Remember Family Films? Disney Plus Is Making ’Em Like They Used To


LOS ANGELES — In 1957, hundreds of thousands of individuals plunked down 62 cents every to see “Old Yeller,” a easy, sentimental Disney film a few boy and his doggone canine in post-Civil War Texas.

The well-reviewed movie — “a nice, trim little family picture,” as The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther referred to as it — was such a smash hit that Disney booked a return engagement just a few years later. Once once more, “Old Yeller” introduced out the lots.

Now attempt to think about “Old Yeller” on a theater marquee right now.

I’ll wait.

Most probably, it wouldn’t even get made. Too PG-rated. No superheroes. Limited abroad box-office potential.

Art movies aren’t the one ones having a tough time getting observed in theaters nowadays. Nice, trim little household photos can’t make the multiplex economics work both. Disney pulled the plug on the style just a few years in the past, citing the hovering price of selling theatrical releases, the collapse of the DVD market (which used to supply a security internet) and competitors from lounge video-on-demand companies. Instead, Disney retrenched to focus completely on effects-driven megamovies that jackhammer folks away from their Facebook and Fortnite accounts.

“Got one more in you, pup?” Dafoe’s frontiersman asks, unsure himself of the answer.

Filmed in the Canadian Rockies, “Togo” is an edge-of-your-seat adventure — the cracking ice! the approaching cliff! — with a puddle-of-tears ending. At a one test screening, even a macho security guard patrolling the theater for digital pirates was weeping. (I flat-out bawled.)

“It’s not just a push-the-buttons dog movie,” Bailey said, the verve returning to his voice. “It’s an epic adventure that is wildly cinematic.”

Disney Plus will serve up 10 new films during its first year. Budgets range between $20 million and $60 million.

Grace VanderWaal, a 15-year-old known for winning the “America’s Got Talent” televised talent show (trusty ukulele in tow), will make her acting debut in “Stargirl,” a bespoke little musical about being yourself and the thrill of young love. It has an indie vibe — something on the sunnier end of the Sundance Film Festival, perhaps, with a hat tip to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” an Independent Spirit Award winner in 2013.

“The whole be-yourself thing can start to feel very narrow and preachy,” said Julia Hart (“Fast Color”), who directed “Stargirl.” “I wanted to make something for young people that felt authentic.”

And then there is “Flora and Ulysses,” which focuses on a cynical girl and a squirrel who develops superpowers after getting caught in a vacuum cleaner. The fast-rising filmmaker Lena Khan (“The Tiger Hunter”) is directing this comedic romp, adapted from Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book, which won the John Newbery Medal in 2014.

Inclusion reigns in the new “Lady and the Tramp,” which remains set in the South around 1910. Monáe also provides the voice for Peg, the tempestuous Tibetan spaniel who sings the bluesy “He’s a Tramp” while cooling her heels in the pound. Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) gives Lady her voice, while Kiersey Clemons (“Dope”) plays Darling, the young wife who receives Lady as a Christmas present. Jock, the friendly Scottish terrier next door, is now female (with Ashley Jensen of “Agatha Raisin” doing the vocal work). Justin Theroux voices the Tramp.

Disney Plus will eventually be home to new versions of “Home Alone” (1990), “Night at the Museum” (2006) and “Cheaper by the Dozen” (last rebooted in 2003). Those franchises became part of Disney’s vast collection of intellectual property when its acquisition of 20th Century Fox became official this year.

But Bailey, the production chief, emphasized that Disney Plus movies would, on the whole, allow the company to “place bets on original-to-screen stories — films that we love creatively but have become harder and harder to make succeed theatrically.”

He pointed to “Safety,” a drama based on the true story of Ray Ray McElrathbey, who, as a football player for Clemson University in 2006, tried to secretly raise his 11-year-old brother on campus to protect him from their drug-addicted mother.

Another example: “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” an off-kilter comedic drama headed to Disney Plus next year. Directed by Tom McCarthy, “Timmy Failure” tells the meandering story of an extremely eccentric fifth grader (played by Winslow Fegley) and his trusty imaginary polar bear. The film, which cost about $42 million to make — computer-generated polar bears are pricey — takes place in present-day Oregon and follows the pair as they cluelessly investigate a potential hamster homicide and other “crimes.” It is based on the best-selling children’s book series by Stephan Pastis, who is also known for creating the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip.



Source link Nytimes.com

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