Disney Signs Niki Caro to Direct Live-Action Mulan Movie

Disney’s live-action adaptation of the 1998 animated musical Mulan will be directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Caro will be the fourth woman to ever solo-direct a film with a budget over $100 million, joining a very tiny club that includes Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widowmaker in 2002), Patty Jenkins (Warner Bros. upcoming Wonder Woman movie), and Ava DuVernay (Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time). Disney, by merit of hiring two women to direct blockbusters ever in its history, is somehow leading the pack for major Hollywood studios.

Hollywood studios have begun to feel the pressure to hire more female directors for tentpole films, after multiple controversies around the hiring of young, comparably untested male directors for massive projects like Jurassic World and Star Wars, as well as a federal investigation of sexist hiring practices in the industryLucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy was also recently the subject of heated criticism due to her comments about the “search” for a female director capable of handling a Star Wars movie.

Disney has also expressed its intent to hire a woman to direct its first female-led superhero film, Captain Marvel. Caro had previously been included on the studio’s short listalongside Lesli Linka Glatter (the principle director on Homeland) and Lorene Scafaria (Nick & Norah’s Infinite PlaylistThe Meddler), though The Hollywood Reporter suggests this new assignment likely takes Caro out of the running for the 2019 film.

Caro made her breakthrough critical hit Whale Rider in 2002, following it up with the star-studded North Country (Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek) in 2005, but — as is typical for female directors in Hollywood — her career largely idled after that. Since 2005 she’s released only two films: the low-budgetoverlooked TIFF submission The Vinter’s Luck in 2009 and Disney’s moderately successful McFarland, USA in 2015.

Mulan will be executive produced by Bill Kong (best known Stateside for House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and rely on input from Chinese cultural consultants and the large co-production team that Disney maintains with Shanghai Media Group. It will be interesting to see how Disney navigates the more culturally delicate live-action project, particularly considering the fact that it also has a live-action Aladdin on its plate. Big studios have a nasty habit of casting famous white faces in roles that shouldn’t belong to them — see the recent uproar over Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell or Rooney Mara as Pan’s Tiger Lily.

Mulan is set for release on November 2, 2018. It will likely be a treat to watch a young woman perform a live musical number that snarkily defines masculinity around violence and endurance as part of an ongoing dramatic irony bit.

From The Verge

Tyrus Wong, Pioneer ‘Bambi’ Artist, Dies at 106

Tyrus Wong, whose paintings served as visual inspiration for Disney’s animated classic “Bambi,” died Friday, Dec. 30. He was 106.

Wong’s death was announced on his Facebook page.

“With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Tyrus Wong,” the post read. “Tyrus died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling. He was 106 years old.”

Wong was born in China before immigrating to the Bay Area at age 9. From there he went to art school on a scholarship followed by accepting a low-level animation job in 1938. After hearing about Walt Disney’s “Bambi” project he put together some paintings of deer in a forest, which impressed Disney enough to use them as inspiration for the film. The animated classic isn’t all Wong is known for though, he’s also worked on film’s like “Rebel Without a Cause, “The Green Berets,” and “The Wild Bunch.”

In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend, and in 2013 he had his artwork featured in the Walt Disney Family Museum. In October of this year Wong received two honors at the Asian World Film Festival. He was awarded with a lifetime achievement award on the opening day with the following day (his 106th birthday) being the screening of the documentary about him titled “Tyrus” directed by Pam Tom.

Wong is survived by his daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling.

From Variety

‘Rogue One’ Officially Makes Disney Hollywood’s First $7 Billion Studio

An impressive opening weekend for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was more than enough to help Walt Disney capture a new Hollywood record for yearly global box office gross.

The company said on Monday that Walt Disney Studios will set an industry record today by becoming the first Hollywood studio to top $7 billion in global movie ticket sales in a single calendar year. For Disney, which had already bested its own single-year record for box office revenue by November, Rogue One‘s $290.5 million global opening easily pushed the studio’s overall 2016 haul to record heights. The previous yearly box office record belonged to Comcast’s Universal Studios, which pulled in $6.9 billion worldwide just last year.

Disney ruled the movie market in 2016 with a series of blockbusters throughout the year that put the studio within close grasp of a new record heading into a weekend in which the latest Star Wars product from its Lucasfilm division was expected to dominate the global box office. And, Rogue One‘s strong showing is a fitting way for Disney to end its big year, considering that 2016 kicked off with Star Wars: The Force Awakens continuing its own dominant box-office run. (Released on Dec. 18 of last year, The Force Awakens ultimately grossed $2.07 billion worldwide for Disney, with a large chunk of that coming in 2016 and counting toward this year’s tally.)

Following up on The Force Awakens‘ record-setting success, Disney churned out no less than three movies that went on to gross more than $1 billion globally—the animated hit Zootopia, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and Pixar’s Finding Dory. Meanwhile, Rogue One is forecasted to join that list with what should also end up being a worldwide haul north of $1 billion. Other big movies for Disney this year include The Jungle Book, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and another animated hit in November’s Moana.

