Tag Archives: disney

A Short History of Turning Disney Rides Into Fiction

Tower_of_Terror_VideoCoverOne of the common criticisms of modern media is that people have run out of ideas, and that everything that we see is a repetition of something that came before. While this is a contentious enough claim based partially in an over-analysis of tropes and truisms, it is true that those looking to create popular culture stories for movies have looked elsewhere for inspiration in recent years. There have been movies based on blogs for instance, which is a form of media copying another.

In terms of media, many people don’t consider theme park rides to be a form of media, but under certain circumstances they can be. Of courses roller coasters are not really a form of media, but some rides are. After all at Disney World and Disney Land many of the rides consist of a moving vessel which undergoes some mild thrills in the form of chutes or slides, and a story of sorts being told through the depiction of various themes.  In short it serves as a sort of moving theater without a real plot, and is thus is kind of its own form of media (or at least a weird version of theater).

Country_bearsWith the crossover of almost all forms of media from on into another, it thus stands to reason that eventually that someone at Disney would get the idea to base some stories on their own rides, which doubled as extra incentive to take children to the theme parks (if they actually needed more incentive). Surprisingly though, with one notable exception, the transfer to other forms of media has been pretty mediocre, yet recent developments with Disney and Marvel might indicate the path forward for these ventures.

The first movie in this short history of Disney attractions is the Tower of Terror, released in 1997. Featuring Disney staple Steve Guttenberg and pre-Spider-Man Kirsten Dunst, this is the only film of this kind that was released directly to television. It is also notable for its use of the actual ride as a set for the filming as opposed to the other movies which have relied on different settings. This features a fairly typical ghost story and was filmed for a younger audience as it originally appeared on the Wonderful World of Disney.

The second movie in the sequence is the Country Bears, a film based on the ride/show Country Bear Jamboree. This film was released in 2002 and mixed animatronics with real life actors to tell the story of one of the youngest of the Country Bears who discovers his true destiny after being raised by human parents. This was another Disney movie aimed at a younger crowd as it contained rehearsed dance numbers by children and a silly enough premise. Not surprisingly the film grossed back less than half of its budget in ticket sales.

piratesOut of two mediocre films that were either failures or forgettable came Disney’s greatest success. Although it might have seemed absurd at the time, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a film which ventured well past what was offered in the ride. Although the plot was perhaps a little basic in certain respects, it was equally a movie that was full of a lot of elements that make a movie exciting. Special effects provided a realistic enough supernatural element, but the movie is tied mostly to the over-the-top role played by Johnny Depp, which resulted in an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Additionally the movie helped to make stars out of its other two leads, Oralndo Bloom and Keira Knightley, who while already known well enough in Hollywood, had not yet been considered to be proper A-list actors. The 2003 film was followed by sequels in 2006, 2007 and 2011 with another sequel expected in 2017, with the latter to each featuring one half of the married couple of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.  It is by far the most successful of the Disney rides turned into movies, with gross ticket sales surpassing $3.5 billion.

haunted mansionAfter the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, some thought that Disney might be entering into a period of success for these adaptations, but the follow-up to its big hit was another poorly received movie as the Haunted Mansion failed to gain critical success, even if its box office draw was not as bad as the others. Starring Eddie Murphy in a story that was once again loosely based on the ride, many criticized it for now being scary enough, or funny enough considering that Eddie Murphy was involved. Despite its lackluster final product interest rests in retelling the story by Guillermo del Toro, who might be able to realize a stronger concept considering some of his previous works.

