Disney

Hollywood

All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell pulls back the curtain on the Hollywood conspiracy machine… You may already be a film industry cynic. Maybe you think Hollywood is a barren wasteland, devoid of creativity and originality. Maybe you’re sick of seeing talented people get ignored and vapid hacks get splashed all over the trades. Maybe you’re tired of 3D everything and having to re-buy your movies every five to ten years. I’m not here to dissuade you of any of that. Hell no, I’m here to make it worse. Get ready, because this is some of the rottenest shit of which the film industry is capable. These are the things so terrible that Hollywood has to cover them up, lest God see their sin and smite them accordingly (and keep various government entities and lawyers off their backs, of course). If you still had any kind thoughts toward Hollywood, I suggest you prepare yourself for crushing disappointment. But first, I’d like to give a very huge shout out and thank you to writers C. Coville and Maxwell Yezpitelok for their help on this article. You guys are great! And now back to the shit storm, already in progress:

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banks

Director John Lee Hancock won the hearts of much of North America with 2009’s The Blind Side. Whether the movie was enjoyable or not, there’s no denying the impact it had that year. Come December there’s a chance Hancock’s newest film, Saving Mr. Banks, will strike the same chord with audiences. It’s certainly deserving of that same success. Author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the woman behind Mary Poppins, has been turning down Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) advances for over twenty years. It’s the book rights he’s interested in, but she’s afraid he’ll turn it into another one of his goofy animated movies instead of appreciating the personal story Travers wrote it as. After discovering that she’s running out of money, Travers begins to change her tune. From that point on, we see plenty of back and forth between her and Walt, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and the two men behind the picture’s music, Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert Sherman (B.J. Novak). The scenes with Travers, the Sherman brothers, and DaGradi sum up the movie. During their creative meetings with Travers, they have to win her over with costume designs, songs, and every nut and bolt of the script. All of their scenes are in a small contained room, and each one of them is a delight. They’re funny and sharp. There’s nothing grand about these moments but they’re naturally charismatic, thanks to the actors’ collective charm.

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cinderella

Disney, as a company, is one of the best that’s ever existed when it comes to matters of marketing and branding. Everyone knows the Disney logo, everyone knows the silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s ears, and, thanks to the merchandising and advertising blitz that’s taken place over the last couple decades, pretty much every little girl you’ve ever met can instantly deduce which Disney Princess they’re looking at just with a quick glimpse at the color of her hair and the dress she’s wearing. Because of this, it was kind of interesting to speculate what the new Lily James-starring, Kenneth Branagh-directed live action remake of Cinderella was going to look like. Disney hasn’t ever really done a live action feature of one of their iconic cartoon properties yet. Would Branagh be under strict restrictions to follow the visual template laid out by the company’s animated classic? Or would such a respected director have more freedom to offer up his own visual and narrative interpretation of the Cinderella story? Well, Disney put out a press release about Cinderella along with the first still taken during the film’s shooting today [via /Film], and from the looks of things it seems like they’re going to be sticking pretty closely to the Cinderella everyone knows and loves.

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trailer escape from tomorrow

If there’s one way to get your park-hopper pass revoked for good, it’s filming a movie, especially one that paints the company in such a depressing light, at Disneyland and Walt Disney World without permission. How Randy Moore, the writer and director of Escape From Tomorrow, hasn’t been sued yet by the wonderful world of Disney remains a mystery, but that might change after they get a whiff of the first trailer for the Sundance hit (read Allison Loring’s review) as it prepares for its theatrical release. In short, Roy Abramsohn plays Jim, a man on his last day of vacation with his family at the Walt Disney World resort. When he gets bad news over the phone from his boss, it triggers something that causes him to spiral out of control and see things that may or may not be there. His child’s eyes turn demonic and black, fellow parkgoers turn into Tinkerbells, fireworks become explosions — a man’s head turns into the Epcot Spaceship Earth sphere. Just check out the trailer for yourself:

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BIG HERO 6

Despite the recent bout of sequel and prequelitis that Pixar has suffered (arguably from a Patient Zero named Disney), the ships seem to be creatively righting themselves. They’re also apparently tethering themselves to the Golden Gate bridge in order to watch the sunset. The picture above is from Big Hero 6, which is one of many projects that The Mouse opened up about during this year’s D23 conference. It’s one of the biggest signals of Marvel sensibilities merging with Disney — an exciting prospect that could bring some fantastic comic book properties to the big screen beyond the post-Avengers plans through, gulp, 2021. There’s a world out there of comic heroes that may not be right for live-action, and it’s encouraging to see that Disney understands that potential and is willing to take a chance. There are some innovative ideas here, nestled in a comfortable nest of old favorites (and, yes, a few cash-grabs). Luckily for now they all look gorgeous.

