Is Lucasfilm the last Nail In Disney Filmmaking Coffin? — Matthew Debord

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by Matthew Debord in The Debord Report

Sorry to get to a Halloween headline a few days late, but Erica Orden had a very good piece in the Wall Street Journal Thursday about how Disney’s $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm, announced this week, will basically place in-house filmmaking at the feet of CEO Bob Iger’s purchases: Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006 and Marvel for $4 billion in 2009.

Here’s Orden:

With the new “Disney-Lucasfilm” brand set to release a “Star Wars” sequel every other year beginning in 2015, the original studio is likely to face an even-further-reduced capacity to produce and distribute its own live-action fare. In total, Disney distributes roughly a dozen films each year.

Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger indicated this week that the coming “Star Wars” films will supplant Disney movies on the release schedule. Disney doesn’t plan to spend more than it already does on film production, Mr. Iger said, meaning each new “Star Wars” film will lead to one less Disney film.

That sounds bad, but maybe it isn’t. As I’ve noted in the past, Disney’s film business hasn’t been so great. “The Avengers” changed that rather massively for the better — but of course that was a movie that came out of the Marvel deal. It was preceded by the box-office and creative debacle that was “John Carter,” a movie that Disney made itself and which lost an estimated $200 million.

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  • Vslin ….Iger himself was a TV guy and he was trying to remake Disney, drawing up on what he learned during his years with ABC Television. I think the biggest thing he was looking for is someone who got the idea that Disney’s strength was in its ability maximize revenue across multiple platforms and territories from blue-chip IP — and not so much in the origination of that blue-chip IP. It’s hard for those of us who think of Disney first and foremost as a creative originator — but that’s not Iger’s Disney.

    Cook was a throwback. He got up in the morning thinking creative thoughts and he wanted to be the one who originated something special; Ross was a guy who wasn’t wired like that. He was wired more like Iger … which is why Iger chose him…..

  • When Iger fired Dick Cook, it was difficult to imagine what he was thinking. It seemed to be totally contrary to good business practice to replace a successful film producer with an inexperienced TV manager. In hindsight of course it makes sense — Iger probably did not want someone running the film business who might object to or interfer with the “big strategy” (mainly to not allow the Disney studios to dabble in any risky, expensive creative excesses). So it appears out-sourcing will be the Disney way for the foreseeable future. And I am sorry to admit that this does not bode well for any continuity in the John Carter franchise. I had hoped for many years to see John Carter on the big screen, so I guess I will just consider myself fortunate to have at least one big-budget John Carter film to enjoy, made by some of Hollywood’s best technicians and artists. It may be a long wait for the next John Carter installment, so we should all have time to reread and admire the books in the meantime.

  • I’m going to have disagree with some of your comments there Abe. John Carter was not done in the fashion of Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Instead Stanton’s approach was toss the book in a trash can and zap both the fun and epic qualities out of the story. There could have been a film that combined both Gladiator or Braveheart and Star Wars and Indiana Jones and found the perfect balance. Sadly Stanton had no interest in either approach, just his “damaged goods” hero and his confusing storyline.

    Now the rest is right on-most people did not put the blame on ERB or the books as being the problem with this film but the film’s failure didn’t help. Maybe if ERB Inc gets the rights back its time to explore other avenues like TV or animation until another studio becomes interested. Or enough people forget Stanton’s film.

  • At this rate the only chance for a John Carter sequel to ever get made would be for Andrew to buy the rights to the books from Disney and shop the sequel to other studios. Which is unfortunately easier said than done.

  • The “bomb” reputation doesn’t help things, but at least it’s widely agreed that the failure of DJC was not due to the source material. Many people wish it had leveraged the source material more aggressively, rather than being a relatively loose adaptation.

    So there is a still room in the world for a Barsoom film of a different nature, something more along the lines of “Braveheart” and “Gladiator”, rather than the “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones” of Andrew Stanton’s approach.

    The right influential filmmaker, with a new, unique approach in mind, could take the Barsoom series and create something innovative, powerful and memorable. May the right people see the opportunity, have the will to chase it down, and see it through to completion.

  • So that’s why the maketing of John Carter was wasted. So sad and short-sighted. So now it’s down to two things: is Andrew Stanton passionate enough to nonetheless put Gods of Mars in the pipeline, or is another studio in need of a “boy’s franchise” willing to pick the license (unlickely since in addition of being deemed a flop, John Carter is now blamed for closing Disney’s movie division singlehandedly)?

    The big loser here is Paramount. They lost the right to distribute Marvel movies, and now the Indiana Jones movies. It would be quite ironic if John Carter went back to Paramount after being developped there for years…

  • “the coming “Star Wars” films will supplant Disney movies on the release schedule”

    That would seem to put the writing on the wall for the John Carter franchise, seeing as it has been very debatable if “Gods” was even on the schedule or not. It is not exactly a “we will never make ‘Gods'” announcement, but might be the closest thing we will get. The tide of opinion among fans, here and on Facebook, seems to be in the direction of curiosity and hopes about a different studio getting the rights ASAP and rebooting.

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