After earlier premieres at the London Film Festival in October and the AFI Film Fest at the Chinese Theatre in November where the original Mary Poppins premiered in 1964, Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney Studio’s big awards contender, finally had its official Los Angeles premiere on a cool December Monday night. It took place on the very Disney studio lot where much of the movie about the making of the 1964 classic was filmed (as well as Poppins itself). And just to add a touch of nostalgia and class itself the stars of Mary Poppins Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke joined the cast of Banks including Tom Hanks who plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson who plays the cantankerous author of Poppins P.L. Travers. At a photo opp before the film the Banks cast members along with Andrews and Van Dyke and studio execs Bob Iger and Alan Horn all joined in a spontaneous rendition of the catchy tune from Poppins, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” (watch here). Those singing along included the indefatiguable two-time Oscar winning co-writer of that song and the entire score, Richard M. Sherman.
At the post party in a completely made-over studio commissary Horn told me how pleased they were that Saving Mr. Banks had made the AFI Top Ten Movies Of The Year list released earlier Monday. When I asked how he felt about singing with all those iconic stars he said he can’t sing and in fact was banned from trying to carry a tune in church and everywhere else. Iger also marveled at the idea he was actually singing along with everyone and modestly just said ” let’s not count the eggs before they are hatched” when I suggested that the movie was a cinch to become the Disney studio’s first home grown live action Best Picture nominee since the original Mary Poppins 49 years ago, the one and only other time the studio had such a distinction.
The 85-year-old Sherman, who has been on cloud nine since this whole ride began, said it was completely “surreal” to be back on the Disney lot with Andrews and Van Dyke celebrating this whole experience. Only in Hollywood. There’s something about the movie that really has created a team spirit. At a Saturday night cast Q&A with Hanks, Thompson, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford I moderated after a SAG screening of the film, Hanks also led everyone in a rendition of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. Guess it is just a movie that makes people want to sing. Hanks and Thompson had also been doing Q&As earlier that day at BAFTA and for the Academy where I am told 700 members showed up for a 3 PM Saturday matinee. Certainly Disney, which has been having a great holiday season already with Thor and Frozen, is hoping they will be singing about Banks which opens nationwide on December 20th. I am told it is tracking well. Banks opens Friday with a special engagement at the Walt Disney Studio Theatre that includes a special studio tour of spots of where the films were made. Read More »
Jay Rasulo isn’t as sure as Viacom CEO Philipe Dauman is that we’ll see an online pay TV service in 2014. But one “is coming” he said today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference — and Disney would be “happy to license our content.” Here’s the catch though: It would have to license content from others, too, and “look like existing [cable and satellite] offers” that require viewers to pay for channels they don’t watch. “We believe that the [pay TV] system is still the most valuable way the product can be offered to the consumer,” Rasulo says. The system also works well for Disney. The growth of pay TV retransmission consent payments ”have been a huge boon” to the industry, They also have added about $500M to Disney’s revenues over the last few years and “have mostly fallen to the bottom line.” On another broadcast matter, Rasulo is less certain than CBS chief Les Moonves is that the industry will sell most ads next year on the basis of viewing over seven days as opposed to the current three. “The hesitation has to do more with the advertiser side than the content producer side.” Like other execs, though, Rasulo is excited about opportunities to offer TV content on smartphones and tablets. He calls mobile “the single largest” technology opportunity. Read More »
The history of special effects and CG in film and their close relationship with today’s top-notch digital animation is the focus of author Christopher Finch’s new lavish 368-page book The CG Story: Computer Generated Animation and Special Effects, which peels the curtain back on CG pioneers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Pixar founders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and their respective contributions to film. As part of Deadline’s weekend programming, read an exclusive excerpt from The CG Story, available now via The Monacelli Press (large format hardcover, $75), detailing the near-disaster that almost was when the upstarts at Pixar pacted with Disney to make their first feature: Toy Story.