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William Fichtner Lone Ranger

William Fichtner isn’t an actor afraid to go big. Maybe that comes with the territory of being a character actor, but no one can ever accuse Fichtner of playing it safe. There are many examples, and perhaps some others better than this one, but take a moment to reflect upon the Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito comedy vehicle, What’s the Worst that Can Happen?. Not exactly a comedy classic, but, even if you only vaguely remember that movie, you definitely remember Fichtner’s performance as a flamboyant detective. It’s the kind of performance that breathes life into a scene. The same can be said for Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Bartholomew”Butch” Cavendish is a villain with a mustache itching to be twirled, but, as Fichtner put it, he refused to do any twirling of the sort. That’s right, no twirling of any kind. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to have fun in another Jerry Bruckheimer production, making for his fourth feature with the Hollywood big shot.

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Olaf Frozen

Channeling DreamWorks’ favorite nut-hunting squirrel, Disney has released a mini-cartoon to serve as the teaser trailer for Frozen from director Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up). As the story of a pair of adventurers trying to end a magic-induced winter, it’s unfortunately not an animated remake of Adam Green’s ski lift horror flick from 2010. Hopefully Disney will get on that soon. Kristen Bell voices Anna, the hero who partners with Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) to end Elsa the Snow Queen’s (Idina Menzel) reign of wondrously beautiful icy conditions. None of them are in the trailer, though. Instead, we’re treated to Olaf, a wacky snowman (Josh Gad) who gets in a fight with a reindeer over his delicious, delicious nose. Enjoy the slapstick on ice:

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pixar-logo-fsr

Fans of Disney and Pixar Animation might want to pull out their day planners (or, fine, their iCals) and mark down some important dates in the coming years. Yes, years, as the studios have now announced release dates for eight films over the next five years, with each animation arm lining up four new films in the coming years. Just which films make up these new releases? Well, that’s not something we know just yet, but does it even matter? New Pixar! There are still, however, plenty of patterns to be found in the news (beyond the most obvious one, which is that all eight films will be released in 3D), like that most dates are placed in June (like Brave, Cars 2, Toy Story 3, and the upcoming Monsters University) and November (like Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, and this year’s Frozen), which THR reminds us have proven successful release times for both Disney and Pixar in the past. After all, even the most bloated summer blockbuster season needs an animated outing for the kids, and hitting that Thanksgiving weekend is nothing but gravy for the box office.

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James Badge Dale

There were a surprising amount of baddies in Iron Man 3. Director Shane Black‘s Tony Stark adventure put the idea of multiple villains being a bad idea to rest. One of those villains — or henchman, if you want to get technical — was played by a familiar face, James Badge Dale. Badge Dale chewed on every piece of Black’s dialog and his character’s eccentricities. Even with the technical challenges, it’s a role Badge Dale wanted to let loose with. The actor used to work construction, and he wanted to bring that mentality to the character. A Shane Black henchman isn’t the only role we’ll see James Badge Dale in this summer, as he has both World War Z and The Lone Ranger next on dock, and they represent a chance for the actor to reach an audience that maybe doesn’t frequently watch Shame or The Pacific with their free time. They’re certainly all physical roles, which, according to James Badge Dale, is a part of the job that he loves:

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Planes Movie

More than a few people are going to look at the new teaser trailer for Planes and think of it as the next evolution of selling out for Pixar. The thing is, despite John Lasseter’s presence as a producer, this straight-to-DVD sequel that got bumped up to first class has DisneyToon Studios written all over it. In fact, you won’t see the Pixar logo anywhere in the trailer — even though they’re aping the look of Cars right down to the font choices. The movie stars Dane Cook, voicing Dusty Crophopper, a plane whose afraid of heights but desperately wants to compete in a massive flying contest. It’s being directed by Klay Hall (Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure) and comes right at the tail end of the Summer blockbuster season. Check out the teaser for yourself:

