Are Disney Movies on the Rise Again?

One of Kosinski’s commercials. Look familiar?

The point is that Tron: Legacy feels very strongly like a feature directed by Joseph Kosinski. The first three Pirates movies come straight from Verbinski and writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio.

Disney seems to want artists in charge, and appears to let them take a fair shot. Within some restrictions, I’m sure, but still.

John Carter, in a way, is the kind of movie that Walt Disney made back in the day. It’s a modern updating of a classic Western story, filled with archetypes, action, discovery, and romance. Unfortunately, the film adaptation of the original sci-fi hero failed to bring audiences along with it, but the effort was there. At times, the film even felt inspired.

John Carter’s Barsoom is an alien world that — gasp — actually feels alien. There are politics, cultures, subcultures, and conflicts that we only catch glimpses of throughout the story. Its primary alien race actually looks and acts alien, while simultaneously manifesting itself through believable, specific characters.

Plus, it captured the old-fashioned spirit of adventure in a way that was actually old-fashioned instead of merely snide.

Heck, some of the company’s animated flicks have shown aspirations, too. The Princess and the Frog brought the studio back to its two-dimensional roots, trying to recapture some of the energy that Disney’s movies brought to screens back in the nineties, and a great soundtrack that made up for the underwhelming villain.

Tangled was a frustratingly uneven movie, but featured clever writing and character-driven storylines. It and The Princess and the Frog also featured more screentime for their respective Prince Charmings, adding extra dimension to the stories.

While Tangled and The Princess and the Frog both feature well-worn Disney story paths — a young girl discovers a whole new world and a whole new prince to go with it — they feel less like cookie-cutter cash-ins than some of Disney’s other recent endeavors. With scripts both energetic and witty, they manage to recapture some of the old Disney magic, albeit for the modern world.

Now, most all these movies are still uneven (with the exception, IMO, of the first Pirates of the Caribbean). I hope, though, that the imperative behind them is to extend the reach of Disney’s feature film arm, and that the upcoming Lone Ranger adaptation follows suit with the majority of their recent output. Who knows? In another ten years I might just go see a movie simply because it has the Disney castle in front of it.

  • dolaction

    I wanted Disney to helm a Mass Effect movie and incorporate the universe into all their parks, but ever since the total acquisition of Star Wars, I feel that’s a long shot now.
    I think the smartest move would be Netflix. As long as they are on consoles where the fan base is, that would warrant a competitive budget to create an epic spectacle.

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    ??? Disney doesn’t need to build a Star Wars franchise as one already exists.

    I’m not sure of your premise. When has a Disney film not found some audience? Granted, it’s hard to guarantee every $200M+ budgeted film is a blockbuster, but the MouseHouse does just fine with most releases.

    Clearly, a Disney film fits a formula for its built-in audience; efforts like John Carter really only underscore that Disney doesn’t always step outside of its own box very well. I’ve still never really understood all of the hate for TRON: Legacy, either; most folks who hate it do nothing but praise the ingenuity of the original, which leads me to always ask, “Have you even SEEN the first one? Other than the graphics, it really ain’t all that grand in the story department, either.” Personally, I thought TRON: Legacy was respectable, at least so much so as John Carter, which I enjoyed pretty well also though I’ll admit it had seriously marketing problems and needed a more accomplished edit.

  • Mark Miller

    I loved Tron: Legacy, granted I only saw the original a month before it came out because I found it in my computer (Its not piracy if you find it right?) I’m also a big fan of Pirates of the Caribbean, its not quite as good as the pirate RPG that I have in my head but it’s still a damn good story with great actors (except for bloom) although I found it lame and sexist that after three movies of character development Elizabeth was sent to live on land and raise a child. I don’t like Disney but they can on occasion make good movies, I will however never forgive them for ruining Robin Hood for me.

  • I actually enjoyed John Carter. It wasn’t a masterpiece by far, but it was a fun an enjoyable movie.

  • Justin

    The Princess and the Frog had energy and a great soundtrack but Tangled was frustratingly uneven? Really?