For a variety of reasons, my family and I couldn’t make it to the D23 Expo 2019 this year. But since it is a Disney event, I feel confident that it’s okay to dream about being there. So, here are the panels and events I would most like to do if I were able to go.
Friday, August 23, 2019
While most people would hit the Disney Legends ceremony, and
it is always spectacular, I tend to opt for an easier seat at another panel.
This year would be different though. I would head to the Disney Legends
ceremony and bask in all its glory. If for some reason, I couldn’t get into the
Legends ceremony, I would head to “Great Moments with Walt Disney” and “At Work
with Walt.” Both would be interesting, and they’re back-to-back at the Archives
Stage where I spent most of my time in 2017.
I would then head over to the Disney+ Showcase because we
all know I’m going to sign up for that as soon as I can. People at D23 who sign
up for the streaming app will get a discount and become Founders, so that would
be something I wouldn’t want to miss. I have my D23 Charter Membership, I would
want to make sure I get the same thing with Disney+. This presentation may not
allow me to sign up for it, but it would give me a better idea of what’s in
Then I would hustle back to the Archives Stage to see if there was space for the “In Search of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse” panel. That would give me about an hour on the floor to see what books are available to make sure to stop by the Sweep Spot booth to pick up their new book with autographs!
Saturday, August 24, 2019
This is another of those days when I should probably hit the big panel, but I don’t actually want to know about films before they come out. I like being surprised. Saturday morning is still jampacked, so there’s no way to go wrong with the panel choices, and in this case, it’s a toss-up for me. Do I go see “Women of Impact: Meet the Nat Geo Explorers Changing the World” or do I go to “Digging Deeper: Uncovering Disney’s Hidden History?” Nat Geo could be inspirational and provide actionable ideas on how to change the world for the better, but I love Disney history. I would probably have to discuss the panels with my family, but today, I am leaning toward the History panel. It’s at the Archives Stage.
The panel of the day would be “The Haunted Mansion: Celebrating 50 Years.” Considering the book I wrote in celebration of the Haunted Mansion and that it’s my favorite attraction of all time, this would be my “not miss” panel of the day. It’s at 12:30 and at the D23 Expo Arena.
From there, I would head over to the Archives Stage to see “Ken Anderson’s Haunted Mansion ‘57: A Year of Horror, Humor and… Voodoo?” Ken Anderson is one of the heroes of the haunted mansion, and he paved the way for the attraction we all know and love today. It starts at 3pm, so I should have plenty of time to get there. The next panel I would like to see is in the same place. “Collecting the Creepy: 50 years of Haunted Mansion Merchandise” would be right up my alley.
The last panel of the day would be “Travels with Marty: A Conversation
with the Sklars and Imagineers.” It’s on the Archives Stage as well. That
leaves about an hour to look at the floor booths and get my Indie book buy on.
The only other panels on Saturday that give me pause for thought are the “Secret Walt Disney Company Project,” which could be anything! ANYTHING! (and will be announced on August 22), and “Marvel Comics: Marvel 80th Anniversary.” There’s a good chance that people going to the latter will get some sort of comic book out of the deal. No guarantee, just a good chance.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
The morning’s “Sneak Peek! Disney Parks, Experiences and Projects” is sure to be crowded and to be the premiere presentation. If I could get in, it would be my first choice. It would also mean missing out on “Heroines of the Disney Galaxies Presented by Box Lunch” and “Marc Davis in His Own Words – Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks” or “Hidden Gems of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library.” All three of these panels will be amazing. Marc Davis was essential to bringing humor to the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Imagine what could be in the research library… Yeah, it’s like that. Still, I would try for the Sneak Peek first.
Between the Sneak Peek and the next panel, I would probably
have a little time to get on the floor and go through one or two of the
presentations. I would want to see the Haunted mansion D23 Design winners up
close and in person.
Then I’d head to the Archives Stage for the 2:30pm “50 Years
of the Walt Disney Archives: A Gold Mine of Fun Finds,” and after that in the
same place would be “Magic Journey: Tale a Fantastical Ride with Imagineer Kevin
Rafferty.” Though I would also think about “The Art of Disney Storytelling”
because it fits with what I would like to do for a living. Because of the time
conflict, I’m leaning toward the first two.
The last panel of the day would be “Disneyland ’59: Matterhorn,
the Monorail, and Submarine Voyage.” If the floor was still open after that, I
would make one more pass to make sure I got what I wanted. If any of these fell
through, the Center Stage has “Marc Davis and the Masters Behind the Haunted
Mansion” from 4:45pm to 5:15pm.
At any convention, there are always tough choices to make. D23 Expo 2019 is no different. The Expo is sold out, but D23 did announce that they will be streaming certain panels. I may be able to settle for that depending on which they choose and what time they are as compared to my time zone. To those that will be there: Have a magical time and think about getting me a souvenir!
As a Penguinator, does it make sense to be critical of
Disney California Adventure (DCA)? No one at the Disney Company is likely to
read this post and think, “Oh, yeah, we did forget that,” or “Schnikey! We need
to fix that ASAP,” especially if I were to leave this post private and for
Penguinators only instead of giving you an advanced viewing opportunity. I
don’t have any Disney employees on my Patreon list that I’m aware of, and I’m
decently certain there aren’t any that visit my blog. Even if there were, the
company is notorious for not accepting unsolicited ideas from outside.