In a bit of a twist, the next movie in the Disney catalog, is not one based on a ride specifically, but rather an entire section of the park, known as Tomorrowland. Although it is still unreleased, it holds a great deal of promise, telling a broader story as Pirates of the Caribbean did, and it doesn’t hurt either that big names like George Clooney and Brad Bird are associated. While there are also rumours of a movie based on “It’s a Small World” (which would presumably be somewhat Carmen Sandiego-like), this is maybe not the way forward for Disney films.

big thunderSince 2009 Disney has owned Marvel Comics, and while speculated on what that might mean for the future of Marvel, it has mostly remained unchanged in terms of the Marvel universe of superheroes. What is in interesting possibility though is the new miniseries Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. After the hit-and-miss (though mostly miss) run of fiction based on rides, this is a chance for Disney to test ideas in a safer market without investing millions of dollars into an idea that might make back less than half of the money invested.  If this is the case, Marvel could also act as an incubator for movie ideas which Disney thinks might fail on the big screen, and this could be a place to see if they could succeed and to fine tune the idea before putting it into production.  Thus maybe if there is to be a “It’s a Small World” movie, it might show up at Marvel first.

Review: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #1

big thunderIf Disney is looking for a modern evolution of its princess characters, then Abigail from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad very well might be it.  She is introduced as a headstrong and capable young woman, one that even refers to herself as a princess at one point, but at heart she is nothing of the sort.  Although forced into conformity due to her gender at this specific point in time (the Old West) she does not let this stop her from living the life that she wants to live, a life of adventure and exploration.  It helps of course that she has been sent to live with her father, a fickle though not necessarily cruel owner and operator of a potentially prosperous mine which has not yet found fortune.

It takes no longer than the first few pages to throw her into an unexpected action sequence which works to help build her character as much as it does to raise the pulse of the readers a bit.  This works much better to introduce her character, as she reveals her knack for being feminine while also being head strong and inventive.  The story follows her into the town, which is a place full of characters that one would expect to see in the Wild West, but the focus remains Abigail.  She first sneaks into a saloon and then figures a way to sneak into the mine where she is forbidden from entering.  There are a couple of things out of place (a standing dinosaur fossil) but mostly the story proceeds at a quick pace and keeps the fun going.

Of all the Disney rides expanded to a story elsewhere, this one has as much potential as Pirates of the Caribbean.  Disney put a lot of resources into 2013’s The Lone Ranger, but this single issue is proof that this focus should have been placed on a concept such as this one.  As it stands, this is an exciting and fun issue from the very first panel and doesn’t let up throughout, and promises a solid future of adapting theme park rides into stories, provided that the creative team thinks outside the box.

Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Tigh Walker
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Star Wars Rogue One in December 2016

star wars featuredStar Wars fans have a lot to look forward to over the next few years. At Disney‘s annual shareholder meeting which took place today in San Francisco, details have emerged as to what we can expect for the future of the franchise and was announced by Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger.

Announced at the meeting, Star Wars Episode VIII will be released May 26, 2017 and be written and directed by Rian Johnson. That release date is forty years and one day after Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977.

The bigger news is that the first standalone film will be released December 16, 2016. The film will be called Rogue One, and is based on an idea by a visual effects supervisor, John Knoll, and written by Chris Weitz. There’s also another standalone film in development. The film will be directed by Gareth Edwards, and so far Felicity Jones has been cast to star. The film will begin shooting this summer.

Big Hero 6 Wins for Best Animated Film

big hero 6Disney and Marvel aught to be happy tonight, as Big Hero 6 won at the Oscars for “Best Animated Film.” The film had some decent competition including The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, and The Tales of the Princess Kaguya.

The film is loosely based on a Marvel comic series created by the Man of Action team.

The category had some controversy as The Lego Movie was skipped in the category, though it was well reviewed and was one of the top grossing films of 2014.

Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Zoe Saldana presented the Oscar. Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli accepted the award — a first Oscar for each of the men — and thanked Disney’s John Lasseter, calling him the “best boss in the world.”

The film continues to earn, bringing in an additional $553,000 in its 16th week at the box office. The film has earned $220.2 million domestically, and globally $546.2 million. The movie’s blu-ray/dvd release is this week, so it’ll be interesting to see if its earnings drop the following weekend, or if Oscar gold will give it a boost.

