Friday, January 29, 2016

If 'The BFG' Goes Over, What Will It Bring To Live-Action Disney?


If you haven't been here before, or haven't been here long enough, you'll know that I have zero interest in any of the big budget pictures that are on Walt Disney Pictures' post-summer 2016 slate. When I say Walt Disney Pictures, I'm referring to the live-action studio. The studio behind the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more...

Why is that?

All of the pictures are live-action remakes of the studio's animated classics. Not retellings of the stories they adapted, but remakes of the animated pictures Walt made, animated pictures that the post-Walt filmmakers made. I have no interest in a live-action remake of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, but I wouldn't mind an all-new take on the classic story that has nothing to do with the feature animation studio's adaptation from nearly 25 years ago. The same goes for The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon, Dumbo, Mulan, Genies, Cruella, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, Night on Bald Mountain, and so on...

That shouldn't be the only type of picture on Walt Disney Pictures' slate, in my opinion. (Before you bring up Touchstone, I think Touchstone is probably on its way out, what with the Spielberg/DW SKG deal coming to a close this year.)

Unfortunately, this is happening because of Disney's squandering of the post-Pirates blockbuster genre pictures. It's a problem that dates all the way back to 2008, when Disney granted the Chronicles of Narnia sequel an unreasonably gargantuan budget and a release date that didn't suit it. The film flopped, and Fox has it now, as their entry - 2010's Voyage of the Dawn Treader - was cheaper and much more profitable. The Silver Chair is now on the table, there.

They did similar things to several other big-budget live-action films like G-Force, Prince of Persia, TRON: Legacy, John Carter of Mars, The Lone Ranger, and Tomorrowland. These films either had really high budgets, or bad marketing campaigns, or both. Today, an $80 million-costing action-drama based on a real-life rescue mission quietly rolls into theaters: The Finest Hours. They put ho-hum marketing into it, and it won't open with much more than $10 million this weekend. It most likely won't make back that budget.

It's a shame, because it could've. Maybe it's not a "gotta see" picture, but a little more oomph would've possibly helped.

This is the second-to-last film on the studio's slate that isn't a remake. The last is this summer's The BFG, a Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of the Road Dahl classic. The teaser that Disney unleashed this past holiday season got good reception, and the new poster wasn't too bad either. I reckon a Super Bowl spot will show up, and boost anticipation a little more. I hope!


Modern Disney executive logic is "Scrap it all together if it doesn't work, even if the disastrous results are mostly our fault." All of this is why everything is remakeville from now until presumably the end of the decade. Over the months, we've heard reports on things like Floors, Jungle Cruise, Goblins, and such... But I doubt those will even get past the pitch phase. Not for the time being...

While many most likely won't agree, I'm going to miss the experimentation period. I really liked (and will defend the heck out of) Tomorrowland a great deal, and found a lot to like in the flawed John Carter of Mars and the all-over-the-place Lone Ranger. I'm also a big fan of TRON: Legacy, even though I feel that movie has some serious issues as well, but what I loved about it overshadowed them - when it comes to the entertainment factor. Prince of Persia bothered me, but hey! At least they tried to do a big-scale video game adaptation! Better luck for the won't-be next time!

Anyways, The BFG. Will this buck the trend? Will it actually double its $130 million budget?

On its side is the fact that Spielberg directed it, and that it's a Roald Dahl adaptation. A few of those took off or are iconic, like both Willy Wonka films, and Matilda. It's the final film from E.T. writer Melissa Mathison, and the E.T. connection is being used in the marketing campaign. It also has a mid-summer release date, though it does have some heavy hitters to go up against. I have a feeling Independence Day: Resurgance, for example, will be like a milder version of Jurassic World for this year: Nostalgia 80s/90s babies race to the theater to see it, no matter if it's good or bad. The Legend of Tarzan, Star Trek Beyond, and The Secret Life of Pets could also be a problem, but if the film looks good, it should have no problem with all of those films surrounding it.

So what will happen if it actually becomes a success?

Will it miraculously tell Disney's powers-that-be that audiences will see a non-remake live-action Disney film? Probably not, but I feel it could possibly do this...

Convince Disney to make fresh big budget pictures... But ones that are definitely more familiar fantasy, like a Disney fairy tale or something like The BFG. Something closer to Narnia than, say, Pirates of the Caribbean or the sci-fi of John Carter of Mars, TRON, and Tomorrowland. Maybe, maybe...

Perhaps they'll dip into Dahl again. That would be nice, because Dahl himself worked with Walt in the 1940s, and Disney also released a Henry Selick-directed stop-motion adaptation of James and the Giant Peach two decades ago. There are other stories to mine, like The Witches, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The Magic Finger, et al.

Charlie would work because Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a hit in 2005, the original 1971 film is iconic, and also... Disney made an adaptation of a series that got an iconic film adaptation from someone else years ago: The Wizard of Oz! Twice! First in 1985 with the financially disastrous Return to Oz, and then three years ago with Oz The Great and Powerful. It was perfect for them because Oz was a series of books. They can easily adapt the original Charlie novel's sequel and possibly get a big hit out of that.

So... Would future live-action "originals" (in quotes for obvious reasons) be just Dahl adaptations? Or fantasy pics similar to The BFG and classic fairy tales? Or will Disney just stay the course and not attempt to recreate the success of The BFG?

6 comments:

  1. If they do decide to do more Dahl movies, I have one major suggestion: Gremlins.
    Not the Spielberg horror movie, but the Dahl short story that was almost made into a movie in 1940. I think it's high time that movie finally got made.

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  2. I think Disney will stay on course, even if The BFG is a success. Disney nowadays has become live-action remakes of animated classics and sequels to Pixar movies.

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  3. I think you will see an ebb and flow. If BFG is a big hit I could see more but I hope not Witches. That was already done perfectly! I think George's Marvelous Medicine would be fun but it is a pretty short book.
    I certainly hope they stay away from Oz as those 2 were disastrous. I think part of the problem is most of the live action films haven't been very good. They just need a couple good one's to boost people's confidence and then I can see it happening.
    The only thing I don't see in the future is live action comedies. They seem to be a truly dying breed relegated to TV Movies not theatrical releases.

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  4. Roald Dahl put in his will or something that no adaption to "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" could be made due to hating Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Thus that idea cannot happen.

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    1. Which is a shame, because the idea of Willy Wonka fighting aliens in outer space is something that just BEGS for the movie treatment.

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  5. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the website is very good.

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