Variety Buries the Lede About Disney’s Film Division


Walt Disney Studios had a much more magical earnings report than analysts had expected. The entertainment powerhouse behind Pixar, Marvel, and the world’s most trafficked theme parks logged earnings per share of $1.84, a 3% drop from $1.89 in the prior-year quarter. Disney also reported revenue of $15.3 billion, essentially flat with the year-ago period.…

The article is called No Star Wars, No Problem, and it’s true that Disney had a good quarter. But why?

The better-than-anticipated financial picture is attributable to higher broadcast revenues and the increased popularity of its parks, bright spots that off-set declines in Disney’s film division. The company faced difficult comparisons because it did not field any “Star Wars” sequel or spinoff during the holidays for the first time in four years. The lack of a “Star Wars” film also took a bite out of licensing profits.

Doesn’t that seem to suggest the opposite of the headline? The fact that other divisions of the company are covering for a loss does not mean that the loss is not there. How bad is the loss?

Disney’s film unit released the hits “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” during the final three months of 2018, as well as the box office bomb “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Film revenues for the quarter decreased 27% to $1.8 billion and segment operating income decreased 63% to $309 million.

That seems bad. And note something here. Of the three films released, two were sequels to existing properties (one a sequel to a film fifty years old). Those were the hits. The bomb was a re-imagining of “The Nutcracker” that no one wanted and was critically panned.

You know what didn’t get released?

Anything new.

Now for a year of live-action remakes of earlier films, more sequels, and comic book movies?

The Renaissance is over.

A Bunch of Star Wars-Related Internet Noise

From Variety:

  • Finally, there’s this:

    Although, to be fair, is there anything that doesn’t seem cooler soundtracked with “Sabotage”? It’s like the Old Bay of Awesomeness.

Examining The Emperor’s New Groove: Because Sometimes Buzzfeed is Right…

Yes, it’s the usual feast of gifs and OMGLOL, but they have stumbled upon a point.

The Emperor’s New Groove is so unlike any other Disney animated film, that I often have to remind myself that it’s Disney.

In the first place, it’s not a musical. Not really. There’s a quick song at the beginning, reprised at the end, but otherwise it’s remarkably capable of establishing characterization without bursting into song. This is just before PIXAR took charge of all non-musical Disney films, so it’s noteworthy that they even tried this.

In the second place, it’s spirit is snarky, silly, and self-aware, in a way that Disney movies almost never are. Sure, you have the occasional Flynn Rider, but most of the time they end up Facing Their Feelings in the third act. The very basic moral lesson of TENG – being a self-absorbed jagoff leads to misery – does not require any real shift in tone.

That tone bears far more resemblance to classic 30’s screwball comedies (in fact, the film is classified as such on Wikipedia) than to anything else Disney has ever done. Basically, this is the closed Disney ever got to making a Looney Tunes cartoon.



Wikipedia also says the the director, Mark Dindal, was a Disney journeyman who “drastically” altered the script to a comedy after an initial effort to make a traditional Disney animated film called Kingdom of the Sun, “didn’t work out.” He also directed Chicken Little, and so no longer works at Disney.

So that might explain that.

The Star Wars Avengers

L.Palmer speculates about a hypothesis that the Disney Star Wars films are going to take a page from the Avengers franchise:

There are, after all rumors of Boba Fett and Han Solo standalone films. I don’t disagree with these considerations. But I think the sequel trilogy — Episodes VII-IX, will not be those.

The premise of the Disney sale is that George Lucas is giving Star Wars to the next generation. So I suspect Episode VII will be precisely that handoff. If the rumors are true and Harrison Ford has indeed signed on for the next film, then we are going to see an old Han Solo.

This old.

If Hammil and Fisher and Billy Dee Williams (admit it, you want to see Lando Calrissian again) return, they will all be old as well. So the smart move will be to set Episode VII thirty years after Return of the Jedi, much as the last Indiana Jones movie was set nearly 20 years after The Last Crusade. And the purpose of this movie will be either to give our aging heroes one last ride, or to mentor the new generation (and probably, both). Then Episodes VII and IX can be about the new generation.

Who would this new generation be? Probably the children of the old (Ben Skywalker, Jaina Solo), and some other jedi, rogues, rebels, and villains. Lord knows the Expanded Universe is full of ideas. But I hope they don’t use too much, because I’ve always found the EU that touch too derivative to ever truly entertain. We don’t want to attempt to recreate the old movies, we want to pay homage to them, and move on. Give us a new story, a new villain, a new conflict, against which the old heroes can hardly find the strength to stand. Give us Beowulf against the Dragon, not against Grendel 2.0.

There is Good in George Lucas…I Can Feel it…

Acculturated shares my careful optimism:

Fans of the franchise are certainly skeptical about these new movies after being forced to suffer through Lucas’s bitter meanderings through the universe he inspired. But should they be? While Lucas will remain as a creative consultant, Disney has already shown the ability to produce action packed crowd pleasers for children and adults alike, and their success with trusting Marvel’s Avengers to Whedon was admirable. And really, your childhood can only be destroyed in front of you once. How much worse could it be?

It seems that George finally recognized that this thing he’s made is bigger than he is, and that he no longer has the power to control it. That means people who first loved Star Wars, such as Whedon, now have the power to make Star Wars movies. That’s pretty fantastic.

On the other hand, The Atlantic doesn’t sound very optimistic at all.

Star Wars Fans Now Able to Stop Hating George Lucas and Get Back to Hating Disney

The mind staggers.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

I’m of two minds.

On the one hand, George Lucas will have almost nothing to do with any future Star Wars releases. He will not direct, he will not write, he will not even executive produce. He has divested himself of the whole universe. Good for him, and it offers a glimmer of hope that someone who knows something about characters, dialogue and plot will be behind the next saga.

Plus, and I hardly dare to whisper this hope, but I feel like some bright young executive at Disney will say “You know, there’s a huge swath of Star Wars fans who still don’t Blu-Rays or DVD’s of Star Wars, because they don’t like the Special Edition. Maybe there’s some money to be made there?” And when Disney wants a Home Video release, Disney gets a Home Video release.

On the other hand, it’s Disney. They could be looking to restore SW to it’s former glory, and bring the old disgruntled fans back into the fold. Or they could just be looking to squeeze every last dollar out of this. Which would mean a long series of bland, mediocre space operas neither as good as the originals nor as awful as the prequels, John Carter with light-sabers. Which could eventually bore the hell out of all us screaming nerds, or it could turn Star Wars into a self-perpetuating Series with Eras, a la Dr. Who.

Dude, the Seventh Saga totally wails on the Sixth!