Mouse counts on year-end bait After quiet year, Disney banks on high-profile pix
By DAVID S. COHEN for Variety
Employee orientation at the Walt Disney Co. starts with some word association. "What comes to mind when you think of Disney?" asks the trainer.
"Wholesome" and "family," the new Mouseketeers typically say. It's unlikely, though, that many of them blurt out "blockbuster."
On the Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios side, the Mouse has tended to keep its head down. In recent years, it's mostly gotten out of the big-star tentpole business. Its execs avoid the limelight and its marketers like to keep expectations "realistic," which is often a euphemism for "low."
All that is about to change.
Coming off a quarter when the studio lost more than $250 million and a fiscal year when Disney's entertainment revenues plummeted, the company is getting ready to unspoolunspool a succession of highly visible titles that could put Disney back on top of the box office charts.
Starting next month and continuing through the summer at least four Disney releases will arrive with tentpole-style expectations:
"Chicken Little," the studio's CG bid to re-ignite in the animated feature market that it dominated for decades;
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," a bid to launch a "Lord of the Rings"-like franchise;
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the first of twin sequels that are costing upward of $400 million; and
PixarPixar's "Cars," the seventh release from Steve"Midas" Jobs' toontoon studio.
Even Disney's "little" releases for the next few months have high visibility.
Touchstone's "Shopgirl" is getting awards buzz and its Christmas release "Casanova," from helmer Lasse Hallstrom, may have kudos potential as well.
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