#disney

Maane Khatchatourian:

Following the “Avengers” bump, “Guardians” is continuing Marvel’s stellar track record of boffo openings. Marvel pics have collectively grossed $6.3 billion since 2008’s “Iron Man,” making it the most successful film franchise after “Harry Potter.” “Guardians” will hopefully lift the summer box office, which is down more than 20% from 2013.

Once again showcasing why it was genius of Disney to buy Marvel.

Boing Boing:

Finally, the prospectus makes a big deal out of the idea of a miniature walk-through land, “Lilliputian Land,” where “mechanical people nine inches high sing and dance and talk to you.” This is clearly inspired by Walt’s experiences touring Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, and is the lineal ancestor of the Small World boats (created for Unicef’s pavilion at the 1964 NYC World’s Fair) and the Storybookland Boats. More to the point, it shows off how much Disneyland was really an elaborate plan by Walt to let extend the miniature train-set he’d build in his garden as therapy after his mental breakdown. The classic photo of Walt Disney hanging out of a train locomotive, grinning with pure, unfaked joy contain, for me, the real story of Disneyland: a man who struggled with depression and his relationship to the company he founded, restless with corporate culture and anxious to lose himself in play in a world of fantasy.

Amazing stuff.

Brian Hiatt on how Stan Lee created the X-Men:

He had already done the radioactive-accident thing at least three times, so Lee went in another direction: “I took the cowardly way out,” he says. “I figured, hey, the easiest thing in the world: They were born that way. They were mutants!” He called the team the Mutants, until Marvel’s publisher told him kids didn’t know the word. Instead, Lee settled on the X-Men (“I figured, they have extra powers, and their leader is Professor Xavier”). Lee spent maybe a day on the proposal and another day plotting the issue; Kirby, a pulp genius World War II vet who’d chomp on his cigar while cranking out as many as five pages a day, designed all the characters as he drew the first story.

The best part of the story is that Marvel was at the point of near bankruptcy when Fox greenlit the first X-Men film. Nine years later, Disney bought the company for $4 billion — which would be considered a steal now, given just how much of Hollywood box office receipts Marvel IP now drives.

Marc Graser:

While George Lucas had built a world around “Star Wars” through movies, TV shows, comicbooks, novels, videogames and other forms of entertainment, storylines were developed by separate teams creating what’s been called an “Expanded Universe” that veered away from what was seen onscreen by audiences.

As a result of the plethora of “Star Wars”-related characters, creatures, spaceships and worlds created for those properties, Lucasfilm has formed a new story group to oversee all “Stars Wars” creative development, according to Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, that will connect all aspects of storytelling moving forward.

Controversial idea, no doubt. But I think the right one. If Disney is going to utilize the franchise to its full potential, this seems like a must.

Papa Vinyard:

J.J. Abrams may be keeping his cards as close to his chest as humanly possible, but that didn’t stop Disney chairman Bob Iger from letting some basic details slip to investors. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting, Iger revealed some basic info about a few of their projects, including EPISODE VII. Aside from mentioning that it “really looks amazing,” he officially revealed that the film will take place 30 years after RETURN OF THE JEDI (which puts it at approximately 34 ABY in the SW timeline). He also mentioned we’ll be seeing some “familiar faces,” all but confirming that the vets of this franchise, including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Calrissian, and a certain former carpenter, will be making their triumphant returns in the new installment.

Given that it will have been about 32 1/2 years after the release of JEDI when EPISODE VII finally comes out, it’s not any massive revelation that the SW timeline will just about follow suit accordingly. Plus, any sequel of any sort pretty much assumes you’ll be seeing at least some “familiar faces.” Still, it’s safe to assume that Iger, while not “really in the process,” has total access to any and all SW info he wants, so these tidbits feel like more than uninformed misinformation for the public (like, say, J.J. ASSURING us that Khan wasn’t the INTO DARKNESS villain).

But how old will Jar Jar Binks be?

Adam B. Vary:

That kind of unmistakable branding is a precious creative commodity in Hollywood. “On any given weekend, you release a movie from Paramount or Universal or Warner Bros., but [audiences] are kind of brand agnostic,” said the senior studio exec. “But when it’s Marvel in this universe, I think that that brand is establishing more clout and more goodwill with each passing movie. That’s rare. Only certain brands really have that kind of following, where consumers really identify with a brand when they’re making they’re choice to go spend $15 on a movie ticket.”

There’s no question that the Marvel films under Disney all have a certain feel to them, which is impressive. At this point, I’d undoubtedly go see one even if I wasn’t familiar with the source material.

Justin Kroll:

Under the arrangement, Disney gains distribution and marketing rights to future films, in addition to retaining the ownership rights it secured when it acquired Lucasfilm.

Paramount will continue to be responsible for distribution of the first four films in the franchise and will receive a financial participation on any future films that are produced and released.

Disney has not officially announced that a fifth films is in the works.

I’m guessing we see such an announcement ASAP as Disney continues its conquest to scoop up any and all intellectual property worth owning.

None of this should be too surprising — remember that longtime Indiana Jones producer, Kathleen Kennedy, is now the president of Lucasfilm at Disney. I just hope the team at Disney can manage to make something significantly better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Borys Kit and Gregg Kilday:

Borrowing a page from Pixar, Lasseter is hands-on at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He gives extensive notes, pores over story reels and even does the first reading with actors and directors. Initially, Pixar animators worried that he was spending too much time at Disney, where he overhauled Bolt and Tangled. Now that the situation has stabilized, he divides his focus. “Both places think he spends too much time at the other place,” says a friend. “That’s the true telling point.”

I had no idea Lasseter was also running Walt Disney Animation Studios — or that WDAS is now on a roll (Frozen just opened with $94 million) while Pixar is in a bit of a funk (with recent layoffs and the next film delayed until 2015).

Two things stand out from the story by Brooks Barnes about Disney’s upcoming roadmap. First:

Even so, Disney must pull off several high-wire acts over the coming year. For the first time in nine years, for instance, the company’s highly successful Pixar division will not supply an annual movie; “The Good Dinosaur” was pushed back because of production problems. That puts more box-office pressure on expensive live-action films like “Maleficent,” which is scheduled for release in the spring. Walt Disney World in the coming months is expected to finally introduce its long-planned My Magic Plus technology, a complex advance reservation and crowd management system that cost roughly $1 billion to install; Wall Street is eager for results. Construction spending at Shanghai Disneyland will speed up as the company hurtles toward an opening in late 2015.

The adoption of the My Magic Plus technology should be fascinating to watch. But more importantly, no Pixar movie in 2014 for the first time in nine years?!

Also:

The Netflix deal represents an effort by Disney to replicate Marvel’s successful “Avengers” movie strategy on smaller screens. The company first made stand-alone films for characters like Iron Man and Captain America and then combined the characters into one megamovie. The second Avengers film, “Age of Ultron,” is expected to arrive in theaters in summer 2015. The next “Star Wars” movie will arrive in theaters in December 2015, Disney announced on Thursday. A summer date had been anticipated. The slightly later release window will move “Star Wars” into Disney’s 2016 fiscal year, leading to a modest delay in Disney’s efforts to show substantial returns from its Lucasfilm acquisition.

In other words, 2015 is going to bring a new Pixar film after a two-year hiatus, the next Avengers film, and the new Star Wars film. It’s going to be a massive year for the film division.