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Tag: Disney

Editorials

What’s Next For Disney?

July 27, 2019

Since 2010, Disney has released (mostly) live-action remakes of some of their classic films, originally these started off with them being sold as a reimagining, such as Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s point of view, which was the premise of “Maleficent”, however as time goes on and more have been made, they have become more remake than reimagining, with the latest being “The Lion King”.

But with live-action versions of “Mulan”, and “The Little Mermaid” on the way, are they running out of classics? Most of their current remakes are from their “renaissance” period, and only a few films from this time remain without remakes. Is Disney still capable of their classic magic? Or are they forced to rely on nostalgia?

Once Upon A Time

Walt Disney and the classic Mickey Mouse design.

Disney has been around since the 1920’s when they produced cartoons featuring Oswald the lucky rabbit. When they lost the character rights to their distributor, they had to create a new character, Mickey Mouse.

After the Mickey Mouse cartoons became popular, merchandise featuring the character also became popular. This led to the company’s first feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. Several classic animated features followed, as well as a theme park, with Disney quickly becoming a household name.

A New Fantastic Point Of View

The original animated Cinderella, and Lily James in the remake (Disney 1950/2015)

Disney has relied heavily on nostalgia in the last decade with their remakes and it’s working. This trend arguably started with 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”, which is a rather unique interpretation, as with Maleficent, with a different point of view, however the 2015 version of Cinderella is very faithful to the original, but adds some additional backstory to give her more agency, one of the criticisms of the original story. This version received mostly positive reviews, although some critics were disappointed with the lack of innovation.

This was followed by Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” another faithful adaptation, with artistic license used on the animals to make them seem more intimidating, whilst also capturing an actor’s performance, it was another big hit for Disney. The technology and techniques used would lead to Favreau remaking Lion King.

A Tale As Old As Time

Young Simba (JD McCrary) and Zazu (John Oliver) in the photo-realistic modern version of “The Lion King” (Disney, 2019)

Disney’s next remake was “Beauty and the Beast”, this received similar reactions to the Cinderella remake which may be something to do with the director having similar intentions. This was followed by “Christopher Robin” which acted more like a continuation of the “Winnie the Pooh” franchise, rather than a remake.

2019 saw three different remakes: “Dumbo”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”, which opened to varied reviews from critics and audiences alike. “Dumbo” stretched the original’s length by almost an hour, which generally bored most viewers, and is actually the worst-reviewed of the remakes (not including the “Alice in Wonderland” sequel).

“Aladdin” and “The Lion King” stayed fairly close to the originals, albeit with some added elements, and with a recast Genie and photorealistic animals respectively. While the visuals of these were praised, many think they lack some of the heart of the originals are a little soulless.

Let’s Get Down to Business

Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond is at the heart of Frozen (Disney, 2013)

Disney has several live action adaptations of other projects in the works, with only a handful of original (i.e. not sequel or remake) films to be released until 2023. They could be moving away from original stories, as sequels and remakes of proven franchisees are always more profitable than something completely new.

However, the studio has proven that they can still produce iconic, original stories, just look at the impact “Frozen” had, (and Frozen 2 will likely have when it’s released at Christmas). Which is arguably as big a hit as any of their “renaissance” films. “Moana” a traditional Disney fairytale, but focusing on a Polynesian village and culture, proves that they are still capable of producing the magic that we know them for with original tales.

One possible attitude is that Disney is seeking to “modernise” it’s classics, by bringing them up to modern day standards and attitudes. Both the “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” remakes especially give their lead princess more agency in an attempt to move away from the criticisms of the traditional versions. Pixar’s (which is owned by Disney) “Ralph Breaks the Internet” features several scenes poking fun at the princesses, which some argue is an attempt to breakdown the stereotypes the films have produced.

The live-action remakes will continue while Disney still has films left (although don’t rule out another set of remakes in another 20-30 years), but it would be unfair to say that they have run out of original stories quite yet. Time will tell whether any of them will become as iconic enough to deserve their own live-action remakes.

Also Read: Disney Strikes Back: Disney+ Breaks The Internet

Editorials

Has The Marvel Cinematic Universe Reached Its Peak?

July 3, 2019
Marvel Cinematic Universe - First 10 Years Banner

With Avengers: Endgame sitting just behind Avatar as the second highest grossing film of all time, the franchise has constantly reached new heights, especially with the team-ups. But with Endgame being the final appearance from some of the characters that made it the juggernaut it is, is it all downhill from here?