While not all of Disney’s 2016 releases struck box office gold—Alice Through the Looking Glass and The BFG led the list of disappointments—the studio managed to find success across all of its silos. Whether it was live-action and animated movies—or those produced by previously-acquired units Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios—Disney churned out a variety of mega-blockbusters throughout 2016.

“This historic achievement is possible because all of our film studios are bringing their absolute best to the table, telling great stories of all kinds that resonate with audiences across borders, gender, and generations,” Alan Horn, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement.

The film studio’s success has come at an opportune time for Disney, which needed a silver lining for a year in which subscriber losses at cash-cow cable network ESPN and declining advertising sales continued to weigh on the company’s revenue. Disney’s big year also comes amid what should be another record year for Hollywood in general. The industry is on pace to break the yearly box office record set in 2015, when Hollywood studios topped $11 billion in domestic ticket sales for the first time ever.

From Fortune.com

 

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.  

Keira Knightley to Play Live-Action Sugar Plum Fairy in Disney’s ‘The Nutcracker’ 

Keira Knightley will star as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Disney’s retelling of “The Nutcracker.”

Mackenzie Foy is on board to play Clara, with Misty Copeland and Morgan Freeman also attached to the movie.

The live-action film — based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” — is titled “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” In the pic, one of Clara’s Christmas toys — a Nutcracker doll — comes to life and battles the evil Mouse King with seven heads.

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of the classic story into the “The Nutcracker” ballet in 1892.

Lasse Hallström will direct the upcoming film from Ashleigh Powell’s script. Mark Gordon is producing, while Lindy Goldstein is executive producing. Sam Dickerman and Allison Erlikhman are overseeing the project for Disney. Sara Smith is working on behalf of the Mark Gordon Company.

Knightley has a long history with the studio that began with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. She was most recently seen in the Working Title ensemble disaster film “Everest.” Her New Line dramedy “Collateral Beauty,” also starring Will Smith and Kate Winslet, opens this December.

 From Variety

Disney Reportedly Working on Reboot of ‘The Rocketeer’

The Rocketeer is ready to blast off once again.

Walt Disney Studios is developing a reboot of the 1991 action adventure movie, hiring Max Winkler and Matt Spicer to pen the script, which is being titled The Rocketeers.

The project, in the early development stages, is considered a sequel-reboot and, in a modern-day twist, will be headlined by a black female character.

Brigham Taylor, who produced The Jungle Book with Jon Favreau, is producing along with Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers and Ryan Kalil of the Carolina Panthers. Griffin and Kalil are partners in a new venture called Mortal Media and approached Taylor with the idea for the reboot.

Rocketeer was based on the popular 1980s indie comic by Dave Stevens and, like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, was a loving homage to the serials of the 1930s and 1940s.

The story followed Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers a rocket pack and suit to die for and become embroiled with mobsters and Nazis, as well as Howard Hughes and the FBI.

The Joe Johnston-directed movie starred Billy Campbell as Secord, Jennifer Connelly as his aspiring actress (a Betty Page homage) girlfriend, Timothy Dalton as an Errol Flynn-type actor who is a Nazi spy and Alan Arkin as Secord’s mechanic.

When the movie was released, it grossed only $46.6 million and came in fourth in its opening weekend (it was pummeled by Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesCity Slickers and Dying Young). Its performance was considered a disappointment by the studio and its creative team.

But a rare thing happened: The movie took on a life of its own, engendering a massive following who loved its un-ironic, bright and straightforwardly heroic take on characters, all abetted by a score by James Horner.

When Disney hosted a 20th anniversary screening of the movie in Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre in 2011, fans — many in Rocketeer costumes — lined up for blocks.

It was around that time that the studio began mulling a reboot of the movie, but sources said it sought a way to differentiate it from another rocket-propelled flying hero: Iron Man.

The new take keeps the story in a period setting and offers a fresh view on the characters. Set six years after the original Rocketeer and after Secord has vanished while fighting the Nazis, an unlikely new hero emerges: a young African–American female pilot, who takes up the mantle of Rocketeer in an attempt to stop an ambitious and corrupt rocket scientist from stealing jet-pack technology in what could prove to be a turning point in the Cold War.

Tendo Nagenda and Chaz Salembier are overseeing the project for Disney.

Winkler, the son of Fonzie actor Henry Winkler, wrote and directed the 2010 indie comedy The Ceremony,which starred Michael Angarano and Uma Thurman. He has also directed episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine,and New Girl.

Spicer is Winkler’s producing and writing partner. The two have a coming-of-age drama titled Flower, with Zoey Deutch and Adam Scott, in postproduction, which Winkler directed. They also wrote Magic Camp for Disney and The Adventurer’s Handbook for Focus.

From The Hollywood Reporter

Netflix Exclusive Disney Movie Deal in U.S. Kicks In This Fall

Netflix’s exclusive deal with Disney for pay-TV window rights to the Mouse House’s movie titles in the U.S. will commence in September.

