Filmism.net Dispatch July 16, 2013

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Here's a thought that's part prediction, part question; might Disney stop making movies?

Sound silly? Consider this.

Back in 1989, The Little Mermaid signaled an upswing in Disney's fortunes after the dark days of the 70s and 80s (The Fox and The Hound, The Black Cauldron, anyone?). Suddenly the Mouse House was a hit factory again, with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the mammoth The Lion King all cleaning up.

But by the time they were circling around Pixar, whom they eventually paid $7.4bn for in 2006, things looked dire for their in-house animation again. While Pixar were at the top of the tree with the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc and The Incredibles, Disney's in-house animation came up with the far less successful/memorable Mulan, Brother Bear, Treasure Planet and Home on the Range. If anything it looked like Pixar might have the power to buy Disney, not the other way around.

The Princess and the Frog made the news when it was released in 2009 because it was the first movie to come out of Disney animation (instead of the unstoppable Pixar) in what seemed like forever. And after a global box office of only $267m from a $105m budget, it also might have been the last. In April this year the studio laid off many senior animators ('gutted' in the words of supervising animator Tom Bancroft.

So Disney seems to be out of animation for the time being, leaving it to John Lasseter and his much more practised branch office in Emeryville. But as history's shown us, they went on a buying spree, spending eight billion to snap up two of entertainment's most lucrative stables in Marvel and LucasFilm.

Now, when it comes to movies made by Disney itself (outside its growing portfolio of film company assets), there's been a very visible failure in The Lone Ranger. It opened a week or so back to almost universally panned reviews, an atrocious first weekend take of $49m and a second weekend drop-off of over 60 percent. Analysts are saying it's looking like losing $190 for the studio.

So, just like it did with animation, might Disney take a good look around at what it owns and decide to get out of the live action movie business as well?

Marvel is a money-raking machine, a situation that won't change any time soon with about six films coming down the pipeline. And never mind the merchandising from a squillion Star Wars and Indiana Jones tie-ins; when JJ Abrams releases a new Star Wars film in 2015 Disney are going to have enough money to buy the world's religions.

Of course, news this week Disney's the first big studio to cross $1b in US domestic box office hoses the whole theory down somewhat, but still. Might some higher up throw Jerry Bruckheimer's business card away and say 'screw this, we suck at live action too. Let Kathy Kennedy and Kevin Fiege make all our movies from now on'?

Now on to good movies. Through the week I saw the film I've been most excited about all year, Pacific Rim. The 12 year old boy in you (whether you're male or female) will be so happy his head will explode, but I wish they'd let a little bit more of Guillermo Del Toro's style through.

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