No one could’ve predicted just how big the MCU would become when it started back in 2008, Iron Man wasn’t as popular as characters like Spider-Man, so there was very little chance the film would be a success, let alone that it would give birth to the highest grossing franchise ever. It not only catapulted “cult” comic book characters into household names but also inspired several other studios to adopt the “shared universe” model.

“Become part of a larger world…’

2008’s “Iron Man” officially started the universe, but “The Avengers” took things to a whole new level. (Marvel/Disney, 2012)

The first “Avengers” film is still to date the 6th Highest grossing film worldwide and is when people really started to pick up and take notice of the franchise after all the planning and easter eggs had paid off. “Iron Man 3” kicked off “Phase Two” a year later, which included “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the former being the first film directed by the Russo Brothers, who would go on to direct “Infinity War” and “Endgame”, while the latter proved Marvel could experiment with the more outlandish elements of their canon, leading to films like “Doctor Strange” and “Thor: Ragnarok”

“Phase Three” saw Marvel get even more ambitious, with everything leading towards the massive crossover events of the final two “Avengers” films as well as putting their own spin on familiar characters, when they struck a deal to use Spider-Man in their shared universe, who now gets to share the screen with the Avengers just like in the comics, as well as have a film directly deal with the fallout of Avengers: Endgame, the film that broke box office records almost instantly.

“We’re in the endgame now”

“Avengers: Infinity War” features a huge cast of characters (Disney/Marvel, 2018)

The MCU won’t be stopping anytime soon, although Marvel has yet to officially announce any of the films in Phase 4, there are several rumours about what could come next. And the recent Disney/Fox merge means that they now have access to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, so expect to see them appear alongside (or even against) the Avengers before long. While this crossover would likely not feature the cast of the previous X-Men films, it would still be exciting to see versions of them with characters we are familiar with, such as a Spider-man and Wolverine team up.

However due to the scale of “Avengers: Endgame”, it is likely that the MCU will slow down and tell smaller stories for a time, focusing on more standalone stories with occasional team-ups, like Falcon’s cameo in “Ant-Man” or the Hulk’s role in “Thor: Ragnarok”. While the solo films are popular, they never quite reach the heights of the Avengers films, although several have grossed over $1 billion dollars, like “Black Panther” so a sequel would likely do very well.

“Avengers Assemble”

Could Avengers 5 give us even more heroes in one battle? (Marvel/Disney, 2019)

But the appeal of a shared universe is the team-ups and connections, otherwise, they may as well be standalone franchises (which is no bad thing). As of Endgame, there are over 20 superheroes, that either have their own franchise (Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther etc) or are major players in another (Falcon and Winter Soldier have huge roles in the Captain America films) and that cast is only likely to expand as the films go on. In addition to the feature-length outings, several established characters are getting spin-off series on the upcoming Disney+. These will crossover with the films “in a big way” (although previous Marvel shows, such as Agents of SHIELD and The Defenders, had tenuous connections at best).

Given all of this, it’s likely “Endgame”, as a conclusion to “The Infinity Saga” will be the last official Avengers film for a while, but the characters will crossover with each other at every opportunity. Given the success of some solo outings like “Black Panther” that are guaranteed sequels, it is possible that one of them could break even more records. However, the likely option is that Marvel will once again try to replicate their success several years down the line. With several newer characters, the old guard can call in for back up. So while Endgame might be the end for the foreseeable future, don’t expect this to be the last time the Avengers assemble…

Also Read: Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not to Spoil…

Reviews

Review: Aladdin

June 7, 2019
Rachael RNR Reviews Aladdin

Directed by Guy Ritchie (Revolver, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) & starring Will Smith, YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the Disney live-action remake of Aladdin.

What’s It About?

Aladdin, our beloved pickpocket orphan who falls for Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. To win the princess, Aladdin must do what it takes. Causing him to get tangled with the evil sorcerer Jafa!

Rachael RNR Reviews Aladdin

Also Read: Movie Marketing: Films That Thought Outside The Box

Editorials

The Newest Additions To The MCU: X-Men & Fantastic Four

April 9, 2019

As the unstoppable Disney juggernaut buys 21st Century Fox the long-awaited consolidation of the Marvel Universe is at hand.

Selling Priceless Treasures

Back in the late 1990s, no one knew how big superhero films were going to be. After all, it wasn’t that long after the trainwreck of Batman and Robin. So it made sense to sell the rights to some properties and let film studios take all the risk while Marvel still got a big pile of cash. Then X-Men was a huge hit and this started a slew of superhero films – some great, some not so great and Marvel came to regret giving up cinematic control to some of their most valuable superheroes.

