Disney and Jon Favreau Joining Forces on “The Lion King”

We can officially confirm that The Walt Disney Studios and director Jon Favreau are putting a new reimagining of The Lion King on the fast track to production. The project follows the technologically groundbreaking smash hit The Jungle Book, directed by Favreau, which debuted in April and has earned $965.8 million worldwide. 

The Lion King builds on Disney’s success of reimagining its classics for a contemporary audience with films like MaleficentCinderella, and The Jungle Book. The upcoming Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, is already one of the most anticipated movies of 2017. Like Beauty and the BeastThe Lion King will include songs from the animated film. Disney and Favreau are also in development on a sequel to The Jungle Book. No release date has been announced for either film. 

The Lion King (1994) is one of the biggest animated films of all time with a lifetime global box office gross of $968.8 million, including $422.8 million domestically. It won Academy Awards for the original song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, Tim Rice) and original score (Hans Zimmer), plus two Grammy Awards, with the soundtrack selling over 14 million copies. In 1997, the stage production The Lion King made its Broadway debut, winning six Tony Awards; 19 years later, it remains one of Broadway’s biggest hits alongside several other productions running around the world, including London, Hamburg, Tokyo, Madrid, Mexico City, Shanghai, and North America. Translated into eight different languages, its 23 global productions have been seen by more than 85 million people across every continent except Antarctica. The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.  

Disney Planning Live-Action Film About Snow White’s Sister

Walt Disney is going back to the fairy-tale-princess well withRose Red, the story of Snow White’s sister, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The studio has picked up a project which has a script by Justin Merz and a pitch by Evan Daugherty that reworks the original script. Tripp Vinson is producing via his Vinson Films banner.

Rose Red is a character that appeared in Grimms’ fairy tales in an adventure that had no relation to the more well-known Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fairy tale that inspired the classic Disney animated film.

Merz’s Red was initially written as a stand-alone feature, but then Daugherty came up with a new take that made the story closer to the animated classic, giving Rose a “companion piece” feel.

The story is a revisionist take that transposes Rose Red into the Snow White tale, making her a key player in the later part of the classic story. When Snow White takes a bite from the iconic poison apple and falls into her Sleeping Death, her estranged sister, Rose Red, must undertake a dangerous quest with Grumpy and the other dwarves to find a way to break the curse and bring Snow White back to life.

Tara Farney is executive producing. Merz and Adam Rodin are co-producers on the project.

Daugherty knows a thing or two about the Snow White tale as he previously wrote Snow White and the Huntsman, the Universal fantasy that starred Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. Other credits include 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Divergent. He is repped by UTA and Jake Wagner at Benderspink.

Merz, repped by Abrams Artists Agency and Festa Entertainment, was a writer on the 2014 animated film The Boxcar Children.

The project is the third fairy tale Vinson has set up at Disney in the last eight months. He has Genies, a prequel to Aladdin, and Prince Charming, a project based upon the iconic character seen in many a fairy tale, already in development at the studio.

From the Hollywood Reporter

Disney DVD’s Land in Amazon Jail Over Fee Dispute

Courtesy of The Disney Blog
Courtesy of The Disney Blog

From the Chicago Tribune

Amazon.com blocked the pre- order option of Walt Disney hit movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and other titles in disk form, repeating a tactic used in disputes with publisher Hachette and Warner Bros.

“Maleficent,” another Disney summer blockbuster, also isn’t available for DVD pre-order on Amazon’s website. The world’s largest online retailer still offers both movies in pre- order on its online streaming service.

Amazon’s clashes with media companies have intensified in the past months as the Seattle-based company seeks to use its heft in markets from books to home video to demand better terms from its vendors. While the dispute with Time Warner’s Warner Bros. is getting resolved, the spat with French publisher Hachette Book Group is escalating.

“They are squeezing studios on DVD pricing, understandable given their market position,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities who rates Amazon the equivalent of a hold. “Disney can’t cut them off, and Amazon can cut Disney off, so I would say Amazon has the leverage.”

Home Media Magazine reported the disappearance of the pre- order option for some Disney DVDs, also including “Muppets Most Wanted” and “Million Dollar Arm,” last week. When Amazon removed pre-orders for Warner Bros. titles from mid-May to late June, it was the first time it used the tactic during negotiations with a movie studio, Home Media Magazine said.

Paul Roeder, a spokesman for Burbank, Calif.-based Disney, declined to comment. Amazon didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Studios count on the home-entertainment market, including DVD sales from Amazon, to help deliver profits. In fact few films reach profitability in theaters because studios split ticket sales with exhibitors.

