Disney Quietly Killed Some Movies

Warner Bros. isn’t the only studio taking an axe to some of its movies. During an investor conference (as reported by Deadline), Disney CEO Bob Iger talked about some of the hard decisions the company has had to make recently, and that includes canceling movies. He didn’t mention which ones, and he said that Disney has “not been that public about it.” He also wasn’t clear on how far along these films were, though he did suggest that at least some of them were in production when they were terminated. The pertinent remakes are below:

“We’re doing a lot. When we talk about improving our film, slate, there are really three approaches. One is you have to kill things you no longer believe. And that’s not easy in this business. Because either you’ve gotten started, you have some… costs. It’s a relationship with either your employees or with a creative community. And it’s not an easy thing. But you got to make those tough calls… We’ve actually made those tough calls. We’ve not been that public about it.”

That’s an interesting admission on Iger’s part. The obvious response is for people to start guessing which movies have been canceled. Could Blade be one of them? At one time, I’d have said it definitely was, but they’ve been making too much hay about it at this point, especially with Mahershala Ali saying he’s finally happy with the script, or at least the direction the script is going. Snow White is another contender; it’s been delayed, and that new piece of artwork advertised more traditional versions of the Seven Dwarfs, but after the massive backlash and the costs reshoots would entail, maybe it’s cheaper just to scrap it. Some of them may be movies we’ve never heard of, but Iger said a few were in development when they were canceled, and Disney loves to announce their upcoming film slate. If Snow White is indeed among the casualties, or if other finished or near-finished movies are, I wonder how the people who jumped all over David Zaslav will react. Something tells me a lot of the ones throwing a fit over Batgirl and Coyote vs. Acme will be more understanding of Disney, and that’ll have a lot to do with the perceived political opinions of Zaslav and Iger.

Iger also spoke about what Disney’s approach to bringing their audience back will be:

“A lot of people think it’s audience [superhero] fatigue. It’s not audience fatigue. They want great films. And if you build it great, they will come… We got to return to something akin to that. And I actually am confident that we will… spending a lot of time with the creators, watching these films, giving detailed notes… engaging in a respectful process that results in improvement. And actually, when I talked about being relentless, it’s not letting certain things get in the way of making something great. Whether it’s more resources… or more time.”

Interestingly, I think most of what Iger says above is correct. If Disney starts making good movies (that don’t awkwardly shove politics or social messaging in your face – or try to rewire your kids), people will see them, or at least start slowly coming back. But I don’t believe Disney is going to do this; Iger says the same thing over and over, and it never happens. And look at what he thinks is the recipe for making good movies again: studio oversight and “notes.” He doesn’t say anything about hiring better writers and directors, just making the ones who’ve produced bomb after bomb have a designated corporate stooge hanging over their shoulder. This gels with similar comments he made in November about directors needing more studio supervision. In other words, his mindset is not changing, and until there’s proof to the contrary, I’ll assume their movies aren’t either.

Oh, and just to put this in perspective: despite all this talk of letting the good times roll, Bob Iger just sold most of his Disney stock. Does that sound like he’s about to initiate an exciting change in direction that’ll make audiences come back to Disney in droves?

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