Go motion may have been extinct overnight, as if by a meteor bombardment, but Phil Tippet reinvented himself as the head of a CG studio, and many of his go-motion animators were quick to retrain as CG animators, adapting their old skills with relative ease to the new way of working. During the early 1990s the shift to computer-generated animation was seen as a matter of urgency in many sections of the industry. Technologies such as motion control remained in use where they were cost effective, but this was the period when CGI began to take on the dominant role in visual effects. In the world of pure animation, it was about to make its mark with even greater decisiveness.
Ed Catmull explains that at Pixar there was a plan to progress from making commercials to producing a television special and then eventually a feature film. Having developed the CAPS system for Disney, Pixar had extensive contact with the feature-animation department there, but in fact they shopped their ideas around to everyone but Disney. One bone of contention was the fact that Disney had made efforts to hire John Lasseter away from the company. Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Disney studio head, had been impressed by the shorts he had seen and was convinced that Lasseter, by then Pixar’s creative director, was the secret to the company’s success. Lasseter, however, turned down the offers because of his belief in Pixar’s future, and because of his bitter memories of his previous tenure at Disney. Those memories were also why he had been adamant about not wanting to take ideas to Disney. “It wasn’t until [then],” Catmull remembers, “that I found out the real problem. For years he wouldn’t let anybody know he’d been fired… On the Queen Mary he had acknowledged that his project had been turned down, but not that he had been fired.”
The fact that Disney now saw Lasseter as a golden boy did nothing to alter his point of view, but finally, after no other studio had taken the bait, Pixar had no alternative but to consider working with Disney. The initial approach, in fact, came from Disney. In 1991 Catmull received a call from Peter Schneider, president of Feature Animation, suggesting that Pixar make a CG feature that Disney would finance and distribute. It should be remembered that Disney’s animation renaissance was in full bloom at the time — Aladdin would shortly be released and The Lion King was in preproduction. Disney Feature Animation had always been a strictly in-house operation, and the idea of turning to an outside production studio, especially in those glory days, was shocking.
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With box office momentum behind their wintry animated hit Frozen, Disney has released a clip featuring Best Song Oscar hopeful “Let It Go,” by songwriting team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Idina Menzel belts the number voicing Elsa, the Snow Queen whose super powers put her kingdom in peril in the pic also starring Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad:
Related: BOX OFFICE: ‘Frozen’ ‘Catching Fire’ Amid Nation’s Ice Storm
Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures said today that they’ve reached a marketing and distribution deal for the Indiana Jones franchise. Among other things, this agreement removes the last hurdle for Disney in moving forward with future Indiana Jones movies, which the company acquired when it purchased Lucasfilm in a multibillion-dollar deal late last year. The new deal gives Disney marketing and distribution rights to future films as well as retaining Lucasfilm’s ownership rights — which basically means they’ve got the whole shebang now. Paramount, on the other hand, isn’t left in the cold: The studio will continue to have distribution rights to the first four films. While details of the deal are unknown, Paramount also will receive financial rewards on any future Indiana Jones films that are produced and released by Disney. Moving ahead with a new Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015 and with two more in the pipeline, the studio has not confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones has the green light. However, with today’s news and star Harrison Ford’s previous expressed interest in returning to the role, one would have to say it’s looking likely.
The mantra over at Stan Lee Media Inc must be “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Certainly that is its legal strategy. Almost three months after a federal judge in Colorado granted Disney’s request for dismissal of SLMI’s multibillion-dollar Marvel superhero copyright suit, the company is back in Pennsylvania court this week claiming it owns the rights to Spider-Man. “In response to Disney’s Spider-Man claims and/or in response to [American Music Theater's] counterclaims and third-party claims, SLMI respectfully seeks a declaratory judgment … that Disney cannot bar SLMI from using or licensing the Spider-Man copyrights and trademarks by virtue of the fact that SLMI (not Disney) is the owner of various copyrights and trademarks regarding Spider-Man and has properly licensed the copyrights and trademarks to AMT,” says the third-party defendant paperwork (read it here) filed Tuesday.
