Monday, July 4, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Disney Films

It gets a little complicated, but no Disney corporate entity has had a more wild ride the last couple of years than the film side of the business. Just for definition sake here is what Disney has on their film division side:

Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Touchstone Pictures (now partnered with Dreamworks SKG)
Pixar Studios
Marvel Studios
Others for all I know....(small film studios are opened, closed, bought, sold, all the time)

The last few years have had some major successes, even a surprising success with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland putting a huge amount of money into Disney bank accounts. On the very top is the great Toy Story 3, easily the best movie Disney (through Pixar) put out since, well, Up, the last movie Disney (through Pixar) put out. This year's blockbuster came with Pirates of the Caribbean 4:On Strange Tides which oddly enough made a lot more money overseas than it did in the good ol' USA (my theory: the US economy has stressed the ticket buying public - for a POTC sequel that had two previous sequels of poor quality - wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray or Netflix release).

On the flip side comes Mars Needs Moms which may go down as one of the biggest bombs in the history of movie making of any kind. Costing more than a $150 million to make at last report, the movie took in less that $40 million around the world. Also out of director Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital partnership with Disney came the very under-performing A Christmas Carol. Disney canceled Zemeckis contract to produce two more films (including a remake of the Beatles Yellow Submarine).

Continuing with Disney films that came out with a thud - Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and The Sorcerer's Apprentice - big budget pictures that came up very, very short.

Of course, there were the marginal successes with Tangled and Tron: Legacy. And a special mention for the Princess and the Frog which could well be in the running for best Disney film over the last couple of years but didn't attract an audience in the numbers it deserved. In a rush to point a finger, Disney determined and anything directed to an audience of 6 year old girls (princess movies) was doomed to box office failure - hence Rapunzel gets re-titled to Tangled. Oddly enough, anything with Cars in the title with a target audience of 6 year old boys is just fine.

Over on the superhero side of things, Disney seems to be doing well with their investment in Marvel. Even though other film studios make and distribute Marvel movies until their contracts run out (which is coming soon), Disney gets a cut off Marvel films. Iron Man 2 and Thor were successes but not in the stratisphere as Spiderman or original Iron Man. X-Men First Class probably broke about even and maybe hoping for a nice DVD/Blu-Ray release to get its profitability. On the horizon comes Captain America in a few weeks.

And a new release of Winnie the Pooh.  Huh?

Bob Iger fired the head of Walt Disney's film division almost 2 years ago. It takes a couple of years to get the films already in the pipeline worked out but that time is coming now. It's now time for the new head of Walt Disney Studos, Rich Ross, to show what he can do.

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