Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Look at New Disney Films in 2013

                                                           (Copyright: Disney)

Oz the Great and Powerful – March 8 

This is a film that Disney has struggled with for quite some time; and that, will be a familiar theme in this article. Based off of the L Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film takes place in a time and setting before Dorthy found her way to Oz in the 1939 Wizard of Oz film. The development of this film goes all the way back to 1937 when Walt himself purchased the film rights to some of the L Frank Baum books. After learning that the film rights to the first Baum book had been sold to Louis B Mayer and a film project was being developed by MGM Studios Walt and Roy put the prospect of making a Oz film on the back burner. The Disney Company would later try and create Oz films like Rainbow Road to Oz and Return to Oz (1985) but the first was never finished and Return to Oz was a bomb and quickly faded away. 

In 2010 Joe Roth was assigned to produce the film, Sam Raimi agreed to direct, and Michael Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire signing on to write the script. It was announced in late Spring of 2011 that the film would be released on March, 8, 2013. Soon after it was announced that Zac Braff would be playing the the role of Frank, the wizards assistant, and rising Hollywood heavy hitter James Franco would be playing the Wizard. Mila Kunis was announced as the witch Theodora, Michelle Williams will be playing Glinda and Rachel Weisz was introduced as Evanora. This young and talented list of starts soon got the fans buzzing about the upcoming flick. The premise of the film is simple; the Wizard is an under appreciated small town magician who finds himself in the middle of a tornado that lands him in the middle of a mysterious land, where soon, all of the lands inhabitants are calling him a magical wizard and they are pleading with him to defeat the Wicked Witch. 

Disney is definitely looking for this film to be its next Alice in Wonderland; a 3d CGI film that mixes high drama with fantasy, special effects, and if Disney has its way, sees box office receipts north of $1 billion. And while that may be a little bit optimistic, Disney has all of the pieces in place to replicate the buzz and success of Alice. With a budget of close to $200 million, you can plan on seeing the Disney marketing machine gear up for a full frontal assault on audiences during the NFL playoff season and other high profile television events. Time will be the ultimate judge for this film, but one thing is for sure; I am very excited to see this movie!

                                                        (Copyright: Disney)

Monsters University-June 21

Monsters U is the sequel to the 2001 smash hit Monsters Inc. This time around we follow the adventures of monsters Mike and Sulley during their college years. The first trailer for the film was released in June of 2012. It’s a cute piece that shows Mike and Sulley participating in some of the usual college kid pranks; with Mike being the butt of most of the pranks. If this is any indication of what the rest of the film is going to be like, you can guarantee this picture will have the same amount and level of comedic gags as the first film in the Monsters franchise. 

The first rumblings of a Monsters Inc sequel began to rise during the early summer of 2006. The film has been in development for a few years and Pixar worked really hard at toying with the main plot and focus of the film before deciding to place the characters inside of a college environment. The original release date for the film was 11/21/2012 but Pixar was just not happy with the progress of the film and pushed the release date up 6 months. In March of 2011 it the title Monsters University was officially announced and a few days later on Collider.com it was reported that John Lasseter had officially announced Dan Scanlon as the director of the sequel. 
Scanlon was a writer on the Cars and this is his first time directing a feature film. Pixar vets Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton are writing the screenplay for this film so you can count on what should be a classic Pixar film that will tug at your heart strings and deliver the laughs at the same time. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are both returning to lend their voices to Mike and Sulley.

In October of 2012 Disney began the massive online marketing campaign for the film with the roll out of a viral website. The site is set up like an actual website where you would visit when browsing a school for yourself or your student aged kid. www.monstersuniversity.com/edu is an interactive playground for any animated film fan who wants to know more about the upcoming film. Disney is also selling special MU college style apparel and other items. It is a big campaign for what might be one of the most anticipated prequels of 2013. 

                                                          (Copyright: Disney)

The Lone Ranger – July 3

This is a film that has such a long, rich, and drama filled history that Lindsay Lohan would be jealous. The development of this film goes all the way back to 2002 when Columbia pictures made an attempt to make a Lone Ranger film. With some very heavy Mask of Zorro like undertones, the film went through a few script rewrites and director changes and Columbia all but gave up on making it. That is when Jerry Bruckhemier Films got a hold of the rights to make a Lone Ranger film. Bruckhemier took the proposal and film rights to Disney in 2007 and development was put into overdrive. 

