Unsettling news I read yesterday in the New York Times that Disney has tapped J. J. Abrams to helm the next Star Wars: Episode Awesome…er…I mean 7. And so I want to get the facts out there before the ink dries on any contracts and there may be time to reconsider!
Now I realize this comes on the heels of my bold statement that virtually anyone in Hollywood, even the Production Assistant whose job it is to get the coffee for the guy who makes the copies for the Office Secretary to the Executive Assistant of the Studio Chief…even THAT guy could direct a better Star Wars than Lucas. His name’s Mike.
I’m not saying that Abrams will “ruin Star Wars”. It’s already hit rock bottom. I just don’t think he’s the guy to reboot us off on the right foot. Now, Star Wars Jedi Academy the TV show? That is Abrams all day long! Give THAT to him. Star Wars Episode 7? Well, consider this…
1. Abrams is a Trekkie. Or a Trekkor. Still not sure the difference, but come ON! Even Triumph the Insult Comic below (Rated PG-13) knows the difference between the two very different Sci-Fi dork camps! What’s next? Human Sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!
2. Abrams is not afraid to have a non-existent plot device. Hitchcock called it a MacGuffin. Abrams called it a Rabbit’s Foot and it was what everyone was scrambling around for in Mission Impossible 3 and none of us cared about if they ever got it or not. Frankly, we were just excited to finally see Felicity get to kick some butt!
3. Lens Flares. ’Nuff said.
4. Abrams is a TV Guy. Even his films feel like big TV instead of Epic Movies. And don’t try to bring up the new awesome-looking Star Trek to me cause Triumph and I will poop on that as mentioned in #1.
The smoke and mirror After Effects tricks and the Soap Opera drama that make TV work, do not work for Film. Just ask Joss Whedon. He is fiiiiiiinally learning that with Avengers. Shoot, give Whedon a crack at Star Wars. I’d buy that.
5. Abrams is a Trekkie/or! Does this bother no one else? What is Disney thinking there? You wouldn’t have the DC guys direct Marvel Movies? DC is clearly inferior except for Batman and Supes, we all know. And there’s zero crossover between the camps! It’s obvious the Avengers could kick all the Justice League’s tails and fins or whatever.
6. Time Travel. In one fell plot device swoop, Abrams eliminated 46 years of Star Trek History and created his own little 90210-on-the-CW-channel-in-Space alternate universe. Do you want Leia falling in love with Chewie instead of Han? Do you want the cast of Glee running the Jedi Academy? Do you want Han to shoot first? Do you want Mace Windu and Jar jar to never have existed? Okay, well, there could be an upside, come to think of it.
7. Abrams is not Neil Blomkamp! This is a big one for me! The Star Wars universe is a dirty, dingy used up bit of space. That is Blomkamp. Let’s District 9 this Tatooine! Abrams is an illusionist hiding sleight of hand. Blomkamp is a sorceror! A master of visual detail as it extends seamlessly into story. Effects that support story and the genre, and not overwhelm them.
8. Abrams is a Trekkie/or! I don’t really feel you’ve quite gotten this point yet, that it has completely sunk in the absurdity of a Star Trek guy just hopping over the fence to the Star Wars side. During the Superbowl are we gonna let the QB from 49ers just hop over to the Ravens Offense after a few touchdowns? How about Robert E. Lee pinch hitting a few battles for the North? Apple does not sell Windows XP. Burger King does not sell Happy Meals. Trekkies/ors do not carry Lightsabers. It’s a law. They get Transporters. We get the Force. They get Data. We get 3PO. They get Seven of Nine. We get Slave Leia. Rawr.
9. Abrams cut Felicity’s hair! Do you not remember this TV travesty? The whole opening shot of the show culminated with that long luxurious Merida/Pixar hair bouncing in the wind while she’s walking across the street in slo-mo. Next season? Whack! She’s gone full Les Mis. I’ve never fully recovered apparently. Despite my Therapist’s sunny disposition.
Now imagine for just a sec that J.J. Abrams brings his distinctly anti-hair sentiment to our beloved Chewbacca!! Do you know what we’d get? I do!
10. Abrams is a Trekkie/or! Instead of a Top Ten list this could have been a Top One list with just this singular point on it and still have been a very effective argument against J.J. Abrams not directing the next Star Wars movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. I think the world of the first two seasons of every series he’s ever done. Super 8 was fun. Star Trek is gonna be awesome. But, Star Wars is flat-lining and needs an Adrenaline shot to the heart, and I’m afraid Abrams is just a bandaid.
Photo Composite on Home Page by ScreenCrush
I’m in love with Merida’s hair.
