Julie Andrews And Dick Van Dyke Light Up ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Premiere As Disney Goes All Interactive With ‘Mary Poppins’ (Exclusive)

Pete Hammond

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 verysavingbank01 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 igerhorn1studio 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.

savingbank02The 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 »

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The Contenders 2013: Screenwriter Kelly Marcel On Emma Thompson’s Character In ‘Saving Mr. Banks’: “She’s So Horrible. How Do We Soften Her Up?” (Video)

By | Tuesday November 19, 2013 @ 2:14pm PST
Pete Hammond

Screenwriter Kelly Marcel came late into the process of writing her famously blacklisted script for Saving Mr. Banks (12/13). Original writer Sue Smith had crafted it more as a biopic of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers but Marcel focused instead … Read More »

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OSCARS: Is George Clooney Now King Of The Academy Awards?

By | Thursday February 21, 2013 @ 1:41pm PST
Pete Hammond

When George Clooney received his eighth Oscar nomination as a producer of Argo – he shared producing credits on the Best Picture nominee with Ben Affleck and Grant Heslov — he marched into the Academy Award record books in a very unique way. It was the sixth different category in which he was nominated, an unprecedented feat for the 24 categories currently handed out each year. It’s also a nearly-unprecedented feat in all 85 years of the Oscars  — but that’s with an asterisk and we’ll get to that.

Clooney knocked off three of those categories in 2005, the first year he was nominated for anything, with Directing and Original Screenplay (with Heslov) nominations for Good Night And Good Luck and winning Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. Then there were those Best Actor nominations he seems to get every other year: Michael Clayton (2007), Up In The Air (2009) and The Descendants (2011). That’s four different categories, to which he added a fifth in 2011, when he also was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay race for The Ides Of March (with Heslov and Beau Willimon). This feat with five ties him with Warren Beatty, Stanley Kubrick, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Kenneth Branagh — however, only Clooney’s and Beatty’s noms all came in Oscar’s marquee top eight races (Picture, Writing, Acting, Directing). For the record, in addition to their writing, producing, directing and/or acting nods, Kubrick won in Special Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Branagh was nominated for a Live Action Short, Swan Song (1992); and the Coens have shared Film Editing nominations twice under their pseudonym Roderick Jaynes.

With Best Picture frontrunner Argo, the versatile Clooney has now passed them all in this particular — and particularly impressive — Oscar statistic. Although some could say acting, directing, writing and picture are just four categories, I would argue they are very specific disciplines which is why the Academy separates out lead and supporting acting as well as Adapted and Original Screenplays. I would also point out Beatty’s feat of earning Picture, Actor, Directing and Screenplay nominations in the same year — not once but twice (Heaven Can Wait, Reds) — is a Herculean feat in itself. He won the Directing Oscar for Reds as well as the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award and has 14 nominations in all, but none of them were in the Supporting Actor category and that’s where Clooney topped him. In fact, Beatty has yet to play a supporting role in any film.

So in terms of sheer numbers of categories nominated, is George Clooney now the King of the Oscars? Read More »

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Colin Farrell To Star In Disney’s ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

By | Friday June 15, 2012 @ 12:08pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Colin Farrell is in talks to join the cast of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, the John Lee Hancock directed and Kelly Marcel-scripted saga of how Walt Disney waged a 14-year courtship to persuade Australian author P.L. Travers to sell … Read More »

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R.I.P. Robert Sherman

By | Tuesday March 6, 2012 @ 7:12am PST
Mike Fleming

UPDATE, 12:45 PM: Disney president and CEO Bob Iger has released this statement on Robert Sherman’s passing: “Today, on behalf of everyone at Disney, we mourn the loss of an extraordinary talent, Robert Sherman. One of the world’s greatest songwriters and a true Disney legend, his legacy will endure forever through the magic of his music. From ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘It’s A Small World’ to ‘Winnie The Pooh’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, Robert, along with his brother Richard, wrote many of Disney’s most memorable and beloved songs, which continue to enchant millions of people around the world to this day.”

