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Monday Mouse Watch : Will the Lone Ranger ride again for Walt Disney Pictures in 2010 ?

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Monday Mouse Watch : Will the Lone Ranger ride again for Walt Disney Pictures in 2010 ?

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Having gone for the gold with its "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, is the Mouse now getting ready to go for the silver ?

As in "Hi-yo, Silver ! "

It certainly sounded that way late last week. As the Web (Keying off of a story that had originally been posted on Collider back on May 24th) was suddenly awash with all of these rumors about how Jerry Bruckheimer and several key members of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" creative team would soon be reuniting to create an all-new big-screen version of that once-wildly-popular radio & television series, "The Lone Ranger."

Truth be told, news of this soon-to-be-officially-announced project had already begun leaking long before Frosty posted that piece last week. Take -- for example -- this juicy little tidbit that appeared in Peter Gilstrap's May 18th profile of "Pirates" screenwriters Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio for Daily Variety :

Beyond another "Pirates" project, word has it that the scribes might be doing a take on the Lone Ranger saga for Bruckheimer.

Better yet, how about this quote from Bill Warren's recent sit-down with Bruckheimer, which appeared in the June issue of "Starlog" Magazine. Where Jerry actually told Bill that ...

"The first picture I ever made was a Western -- The Culpepper Cattle Company. I hope I can make a big-scale Western someday."

Copyright 1972 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved

But as for definitive proof that this "Lone Ranger" revival project actually is in the works ... Well, back in February 22nd of this year, the Walt Disney Company purchased the following domain names:


So that proves it, folks. The Mouse is looking to make a major motion picture about the Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion.

According to several studio insiders that I spoke with over the past week, this "Lone Ranger" project is supposed to be Disney's designated blockbuster for the Summer of 2010. Which would then drop the slot that currently lies empty between 2008 (I.E. "The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian" is supposed to be Mickey's summer tentpole picture for that year), 2009 ("Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time") and 2011 ("Pirates of the Caribbean 4").

Mind you, I can't honestly tell you that everyone in Burbank is thrilled that Bruckheimer is championing this particular production. After all, it's been more than a decade since a Western that was produced in Hollywood (I.E. "Maverick." Which Warner Bros. released to theaters in May of 1994 and earned $101 million during its initial domestic run) actually achieved blockbuster status.

 Copyright 1994 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved

And then when you factor in Disney Studio's own recent history when it came to this genre ...

Film Title
Production Costs
Initial Domestic Gross
"Open Range"
$22 million
$58 million
$28 million
$56 million
"Shanghai Noon"
$55 million
$56.9 million
"The Alamo"
$107 million
$22 million

... You can perhaps understand why certain folks on the Disney lot aren't all that enthusiastic about the Masked Man's proposed return.

I mean, for all the built-in name recognition that "The Lone Ranger" may have, it's hard to overlook this franchise's recent history. In that the two most recent attempts to revive "The Lone Ranger" (I.E. That pilot for a proposed new television series that the WB aired in February of 2003 as well as that $70-million feature film that Douglas Wick & Lucy Fisher tried in vain to get produced over at Columbia Pictures from 2002 through 2006) were both miserable failures.

And speaking of failures, does anyone else out there remember what happened the last time that the Masked Man was the subject of a major motion picture ? That was Universal's "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," which was released to theaters back in May of 1981. And that William A. Fraker film cost over $18 million to produce but then only sold $13.4 million worth of tickets. These days, the only reason that anyone ever seems to remember this Jack Wrather production is because the actor who was hired to play the Masked Man in this movie (I.E. Klinton Spilsbury) was supposedly so terrible that the studio had to then recruit James Keach to come in and redub all of the title character's dialogue.

 Copyright 1981 Universal Studios / Wrather Corporation

So when you take all of the above information into consideration ... The chances that a Disney-produced version of "The Lone Ranger" might then appeal to a sizable audience seem very slim indeed.

But then again ... Let's remember that -- just five short years ago -- entertainment industry insiders were saying the very same thing about that "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies that Walt Disney Pictures & Jerry Bruckheimer were getting ready to start shooting. How it had been 50 years since Hollywood had last produced a successful swashbuckler. Which is why it was just insane of the Mouse to even try and make a movie like that.