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Beauty and the Beast

According to Deadline Hollywood, Disney is attempting to double-down on its classics. The studio is looking to create a new version of Beauty and the Beast with writer Joe Ahearne (Trance, director of several Doctor Who episodes). The goal is to make it live-action and in 3D ala Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful. Those names are notable not just because they represent the model for what Disney is doing here, but also because Disney is maybe the only studio who has figured out how to make fairy tales work on such a massive scale. Still, the question remains as to whether The Beast is a good idea because it steps on its own toes. Of course, maybe their re-release of the animated version was just a litmus test for going forward with this project, but while Disney’s previous successes told new stories in familiar universes, it’s unclear whether or how they’ll set something in the talking teapot-filled world while delivering a different tale (regardless as to whether it’s old as time).

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Tomorrowland

Over at HitFix, Drew has published the logline (and further details) that the production for Tomorrowland is using to find actors: “A teenage girl, a genius middle-aged man (who was kicked out of Tomorrowland) and a pre-pubescent girl robot attempt to get to and unravel what happened to Tomorrowland, which exists in an alternative dimension, in order to save Earth.” Brad Bird is directing with a script from Damon Lindelof, so secrecy has been the order of the day, but as Drew mentions, the grain of salt here is that this logline could have nothing to do with what the movie is about. I’ll point to the script pages actors’ delivered during auditions for The Cabin in the Woods as another example of the games mysterious productions play. They know this stuff gets leaked, so whether they chose to be straightforward or further obfuscate is anyone’s guess until we see the first trailer. But all that being said, if this is the real synopsis, it could be a lot of fun. Plus, George Clooney is going to do great as the pre-pubescent girl robot! Unless that’s the role Hugh Laurie is taking.  

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Tomorrowland UFOs

As the story goes, the United States government approached Walt Disney in the mid-1950s and asked him for help producing a television program that would explain to the population that UFOs were real. This project, this moment in time, and this unidentified flying secret might be the basis for Brad Bird‘s mysterious Tomorrowland movie. For years, Jim Hill has been a peerless source about news and insider information when it comes to The Mouse House, and now the writer has laid out a ton of signs that all point to a military initiative called Project Blue Book and the government’s reliance on Disney to share the story as the springboard for the plot. Of course, he also has exactly the same amount of proof that conspiracy theorists always have, but his expertise in all things Disney is unquestionable. It’s about as good (and thorough) a guess as we’re likely to see until Damon Lindelof and Bird see fit to shed some light on the synopsis. For a moment, let’s assume that it’s correct. It’s incredibly cool right? There’s a touch of Argo to it complete with a real-world twist that makes it even more interesting. The only question is why the government wouldn’t have gone to Dr. Seuss and Frank Capra for help. But seriously, comb through Hill’s post and revel in the surprising joy it could fulfill as a film. If this isn’t what Tomorrowland is going to be, Disney should thoughtfully consider using Project Blue Book for another movie.

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Monsters University Concept ArtMonsters University Concept Art

Back in 2009 when Up came out, most sane people wouldn’t have had anything negative to say about Pixar. Even with the Cars sequel looming ahead in 2011, the company hadn’t really shown signs of dilution from Disney, and they were coming off a hot streak of films (Ratatouille, Wall-E and Adventures with Carl Fredricksen) that proved children of all ages could enjoy moving films that were funny, adventurous and had a sense of depth. Watching the new UK trailer for Monsters University, it feels a little alien, but I can’t even imagine what the 2009 version of me would think. Beyond the look (and the recognizable characters, of course), it doesn’t seem Pixarian at all. It’s flat. Completely messy. There are a few character moments and a few gags that seem funny, but overall it just seems unnecessary. What is this thing?

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Star Wars Standalone

Sometimes production houses float news to the public to see what their reaction is going to be. It may surprise you, or it might seem obvious, but you have a deep breadth of power just by having an opinion and offering it. It’s impossible to tell whether this kind of widespread focus group is what Disney intended with this recent spate of news and rumors, but there’s no doubt that the production team is listening to what fans are saying. And so are we. We want to know who you think deserves their own stand alone movie outside the next trilogy. Yoda, Han Solo and Boba Fett have all been floated as possibles, so hypothetically, if only one of them gets the treatment, who would you pick?