 

 

Matchett’s Musings: Working For GrayHaven Part II

Hey everyone!  Sorry about the delay, had some personal issues both comic and non-comic to deal with.  I’m back and will be posting from my regular Thursday (ish) from next week.  

Working At GrayHaven Part 2:  Bigger and Better (Part 1)

Welcome back to my memories of the stories I published with GrayHaven during my tenure with them both as writer and editor.  Last time we spoke about some of the early volumes I was involved with and some of the early lessons I learned as a creator and some lessons the company learned too.

Once again this only deals with volumes I was involved with as a writer and is from my own perspective.  Other versions of events may vary, I can only tell you what happened from my perspective.

I won’t waste much time and take you right to where we left off last time with Vol. 7, which I actually wasn’t in…but I was meant to be.

Note:  This section is a lot larger than I anticipated so I have decided to split in half.

Hope you enjoy!

Vol. 7:  Dreams and Nightmares

I don’t really remember much of the submission criteria for this volume but I do remember the story I put forward.   The entire volume was themed with ‘Myth’, which again was a genre I hadn’t played in much and was eager to explore.  I remember really taking a long time coming up with the story that became ‘Until The End’.

The story featured two wizards named Garth and Rex (short for Rexmus) who represented the light and dark side of magic respectfully.  Starting off in modern times the six page story told a tale of them essentially fighting each other since medieval times.  It was a story I was really looking forward to seeing published and I was paired with a new artist to GrayHaven.  I don’t remember this artist’s full name now but I believe his first name was Robert, who upon initial communication was very eager to bring my warring wizard’s to life.

After the initial communication though, he stopped answering e-mails from me and the editor on the book.  He vanished from the face of the earth and by the time we realized he wasn’t going to draw the story, it was too late to find a replacement.  This was my first experience with an artist who had let me down and flash forwarding to today it is something I have come across far too often.

There was nothing that could be done.  There was some talk of turning the story into a webcomic but that never really came to fruition.  The story likely needs a lot of polishing from what I’ve learned in subsequent years (this story was written in 2011 and I would say I’ve grown quite significantly as a writer) but I would still like to see it come to life at some point.

It is true what they say, there is no such thing as a wasted idea and some of this story may even appear as apart of something else entirely down the road, who knows.

My disappointed was short lived however as I was about to begin my most prolific period as a writer for GrayHaven.  The company as a whole was getting bigger and better and it seemed that I was going to face the challenge to do the same creatively

Vol. 9:  Once Upon A Time

Like I’ve said many times before, growing up my biggest influences to me for the rest of my life were likely ‘Batman The Animated Series’ and a complete collection of Arthur Conan Doyle ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories.  I can likely link everything I have liked or been passionate about back to those two things in some fashion.  Another big influence growing up that I don’t talk about very often is the steady diet of Disney movies I enjoyed in my youth…and even until today.

I’m a big fan of animated films and it all started with Disney films like ‘Aladdin’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King’.  I was really eager to participate in a volume based around Fairy Tales such as Vol. 9 of the Gathering was.  The only stipulation this time was that all stories had to have some moral undertone or ‘lesson’ for readers, just like all good fairy tales do.

I quickly came up with a story where the moral would be ‘always listen to your elders’ and would feature a cast of talking dragons.  I found it hard at the time to think of many fairy tales to feature dragons as protagonists and thought it would be something a really talented artist could sink their teeth into.  Essentially the story revolves around an older dragon telling a younger generation about a volcano where the most dangerous dragon of them all resides.  The young dragons are told to stay away but of course, one of them decides to check out the legend for himself and comes across the dangerous creature first hand.

Upon reflection it’s a pretty simple, straightforward story that really benefits from the art of Paula Cob who I worked with on this story and a few subsequent others.  Paula is a very talented artist whose work I adored when I first saw it in ‘Vol. 3: Heroes’.  She had worked primarily to date with a writer who also happened to be her husband in Ignacio Segura but I was eager to see if she would lend her manga style art to my little fairy tale.

