Point...

The Walt Disney Company continues to beef up it's armada of gaming studios in its attempt to become a major presense in the world of video games. From E3 comes news that Disney Interactive Studios has acquired Warren Spector’s new game studio, Junction Point. It will continue to create new video game franchises like those it is currently working on as well as bringing existing Disney franchises to next-generation platforms. Spector, a veteran computer game designer(Deus Ex, Thief: Deadly Shadows) was most recently with Ion Storm before departing to form Junction Point last year. The company is currently partnering with John Woo on an untitled video game.

The Original "Disney Wedding"...

Do you Walter Elias Disney take Lillian Marie Bounds to be your lawfully wedded wife?

I do...

Walt married Lillian today in 1925. Who says office romances don't turn out good?

Some say that Walt was married to his work and Lillian was simply his mistress... Others simply believe that his work defined him as a man, Lillian defined him as a husband and his children defined him as a father. I prefer to believe all three define him as a hero and an American. That's what I believe...

I do...

I really do.

Disney Finds Itself Cursed For Six Months...

Walt Disney Pictures has acquired the spec script "Six Month Curse," a romantic comedy by scribe by Julie Golden. The story is about a bride that discovers she has been cursed since birth so all her romantic relationships have a six-month shelf life. To save her marriage, she heads up the Brazilian rain forest to break the curse. Complications arise when she falls for her river guide. Jennifer Klein will produce through Apartment 3B Prods.