Stan Lee Media’s ‘Conan The Barbarian’ Suit Savaged Again
Sony Plans More Spider-Man Sequels & Spinoffs
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The board authorized an annual dividend of 86 cents a share, up 11 cents, Disney says. It’s the 58th consecutive dividend and will be paid on January 16 to those who own shares as of December 16. “Disney had a great year creatively and financially in fiscal 2013, delivering record revenue, net income and earnings per share for the third year in a row,” CEO Bob Iger says. “We are pleased to be able to increase our shareholder dividend by 15 percent while continuing to invest for future growth.” Disney added that it plans to hold its shareholder meeting in Portland, OR on March 18.
EXCLUSIVE: Valerie Van Galder has left Fox-based New Regency as the head of marketing after a little over a year at the production company to become a franchise management executive at Disney‘s Imagineering. During her stint at New Regency, she worked on such films as the crime drama Runner, Runner with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, and the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy The Internship. She also contributed on the Oscar contender 12 Years A Slave, the marketing of which was led by Fox Searchlight’s team. 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, led the Independent Spirit Award nominations last week with seven, including best feature and best director.
Van Galder was hired by Brad Weston who came over from Paramount two years ago to reinvigorate New Regency. No replacement has yet been named for Van Galder who left her post last week. Van Galder’s exit follows Weston’s hire of Pam Abdy as president of production in October. Weston and Abdy had previously worked together at Paramount.
Related: Disney Sets New Global Box Office Record
Yesterday, The Walt Disney Studios broke the $4 billion mark at the global box office for the first time in its history.
The Studio previously announced it had reached a record high on November 12, when it surpassed the $3.791 billion set in 2010. In July, Disney was the first studio to reach the $1 billion domestic box office milestone for the year, a threshold it has achieved for eight consecutive years. In August, in record time, Disney reached the $2 billion international box office threshold for the fourth year in a row, and in early November the studio surpassed its previous all-time international box office record of $2.302 billion, also set in 2010.
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BREAKING: Alice In Wonderland 2 has been set for a May 27, 2016 release, Disney said today, finalizing a spot on the schedule for the sequel to the studio’s massive 2010 hit that made more than $1.025B in worldwide box office. The Muppets helmer James Bobin takes over from original director Tim Burton and back too is Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter. Depp of course is also in Pirates Of The Caribbean 5, which Disney moved off its original May 2015 date and reportedly was aiming it for summer 2016. That would make it the Summer of Depp if those plans are carried out.
Related: Johnny Depp Finalizing ‘Alice In Wonderland 2′
As for Disney’s live-action Jungle Book, that pic now has an October 9, 2015 date. Deadline broke the story that Jon Favreau is aboard to direct what is a priority project for the studio from a Justin Marks script. When Favreau’s deal made Marks was wrapping the latest draft and the studio wanted to begin production next year. Looks like all systems are go now that there’s a date. Disney previously turned The Jungle Book into the classic 1967 animated film and a 1994 live-action feature helmed by Stephen Sommers.
Walt Disney’s only biological child died today at her home in Napa, CA, of complications from a fall in September. Diane Disney Miller was 79. She was a driving force behind the construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. Her husband of nearly 60 years, Ron W. Miller, is a former CEO of Walt Disney Productions. Here’s a statement on her passing from Disney president and CEO Bob Iger: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Diane Disney Miller and our thoughts are with her family during his difficult time. As the beloved daughter of Walt Disney and one of his inspirations for creating Disneyland, she holds a special place in the history of The Walt Disney Company and in the hearts of fans everywhere. She will be remembered for her grace and generosity and tireless work to preserve her father’s legacy, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
Related: ‘Thor: The Dark World’ Scores Superhuman $109M Overseas, Boosts Disney To Another All-Time Int’l Record
BURBANK, Calif. – November 12, 2013 – Today, The Walt Disney Studios will break its previous global box office record of $3.791 billion, set in 2010.