Fortunately for me, she said yes and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Paula on a number of occasions.  I’m still a big fan of her work and find it sad that she doesn’t participate in GrayHaven stories as much as she used to due to her and Ignacio working on a personal project.  Her art style gave my story the scale it needed and I think added a lot to my fairly straightforward tale of doing what you’re told.

I also edited the book but don’t have many memories of it.  This likely means it all ran fairly smoothly which is always something to be celebrated.

Vol. 10:  The Unbelievable Arthur Richmond Is One Smart Cookie

Previously known as ‘the adventure’ volume I believe Vol. 10 is something that to this day sends editor James O’Callaghan into traumatic flashbacks.

A little background about Vol. 10, which began like any other Gathering volume and had people submit stories with a different take on the ‘adventure’ theme.  The trouble was that the amounts of submissions were low so it was decided that the interested parties would take their individual stories and combine them.

The new main story would feature a character called ‘Arthur Richmond’ who would serve as our Indiana Jones style protagonist.  It was up to our editor to figure out how all our individual stories would figure into a larger hole.  For that task, I cannot give but the highest praise to James who took several different stories (including one that had talking birds) and somehow made it work.  I would say he made it work more than any of the rest of us on the editorial staff would have in any case.

My section basically served at the books epilogue where we would discover that the entire tale was one told by an aged Arthur to a pair of young men in an adventurers club.  Of course they don’t believe his story of talking birds and magical cookies (you had to be there) so Arthur goes home, clearly dejected.  The closing scene has him go down in his home to a sizable trophy room, where indeed we discover his stories were all true.

It wasn’t conventional but it somehow did work.  I was proud to be a part of it and thought my epilogue gave it a suitable note to end on.  On this story I was fortunate to work with artist Sam Tung, who was an early GrayHaven fan favorite.   He only worked on a handful of GrayHaven projects before going on to do some production work for Iron Man 3 and GI Joe 2.  Apart from my misfortune regarding my Vol. 7 story, my extremely good fortune with artists seemed to continue.

Volume 11: Silver Age

This volume was a big passion project for GrayHaven publisher, Andrew Goletz.  He wanted to do a volume that would harken back to the classic ‘silver age’ of comics where Marvel where just coming into the eye of the public and comic took themselves a little less seriously.

I was initially tempted to bring back my inept hero from Vol. 3 ‘Commander Cosmo’ when submitting for this volume but it wasn’t an idea Andrew was in favour of.  He wanted to avoid stories that connected to each other as he did not want customers to feel pressured into buying several volumes in order to get a complete story.

Understanding and agreeing with his logic, I decided to do a story revolving around time travel.  I love time travel as a storytelling device and if you meet me for more than five minutes, I would say you’ll soon learn that.  I also decided that I would have a female protagonist as that was something I had yet to do in any of my stories to date.  Regular readers of these articles will know that I feel very passionate about the portrayal of female characters and having more of them in comics, so with that in mind I created Lucy Letwood.

Having stole a time band that her father invented, Lucy was a young woman who finally found herself LOST IN TIME!!!!  I basically wrote this story with a big stupid grin on my face and tried to have as many silver age callbacks as I could cram in.  I was especially proud of having the classic Stan Lee moment where a character would point out that something was crashing through a wall even though we could clearly see it.

It was drawn by an artist named George Amaru who has become something of a GrayHaven staple and is one of my favorite artists to work with.  Not only is George a really nice guy but he is extremely talented.  He gave the story the exact tone it needed and made my silver age multi panel pages work flawlessly.  I’ve worked with George a couple of times since, even tasking him with a Living With Death short ‘The Reporter’ which I released on the comics Facebook fanpage a number of months ago.  I’ve been wanting to work with George on something long term for years but at that time, it wasn’t possible.  These days he is a very busy guy working for GrayHaven, Bluewater and Inverse press on a variety of projects.  When his schedule clears up, I hope to work with George on something long term.