PREVIOUS, TUESDAY AM: According to reports, songwriting legend Robert Sherman has died at the age of 86, in London. Sherman and his brother Richard penned such classic tunes from Disney films as Mary Poppins and Jungle Book, and non-Disney films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The siblings were adored by Walt Disney himself and proved a huge help to his efforts to generate quality family entertainment and theme parks (they wrote “It’s A Small World”). The brothers scored 23 gold and platinum albums, have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2008 received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. The brothers also crafted the scores of tunes like ”You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine.” Read More »

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Disney Acquiring Black List Script ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ On Making ‘Mary Poppins’

By | Wednesday February 8, 2012 @ 7:09am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Walt Disney Company is near a deal to acquire Saving Mr. Banks, the Kelly Marcel-scripted saga of how Walt Disney persuaded Australian author P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to make a film out of Mary Poppins. … Read More »

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Who Needs Comic-Con? Disney Reveals All At D23 Expo

Pete Hammond

Disney Announces Two New Pixar Films
Who needs Comic-Con when you can do it yourself?

That must be exactly what Disney is thinking as it continues its massive second annual Disney D23/ Expo, the “ultimate fan event” taking place all weekend long at the Anaheim Convention Center right next to Disneyland (the name refers to 1923, the year Walt Disney started his studio).  It’s an offshoot of the official Disney Fan Club and includes a ginormous exhibition center with every imaginable opportunity to buy Disneyana, numerous fan events and celebrity-sighting opps, and then there was today’s centerpiece: a near-three-hour preview of movies in the pipeline from Disney, Pixar and Marvel (which announced a partnership with the company in 2009 that is just now gearing up).

Call it “Mickey Con”. It’s all a bit overwhelming, so no wonder it takes three days just to get through it all. The event continues through the end of Sunday.

After his major presentation of the new Disney slate in the gargantuan arena in front of 4200 seemingly rabid fans (and a few more restrained press members), I caught up with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross in the Green Room for an exclusive interview in which he talked about the possibilities of a fifth Pirate.s of the Caribbean film as well as his first comments on the demise of  Pirates team Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer’s about-to-shoot Western The Lone Ranger, which Deadline’s Mike Fleming first reported had been dropped by Disney due to budgetary concerns on the pricey pic. When I asked Ross if there was anything new to report  he said, ”Nothing definitive. There is nothing new. I’m hoping to do it, I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” And about the possibility of a fifth Pirates? The situation is obviously clouded with the Lone Ranger situation, but again he used the word “hopeful.” Read More »

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Mighty ‘Thor’ Hammers $242M Global Cume; ‘Fast Five’ $324M; ‘Jumping Broom’ $13.7M; ‘Something Borrowed’ $13.1M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Welcome to the first of the big comic book-inspired movies on the Big Screen this summer, with Fox’s X-Men: First Class, Warner Bros’ Green Lantern, and Marvel’s Captain America to follow Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount. Total gross for all films is $161M but still off last year’s by 10% (when Iron Man 2 did $128M all by itself). Here are the following Top 10 North American grosses for Friday and Saturday and this domestic weekend in addition to international and worldwide cumes:

1. Thor (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) NEW [3,955 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $66M
International $176M, Global Cume $242M

