Disney’s The Little Match Girl

This adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, set to Borodin’s Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D Major, was directed by Roger Allers, co-director of The Lion King. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Short in 2006. And be warned: if you don’t want to be seen crying at work, do be sure to watch this at home.

What does it take to run a studio?

Well — it’s happened. To no-one’s great surprise Marc Shmuger and David Linde have been booted out of Universal following a dismal year. In the same week, Dick Cook was replaced at Disney Studios by former Disney Channel chief Rich Ross. So with more heads rolling than Sleepy Hollow, what kind of talents are studios looking for? Here’s The Big Picture’s analysis:

Until a decade or so ago, it was pretty easy to identify what it took to run a movie studio. The best executives had the same kinds of skills — they were movie pickers. They could identify a good script, figure out the kind of talent who should star in it and hire the right filmmaker to make it, all the while having a relatively good grasp of its commercial potential. But studios aren’t movie-idea incubators anymore. They’re brand businesses, always on the lookout for a project that can be transformed into a franchise that not only has worldwide appeal but — even more crucially — can be duplicated over and over in sequel form.

Now that they are so dependent on the franchise business, studios need leaders with a skill set that is  something closer to an advertising brand manager. It’s hardly a surprise that Disney, which is now largely a collection of identifiable brands (Pixar, Bruckheimer, DreamWorks and Marvel) has replaced Cook with Disney Channels chief Rich Ross, who has overseen the creation of such successful young teen brands as “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana.”

With rare exceptions (meaning Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean”) the movies that have been the biggest profit centers for studios in recent years, such as “Harry Potter,”  “Transformers,” “Batman,” “Spider-Man” and “X-Men,” are films that rely more on our collective pop-culture subconscious than any individual movie star or creative talent. Even as recently as four or five years ago, you’d measure the value of a studio chief by his or her relationships, either with A-list stars or the top writer-directors in town who could supply ready-to-shoot, talent-friendly scripts. But at today’s studios, the real payoff comes from acquiring a new, well-known pop-culture brand, a brand with the kind of kinetic energy that appeals to moviegoers who speak different languages and live in all sorts of different cultures.

The big movie brands no longer depend on top talent. It hardly mattered who was cast in “Harry Potter” or “Transformers” or “Spider-Man.” The character, already clearly a part of the pop-culture firmament, was the star, not the actor. The same goes for the filmmaker, as the evolution of “Harry Potter” has proved, with the various installments all padding Warners’ deep pockets, regardless of whether a real auteur — like Alfonso Cuarón — or a journeyman director was at the helm.

You can find the rest of the article here.

Disney buys Marvel for $4 billion

spidey

Disney has just announced that it’s bought Marvel, whose characters include Spider-Man, X-Men and Iron Man. Marvel has, of course, had huge success with many of its recent movie adaptations, and the deal will no doubt lift the spirits of the comic-book industry. But doesn’t your heart sink just a little bit at the thought of yet more Spandexed super-sequels? On the other hand, as two comic powerhouses, home to some of America’s most innovative artists, come together, perhaps it’s the opportunity for some exciting creative collaborations? Inspired by the magic of Disney and the fearless heroism of Marvel, here’s how the companies’ bosses, Ike Perlmutter and Bob Iger, welcomed the news:

“We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation,” Iger said. “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses,” said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Oh.

The Lion, the Witch and the War

One of the more mysterious stories over Christmas was Disney’s decision to pull out of funding the third (and most likely final) Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After all, the first two installments had been two of the most popular pictures of recent years, and had given Disney its first proper movie franchise. Now The Big Picture has the full story. It’s not pretty, but it’s an illuminating insight into the workings of the business: check it out right here.

UPDATE 29th January : 20th Century Fox has now come on board for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.