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Thread: Should Disney Studios Stay Away From Action/Adventure Movies?

  1. #1
    Registered User dban3's Avatar
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    Should Disney Studios Stay Away From Action/Adventure Movies?

    A very astute comment was passed my way and poses an interesting question. With the John Carter Debacle firmly in hand, should Walt Disney Studios stay away from producing live action / adventure movies and stick with the more family friendly G - PG type movies?

    The track record of the last few years hasn't exactly gone Disney's way in their big budget action / adventure movie releases (live acting not animated). Before JC, we had TRON2: Legacy which, at best, was a minor to moderate success but generally not critically well received. Before that was the failures of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and the Sorcerer's Apprentice - not exactly stellar efforts. You could make the case that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was an action / adventure film (it did have a battle scene) but mostly it was a quirky fantasy by a quirky director and his equally quirky star.

    Walt Disney Studios has made several trips to the bank and back with Pirates of the Caribbean franchise but really, that gets back to first movie, by far the best of the series, but it was an entertaining well crafted movie based on a classic and highly recognizable Disney theme park ride. (And if Guillermo del Toro ever makes his Haunted Mansion movie or Tom Hanks and Tim Allen get together for The Jungle Cruise, I would expect equally impressive results).

    On the flip side, last year's The Muppets made on a fairly small budget by modern standards (about 45 milion) was a moderate success grossing close to 90 million in the US and about 150 million world-wide. Tangled and Princess and the Frog were also successes of the moderate variety (though probably not what Disney had hoped). If you throw Alice in with this group, then Disney could have good reason to gloat and smile. Also include the wonderful movie - Enchanted (semi-animated).

    You do have to ignore the movies made by Robert Zemeckis and his ImageMovers Digital - A Christmas Carol and Mars Needs Moms, these two movies were produced independently from Walt Disney Studios (with almost all the CGI work done in here in Northern California). Zemeckis had a 4 picture deal with Disney that Disney promptly terminated after the first two flopped miserably.

    And you have to dismiss anything that comes from Marvel Studios. Like the Pixar arrangement, Marvel movies will be made independently from Walt Disney Studios.

    Outside of Pirates of the Caribbean (the original), what was the last great action / adventure non-animated movie made by Walt Disney Studios? National Treasure? (debatable) The Rocketeer? (debatable). Do you have to go all the way back to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?

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    Didn't they also flop with the Chronicles of Narnia sequel (Prince Caspian) which for all intents and purposes ended the franchise?


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    You have to think how to define "failure."

    Prince of Persia: $90mm. Is that a failure? Probably, until you take into account that worldwide it made $350 million.
    John Carter hasn't opened in all markets yet so may still come out close to even.
    Tron: Legacy made $480mm globally.
    Sorcerer's Apprentice is more clearly a financial flop, but the lesson there may be to not make movies with Nic Cage.
    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides may not have been a critical success but it did more than $1 billion worldwide.

    And then you also have to take into account how much the movie has been pre-sold internationally, which can significantly reduce loss risks.

    If the goal is to make money by the bucket loads I don't see any reason for Disney to stop just based on the box office of their recent big movies.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex S. View Post
    You have to think how to define "failure."
    Precisely. John Carter is too early to say, it likely won't make back twice its budget (which is usually the bar set for whether a movie qualifies for a sequel), but at this point I would be surprised if it didn't break even. Prince of Persia, also was not an overwhelming success, but it was also not a financial failure, they made back their budget plus and extra $150 million. TRON: Legacy was made on a similar budget as Star Trek (2009) and grossed more at the box office, and Star Trek was considered a commercial success (the difference, I think is that Disney predicted Pirates level success for TRON which was never realistically going to happen). Even The Sorcerer's Apprentice broke even. As for National Treasure, the first made back three times it's budget and the second made even more.

    Based solely on money, Disney is turning a profit with their Action/Adventure productions, they just have never managed to re-capture Pirates of the Caribbean's level of success (and, to be honest, I think Pirates was a once in a life time stroke of genius and pure luck).

    Then there's critical success. Most of these movies have been critical failures, but that has not stopped each of the Pirates films from raking in tons of money, nor has it stopped any of them from turning a profit.

    Finally, there's the issue of audience response, and I think this one is probably the most important. Do people enjoy these films and want to see another? Obviously people are still continuing to eat up Pirates of the Caribbean, despite the fact that the most recent was an irredeemable mess of a film. TRON: Legacy didn't pay off the way Disney hoped it would, but it was still quite successful in terms of sheer profits and there's a very large fan base demanding a sequel from Disney, enough that there are still ongoing discussions regarding a return to The Grid. John Carter even has a steadily growing number of fans who are already petitioning Disney for a sequel. Sorcerer's Apprentice and Prince of Persia, on the other hand, obviously failed to resonate, despite technically being profitable, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who legitimately loved either movie or would go out of their way to see a sequel.

    So far Disney has not taken a loss on any of these films and I think their search for "The Next Pirates," however in vain in might be, will continue to drive them to support more Action/Adventure productions.

  6. #5

    Ok, I have to admit that I LOVED Prince of Persia and Sorcerer's Apprentice and will drop everything to watch them when they are on. (I also plan to buy them). So not everybody hated them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlkPearlCptn View Post
    Ok, I have to admit that I LOVED Prince of Persia and Sorcerer's Apprentice and will drop everything to watch them when they are on. (I also plan to buy them). So not everybody hated them.
    Well look at that. I stand corrected.

  8. #7
    Registered User dban3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex S. View Post
    You have to think how to define "failure."

    Prince of Persia: $90mm. Is that a failure? Probably, until you take into account that worldwide it made $350 million.
    John Carter hasn't opened in all markets yet so may still come out close to even.
    Tron: Legacy made $480mm globally.
    Sorcerer's Apprentice is more clearly a financial flop, but the lesson there may be to not make movies with Nic Cage.
    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides may not have been a critical success but it did more than $1 billion worldwide.

    And then you also have to take into account how much the movie has been pre-sold internationally, which can significantly reduce loss risks.

    If the goal is to make money by the bucket loads I don't see any reason for Disney to stop just based on the box office of their recent big movies.
    A couple of comments.... disneymovieslist.com shows National Treasure 3 scheduled for a 2014 release though one can probably dispute this. We haven't seen the last of Nicholas Cage (the worst actor to ever when an academy award) in a Disney movie. (Met him outside of Storytellers at the Grand Californian a few years ago - nice guy).

    There is something to be said for the global marketability of Disney movies. But I would say the while Disney truly is a global media empire it is still very much an American company answering to a high volume of U.S. stockholders both private and institutional. Poor performance in the U.S. market increases the perception of failure even if some of the money is offset in an overseas markert.

    The cost of making a movie generally does not reflect the cost to market the movie. I have heard an estimated cost of $400 million for John Carter if you include the cost of marketing (as poorly as that was done). Disney will not come close to making the money back.

    How much a movie makes or loses is really a legal game of hide and seek. If some charlatan with sleazy lawyer came out and said the original idea behind Toy Story 3 was all his and was stolen by John Lasseter and wanted to take it to court suing Disney/Pixar for millions, Disney would fine a way to prove that even TS3 legally lost money.
    Last edited by dban3; 03-19-2012 at 08:30 PM.
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