Seriously! It deserves a Best Supporting Actor nod at the very least in your latest film “Brave” because it’s a character all of its own. I’m pretty sure that half your render farm went to those long, ginger locks. In fact, I’m 79.6% positive that you’ve secretly been rendering her hair since the late 80s. But, it’s pretty amazing to behold.
Well played, Pixarnians! Well played.
Anyway, I keep reading (like here) that Brave is your first female lead (true) and that it’s also Disney’s first anti-princess toon bringing them “into the 21st Century”. Um, not true. See, the first qualifier to be an “anti-Princess toon” would be that your main character would literally NOT have to be a princess.
Toy Story, Cars, Bug’s Life, Wall-E, Monster’s Inc, Up, Toy 2, Monster 2, Cars 2, Up 2: Up Yours (not actually a thing)…these were anti-princess toons. Notable for their general, shall we say, lack of a Princess. Devoid of Royal Offspring of the Female Persuasion. Principessa non grata.
Brave? Is a freakin story about a Princess! And she’s struggling with her Princess-erly duties. Soooo, by my math, the score is now:
I know, I know, there has been a long tug of war between Disney and yourself. It’s there in black and white for all to read in Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” bio. Start around page 284. From the beginning, Disney was meddling in the Pixar process. The first “Toy Story” was completely derailed. After following Jeffrey Katzenberg’s big push to add more “edginess,” our beloved King Lasseter realized he was embarrassed by this film. That the Woody character was a jerk, as Tom Hanks said. Toy story had become “a story filled with the most unhappy, mean characters that I’ve ever seen,” Lasseter lamented.
So you changed it. Thank God! Went back to the drawing board and Pixar’d the shipoopi outta that scree-yotch! Ahem…script. And you earned enough box office mojo after that to fund your own films and do things your way.
And then Steve Jobs died. And then we got “Brave”.
Now hear me when I say, “Brave” is a great film. Let’s get that outta the way quick. But my problem is that it leans more Disney than Pixar in its DNA and that makes me sad. And sadness leads to fear. And fear leads to anger. And anger leads to prequels. And prequels lead to…Jar Jars. And Jar Jars lead to suffering.
For our non-Pixarnians, prepare for some SPOILER ALERTS as we forge ahead, but here now are my notes on how Brave is like every other Disney Princess film on the planet, by way of what I call…
The Disneyfication of Pixar’s Brave
1. Princessification – She’s basically every other whiney, spoiled Disney Princess, but mostly Ariel — with a little Katniss Everdeen thrown in. You know the type: born a Princess, but using some insane teenagerly Princessian logic, no longer wants all of her Princesserly duties? Wants to follow her own path. (“Leadership studies? Pahhh! I want to frolic!”) Rebels against her parents. Parents fume. But then Princess learns a heartfelt lesson…and then she gets her way. Merida high fives and winks slyly at Ariel, cause…she knows! Roll credits.
But Disney hasn’t completely taken you to the dark side. There is still good in this story, I have felt it. The Princess wasn’t running into Prince Charming’s arms to save her. In fact, she was running away from an arranged marriage which caused all the trouble in the first place. But, once again, Marriage was the central struggle this very Disney Princess had to face.
That’s 15-Love, Disney.
2. Bewitchification – If Disney had meddled in Cars, you KNOW we would have seen some prologue where Herbie had stumbled into some gypsy shop full of genie lanterns and gotten his (her?) one wish that all cars were alive like him (her?)…and that they could talk. And eat Pinkberry Froyo. But mostly talk.
But no! There were no deus-ex-witchina in ANY of the previous Pixar films. None! Zilch! Bupkiss! Animals stayed animals, cars stayed cars, people stayed people, fish stayed fish. Magic did not exist because the whole wide world of Pixar was Magical.
That’s 30-Love, Disney.
3. Big Evil Monster – In Sleeping Beauty the witch turns into the huge Dragon they have to battle in the end. Lion King had Scar. Aladdin had Jafar. Blah blah blah. Huge bigger than life one-dimensional evil to be vanquished in some epic final battle. Toy Story? A new toy steals the attention of an older toy. Wall-E? Old robot wants to love the new robot. Nemo? Find my boy. Yes there was Bruce the shark, but he was actively working on keeping his shark-nature at bay in a local 12-step program. Even in Incredibles, they’re not fighting evil incarnate. Just Buddy, who was tossed aside as a kid cause of his lack of Super-ness and is fighting back…with robots! The big Monster in Ratatouille? A food critic.
Meanwhile, sigh, there is in fact a big evil Monster in Brave that has to be battled to the death in the climactic scene. That’s very Disney-esque.