“Captain America” is the top-grossing movie in U.S. and Canadian theaters this year, with ticket sales of $259.5 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. “Maleficent” is fourth.

Among the Warner Bros. pre-orders that Amazon blocked for about a month earlier this year were “Transcendence” with Johnny Depp and “The Lego Movie,” the second top-grossing movie this year. Those titles are now available.

In digital-book sales, Amazon dominates with a 60 percent share of the market, according to Forrester Research. The online retailer also helped pioneer the e-book market with the introduction of the Kindle device in 2007.

Last week, Amazon made its case for lower book prices in its standoff with Hachette, saying that sales of titles go up when prices are cut, based on data gathered on its website. For every copy of an e-book that sells at $14.99, Amazon would sell 74 percent more e-books if priced at $9.99, the retailer said.

A letter signed by more than 900 authors was published in The New York Times on Sunday, urging readers to tell Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos what they think of the disagreement over the price of digital books. Amazon had itself asked readers to contact Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch last week.

“Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books,” Amazon said in a letter on its website, readersunited.com. “We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices.”

Amazon also appealed directly to authors in a letter last month, offering them all of the proceeds from the sale of any e- book during the dispute.

Disney 3rd Quarter Profits Jump Thanks to Movies, Parks, and Products

The main gate of entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank

Media company Walt Disney Company’s quarterly profit blew past Wall Street expectations, with a muscular performance from its “Captain America” movie, higher attendance at U.S. theme parks and brisk sales of merchandise tied to mega-hit “Frozen.”

Net income rose to $2.2 billion in the quarter ended on June 28, up 22 percent from the year-ago period, the company said on Tuesday. Diluted earnings per share reached a record $1.28, beating analysts’ average forecast of $1.17 in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey.

Revenue rose to 8 percent $12.47 billion.

Shares of Disney rose 15 cents in after-hours trading to $86.90 after closing at $86.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the company’s earnings per share for the first three quarters of fiscal 2014 were greater than any previous full fiscal year.

“Our strategy of building strong brands and franchises continues to create great value across our company,” Iger said in a statement.

Operating income at Disney’s media networks division was flat at $2.3 billion and declined 7 percent for the unit’s cable networks segment, due to a decrease at sports juggernaut ESPN. ESPN fell in part from higher programming and production costs for Major League Baseball and the FIFA World Cup, and the absence of ESPN UK, which had been sold, Disney said.

At the movie studio, operating income more than doubled to $411 million, thanks to the success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Maleficent” in theaters and home entertainment sales for “Frozen.”

The theme parks unit reported operating income of $848 million, up 23 percent from the prior year and driven by the company’s U.S. operations. Both attendance and guest spending rose at domestic parks.

The company is drawing up plans to add a “far greater ‘Star Wars’ presence” at its theme parks, Iger said, and hopes to announce details next year. He assured analysts the next “Star Wars” movie, “Episode VII,” remains set for release on December 18, 2015, despite an injury to star Harrison Ford.

Operating income for consumer products rose 25 percent to $273 million thanks to increases at Disney retail stores and in its licensing business for products related to “Frozen,” the Disney Channel, “Spider-Man” and “Planes.”

Disney’s interactive gaming unit reported its fourth consecutive quarterly profit with help from sales of its Disney Infinity toy-and-game combo. Operating income for the unit totaled $29 million.

Analysts asked Iger if he felt the need to acquire new companies to increase Disney’s scale as other media companies plan mergers.

Iger said the company felt confident Disney can “continue to mine growth from the channel properties that we own.”

“We like the hand that we have,” he said.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Rockets to $94 Million Domestic Debut

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“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Walt Disney Company’s offbeat space adventure featuring extraterrestrial misfits and a talking raccoon, made $94 million in ticket sales this weekend, setting a record for an August film opening.

The film’s strong beginning, however, isn’t likely to jumpstart a lackluster summer box office season.

The 3D movie, which stars lesser-known characters in Disney’s Marvel comic book universe, added $66.4 million from international markets, for a global debut of $160.4 million, Disney said on Sunday.

“Guardians” outgunned last weekend’s leader, the science-fiction thriller “Lucy” that collected another $18.3 million in sales at domestic theaters, according to estimates from Rentrak.

“Lucy” stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman with a super-powered brain.

“Get On Up,” a biography of the soul singer James Brown, was third with $14 million in its first weekend in theaters.

“Guardians” stars an ensemble cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt. After positive reviews, the film was the year’s biggest Thursday night opening with $11.2 million in sales starting with 7 p.m. shows.

Even before the film’s opening, Walt Disney said it was planning a sequel for release in July 2017.

