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?!


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.

Pamela McClintock:

"Star Wars: Episode VII" will hit theaters Dec. 18, 2015, Lucasfilm and Disney announced Thursday, ending heated speculation as to whether J.J. Abrams’ movie will be done in time for a 2015 release. “We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII,’ where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Even better:

Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently announced that Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote 1980’s “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” considered the best film in the “Star Wars” series, is coming aboard to rework the script with Abrams upon the exit of “Episode VII” writer Michael Arndt.

Begun, my excitement has.

Cliff Kuang on Disney’s subtle, secretive effort to redesign the Disney World experience for visitors:

This represents a new frontier for design. Over the past 30 years, as every facet of our lives, from shopping to schooling, has migrated on to computer screens, designers have focused on perfecting user interfaces — placing a button in just the right place for a camera trigger or collapsing the entire payment process into a series of swipes and taps. But in the coming era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturised mobile computing, our digital interactions won’t take place simply on screens. As the new Disney World suggests, they will happen all around us, constantly, as we go about our day. Designers will be creating not products or interfaces but experiences, a million invisible transactions.

Design is, after all, how something works. And:

In the wrong hands, this is a dystopian prospect — technology’s unwanted intrusion into our every waking moment. But without the proper design, without considering how new products and services fit into people’s day-to-day lives, any new technology can be terrifying. That’s where the challenge comes in. The task of making this new world can’t be left up to engineers and technologists alone - otherwise we will find ourselves overrun with amazing capabilities that people refuse to take advantage of.

It’s an interesting notion, that all technology without the proper, humanizing design would be terrifying. 

[via MediaREDEF]

Christopher Palmeri & Andy Fixmer:

An Internet TV provider would have to pay as much or more than cable and satellite services, President John Skipper said today at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut. He declined to specify the companies ESPN has spoken with.

A Web-based service would have to buy “the whole suite of products,” Skipper said. “We’re not going to offer one-offs.” The network includes the flagship channel, plus others such as ESPN2, ESPN News and mobile applications offered to existing pay-TV subscribers.

"You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability…"

Matt Novak:

It’s easy to forget — even for a Disney nerd like myself — that before Walt Disney died of lung cancer in December of 1966, EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was supposed to be a real city. The code name “Project X” was given to the undertaking that would eventually become Walt Disney World, which today includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom parks.

Fascinating. And the rabbit hole goes deeper still.
[via Tim Maly]

Matt Novak:

It’s easy to forget — even for a Disney nerd like myself — that before Walt Disney died of lung cancer in December of 1966, EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was supposed to be a real city. The code name “Project X” was given to the undertaking that would eventually become Walt Disney World, which today includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom parks.

Fascinating. And the rabbit hole goes deeper still.

[via Tim Maly]

Germain Lussier for /Film:

The studio that helped pioneer 2D, hand drawn, theatrical animation is currently at a crossroads with the process. At Wednesday’s Walt Disney Company shareholder’s meeting, CEO Bob Iger revealed none of Disney’s animation companies, which includes Disney Animation, Pixar and Disney Toons, are currently developing, or have plans to develop, any 2D, hand drawn animation for the big screen. He’s not ruling it out, but the current slate  - which probably stretches 3-4 years – has none of it.

The end of an era. Just imagine if Disney had not bought Pixar — and that would not have happened if Michael Eisner remained as CEO instead of getting replace by Bob Iger. Disney could have been in a lot of trouble right now…

Sometimes acquisitions don’t work. Sometimes they’re the only thing that works.