Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Brighter Future for the Mouse House?

With Alan Horn becoming the Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios in eight days, some changes have already taken place over the last few days at the Mouse House and more should come. Changes for the better, perhaps.

For starters, the Jerry Bruckheimer tentpole, Lone Ranger, has been pushed back to July 3, 2013. Originally slated for release on May 31st, Disney made a wise decision to move it. It'll be opening against Despicable Me 2 and a 3D re-release of Independence Day (which I personally believe wasn't necessary). This is good because May 2013 is packed: Disney's own Iron Man 3, Fox/Blue Sky's Epic, Universal's sixth Fast and the Furious film (does it even have a title?), Warner Bros.' The Hangover Part III and the Star Trek sequel, not to mention all of the June releases that would come right after it.

Lone Ranger is a real risk, ever since Disney green lit the project. Westerns are a hard sell these days, though True Grit did very well (the Oscar buzz probably helped out a lot) and Rango was a moderate success. In order to keep the Western genre going in this day and age of special effects-laden action films, Lone Ranger has to be somewhat of an enjoyable film and Disney needs to market it with confidence. With a $215 million budget, Disney is in a bit of a predicament with this film. It needs to be a breakout hit at this rate. With that, Horn might help the problematic film. They began filming back in March, but we don't know if the film will be good or not. If it's not good, that'll go against Horn's note to Disney when he came on board: "Just make good movies".

The other film that was moved was Marvel's Thor 2, which has been delayed a few times before that. Originally slated for July 26, 2013, it was moved to November 15, 2013 with Phineas and Ferb taking its place. With the breakout success of The Hunger Games, the people at Disney realized that the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is heavy competition for Thor 2. The film was moved forward to November 8th, which is the same day DreamWorks' Me and My Shadow is opening. I have a feeling one of them is going to move, and I think it's going to be DreamWorks' film. Why? DreamWorks broke their early November release tradition with Puss in Boots last autumn, changing the release date to late October very late in the game. It was a success, so DreamWorks can do the same with this film in order to avoid the heavy competition, because November 2013 is packed.

Thor 2 is poised to be a smash hit, coming off of The Avengers, but it'll be interesting to see how Iron Man 3 fares next May. It's coming so soon after The Avengers, will people think that's overkill? Or will the excitement generated by The Avengers make them race to see it? Captain America 2 isn't out until April 4, 2014. I have a feeling that under Horn, these films will be satisfying. Marvel seems to imply that they want Iron Man 3 to be Marvel's best film yet. That's a tall order, and right now, it looks like the film is jam-packed. That said, this could turn out to be a great third entry in the series. Also, when do you think we'll get a trailer for this film? Steven Spielberg's Robopocalypse also got moved from 2013's competitive summer to April 25, 2014, where it should kick off the summer season, if Captain America 2 doesn't already do this. Then again, that could move too.

That said, Horn is obviously going to make sure that Disney's live action output will be an improvement. No more failed tentpoles or mediocre big budget films. This is Disney's chance to give audiences and critics what summer blockbusters aren't giving them. Horn is aiming to unite the individual studios, as they were divided by Ross' poor management.

Most importantly, how will Horn oversee Walt Disney Animation Studios' projects? Under Rich Ross, Rapunzel became Tangled, and The Snow Queen was retitled Frozen because the attitude was "Young boys don't want to see girly princess movies". Surely bad marketing can't be to blame, right? Perhaps Horn will realize that poor marketing killed The Princess and the Frog, not the fact that young boys were trying to avoid a "girly princess movie". Maybe Frozen will be retitled The Snow Queen, since they have a lot of time to change the title. I think they should. Here's hoping that he also makes sure that the marketing department puts their all into marketing their forthcoming feature film events. They need to bring the "event status" back to Disney's animated features, something that should've happened when Bolt came out in November 2008. Perhaps Wreck-It Ralph could be that film, since Tangled was a smash hit.

The home video division also needs a facelift. Take the Diamond Editions for example, the Blu-ray successors to the Platinum Edition series that Disney launched in 2001 and ended in 2009. The first two titles, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast, are great 2-disc sets. Bambi and The Lion King? Only one Blu-ray disc, with most of the bonus materials on the Second Screen app, while not having all of the bonus materials from the previous editions. Other films, like in the past, usually get poor treatment for their home video releases. Hopefully this will all change and we'll get great Blu-ray releases for all of their notable films, animated and live action. Also, hopefully this annoying trend of packaging the not-so-popular Disney animated classics (The Fox and the Hound, Pocahontas) with their horrible direct-to-video sequels will come to an end immediately, because I'm not buying something like The Hunchback of Notre Dame if it's comes with the dreadful direct-to-video sequel whenever that hits Blu-ray.

As for Pixar and Marvel, things should not change much. Pixar still has three original ambitious projects in the works, and Marvel's pipeline is loaded. They'll deliver good films consistently, and that's what Horn is looking for. He also hopes to "keep the waters calm". He has a big mess to clean up, one left by Rich Ross. I have a feeling that he'll wash all of that away during his run. What do you think?

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