Head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios Dave Hollis attributed the strong performance of “Guardians” to a combination of momentum started by “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in June, skillful marketing, and strong reviews.

“It starts with a great movie, and certainly the marketing was inspired,” Hollis said.

Disney had marketed the film’s lighter moments in trailers and commercials, including a machinegun-firing raccoon, to expand its popularity beyond traditional Marvel movie fans.

The movie features a soundtrack of music from the 1970s, including the songs “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Spirit in the Sky.”

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” another Marvel film, just passed $1 billion in global box office returns, according to Paramount Pictures.

“Guardians” performance, which beat Hollywood forecasts of a $65 million to $80 million opening, are not likely to energize the summer box office, however, as ticket sales are currently running 18 percent behind last year, according to Rentrak.

“It doesn’t end it but it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” said Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian about the slump.

It only gave the overall summer box office a two percent lift, he said.

“Hercules,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the legendary muscle man, was fourth for the weekend with $10.7 million.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was fifth with $8.7 million. The film has totaled more than $189.3 million in sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak.

‘Maleficent’ is the Top Grossing Non-Super Hero Movie of the Year

Maleficent

Movie-going audiences don’t seem to be growing weary of super hero movies, since they keep turning out in droves to see movies like ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’.  One fierce contender though managed to distinguish herself from the spandex fest, Angelina Jolie as Disney’s classic evil fairy ‘Maleficent’.  The movie has now crossed the $600 million mark, making it the highest grossing, non-super hero movie of 2014 so far, besting hits like YA adaptations ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Fault Of Our Stars’ and even the well-received ‘Godzilla’ reboot.

‘Maleficent’ has hung in there and continued to draw viewers while other movies have come and gone.  Keep in mind, grosses are drawn from all territories, which could point to Angelina Jolie being one of the few movie stars that is guaranteed to draw viewers, world wide.  Internationally, a lot of films rely on bankable stars to drive ticket sales.  Is Jolie’s undeniable star power the only factor?  Perhaps not.  The story of ‘Maleficent’ builds upon Disney’s popular classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’.  Surely that helped sell the film to many, just as Disney’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ draws viewers to that hit show by drawing from Disney’s vault of popular hits.

The film’s writer, Linda Woolverton is certainly benefiting.  It seems highly likely that Disney will be building on ‘Maleficent’ with additional films and will probably turn to Woolverton to script them as well, just as she is currently working on a follow-up to 2010′s Tim Burton-directed ‘Alice In Wonderland’ entitled ‘Through The Looking Glass‘.

Disney Developing Live-Action Version of ‘Dumbo’

Dumbo (1941) Directed by Ben Sharpsteen  Dumbo

Get ready to see some elephants fly.  Disney has begun developing a live-action adaptation of the 1941 animated classic Dumbo about a baby circus elephant who magically learns to fly with the help of his jumbo ears. The movie will be penned by Transformers writer Ehren Kruger and will add an additional family story line to the film that parallels Dumbo’s in the original tale.

Dumbo is just the latest live-action adaptation of a Disney animated classic to come from the Mouse House after Maleficent opened last month and upcoming titles like CinderellaThe Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast all currently being adapted. One would assume though that the character of Dumbo itself is still likely to be created with the help of CG animation technology.

Wreck It Ralph 2 Currently in the Works

wreck-it-ralph-sequel

Wreck-It Ralph composer Henry Jackman says that Disney is currently working on the story for a planned sequel.

In an interview with Collider, Jackman was hesitant to say more because he considers Wreck-It Ralph 2 to be a project already in development.

“I can’t tell you more, not because I’m being coy, but I believe that it is officially on the cards,” he said. “I don’t know any more other than a story is indeed being written. I’d be very surprised not to. I’m not blowing my own trumpet. Forget about the music. Just the movie itself I thought was a fantastically imaginative and creative piece of work. Rich [Moore], the director, actually got involved in the writing. There was another writer and I can’t remember his name (Editor’s note: it’s Phil Johnston). Just as a concept, it would be almost remiss of them not to write another one. It’s a great idea and it’s a great character.”

In February 2013 director Rich Moore said that the idea for the sequel that he and Reilly intrigued them.

“Are there other Ralphs [in this world we were introduced to in the original]? What would happen if another Fix It Felix, Jr. game was plugged in?” he asked. “Are there other Ralphs that are more contemporary? Is there another version of the game that was made for mobile? Are there those kind of Super Smash Bros types games where all the characters are gathered in a fighting game? What would that be like for Ralph to come face to face with those different iterations of himself?”