I brought Lucy back in a future volume and would love to tell more of her story at some point.  It was really with this story that I started to get more attached to the characters I was creating.  I didn’t just want them to be there and then gone forever, I saw life in them beyond the stories.

This was when I really wanted to creating larger stories starring some of the Gathering featured characters.  I knew that would have its own problems however.

Next:  More characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to, ghosts that aren’t ghosts and the final Gathering stories.

Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett

Funko’s Pop! Disney: Inside Out Out in May

Meet the little voices inside your head! Inside Out is the latest Disney-Pixar 3D computer-animated feature!

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Funko has shown off their latest POP! releases with Pop! Disney: Inside Out which hit shelves in May. Inside Out is in theaters June 19th!

Pop! Disney Inside Out Anger Pop! Disney Inside Out Disgust Pop! Disney Inside Out Fear Pop! Disney Inside Out Joy Pop! Disney Inside Out Sadness

Funko’s Inside Out Fabrikations in May

Fabrikations is Funko‘s line of 6” soft sculpted figures. These soft sculpted figures were created with the collector in mind. Each Fabrikation Soft Sculpture is filled with a dense foam to achieve a high-end lush feel. In addition, each Fabrikation is weighted to allow each figure to stand securely on the surface of your choice. These two hit shelves in May.

Inside Out Fabrikations Anger Inside Out Fabrikations Sadness

Big Hero 6 Adds $2.24 million

big hero 6Taken 3 was top of the box office, earning $0.4 million in its first weekend.That’s the second-highest opening ever for a film in January. The film’s opening is 18% lower than Taken 2‘s $49 million debut.

Selma was second with $11.2 million, an impressive jump as the film has moved into wider release. In general other sites have said this is a disappointing wide release. The film has a 98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, and an A+ Cinemascore.

In geekier films, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies earned $9.4 million this past weekend, and brought its domestic total to $236.5 million. The film has slowed its earnings and has $22 million to go before it passes The Desolation of Smaug. If it doesn’t earn that, it’ll be the lowest earning film of the series.

And closer to comic books, Big Hero 6 continues to earn, bringing in an additional $2.2 million, and its domestic total to just under $214.5 million.

Big Hero 6 has also done well and when you add in the foreign earnings (47.6% of its earnings) the film has brought in $409 million worldwide.

Big Hero 6 Easter Eggs

You can get Big Hero 6 on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere February 3, and Blu-ray Feb 24!

Marvel and Disney Kingdoms’ Cover to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #1!

Coming in March 2015, the world famous, thrill-packed Disney attraction Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roars to life like never before as the newest Marvel and Disney Kingdoms comic series! Marvel has released a first look at Pasqual Ferry’s thunderous cover to the exciting first issue!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is being brought to us by writer Dennis Hopeless and rising star artist Tigh Walker. The all-new 5-issue series reveals the never-before-told saga of how the dangerous gold mine of Big Thunder Mountain became the haunted legend it is today. Malevolent mine owner Barnabas T. Bullion is determined to shelter his teen daughter Abigail from the dangers of the Wild West. Little does he know his brave young daughter has other ideas – which include robbing her own father’s mine as a masked bandit!

Earthquakes! Floods! Dynamite-chewing goats! Can the denizens of Rainbow Ridge survive the clash between mankind’s greed and nature’s fury? And what is the protective power that dwells deep within the mysterious mountain?

BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD #1 (OF 5)
Written by DENNIS HOPELESS
Penciled by TIGH WALKER
Cover by PASQUAL FERRY
On Sale March 2015!
Elements based on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad © Disney
32 PGS./All Ages …$3.99

Big_Thunder_Mountain_Railroad_1_Cover

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