Of course, that story (As is demonstrated by "At World's End" 's performance at the box office this past weekend. This third film in the "Pirates" trilogy is now on track to have the biggest worldwide opening in movie history) seems to have ended happily ... So maybe Disney's upcoming version of "The Lone Ranger" will be able to ride off triumphantly into the sunset in the end as well.

Mind you, what really helps in this particular situation is that Bruckheimer has reportedly recruited Rossio & Elliot to write the screenplay for this big budget Western. And given all the great work that Terry & Ted did on "The Mask of Zorro" and "The Legend of Zorro" (Not to mention the three films in Disney's "Pirates" trilogy) ... Well, these two clearly have a gift when it comes to reinventing (More importantly, reinvigorating) seemingly  played-out film genres.

Copyright 1998 TriStar Pictures / Amblin Entertainment

And I know of at least two divisions of the Walt Disney Company that really want this "Lone Ranger" film project to be an enormous success:

  • Disney Consumer Products -- Which (provided that this film is a huge hit) will then be able to sell "Lone Ranger" -themed toys, games, action figures, costumes and accessories to young boys the world over.
  • Walt Disney Imagineering -- Which wants that this new Western to be a real blockbuster. So that WDI can then use "The Lone Ranger" to help revive a long-dormant project. Which is build an elaborate outdoor stunt show in the area that Disneyland's seriously-under-used Big Thunder Ranch facility currently occupies.

Anywho ... You know what's kind of ironic about this whole situation ? In order to acquire the rights to use the "Long Ranger" characters in a movie, Walt Disney Studios first had to pay Entertainment Rights PLC an enormous amount of of money.

"And what's so ironic about that ?," you ask. Well, back in March of 1988, in order to finally gain control of the Disneyland Hotel, the Walt Disney Company first had to buy the Wrather Corporation. Which -- in addition to owning that Anaheim resort -- also owned all of the rights to "The Lone Ranger." But because Mouse House officials were so eager to recover the $85 million that they'd just spent to acquire Wrather, they quickly turned around and sold off all of those old television & radio shows to the highest bidder. Which is how Entertainment Rights PLC eventually wound up with control of the "Lone Ranger" characters.

 Clayton Moore (left) and Jay Silverheels
as the Lone Ranger & Tonto

And from I've been hearing ... Disney then had to agree to pay this UK-based media company over 10 times what the company originally made off of the sale of all of those old "Lone Ranger" TV shows & radio broadcasts in order to be able to use these characters in this new Jerry Bruckheimer film. And then -- when you factor in that this ambitious new Western will probably cost just as much as "The Curse of the Black Pearl" did to produce (I.E. $120 - $135 million) ... Well, Mouse House officials are really hoping that millions of people worldwide will be willing to part with a little silver in order to see the Lone Ranger & Silver up on the big screen again.

Anyway ... That's the latest news on this yet-to-be-officially-announced Walt Disney Pictures production. So what do you folks think ? Would you actually be interested in seeing a big-screen version of "The Lone Ranger" ? Particularly if this new Western were to be put together by many of the very same talented people who'd created the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy ?

Your thoughts ?

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  • Great article Jim!   Unfortunately, however, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in westerns.   The only way I might be pursuaded to see the movie is if they introduced the supernatural element as they did with the Pirates trilogy.    

  • Mask of Zorro-awesome.  Legend of Zorro-awesomely bad.  I was amazed they were both written by the same team....although I think I remember a few more names in there besides Terry and Ted for Legend of Zorro...so perhaps they were to blame...

    I dig westerns but would prefer something more original.  Why not do a original western with brand new characters that could become an attraction?  Maybe they could go on a "western expedition" or something......

  • What a bad idea.

    Continue Pirates.... without Sparrow.

    Work on Jungle Cruise.

  • JUNGLE CRUISE... hahaha, they really need to make that one awesome. The Lone Ranger is a bit iffy. The fan base is low and it would have to take a ridiculously clever and entertaining script to pull the characters through. I guess the same was said about Pirates so I'll keep my mouth shut until the movie comes out.

    BUT ANWAYS... JUNGLE CRUISE>>>>>!!!! WOOO! That would be sooo awesome. The main character would have to be some crazy and hilarious boat driver/guide that takes a group of tourists into tropical forests via a river. Along the way, the animals should look real but cartoony like in the ride. And there would be an awkward seen where they quietly stroll by a group of explorers up on a pole. Oh my gosh, the possibilities. Of course, they might just poop on the entire movie by making it like "Haunted Mansion" and have Eddie Murphy or Jackie Chan star in it with redundant catch phrases such as, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?!" Okay, now I'm ranting.


