Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney's Creativity Dilemma

Disney released it's slate of films planned for the next few years, most of which were already announced at different times. There is a pattern that is quite disturbing, which was brought to my attention by my movie buddy, Will McKinley. Disney is banking itself on franchises and remakes. Aside from some new storylines out of Pixar and Disney animation, there is not a whole lot of original ahead. I understand wanting to capitalize on the $4 billion spent on Marvel and the other $4 billion for Lucasfilm, however, how about continuing a legacy. 

Sequels are not new to the Disney machine, remember that it's the studio that gave us four Herbie films.  Even during Walt Disney's era, there was The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963).  However, with the exception of two Davy Crockett feature releases (which were just packaged versions of the one hour serial from the Walt Disney Presents television show), there were no other live action or animated sequels made under his reign.  I am not about to start the "What would Walt do?" argument, because that is inconsequential.  What I am concerned over is the future of the studio.

Disney's first FULL live action film was not even produced until 1950's Treasure Island. Live actions films then dominated the studio until the millenium, when this mining of the animated properties began. Direct-to-Video animated sequels saw out Eisner's era at the studios. Thankfully, that trend ran it's course and several sequels that were planned never saw the light of day, (Pinocchio II and Aristocats II, anyone?).  Now it seems we have gone the opposite direction. The studio has gone back to mining the properties, but now is producing live-action films based off the animated classics. This year we had Cinderella, which fared well at the box office, assuring a few more in the future. The Jungle Book, which Disney already has done in live action form, back in 1994 is getting another go, this one will be a musical version but with mostly new songs and CGI animals, I presume. Beauty and the Beast just starting filming this month for a 2017 release. Rumors of Pinocchio and Snow White are also rampant.

There are several original films in the current slate. Many of have modest budgets and can lean on the tent pole positioning of the Marvel and Pixar films for a buffer. If they are successful, they too perhaps, will be considered for future sequels.

Oh, and another word about Disney property mining, we have Tomorrowland, The Movie! opening for Memorial Day weekend. This should be a success, though maybe not a blockbuster. We can likely look forward to more Disney attraction-turned-films in the future, including another attempt at a Haunted Mansion movie coming sometime probably in 2018, according to Screenrant.  Let's see if we get a Matterhorn movie, which itself was inspired by a live action film, Third Man on the Mountain (1959).

Disney has always been about innovation and mass appeal entertainment. For their sake, I hope they do not end up back in the 70s rut of mere regurgitation and derivative content.

Below is the list announced fully, today:
Avengers: Age of Ultron – 5/1/15
Tomorrowland – 5/22/15
Inside Out – 6/19/15
Ant-Man – 7/17/15
Bridge of Spies – 10/16/15
The Good Dinosaur – 11/25/15
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 12/18/15
The Finest Hours – 1/29/16
Zootopia – 3/4/16
The Jungle Book – 4/15/16
Captain America: Civil War – 5/6/16
Alice Through the Looking Glass – 5/27/16
Finding Dory – 6/17/16
The BFG – 7/1/16
Pete’s Dragon – 8/12/16
Doctor Strange – 11/4/16
Moana – 11/23/16
Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One – 12/16/16
Beauty and the Beast – 3/17/17
Ghost in the Shell – 4/14/17
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – 5/5/17
Star Wars: Episode VIII – 5/26/17
Toy Story 4 – 6/16/17
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 7/7/17
Thor: Ragnarok – 11/3/17
Untitled Pixar Animation – 11/22/17
Untitled Disney Animation – 3/9/18
Avengers: Infinity War Part I – 5/4/18
Untitled Pixar Animation – 6/15/18
Black Panther – 7/6/18
Captain Marvel – 11/2/18
Untitled Disney Animation – 11/21/18
Avengers: Infinity War Part II – 5/3/19
Inhumans – 7/12/19
Thanks to  Box Office Mojo for the listings.