Soon after in 2008 it was announced in 2008 that Johnny Depp will be playing the role of Lone Ranger sidekick Tonto. This was a role that was coveted by Depp and Disney all but made Depp commit to making a couple more Pirates of the Caribbean films in order to land the role as Tonto. Soon after this Disney began to get cold feet about the project. A slew of Western films with a modern slant began to hit the box office and subsequently bomb; like the 2011 Jon Favreau flick Cowboys vs Aliens. Disney studio head Rich Ross decided, on the back of these western failures, began to nitpick at the budget of the film with producer Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski.
A very public and ugly fight began between the Disney studio butting heads with Verbinski and Depp. Budget demands were made, and at one point production of the film was reported to be shut down altogether. Being the veteran producer he is, Bruckheimer stepped in as mediator and put the film back on track. Soon after Ross was canned as studio head and the Lone Ranger team faced only a little resistance from new Disney studio chief Alan Horn. Reports came in June of 2012 that the film was over budget and Horn all but blew a gasket over the out of control cost of production. 
On October 1st of 2012 the first trailer for Lone Ranger showing a masked Jack Sparrowesque Depp and Armie Hammer who seems to have come right from central casting with his leading man looks portraying the Lone Ranger. The trailer shows Depp and Hammer being thrown from trains, fighting everyone who gets in their way and Depp as Tonto saying, “There come a time… When good man must wear mask.”

This film is not your papas Lone Ranger. With a strikingly darker tone it is about the time in American history when trains began to outrun the horse and when outlaws ran wild across the great wide open. Tonto and the Lone Ranger have set out to right what has been wronged, even if that means not always following the law. Frequent Johnny Depp on screen partner Helena Bohnam Carter plays a role in the film and you can bet this picture will have all of the usual treats that a Verbinski/Depp picture has to offer. Along with a few Disney executives, some fans are beginning to wonder if today's audiences are going to go see a western. Some people are even drawing comparisons to the 2011 Disney mega flop, John Carter. Time will be the ultimate answer, and I know some people inside of Disney will be happy if the Lone Ranger just breaks even.            

                                                              (Copyright: Disney)

Frozen – November 27

This is yet another film from Disney that has a long developmental history. It is a 3D animated musical fantasy-comedy that focuses on the Snow Queen, voiced by Broadway superstar Idina Menzel. To this date, very little is known about the film and Disney is keeping a very tight lid on the plot and the script has even been kept under super secret guard. The reason Disney has kept the plot script and more so close to the vest is because Disney is looking for Frozen to have a Beauty and the Beast factor on today's audience.

Some inside of Disney animation are saying that this film will single handed boost and breath new life into the animation studio. Hopes are very high, but Disney is gambling a little bit by not even releasing a teaser trailer for the film during the busy 2012 holiday film going season. What we do now about the film is this; the Snow Queen curses her sister Anna. Anna tries to reverse the curse but ahs to survive a dangerous journey across an icy and perilous landscape. The film is a race against time where Anna and her sidekick Kristoff often find themselves facing off against the Snow Queens many minions. 

With development starting in 2002 Disney ran into a few plot hurdles and shelved the project. Announcing in June 2010 that the film production was on, “hold”, all hope for the movie being made was lost. In late 2011 Disney finally announced the film was officially back in production giving it the name, Frozen. John Lasseter is producing the film personally; a rare move for the man who often finds himself busy with working on multiple productions at once for Disney. 

The film is supposed to be an over the top musical with massive numbers written by Robert and Kristen Lopez. The same pair that wrote and music for Avenue Q, Finding Nemo: The Musical, and more. During a D23 event in August of 2012 a song from the from was played to great response from the live audience. Titled “Let it Go”, the song is supposed to be one of the signature numbers from the film. 

Due for release during the busy 2013 holiday season this film seems to be destined for greatness. It has an all star cast, a classic story theme placed against a plot and script that is being supervised by John Lasseter. All the pieces seem to be in place. The only thing left is for the Disney marketing machine to come out with its usual full frontal campaign. Look for early teaser trailers to come in the next few months and the usual theatrical trailers to be released during the summer blockbuster season. Look for special Frozen toys to come to your local Subway this fall and look for a huge push for the film at the theme parks. 

Saving Mr Banks –December 20

Finally, a film that portrays Walt Disney in the flesh! Saving Mr Banks chronicles the many years that Walt pursued P L Travers for the film rights to her popular Mary Poppins. Much like we see today from Harry Potter writer JK Rowling, Travers is very protective of her Poppins book and wants to play a role in the making of the Disney film. 

Emma Thompson will be portraying P.L. Travers in what is already being talking about as an Academy Award winning performance. Hanks is also sure to deliver in his role as Disney. As usual, Hanks has done a lot of research for the role and I am sure he will do the part justice. Kelly Marcel wrote the screenplay that started out as an unsolicited script that ended up on the desk of Disney executives. It was so good the Disney brass had no choice but to make the film. 

One of the best parts about this is that the audience will be absolutely drowning in Disney history. Long time Disney song writers are portrayed in the film and there are even a few scenes that were filmed in the Disneyland park itself. And while this will not be a true comprehensive telling of the entire Disney story it will give a elegant and much anticipated glimpse inside the making of what was one of Walt’s favorite films.

Slated for a Christmas week release date the film will go up against little competition with the only other potential blockbuster film being the sequel to Anchorman. Disney took a big risk in making this film and they have put a lot of work into. By far it is the film I am most looking forward to from Disney in 2013!             

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