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Monday Mouse Watch : Are you ready to go back to "The Black Hole" ?

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Monday Mouse Watch : Are you ready to go back to "The Black Hole" ?

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As Summer gives way to Fall, Disney executives are now reviewing the revenues that the Studio's films produced over the past few months. And to be honest, the sharp pencil boys aren't all that happy.

Everywhere you look, there are disappointments. Be they big ("The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" earned just $141 million during its initial domestic run. Which is less than half of what "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" earned during its stateside release back in 2005) or small (With the $220 million that "WALL-E" has earned domestically to date, this Andrew Stanton film is officially a blockbuster. But that said, Pixar's latest still fell short of what Disney's internal box office projections said this extremely well-reviewed animated feature would earn. Which initially suggested that "WALL-E" would sell $260 - $270 million worth of tickets during its stateside run).

Copyright 2008 Disney / Walden Media. All Rights Reserved

As to why these two high-priced projects (i.e. "Prince Caspian" reportedly cost Disney & Walden Media $200 million to produce, while "WALL-E" allegedly cost Pixar $170 million to produce and an additional $55 million to market) didn't meet expectations, Mouse House officials had a variety of explanations. "Caspian" 's under-performance is now blamed on a poorly chosen release date ("We should have stuck with December," said one suit that I spoke with. "The first 'Narnia' movie did well over the holiday season. We should have stuck with that time of year and not tried to turn 'Narnia' into a summer tentpole"), while "WALL-E" missing its initial box office projections was supposedly caused by a certain caped crusader (" 'The Dark Knight' came out three weeks after 'WALL-E' was released and immediately became the must-see movie of the summer," this Disney exec continued. " That sequel sucked all of the air out of the room. 'WALL-E' & anything else that was released prior to 'Dark Knight' didn't stand a chance after that.")

Given the $512 million that "The Dark Knight" has grossed domestically to date (or -- for that matter -- the $317 million that "Iron Man" has earned and the $227 million that "Hancock" has hauled in this summer), the Walt Disney Company is now wondering if it too needs to get into the comic book movie game. The only problem is ... The movie rights for most of the really good characters & franchises have already been snapped up.

Copyright 2008 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved

This is why Mickey signed Stan Lee last year. With the hope that Spider-man's creator might then be able to cook up a few new super heroes for the Mouse House to use. And while that development deal has already begun bearing some fruit with the "Time Jumper" franchise, Disney -- with an eye toward creating the sort of heat within the fan community that film adaptations like "Sin City," "300" and "Watchmen" regularly receive -- is now getting ready to move into the graphic novel market.

Now where this all gets interesting is that the team that the Mouse hired to run its graphic novel division, Kingdom Comics -- Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek -- was given some very specific marching orders. In that these three were told to go through the Studio's live-action library and then identify titles that would lend themselves to graphic novel adaptation.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And according to an interview that Oren Aviv, the president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Production, recently had with Disney Newsreel (i.e. the Studio's in-house magazine) ... Some of the films that Ahmet, Harris & Christian have recently been looking at are sure to intrigue / excite the fan community. To whit:

" We're looking now, for example, at what the graphic novel today would read and look like for 'The Black Hole' and what it would be for '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' "

Copyright 1979 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

And when you take into consideration that Walt Disney Studios will actively be eyeballing all of these Kingdom Comics as possible fodder for future feature films ... Well, this late 1970s / early 1980s revival that we've been seeing lately at the Mouse House what with "Race to Witch Mountain" and "TR2N" could actually continue with a brand-new, big screen version of "The Black Hole."

Mind you, if comic book fans had their way ... Well, Disney wouldn't be releasing a new graphic novel version of this December 1979 release. But -- rather -- a collection of those "Black Hole" panels that comic legend Jack Kirby drew for that "Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales" Sunday strip from September of 1979 through February of 1980. This is the one & only time that "King Kirby" ever did a movie adaptation. But that's a story for another time ...

Copyright 1979 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

Anyway ... What do you folks think? Do you like the idea of the Walt Disney Company using Stan Lee and Kingdom Comics as a way to get into the super hero game? Or would you prefer that the Mouse stick with the super hero franchises that it already has (i.e. "The Incredibles" & "Sky High") ?

Your thoughts?

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  • Poor scheduling may indeed have been a factor in Prince Caspian's underperformance at the box office, but IMO what  also hurt it was the lousy screenplay. The writers threw out just about everything that was charming and magical in the book in favor of machismo-laden battles and really crummy dialogue (especially from Reepicheep. It really hurt that the gallant mouse's courtly language in the book was replaced with lame mouse jokes in the movie.) After viewing the blatant dumbing-down of a classic, I had no desire to view PC again,  whereas I saw LWW three times. I hear that the Dawn Treader film will have a new director. Hopefully he will have more respect for what is, after all, timeless material. C.S. Lewis' Narnia books have been in print for over 50 years. They have no need to be "jazzed up" for a new audience.

  • are super hero movies the answer? no, good movies are the answer.

    Warners released quite a few Batman movies that didn't do so good. The first one from Tim Burton and the most recent one were both blockbusters, and sadly the most recent one got a boost from the death of an actor. In between were quite a few Batman movies that didn't seem like a solution to anything.

    Wall-E got a huge consensus of excellent reviews, so the film makers clearly did their jobs. If that movie was a "disappointment", the responsibility sits squarely with the marketing department.

    To hear all the talk of underperformance and disappointing results, you'd think heads would roll. Yet oddly every year, all the execs get their huge bonuses. Guess the company somehow manages to make money.

  • They're going about this all wrong.

    If Disney wants an AWESOME comic book adaptation movie, they've already GOT ONE right under their noses.

    And it's not just a comic-book movie, it's also a nostalgia movie for 1980s Saturday morning TV (look how much money "Transformers" made).