Saturday brought in younger and family audiences to this latest in the Marvel Studios productions which earned a ‘B+’ CinemaScore overall, and an ‘A’ for ages under 18. Hollywood was predicting a $60+ million domestic weekend opening for Marvel/Disney’s Thor, with Paramount distributing. The PG-13 Norse God actioner had already made $133M from 56 territories so far with Finland and China opening this weekend. Now, in its second weekend of widespread release on the international circuit, Thor posted a formidable $46M from 12,476 positions in 60 markets for an overseas gross of $176M to date — or global cume of $242M outside the US and Canada — and in only 11 days has already outgrossed the final cume of X-Men 1, Fantastic Four 1 and the first Hulk movie from Marvel. In the U.S. and Canada, the film debuted as the No. 3 Marvel title — well ahead of X-Men and Fantastic Four and The Hulk, which all did around $55M, but nowhere near the $100M+ of Iron Man or Spider-Man. With Universal’s holdover Fast Five speeding to another strong weekend, Thor opened against such stiff competition, even with $3.25M in midnight box office compared with Fast Five‘s $3.8M midnights for its U.S. and Canada debut. But the Norse god took advantage of 3D’s higher ticket prices, including at 214 iMAX theaters domestically, for $6.6M and another 70 screens overseas. Reviews have been good, and British Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Aussie newcomer Chris Hemsworth in the title role of The Mighty Thor earned a 92% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The good-looking Hemsworth allowed for heavy PR to drum up appeal among women with his shirtless clip a popular choice for talk shows with large female audiences who also were targeted with a Royal Wedding blitz. To solidify male appeal, Paramount had spots during the Super Bowl and NCAA Basketball, the UFC Marathon and UFC Fight Night Live Premiere. And, to appeal to the feeble-brained, Thor ads aired on the finale of Jersey Shore.

Thor launched in 1962 and has endured for almost half a century across comics, toys, animated series, and now a movie. Like Iron Man, Marvel thought Thor deserved to be made in its own right and lends a long history to The Avengers. (Aka Marvel’s Avengers Assemble strategy. Expect to see agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., previously seen in the Iron Man movies, foreshadowing the coming of The Avengers). The challenge for Paramount was to market a reverse superhero story: a hero becomes a man. “Our challenge was to emphasize what was unique about his character and define him for audiences,” a studio exec told me. So the TV ads reminded: “The world has many heroes but only one is a God.” This epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard with the powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Thor was produced by Marvel wunderkind Kevin Feige, with Alan Fine, Stan Lee, David Maisel, Patricia Whitcher and Louis D’Esposito serving as executive producers from a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne and a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.

2. Fast Five (Universal) Week 2 [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $10.6M, Saturday $12.8M, Weekend $32.5M (-62%), Cume $139.9M
International $184.8M, Global Cume $324.7M

The -62% domestic drop was primarily due to the loss of all IMAX screens and large-format screens which had only been booked for one week. But abroad Fast Five is the No. 1 film in the world for the second week in a row and the biggest international weekend in Universal’s history. It continued its international rollout with No. 1 openings in 44 more territories this weekend for 58 total. Fast Five set records for the biggest opening of the Fast franchise, and was the biggest opening day and biggest opening weekend in Universal’s history in 12 markets, including Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, France, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam. International grosses were an estimated $86.6M at 6,979 dates in 58 territories and raised the international total to $184.8M. The worldwide total including the outstanding domestic box office of $139.9M will reach $324.7M today.

3. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) NEW [2,034 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $13.7M

Sony was only expecting TriStar’s Jumping The Broom this weekend to do somewhere between $8M to $10M on the film that was made for just $6.6M. Hey, if major studios keep making cheap movies like this that do double the predicted grosses, I’m going to have a tough time making fun of mogul tightwads. Pic received an ‘A’ CinemaScore straight across the board — women, men, all ages. “Exits show we hit our target as 70% of this weekend’s audience was female and 64% was over 35,” A Sony exec tells me. Aimed at older African-American women, the PG-13 film focuses on two “Uptown meets Downtown” families who meet for the first time at a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in what is billed as an ”insightful and inspirational” comedy. The key for Sony was reaching out to faith-based audiences. Bishop TD Jakes, who is a producer on the film, hosted screenings at religious conferences throughout the country. On the media front, Sony worked with TLC on special wedding programming and on tie-ins with Royal Wedding coverage in local markets. There also was strong BET promotion since both the director/executive producer of The Game, Salim Akil, directed the film, and a co-star of The Game, Pooch Hall, co-starred in this film as well.