  • Continue Pirates WITHOUT Sparrow???

    Now THAT is a bad idea.

    Hey, while we're at it, let's continue Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford.  I'm sure that would be smashing...

  • I'll be there to see it...    I know my father will, too.    He's been a Lone Ranger fan since he was a kid and Lone Ranger was one of the few westerns I actually enjoyed watching.  It was like a Batman of the west -- a lot more depth in the background than the average western character.   This could actually work very very well.

  • Hmmm, this sounds very interesting indeed. The sucsess of a Lone Ranger film could be very cool indeed. Just think of everything Disney could do too all of it's various Frontierlands around the world? They could even work the Lone Ranger intp the "Western River Expedition." (hint, hint) to any Disney executives reading this.

    As for the previous Lone Ranger films, back in 1991 was when studios were making old TV shows into movies because they thought TV shows made into movies was a guaranteed sucsess. (which it isn't) With Jerry Bruckheimer in charge, I'm sure Disney could get a very good movie out of this.

  • I'm sure there was that feeling most people had that Disney would make a big-budget western film for Frontierland.  It really needs it.  Lone Ranger?  I guess.  Yes, it is ironic Disney wants the character back.  They could definately try original characters.  If the work turned out like The Mask of Zorro, good.  There were 2 things I didn't like about Legend of Zorro.  The kid felt like it limited the film also trying to be more family-friendly.  And the stupid CGI eye-popping horse.  That was the last straw.  Long story short, I definately see much potential in a new Disney western film.  Other recent western films I can think of right now are "Wild Wild West" and "Home on the Range"...

  • I somewhat agree with pirateguy, and did indeed catch the innuendo, but imagine if Thunder Mesa and The Western River Expedition were retooled WITH The Lone Ranger and friends? If this movie could provide the impetus to finally get the "wagon" wheels turning on this Phase One attraction, I don't care who it would feature. After all, some of the stereotype characters included in the original concept would never fly today, so insert honorable representations as the ones found in The Lone Ranger mythos.

    I'll go see it and when it's successful, maybe it would convince Lasseter to spend some time in the Eastern Time Zone and the other powers-that-be some money on The Magic Kingdom. By 2010, the retooled DCA should be making money, right?


  • With Bruckheimer the question is aways who will direct. The man keeps giving films to guys like Tony Scott, or even worse, Michael Bay, whose work makes me throw up a little in my mouth, and may be the worst director still not just consistently working, but who is a household name and whose work is revered. Now I'm ranting so I'm done. Can't wait for Pirates 4, which might be the most fun movie since the first, with all the marriage drama out of the fold.

  • Easy on the spoilers reverse-Epcot, some people haven't seen the movie yet


  • Thanks for the article Jim..this is the reason why I visit this site!

    I for one am extrememly optomistic about the prospect of a new disney western franchise...This might be just the right franchise to reignite Frontierland again!

    It will be interesting to see what HOOK they inject into the film to entice audiences to want to see it. Personally I would have loved to see if they could have reawakened Disney favorites from yesteryear such as Texas John Slaughter etc. The Saturday matinee genre seems to be coming back...cant wait for Prince of Persia...John Carter of Mars... I'm hoping Jim can use his resources to find out whether or not there is any truth to the rumor of a new  DR SYN...

  • Great article, Jim :)

    I'm in for the franchise. Me love me some franchises.. (:P)

    I'm highly anticipating "Prince of Persia" and "CoN: Prince Caspian" But! I say "no" on the whole Pirates 4 issue. Stop trying to profit too much from a healthy franchise, and just stop at 3. Too much films of the same concept can do no good, unless your James Bond.

    (Oh, and "Maverick" is a hilarious movie! Just putting that out there..)

  • I'm not a huge fan of westerns, but I'd be interested in "The Lone Ranger" if it has humor & a love story rolled in with the action (like POTC).  And, especially if it'd be a franchise, and if it's successful (make a great movie & market it well, & it will be successful!), then, what everyone else is saying- add something to Frontierland (just don't take down older attractions, like The Country Bears"...).

    As for POTC4, I'm hoping they make it.  I felt, watching AWE, that there's room for a 4th.

  • My son would go crazy for a Lone Ranger movie.

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