4. Fortunately on Pixar’s behalf, none of the characters spontaneously burst forth into song. That’s worth two points!
5. Talking Comic Relief Birdification – Oookay, Iago wannabe. Red alert! I see you in there, black Crow, sticking out like a sore Disney-imprinted thumb. In the Pixar-verse, people don’t talk to animals. It doesn’t happen. Fish talk to fish. Not humans. Bugs talk to bugs. Supers talk to supers. Even Rats don’t talk to humans. They form other ways to communicate. Clever ways. But no talkie talkie.
But in Disney-verse, Princesses talk with animals. They sing with animals. They have freakin’ elegant ballroom garments fashioned for them by the Vera Wang of chipmunks. So, a talking crow? That is SO Raven. I mean Disney.
45-30, Disney. Game. Set. Match.
My beloved Pixar, you’re on a verrrrrrry slippery slope. I know the influence goes both ways. I’ve seen the Wreck-it Ralph trailer. You think Disney coulda thought that up on their own? No way. So thank you.
But please please please step away from the edge. You’ve been entraced by a force worse than Kaa from Jungle Book.
And it’s a much shorter distance than your realize from Kaa to Kacke. And from there? Well, it’s just full-on Jar Jar.
Anywho, just here to help! Just here to encourage you to be you, and let Disney be Disney.
From the Couch,
S. David Acuff
Superfan and Dad
p.s. please please PLEASE!!
p.s.s. If I find out that the “Brave” Bear is some sort of test trial for a Jungle Book 3-D Baloo reboot character…I will gather up all the younglings cause I know what happens next. Sith happens.
Okay, Writerly-Person…Disney/ABC is gearing up for their annual contest to find some Talented Writing Fellows for their program. The doors open the first of June and will seal tightly shut July 1. So save the date!
Created in 1990 in partnership with the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the Disney|ABC Television Writing Fellowship is based in Los Angeles and is widely recognized as one of the entertainment industry’s most coveted writing programs.
A Fellow actually becomes an employee of Disney/ABC TV and paid a weekly salary totally $50K/year. Not too shabby. Plus applicable benefits, etc.
The program is designed to expose aspiring writers to key executives, producers and literary representatives – all essential in the pursuit of a writing career. Additionally, while in the program, fellows have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a current programming or development executive to create spec scripts of series from the current broadcast season. The ultimate goal is to prepare and nurture the fellows for a writing career.
What’s not to love? Click HERE to go their site and learn more about it. Also, below, from that same site is a list of writing resources they lumped into the “Recommended Reading” category if you’re interested in upping your game while you wait to hear back. This is no time for procrastination so go apply NOW!
Aristotles Poetics for Screenwriters
By Michael Tierno
Creating Unforgettable Characters
By Linda Seger
Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
Hello, Lied the Agent
By Ian Gurvitz
Making a Good Script Great
By Linda Seger Samuel
Successful Sitcom Writing
By Jurgen Wolff
St. Martin’s Press
The Art of Dramatic Writing
By Lajos Egri
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The One-Hour Drama Series: Producing Episodic Television
By Robert Del Valle
The Power of Myth
By Joseph Campbell
The Script is Finished, Now What Do I Do?
By K. Callen
The Sitcom Career Book
By Mary Lou Belli & Phil Ramuno
Back Stage Books
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
By Christopher Vogler
Michael Weise Productions
By Robert McKee
Wake Me When It’s Funny
By Garry Marshall
Writing Down the Bones
By Natalie Goldberg
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Watch out Hulu.com! This Hollywood Reporter article by Steven Zeitchik talks about GoogleTube’s move to provide more content via studio partnerships.
(EXCERPT) In a move intended to strike back at the encroaching Hulu, YouTube on Thursday announced a series of partnerships that will enable it to stream a range of full-length movies and television shows.
The pics and episodes, which will be streamed on a separate section on YouTube as free ad-supported content, encompass a host of library titles from studios including Sony and Lionsgate and television networks as well as a number of indie pics.
The deal comes in the wake of a previous YouTube pact with MGM for television shows and full-length films and follows a pact with Disney for shortform excerpts of content from ABC and ESPN.
Sony’s James Bond tentpole “Casino Royale” and CBS’ new mystery series “Harper’s Island,” as well as pics including Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” and Richard Linklater’s “Slacker,” are part of the deals.
The move reflects YouTube’s increasing aggressiveness in attracting more advertising revenue through premium content while balancing it with enough copyright protection to make the studios comfortable.
Google’s YouTube was among the first big players in the booming online-video space but in the past year has seen its revenue undermined by competition from Hulu, which has specialized in paid full-length content from Fox and NBC Universal — as opposed to the user-generated fare and user-submitted clips that have been YouTube’s specialty.