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Han and Greedo

There were far too many news stories about Star Wars this week. It was a shock and awe campaign of rumors, half-truths and legitimate plans that all pointed to Disney making 29 new films featuring all our favorite characters for the next seventy years. To help dig through it all, Full of Sith podcast host Consetta Parker and Jovial Jay from TheForce.net join us to explain whether a movie about Yoda, Boba Fett or Han Solo should shoot first. Plus, Identity Thief screenwriter Craig Mazin explains how to make an uninteresting character interesting, and Geoff and I tackle a listener question about overcoming the fears of rejection and imperfection by talking about our own biggest failures. Download Episode #5

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Pinocchio Production Art

There was a moment of concern when one of the writers behind Guillermo del Toro‘s stop-motion Pinocchio said that the project wasn’t moving forward, but now Gris Grimly has updated Bleeding Cool on the situation, and things don’t seem near as dire anymore. “I’m writing to clear up the rumor that has gotten started,” said Grimly. “It all started with misconstrued information that I passed along through my networks. But it has come to my knowledge that Pinocchio is indeed still kicking with interest from the studios. Although I thought it was going to lay quiet for a little while, I never thought it would be canceled. It’s too good.” The animated project is still in pre-production through The Jim Henson Company. For now. Del Toro always has a lot on his plate, so even as this particular fantasy becomes a reality, it might be a while. They still need a distributor to ensure success, and that might be tricky. Of course, Disney has the honor of owning the most popular telling of the story (complete with a singing cricket with a bold sense of ethics), and while children born in 2010 will always see Disney as “the company that makes Star Wars,” their classic properties still command massive respect. And since one of those icons is getting the Blu-ray treatment, they’ve released a new trailer for it. See if it can convince you to fall in love with The Little Mermaid all over again:

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yoda 2

Rumors regarding new Star Wars films have been coming in nonstop ever since the news of Disney acquiring Lucasfilm broke, and after this little piece of news, we shouldn’t expect a change anytime soon. A few weeks ago we got word of a Seven Samurai remake set in George Lucas‘s galaxy directed by Zack Snyder – who was quick to deny the story — which caused further rumblings of more solo Star Wars movies on the way. Now we can add onto that rumour pile, as Ain’t It Cool is reporting the first standalone Star Wars pic will focus on none other than Yoda. No big shocker there, although a Han Solo movie would’ve been more expected. I’m sure we’ll see that one day, along with a Bobba Fett movie or a Jabba the Hut gangster pic, the latter of which George Lucas apparently has a story for. I’m sure his idea is brilliant, of course…

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KennethBranagh

After Disney hired Mark Romanek, a director who makes dark movies, to helm their upcoming live action Cinderella, and then fired him because all of the ideas he was coming up with for the movie were too dark, one had to wonder just exactly why they were making a live-action Cinderella movie in the first place. Did anybody behind the scenes want to revisit the Cinderella story for any particular reason, or was this just a cynical ploy to churn out some product and get one of their merchandise producers back out there in the public eye? And, given such greedy corporate motivations, was it likely they were going to make a movie worth watching in the first place? Turns out they might still make a Cinderella worth watching, and perhaps they do really have a commitment to putting together something that’s good entertainment and not just good corporate synergy. This newfound optimism stems from a Vulture report that the studio is currently negotiating with Kenneth Branagh for him to come in and be Cinderella’s new director. In addition to being a well-respected filmmaker due to his helming of impressive versions of stuffy Shakespeare plays, Branagh proved with Marvel’s Thor that he could take material that had the potential of coming off as cheesy and ridiculous and present it in a manner that made it resonant and entertaining, so his potential signing would have to be seen as a smart move by Disney.

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Paperman

Why Watch? Ah, sweet perfection. Not only is this short from Disney a gorgeous blend of two kinds of animation styles, it’s a perfect wedding of humor, romance and paper airplane folding. In it, a young man and woman meet at a train station, and after she rides out of his life, she re-emerges in a highrise window across the large city street from where he works. Armed with boring forms and goaded by a lipstick kiss, he risks his job (and a major fine for littering) trying to catch her eye. This is classic Disney magic at its peak. Soaringly well-crafted, it’s magical realism in service of sweetness that should cause a few hearts to swell. With Paperman, director John Kahrs and his team created an endearing throwback to the silent era and used some simple Vaudevillian storytelling to wordlessly reward a man in love for his persistence and a woman in love for her charming curiosity. What will it cost? Only 6 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.

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