Published at: Sept. 25, 2008, 7:38 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
The Walt Disney Company took over the Kodak Theater and a chunk of the Hollywood & Highland complex Wednesday for a six-hour presentation aimed at hyping up their employees, their international partners, and a cluster of entertainment journalists over their extended production slate. Hosted by senior executive Dick Cook, the stunningly lavish affair began with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra tearing through a medley of classic Disney themes ("When You Wish Upon a Star", "I Wanna Be Like You", "Life Is a Highway", etc.) and ended with a surprise appearance by Johnny Depp in full Captain Jack Sparrow getup. In between, there were performances by Miley Cyrus and Dr. John, lots of trailers, and one feature-length movie (BOLT). We heard Pixar mastermind John Lasseter hold forth on the future of animation, saw William H. Macy zoom across the stage on a motorcycle, and toured a makeshift art gallery showing off the Hammer-esque horror design of Robert Zemeckis's A CHRISTMAS CAROL. A continental breakfast, lunch, and cocktails were served. Eventually, a nap was encouraged and a frog dissected. A letter was drafted by Woody Allen's lawyers.
There's something spectacularly not right about a studio feting itself so opulently as the economy threatens to collapse, but Hollywood has always been our inspiring beacon of wretched excess. So while it's true that hard-working folk are losing their jobs and their homes due to bad-faith capitalism, I take great comfort in the fact that Disney can still hire out the USC marching band to announce Jerry Bruckheimer's reimagining of THE LONE RANGER. Burning money because you can is a show of strength; it's a sharp elbow to the emaciated midsection of socialism. It's what makes us better than the rest of the world. It's also why I fell in love with film.
Most importantly, it's a repudiation of the cost-conscious Disney philosophy of the early 1990s, which brought us nothing but shame, misery and LIFE WITH MIKEY. Judging from Wednesday's star-studded buffet, scrimping is not an option at the Bob Iger-led Mouse House; though they're still very much in the Walt Becker/Adam Shankman/Anne Fletcher business (i.e. the "Whatever you say, boss!" style of directing), the studio is also keen to establish relationships with visionaries like Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis. And while these films - ALICE IN WONDERLAND and A CHRISTMAS CAROL - have huge built-in insurance policies thanks to the involvement of Johnny Depp and Jim Carrey, from what I saw on Wednesday, they don't look terribly mainstream. (That said, it's way early for Burton's film; to be honest, the filmmaker's sketches of the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar and the Queen of Hearts didn't appear radically different from the boilerplate take on Lewis Carroll's classic. It's the Zemeckis movie that looks... odd. More on that below.) For Disney, this is tantamount to "risk".
But - thanks to Pixar (and Lasseter's stewardship of Disney Studios Animation), the company's extensive library of classics, their sturdy relationship with hitmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, and, of course, merchandising - it's risk they can well afford. This is what Dick Cook made abundantly clear to the (mostly) home crowd on Wednesday (who else would cheer wildly over the prospects of a WILD HOGS 2?). The state of Disney's production slate is strong. This is tremendously good news for them. Yay them!
As for what you can expect over the next few years from the makers of CONDORMAN, here are my notes from the Day Of Disney:
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got two incredible Budd Boetticher movies to write about, which, combined, probably cost less to make than Wednesday's continental breakfast.