“In the past it’s been about uploading video,” Google/YouTube senior product manager Shiva Rajamaran said. “We haven’t invested in episodes and series.”
The move will take the site’s episode count from hundreds to thousands, YouTube execs said, and the number of features from dozens to hundreds.
Well, what did you expect? Google to sit back and watch Hulu take over the world? You can read the full article at the Hollywood Reporter
(JAN 9, 2009) Ted Baehr of MOVIEGUIDE® assesses the recent Disney-Narnia split.
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE®
Special to ASSIST News Service
HOLLYWOOD, CA (ANS) — The big news in the world of faith-based literature and film is that Walt Disney Company has dropped the third Chronicles of Narnia movie, “Dawn Treader,” Even though the Associated Press sent out a release making this look like a faith-based issue, the fact of the matter is that this was an economic decision.
The Associated Press took my words out of context in an interview on this subject, to make Disney’s decision look like one of the parties in Hollywood was concerned about the movie’s faith content. The fact is neither Disney nor Walden has hesitated from including faith in their movies. The book Dawn Treader has the least amount of time with Aslan, who is the Jesus figure in the series by acclaimed Christian author C.S. Lewis. It is much more logical that the economics of the movie did not make sense than that there was a concern over the Christian content of the book.
“Prince Caspian,” the most recent “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, exceeded its budget and ultimately cost to produce $200 million. A movie has to produce two and a half times its costs to break even, which means it would have to earn $500 million at the box office. In fact, it only made $418.8 worldwide. In terms of videos and DVDs, the markup is much higher, so “Prince Caspian” would have to make much more money to make its money back in the DVD market. Neither Walden nor Disney could have been happy about this economic straitjacket.
Although “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is one of the most beloved books in the series, it is more of a travelogue than a well-structured movie. Most books turned into movies bomb at the box office. Movies require very strong, carefully plotted storylines. Most books meander. Some of the biggest, best-selling books, such as Bonfire of the Vanities or Name of the Rose, bomb at the box office. Of all the Narnia books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most cinematic. So, from an economic point of view, paying more for the “Dawn Treader” movie does not make sense.
It is true that the faith community is gigantic. And, they responded to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” movie in a big way. However, the remaining Narnia books do not have the same degree of enthusiastic fans. And, the faith community includes everyone from Catholics to fundamentalists. Movies that appeal to them must appeal to them across the board, and must be marketed properly.
With “Prince Caspian,” the faith community probably was not prepared for the re-plotting of the storyline. To make the movie work, the filmmakers had to change it from flashbacks and meandering walks up and down the gorge to a straight-ahead, exciting plot. The filmmakers should have made a greater effort to tell the faith community why the plot was adjusted to make it more of a movie. That said, Andrew Adamson, among others, did tell that to Movieguide® in our television interviews. The faith community could have taken more time to find out by looking at sites such as Movieguide® that give a clear indication of what to expect when they went to the movie.
A movie cannot succeed with just one part of the faith community supporting it. It needs to get all of the faith community who go to church on a regular basis. These people want movies they could trust. The studios can reach those people through review services they can trust, and the most trustworthy is Movieguide®.
Note: Dr. Ted Baehr is also the author of “The Media-Wise Family” and co-author of “Frodo & Harry: Understanding Visual Media and Its Impact on Our Lives.” Movieguide® is dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry according to biblical principles.
(DEC 24, 2008) A Yahoo! News article by Josh Grossberg detailing the story of Disney splitting from Walden Media for future Chronicles of Narnia flicks….which leaves an uncertain future for “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. The full article can be read HERE.
(EXCERPT) The lion, the witch and the wardrobe crew is getting the boot from the Magic Kingdom.
Proving that not even Mickey is immune to the downturn, Disney has decided against coproducing and distributing the third film in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And that means Walden Media, the production company behind the C.S. Lewis adaptations, will have to find a new partner for the big-screen franchise to continue.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney’s departure is based on “budgetary and logistical reasons,” though reps for both declined to comment beyond that.
(NOV 1, 2006) Merissa Marr of the Wall Street Journal writes this article about the Weinstein Brothers, Post-Miramax, and their ambitious plans to create a multifaceted media company:
(EXCERPT) Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s huge personalities and in-your-face style of running Miramax Films from 1979 to 2005 inspired novels, cartoons and television characters. Far from conventional in their tactics, they earned a take-no-prisoners reputation when it came to doing business.
But for the past year, the brothers have toned it down a bit. After acrimoniously parting ways with Miramax parent Walt Disney Co. just over a year ago, the Weinsteins have kept a low profile as they put together their new venture, Weinstein Co.