Under the pact — signed three and a half years ago — Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay-TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, chief content officer Ted Sarandos wrote in a blog post Monday. Currently, Starz has the “pay one” output rights to Disney titles in the States.

Netflix’s U.S. rights cover Disney movies starting with 2016 theatrical releases, which means American streaming subs will not have access to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Instead, Starz will have streaming rights to the blockbuster space epic in the U.S.

Zootopia

Disney’s 2016 movie slate includes “Zootopia” as well as “The Jungle Book,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Finding Dory,” Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Doctor Strange,” “Moana” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

“The 2016 (Disney) releases will start rolling on in September and we’ll share specific dates/titles closer to their premiere on the service,” a Netflix rep said.

Meanwhile, Netflix also disclosed that several older Disney titles will be leaving the service in June. Those include “Hercules” (June 1) as well as “Mulan” and “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (June 24); Disney movies that will remain include “Tarzan,” “Robin Hood,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “Emperor’s New Groove.”

Emperor's New Groove

In Canada, Netflix’s output deal with Disney began with 2015 releases after the previous agreements for the pay-TV window with Corus Entertainment and Bell Canada expired (which means subs in the Great White North will have access to “Force Awakens”).

Star Wars Force Awakens

From Variety

Disney And Nokia Team Up On Virtual Reality Camera Deal

Disney sees a role for virtual reality in film.

The entertainment and media giant has signed a multi-year deal with Nokia Technologies to use Nokia’s new high-end camera that captures scenes in 360 degrees, Nokia said on Monday.

Nokia said Disney will use Nokia’s OZO cameras and related software to shoot 360 video for upcoming Disney films as well as marketing materials. Disney recently used the cameras to film 360-degree video extras for Disney’s The Jungle Book including interviews with the cast and a short film about the film’s world premiere.

Of course, people will need a compatible headset to view the 360-degree videos in all their glory, like the Facebook Oculus Rift and HTC Vive or the cheaper and less feature-packed Google Cardboard.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Nokia Technologies to help explore the creation of VR content for our theatrical releases,” said Walt Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris in a statement. “We aim to bring extraordinary experiences to audiences around the world, and specially-created VR content is one more way we can transport people even further into the worlds our filmmakers create.”

Nokia, which revealed its $60,000 camera in November, said it would target Hollywood filmmakers. Fortunereported that Nokia was the first company to bring a high-end 360-degree video camera to the market, but there are several rivals that could give Nokia some competition.

From Fortune Magazine

Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ Stampedes to Huge $103.6 Million Opening

Disney’s reboot of its 1967 animated classic won the weekend, roaring to an estimated $103.6 million in North America after opening Friday.

That’s an impressive number for an April opening, second only to the $147.1 million that “Furious 7” made during its opening weekend last year.

The debut is surprising, considering that most analysts predicted that “The Jungle Book” opening would bring in closer to $75 million.

“The Jungle Book” also brought in an impressive $240 million globally this weekend.

The movie, from “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau, includes voice talent from stars like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, and it received widespread acclaim from critics. It garnered an “A” CinemaScore with audiences and a 95% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Most critics praised “The Jungle Book” for the film’s visual effects as well as its loyalty to the source material.

The film represents another big hit for Disney’s series of live action revivals of animated classics.

Other films in the series include 2010’s “Alice In Wonderland,” 2014’s “Maleficent,” and last year’s “Cinderella.” They’ve brought Disney more than $2.3 billion at the worldwide box office.

The success of “The Jungle Book” sets up another potentially blockbuster year for the Mouse House at the movies.

The studio has a strong 2016 film slate that includes “Finding Dory” — a sequel to “Finding Nemo” — which opens in June. “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opens in December.

Disney also kicks off the summer movie season with Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which opens on May 6.

From CNN Money

Live-Action Peter Pan Movie in the Works

It must be true what they say about Peter Pan never getting old. Disney is developing a live-action film based on J.M. Barrie’s Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up and has enlisted David Lowery to direct and co-write the script, EW has confirmed.

Lowery recently helmed the studio’s upcoming remake of the 1977 movie Pete’s Dragon. He wrote the remake with Toby Halbrooks, who is reprising his duties for the Peter Pan movie, and James Whitaker is also returning to produce. The project is in the early stages of development.

Created by Scottish novelist and playwright Barrie in the early 1900s, Peter Pan has appeared in many screen incarnations, most famously in Disney’s own 1953 animated film. Other takes on the character include Steven Spielberg’s Hook in 1991, P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan in 2003, and Joe Wright’s Pan last year. (Peter also hit the small screen not long ago in NBC’s Peter Pan Live.)

Disney’s Peter Pan project comes as the latest live-action movie revisiting one of the studio’s beloved animated tales, with previous examples including Alice in WonderlandMaleficentCinderella, and The Jungle Book. Others in the works include Beauty and the BeastDumboMulan, and Tink (a Tinker Bell movie).

Lowery’s other directing credits include Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and St. Nick.

From Entertainment Weekly