“With incredible results from our Marvel, Disney and Pixar brands, this is a phenomenal achievement and we still have seven weeks and three exciting films to go this year,” said Alan Bergman, president, The Walt Disney Studios. “What all of our films have in common is not only quality but great characters and universal stories that connect with people around the world, which is so important to us.”
In July, Disney was the first studio to reach the $1 billion domestic box office milestone for the year, a threshold it has achieved for eight consecutive years. In August, in record time, Disney reached the $2 billion international box office threshold for the fourth year in a row, and in early November the studio surpassed its previous all-time international box office record of $2.302 billion, also set in 2010.
The announcement comes as Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues to dominate the global box office. The film opened domestically November 8 with $85.7 million and has earned $348.5M million worldwide since beginning its international rollout October 30.
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Dish Network’s chairman seems to be in sync with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s comments last week: Both execs say that they’re making progress toward a new program carriage agreement with Charlie Ergen telling analysts today that he’s “cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a deal done.” The companies agreed to keep talking, without a programming black out, at the end of September when their previous deal expired. Everyone’s been waiting to see how the companies would fare: Disney’s one of the broadcasters that sued Dish after it introduced its Hopper DVR which can automatically jump past ads in recorded programs. “Disney has not been one of our best relationships and part of that is my fault,” Ergen says. He wants to change that. “Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’m getting too old to do business with people we don’t have a good relationship with just to make a buck….You don’t marry everyone you date. And Disney’s a very pretty girl.” As for the talks, “there’s always economic issues,” Ergen says. But they’re also looking at a lot of what-if questions regarding the future of television because Disney likes long term deals. “We don’t want to have to go back to Disney to ask permission to do something,” Ergen says. Since Disney is “further along in the technology curve” it’s been “a great negotiation because it’s forcing us to think of things.” And the Hopper isn’t a big … Read More »
Disney Interactive‘s Jimmy Pitaro will step up to helm the Games and Media operating group solo as his former co-president John Pleasants exits his post, the company announced today. Pleasants will stay on as a consultant as Pitaro is upped to President of Disney Interactive, merging both the games and media units into one. The pair were installed in their split co-presidency in 2010, when Bob Iger brought Pleasants to run games biz and Disney’s social gaming acquisition Playdom alongside Pitaro, who came from Yahoo to head digital media at Disney Online. Fast forward three years and web and mobile initiatives have converged at the studio. Despite the recent success of Pleasants’ 1M-unit selling Disney Infinity multiverse game, there could only be one at the helm of Disney Interactive. “Following three years of consistent operating improvement at Disney Interactive and a great partnership between John and Jimmy, we are now in a position to fulfill our original objective to consolidate our Interactive business under one Los Angeles-based leader,” said Iger in a statement. “With Jimmy and John’s input, we have created an Interactive organization that is best structured to meet the demands of the fast-moving technology industry. I thank John for his many contributions to Disney Interactive including building tentpole products like Disney Infinity and establishing the company as a leading mobile games publisher and appreciate his passion … Read More »
The 2013 AFI Fest opening night at Hollywood’s famed, newly IMAX’d Chinese Theatre was as AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale said “practically perfect in every way” — thanks in no small part to nabbing the North American premiere of Disney’s surefire Oscar contender Saving Mr. Banks. It was a no-brainer on AFI and Disney’s part to launch this holiday release (it opens domestically December 13) which chronicles the turbulent relationship of Walt Disney and Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers during the the making of that 1964 musical classic which had its premiere at the very same theatre a half century ago. Director John Lee Hancock noted that in his opening remarks: “My life just keeps folding around. Just like in Mary Poppins it seems what happened has happened before. Fifty years ago there was a premiere here for Mary Poppins. About a year ago we were here filming the re-creation of that premiere, and now here we are again so it all just feels right,” he said. By the way, Poppins itself returns to the Chinese when AFI Fest hosts a red-carpet screening Saturday with stars Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice and Oscar-winning composer Richard Sherman attending.