    AND, as if that weren't enough, it'd be a much-needed shot in the arm for traditional animation, in case "The Princess And The Frog" flops.

    Are you ready?

    "The Life And Times of $crooge McDuck," based on Don Rosa's Eisner-winning 12-part series.

    It could be adapted as an epic biopic, albeit a fictional animated one. A humorous yet compelling tale of how a penniless young mallard boy from Glasgow, after decades of trials and humiliations in his travels around the world, finally struck it rich in the Klondike and slowly but surely used a savvy business sense to become the richest duck in the world. But in the process, his unquenchable thirst for success nearly cost him all his friends and family forever - that is, until his first encounter with his grand-nephews, who remind him that life isn't about how much money's in the bin - it's about the memories BEHIND the treasure. Donald and his nephews would appear briefly (as they do in the comic) but stay in the sidelines - this is SCROOGE's story.

    Don Rosa based his storyline for "Life And Times" on the Duckburg gospel according to Carl Barks. And Carl Barks isn't just a comic book legend - he's the man who took the comic book legends to SCHOOL. If nothing else, such a movie would follow the "Ratatouille" mode of success - do okay in America, and HUGE in Europe (where the duck comics are as ubiquitous as Batman is here).

    Seriously, someone suggest this to Lasseter. It just might work.

  • GARGOYLES! This has Transformers like geek appeal and the dark edge of Batman the Animated Series.  Do a rock solid summer superhero version of it and get the comic in print online ASAP... I know I'm not the only geek that thinks this way...

    The Black Hole, to quote Jim on the subject (paraphrasing the muppets), "I've seen better film on teeth..."  

  • Yes! GARGOYLES! I was a HUGE Gargoyles fan growing up, and I read somewhere that Greg Weisman (Gargoyles creator/producer) was at one point writing a script, but it's long since been lost in development hell. If I remember correctly, Disney rolled out Gargoyles as an alternative to the WB's Batman: The Animated Series. Batman was siphoning off Disney Afternoon viewers with its dark action and edginess. Now that Batman's back on the big screen, bullying other Disney properties, wouldn't it be poetic to have Gargoyles get the cinematic treatment? Trust me, of all the comic book-geek potential Disney might have in its vault, Gargoyles is GOLD.

  • Glad to see you back, Jim.  With all the grumbling of '... would it kill Jim Hill to say something nice about Disney...", following the 9 day hiatus after you praised the WDW Liberty Square Bridge rehab efforts, I was afraid it had!

    But... The Black Hole?!?   You can't be serious.

  • A Gargoyles movie would be sweet! Makes you wonder why the execs over at Disney never thought of it. Even though you have kids that aren't familiar with the franchise, a great script would reintroduce the characters to the audience.

    Aside from that, I agree with some other people on here that it isn't super hero movies that draw the crowds, it's good super hero movies. Tossing any old character at the big screen doesn't immediately result in great returns -- just ask Catwoman and Elektra. Besides Disney has the rights to franchises like Pirates and a whole slew of other attractions. What's stopping them from creating the Jungle Cruise or Finding Nemo: The Ride and Musical Movie? :)

  • Did yousay "LEAGUES"

    The rumor mill in the 20K fan society just started churning.... ;) Don't forget the Gold Key Disney comic sereis, THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN NEMO......

  • If Disney wants a summer blockbuster, all they need to do is release another POTC film. Any news on the fourth yet?

  • Nothing on the fourth - but, PRINCE OF PERSIA is in production, and, don't forget...

    A fiery horse with a speed of light,

    A cloud of dust,and a hearty

    “Hi-Yo, Silver!”


  • Of all these ideas, Gargoyles sounds the best to me.  And trust me, I'm about as far from the target demographic as you can imagine!  My family would be buying tickets for that in a heartbeat.  And with an awesome script, this could be a whole new series.

    The rest of this...blah...

    Sue in Texas

    ...nope, hasn't seen "Dark Knight" either...

  • Gargoyles has been suggested many times in the past, even while the cartoon was on the air. The characters lend themselves to CGI & live action and Jonathan Frakes can still play the villian. I always heard it wasn't done because Eisner didn't like the show.

  • If Disney is searching for a comic book ('scuze me, "graphic novel") adaptation for the big screen, they've already got a fantastic one on the small screen: the Middleman!  This series, which debuted on ABC Family just a few months ago, is the perfect combination of action, genre references and quick-paced humor.  (It's something like Men In Black crossed with the Gilmore Girls.)  It's true that the special effects are somewhat lacking, but I'd love to see what they could do with a big-screen budget.

    Please trust me on this: if you like superhero / sci-fi stories, you'll almost certainly enjoy the Middleman.

    At this point, the show hasn't been picked up for another season.  ABC Family is allegedly waiting to see how the DVD collection sells.  Here's hoping that this smart and funny show is around long enough to make it to the big screen.

  • I think the BIGGER problem that Disney (and all the studios) are having is not necessarily a problem with the plots, but the cost to go to the movies.

    I took my family (me, my wife, a 5 yr old, a 2 yr old and a 6mo old) to see Wall-E when it opened and it cost well over $30 just to get in on a Saturday morning!

    I went to the Dark Knight alone.

    Math - family movies = $30-40 to see   Adult movies = $9-11 to see

    Family movies will continue to be a TOUGH sell in the theatres and do BIG business on DVD. Heck the number one DVD last week was the straight to video Ariel movie!

    Jim, can you write an article about Disney/Pixar movies (including cheapquels) box office vs DVD sales?

  • New Black Hole? NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Come up with new superheros? Gee, by the time it gets to the screen do you suppose that something else will be hot?

    At least nobody's proposed going with a remake of "Condorman".

    The creativity just oozes out of Hollywood, doesn't it?

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