The 2000s and 2010s saw an explosion of superhero films – a seemingly never-ending parade of CGI fight scenes, origins stories and heroic struggles. A bright spark had had the idea of making all of Marvel’s superhero films exist in one universe, a huge sprawling world full of heroes and villains and it was all connected. Each film would build on the shared success meaning that people would need to watch each one if they wanted to fully appreciate the whole. I have reservations about this idea but undeniably it has been hugely successful and there is definitely a feeling that you need to see them all. It was very cool to see Iron Man making fun of Captain America in Avengers Assemble, or Thor and the Incredible Hulk fighting in Thor: Ragnorak or seeing Spider-Man team up with Wolverine and Reid Richards in…well, that one hasn’t happened yet and that’s because 21st Century Fox used to own the rights to X-Men and The Fantastic Four.

There is, of course, something that has to be pointed out. While the X-Men films have been commercially and sometimes even critically successful launching a nearly twenty year ascendancy none of the three Fantastic Four films has made much of an impact. And I’m not sure how many people, outside of hardened comic books fans, have been calling for Fantastic Four to be incorporated into the MCU. But there is good stuff there to work with and they could be a useful addition and will satisfy completists out there.

X Men OriginsL Wolverine (www.nitwitty.net)

Lessons To Be Learned & Problems To Avoid Rebooting X-Men and Fantastic Four:

  • X-Men – if you have run out of ideas for interesting powers stop making characters. I’d rather characters have similar powers than the barrel-scraping powers that have popped up in the X-Men films.
  • Fantastic Four – Sue Storm has the power of invisibility (as well as being able to create force-fields) and while such a power could lead to dozens of interesting ideas it falls flat on screen and there has to be an interesting way to use that power in a film.
  • X-Men – The role of Wolverine made Hugh Jackman a huge star and is probably the lead character of those films so don’t try and repeat that trick when it’s rebooted, do something different. Wolverine isn’t the be-all and end-all, they’re a team, let some of the other X-Men shine.
  • Fantastic Four – this may be controversial – find a way to make Doctor Doom and Silver Surfer into interesting cinematic characters or let them go – it’s okay to make new stuff up.
  • X-Men – Too powerful – Stop making people all-powerful. Wolverine is practically indestructible and immortal and every so often Jean Grey becomes all-powerful and, Professor X can do everything from mind control to stopping time

But it’s not just going to be problems and things going wrong and it has the potential to do some really interesting stuff.

Infinity War (superherohype.com)

What Fans Want (or at least what this fan wants)

  • Deadpool with the X-Men – Deadpool was a great film and while not exactly an X-Man he’s X-Man adjacent and in the graphic novels he is definitely part of that world. The terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine already had one go at this and completely wasted their opportunity so maybe finally the MCU can give us the insanely over-the-top fight that a Deadpool Vs Wolverine Battle of the Indestructible Mutants deathmatch that we all desperately want.
  • Who’d Win In A Fight Between….every playground’s favourite argument is who’d win in a fight between two people who should have no reason to fight. A popular one is who would win in a fight between The Hulk and The Thing (my money is on The Thing as The Hulk is driven by impulses whereas The Thing very much remains Ben Grimm). Reid Richards is a genius who could perhaps knock some of the smug out of Tony Stark while Magneto is perhaps the best villain in any of the Marvel films to date.
  • Making Up For Past Mistakes – The Fantastic Four films were a disaster from start to finish and the X-Men franchise has not always struck gold so maybe this time they can take two decades of experience and get it right. The MCU has a had a go with the odder and wackier superheroes with Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy and I don’t see why they can’t apply the same skill to a new Fantastic Four film. As for the X-Men, putting Gambit in the regular line-up as I feel his presence has been sorely missed in the films. They could also have another go with Rogue, again making her a regular X-Man from the start, bring in Jubilee, and Cyclops doesn’t just have to be the boring guy going out with Jean Grey.

So there we have it what the MCU rebooted films of X-Men and Fantastic should avoid and what they should do. Getting these films right is trickier than it might appear and it can be a fine line between enjoyable superhero film and ridiculous folly that cost $300,000,000.

News

2019 Video Streaming Survey

April 8, 2019

Watch Netflix, Amazon Prime or other video-on-demand services?

Big Picture Film Club is conducting a survey on movie / TV streaming platforms available in the UK: what features you like about them and what you would want to see improved.

We would love for you to take part, the survey will take less than 5 minutes to complete and is available below.