Related: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ World Premieres In London – Can It Be Heading For Oscar Night?
Disney chair Alan Horn was taking congrats for the film he actually inherited when he came to the studio, and production president Sean Bailey was also singled out for praise in making this happen. Of course stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were there, but both skipped the Hollywood Roosevelt after-party where Sherman was the main attraction. I told Horn this is a word-of-mouth movie if ever there was one and should be a big hit for the studio. How it fares in the Oscar race will be interesting considering the last three Best Picture winners — Argo, The Artist and The King’s Speech — all seem to be films that make audiences feel good about themselves with the former two having a special Hollywood connection just like this one. Banks seems to fit the same bill that Oscar voters have been responding to recently, effortlessly blending laughs, tears, comedy, drama and emotion. This was my second viewing in three weeks (I saw it at a small screening shortly before it had its world premiere at the London Film Festival) and it holds up. Hanks and Thompson are slam-dunk nominees here and the film has many possibilities — but it is facing weightier fare in frontrunners 12 Years A Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips (another film with Hanks, which could make him a double nominee this year). Read More »
The basic numbers look fine but investors may find reasons to be concerned by Disney‘s unusually complicated report for a quarter that included a writedown for The Lone Ranger and an accounting adjustment that reduced ESPN revenues. The company reported net income of $1.54B, +11.0% vs the period last year, on revenue of $11.57B, +7.3%. The top line beat the Street’s forecast for $11.4B. Earnings at 77 cents a share were a penny ahead of expectations. The company’s cable networks reported a 1% increase in revenues to $3.57B with operating income -7% to $1.28B. But that includes a $172M reduction in deferred ESPN affiliate fee revenues. Take that out, and operating income would have been up $77M, the company says. At ABC broadcasting revenues were +2% to $1.37B with operating income -18% to $158M. The problems included higher costs for primetime programming as the company replaced news and reality fare with scripted shows. In addition it had tough comparisons with last year when ABC syndicated Castle and Wipeout and broadcast the Emmy Awards. Disney’s theme parks had cheerier news with revenues +8% to $$3.72B and operating income +15% to $571M. Consumer spending was up at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, but costs were up with the introduction of the MyMagic+ technology which helps guests avoid long lines. At the studio, revenues were +7% to $1.51B with operating income +35% to $108M helped by Monsters University — … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Disney is in negotiations with Jon Favreau to helm The Jungle Book, a new adaptation of the 1894 Rudyard Kipling novel that is a priority project for the studio. Justin Marks, scripter of The Raven, will turn in a draft shortly, and the studio hopes to get into production next year. Favreau — who wrote, directed, produced and stars in the modestly budgeted indie Chef – has a strong history with Disney, and this will put him back into the event film game. He helmed the first two Iron Man films and had been attached to direct Magic Kingdom, the pic where the theme park comes to life. Disney previously turned The Jungle Book into the classic 1967 animated film and a 1994 live-action feature helmed by Stephen Sommers. The book is public domain, and Disney has not yet set producers. Bet a few of them on the lot are going to be picking up the phone momentarily.
Related: Open Road Acquires U.S. Rights To Jon Favreau’s ‘Chef’
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Disney scored a Marvelous haul opening Thor: The Dark World overseas early Wednesday to $109.4M in 36 territories. The film opens stateside next Friday and is already making history. Thor 2‘s early take helped bump Disney’s international box office on the year beyond its previous all time $2.302B record with two months of global cash-collecting to go. The studio brought the Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman Marvel sequel early and at #1 in key territories France, the UK, Korea, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil and still has Argentina, Italy, China, and Japan on the docket; at this pace it’s hurtling towards a better run than the first Thor flick overseas.