It's hard not to be impressed with the Disney empire that Bob Iger has assembled at the movie studio. It's a label strategy that assumes that if you buy the best and the brightest properties and manage them well you will come out ahead--from John Lasseter's Pixar and Ike Permutter's Marvel to Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks and Kathleen Kennedy's Lucasfilm. At the CinemaCon Disney presentation, new studio chief Alan Horn, who took over the Disney reins from ousted rookie Rick Ross, was well-known to the exhibitors, as he had been the warm and genial head of Warner Bros. for 11 years. He started out, rather oddly, stating his support of the long windows status quo, given boss Iger's known desire to squash ancillary windows and other studios' hard work behind the scenes to push back on this issue.
What has struck so many in Hollywood is how comfortable the fit with family man Horn is with Disney--he was never that comfortable with many of his Warner lieutenant Jeff Robinov's more violent R entries. Everyone all over the world is familiar with the family entertainment brand Disney represents, he reminded: movie audiences "may not know what they are going to see, but they will know what they are not going to see."
He plans 14-15 titles year, and will continue his pursuit of a franchise strategy, of which 8 will be tentpoles. Two a year will come from Marvel, which is run like a tight Spartan ship by Kevin Feige. Marvel will deliver Shane Black's take on "Iron Man 3" in 3-D in May, starring well-paid Robert Downey Jr. (who is coming back), with added ensemble members Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall, as well as the second Thor installment, 3-D "The Dark World" (November 8), starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, and Natalie Portman and directed by "Game of Thrones" helmer Alan Taylor.
Robert Redford plays a higher-up in secret government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (April 4, 2014), starring Chris Evans in the title role and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who also wrote the first film. And James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Edgar Wright's "Ant Men" are farther down the Marvel pipeline, along with Joss Whedon's "Avengers 2."
Live action Disney is set to deliver about five films a year, three small and two big. That would include Gore Verbinski's follow-up to his Oscar-winning animated feature "Rango," the $250-million-and-counting western "The Lone Ranger" (July 3) produced by Disney veteran Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger, complete with oversize white hat and stallion Silver and a silver bullet...
"Pirates of the Caribbean" writers Ted Elliott
& Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe worked out an origin myth based on
the old property and damn if the "never-before-seen footage" doesn't
look terrific---if a tad expensive. The filmmakers built and destroyed a
real railway--the superb train-top running stunts are Buster
Keaton-inspired-- and it's all quite splendid. Depp looks warm, wise and
charming as Comanche Tonto who is hellbent on revenge and recruits a
young new deputy (Hammer) who has similar goals. There's broad comedy,
as they make an enjoyably improbable team. Will this be able to make
enough money to justify its cost, especially overseas? Tom Wilkinson is
the classic power-mad magnate villain. Likely not, but as a western
lover I can't wait to see it--how many of us are there? (I'm less
interested in yet another "Pirates," due in 2015.)