Create your own user feedback survey
Editorials

Disney Strikes Back: Disney+ Breaks The Internet

January 29, 2019

It truly is an exciting time to be a film viewer with so many streaming sites vying for our attention. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV and so many others are competing to be your go-to entertainment streaming service. And soon another company will join the streaming wars. Disney announced last year that at some point in 2019 it will launch its own streaming service, Disney+. Many have prophesized that the entertainment behemoth could give Netflix a run for its money. So, today we are going to ask, what effect Disney+ could have on the streaming landscape. Will Netflix be able to compete with a company as giant as the house of mouse? And what could this mean for the future of film distribution?

What is Disney+ offering?

Disney+ is stated to be a child-friendly streaming hub for all of Disney’s owned films and TV shows. These include properties like Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, and National Geographic. Hulu will broadcast the more adult-oriented content owned by the company. So far, the service has not set a price, but has promised that it will be cheaper than a Netflix subscription. Similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime, Disney+ also plans to host exclusive content. These include Star Wars: The Mandalorian and a series based on Marvel’s Loki. It will also be the first place where all the latest Disney films become available.

How will this effect the industry?

Disney+ could herald the beginning of the next generation of streaming. With the studio’s pedigree and the exclusive big names they have, including Star Wars and Marvel, it seems likely that the production value of their exclusives will be high, with both properties usually focusing a lot on spectacle. And if the service becomes successful with a cheaper price, other streaming companies will have to step up their game. Perhaps lowering their price, offering new selling points or allotting higher budgets for their new projects. Competition breeds creativity and Disney+ seems poised to encourage that.

It is also interesting that Disney does not intend to dismiss cinema distribution. Allowing films to run their course in theatres rather than exclusively releasing it on Disney+. It is interesting that despite the rise of streaming, cinema exhibition continues to generate over £1 billion in revenue each year. And this display from Disney reinforces the importance of cinematic distribution. Therefore, cinemas will still benefit from the income that big releases bring to them. As well as allowing a broad audience to see the films before it becomes exclusive and potentially allowing platforms for smaller films to be seen by a larger audience.

However, if Disney+ is successful it’s not hard to see other big studios forming their own streaming companies to retain distribution rights. Meaning that a movie will run its course in cinemas and then become exclusive to that studio’s website. Customers will thus lose the variety of current streaming sites. Instead, they’ll have to sign up to multiple companies, with different prices to find what they want. This isn’t a particularly consumer-friendly environment to encourage. Plus with the four highest grossing movies of 2017 being produced by them, it’s not hard to see why Disney wants to keep using the cinema box office.

Netflix Vs Disney+

And with Disney+’s announcement, many saw it as a direct challenge to Netflix’s hold on the market. With a cheaper price, a large back catalog as well as original programming and exclusive retention of its latest cinema releases, many predict that Disney+ will be a great Netflix competitor. However, this judgment seems rash. It is exciting to see what Disney will bring to the table. And the more family-focused content of Disney+ makes it unique amongst current streaming companies. Which mainly focus on offering content for different age ranges. But ultimately it is hard to see Disney+ felling Netflix completely for one simple reason, a lack of variety.

The reason platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have succeeded is because they provide a vast range of content for all ages and interests. Genre cinema, documentaries, critically acclaimed work, schlocky trash, foreign language cinema from all over the world, kids films and the latest blockbusters are all available on those platforms. And not everyone wants to watch a Disney show or movie when they get home. Some people want to watch an adult-oriented comedy or violent action films, not exclusively family-orientated films.

Just look at the domestic box office figures for Disney’s releases last year. Their box office takings are incredibly sporadic. With some projects earning hundreds of millions while others never reach the hundred mark. Fatigue can set in easily when there is little room to breathe between brand projects (comparatively speaking). Even big-name brands don’t guarantee success, see Solo: A Star Wars Story for proof of that. Disney+ will undoubtedly have a big fan base to rely on. But the limited audience range and content makes it seems more like an Amazon Prime add on than something you would exclusively pay for. 

Disney at the 2018 Box Office

What does the future hold?

Ultimately these judgements are merely speculation and we will find out what happens when Disney+ launches later this year.

It will be interesting to see how established companies will deal with the challenge posed by Disney. A healthy dose of competition is sure to produce a good amount of change. Both in business and in the products produced. And the retention of cinema distribution will give faith to cinemagoers and smaller filmmakers looking for potential platforms to reach a wide audience.

But it is also hard to not be pessimistic about what this could do to the industry by promoting insular distribution rather than reaching the widest possible audience. Overall this feels like something being done for business rather than art. And even devoted fan culture can get burnt out when given too much to chew.