4. Something Borrowed (Alcon/Warner Bros) NEW [2,904 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $13.1M

This run-of-the-mill rom-com based on the novel by the same title earned a ‘B’ CinemaScore: ‘B+’ among females, ‘C+’ males. Financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side) with Warner Bros just distributing, the pic was counter-programmed against Thor and Week 2 of Fast Five and was always expected to open in the low teens. Luke Greenfield directed from a screenplay adaptation by Jennie Snyder Urman. Hilary Swank was one of the producers. Gee, Kate Hudson’s career looked interesting when she did Almost Famous. But a succession of mediocre romantic comedies like this one where two female frenemies fight over the same man (so anti-woman) have made her into yesterday’s news. Sad that.

5. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 4 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.2M, Cume $114.9M

6. Water For Elephants (Fox) Week 3 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5.6M, Cume $41.6M

7. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 3 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $46.8M

8. Prom (Disney) Week 2 [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $794K, Saturday $960M, Weekend $2.4M (-49%), Cume $7.8M

9. Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 5  [2,010 Theaters]
Friday $590K, Saturday $850K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $36.6M

10. Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil (The Weinstein Co) Week 2 [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $433K, Saturday $877K, Weekend $1.8M (-54%), Cume $6.7M

Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment and Participant Media platformed Mel Gibson’s comeback movie The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster in 22 theaters across the top ten markets in North America: weekend gross was $104K, with a paltry per theater average. Doesn’t bode well for pic which expands on May 20 and will be brought to Cannes.

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Walt Disney On ‘How To Train An Animator’

With DreamWorks Animation opening Megamind today, and Sony Pictures Animation just naming a new president, and Walt Disney Studios releasing Tangled shortly, and Universal/Illumination sending Despicable Me overseas, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences enforcing a November 1st deadline for 2010 Best Animated feature entries, it’s more relevant than ever to spotlight a letter written by Walt Disney in 1935 about the business of toon storytelling. The Drawn Blog (described as a daily source of inspiration for illustration, animation, cartooning, and comic art) recently drew attention to an 8-page Walt memo to Don Graham, a highly respected art teacher, about setting up art classes for Disney animators that would become the studio’s structured training program. That gave birth to the Golden Age of Animation, what with Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs released in 1937, and Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940.

The full memo is posted on the website, but I felt it was important to repeat it here as well. Because today’s toonmakers who place relentless hipness over emotional substance would do well to remember Walt’s words, especially about animation laughs: “Comedy, to be appreciated, must have contact with the audience. This we all know, but sometimes forget. By contact, I mean that there must be a familiar, sub-conscious association. Somewhere, or at some time, the audience has felt, or met with, or seen, or dreamt, the situation pictured. A study of the best gags and audience reaction we have had, will prove that the action or situation is something based on an imaginative experience or a direct life connection. This is what I mean by contact with the audience. When the action or the business loses its contact, it becomes silly and meaningless to the audience.”

WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS
INTER-OFFICE COMMUNICATION

DATE DECEMBER 23, 1935
TO DON GRAHAM
FROM WALT

Right after the holidays, I want to get together with you and work out a very systematic training course for young animators, and also outline a plan of approach for our older animators.

Some of our established animators at the present time are lacking in many things, and I think we should arrange a series of courses to enable these men to learn and acquire the things they lack.

Naturally the first most important thing for any animator to know is how to draw. Therefore it will be necessary that we have a good life drawing class. But you must remember Don, that while there are many men who make a good showing in the drawing class, and who, from your angle, seem good prospects – these very men lack in some other phase of the business that is very essential to their success as animators.

I have found that men respond much more readily to classes dealing with practical problems than to more theoretic treatment. Therefore I think it would be a very good idea to appeal to these men by conducting these classes with the practical approach in mind. In other words, try to show in these classes that the men can make immediate practical application of what they are being taught.

The talks given by Fergy, Fred Moore, Ham Luske, and Fred Spencer, have been enthusiastically received by all those in attendance. Immediately following these talks, I have noticed a great change in animation. Some men have made close to 100% improvement in the handling and timing of their work. This strikes me as pointing a way toward the proper method of teaching in the future.

The following occurs to me as a method of procedure:

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