Besides, anything I say has already been said by someone else and probably thought of by the imagineers. Still, as a mental exercise to improve creativity, looking at DCA provides the opportunity to unleash the judge, find what’s wrong with the current park, and figure out how to make it better. Imagineers can talk about the idea of Blue Sky thinking where everything goes and there are no rules, but in the end, they are constrained by the park’s current footprint and the bean counter’s budget, which would include the opportunity cost of any major renovation that would significantly change the park. We have no similar constraints if we choose to offer up possible solutions to the DCA problem. We can truly engage in Blue Sky thinking without reference to financial consequences, thinking only about what’s wrong with DCA and what would make the park better.
Where’s the Theme, Park?
Disneyland changed the amusement park industry by, among
other things, theming itself and its lands. Walt Disney established early on
that spacemen and cars don’t go into Frontierland, and the cowboys stay out of
Tomorrowland. The sightlines were created so that people viewing a building on
Main Street, U.S.A. would see a different roof than they would see when viewing
the same building from Adventureland.
The berm with its train and trees was devised to keep the
rest of the world from interfering with the guests’ ability to suspend
disbelief. When coupled with the negotiated rules that Anaheim passed for
buildings outside the park, guest don’t see anything that Disney doesn’t want
them to see (beyond the occasional plane or helicopter flying overhead). Even
with Tomorrowland’s current shortcomings (there are plenty of them) and the
addition of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, Disneyland is all about theming – right
down to the dolls making the popcorn in the popcorn carts.
As ill-conceived as it may have been to put a theme park
about California in California when a majority of Disneyland visitors are from
California, DCA was themed appropriately when it opened. The Sunshine Plaza was
upbeat and California themed through and through. Hollywood Backlot Studios had
the glamour of the 1930s. Golden State celebrated the architecture of the Bay
Area, and Paradise Pier took its cue from the Beach and Boardwalk parks. Condor
Flats took on California’s aviation history, and Grizzly River Peak with the
neighboring Redwood Trail were a tribute to California’s north. The park may
not have been good when it opened, but it was themed.
Unfortunately, the theme wasn’t the right one, and the
Disney Company had to come up with ways to get people to spend their money to
go over to their second gate. Bug’s Land was added to appeal to youngsters. Not
really California themed, but it didn’t intrude on the rest of the park, and
there were bug’s in California. “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” was built in
the backlot; the perfect place for it. As a hotel from Hollywood’s glamor days
of the late 1930’s, the Tower of Terror fit in with the rest of the theme.
When “Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue” opened
in 2006, it signaled the beginning of the end for DCA’s theming. Placed in
Hollywood in the same area as the defunct Superstar Limo ride that lasted less
than a year; Mike and Sulley weren’t (and still aren’t) Hollywood themed. Still
the monsters occupy a prominent place in Hollywoodland as one of the two rides
in the area – the other one being the Tower of Terror.
In 2008, Paradise Pier saw the opening of the beloved Toy
Story Midway Mania. Set within the games of the pier, Midway Mania could be
forgiven its intrusion; even if its story, guests being shrunk down to the size
of toys so they could play the game, didn’t fit with the theme, the game
element of the attraction worked. With Mr. Potato Head playing the Midway Mania
Barker, the Toy Story characters didn’t do much to detract from the theme
though no self-respecting boardwalk would have such a sophisticated game during
the time that Paradise Pier was supposed to reflect. (And let’s face it, Midway
Mania is one of the best attractions in either park.)
Other rides on Paradise Pier were rethemed over the next
three years to include Disney characters. Mickey’s Fun Wheel received a new
paint job and a giant Mickey Head. The Orange Stinger became the Silly
Symphonies Swings and Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School. Within the
singular concept of the ride, the retheming of the last two was brilliant. The
Silly Symphony Swingers opens up to reveal a painting of Mickey Mouse
conducting the band from “the Band Concert,” which isn’t from the Silly
Symphony series (highlighting the theming problem again). Still, the use of the
whirlwind cartoon on the swings support pole is a great idea. Goofy’s Sky
School is just “plane” fun. The problem is that none of the changes align with
the area’s theming at the time, and these rides are exactly that – rides – not
attractions. These are off-the-shelf, experience-them-at-your-local-carnival
While hyped tremendously as a new attraction for the park, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure quickly became DCA’s version of Snow White’s Scary Adventure. At seemingly twice the size and half the fun, this show-stopping, audio-animatronic disappointingly doesn’t carry the story far enough or strongly enough. Still, it’s routinely 5-minute wait time makes it a nice place to take a break from the heat, and it features some interesting advances – the descent into the sea and the Ursula figure. It’s still in the wrong place. The Little Mermaid has nothing to do with California or Paradise Pier.
In 2012, DCA attempted to keep with the California theming
and connect to its mythical beginnings. Missing a golden opportunity to
capitalize on its largest changes, the park turned the Sunshine Plaza into
Buena Vista Street of 1923, the time when Walt Disney arrived in California
with a suitcase and a dream. The Carthay Circle Theater was opened and fit in with
the Tower of Terror in the background, but Cars Land with its decidedly Arizona
feel debuted at the same time. Arizona isn’t California. How is Cars Land a
part of the California Adventure? It’s not, thematically speaking.
In 2016, the popular Soarin’ Over California was replace
with Soarin’ Around the World. California is not the world, and the world is
not California. In 2017, the Guardians of the Galaxy took over the Twilight
Zone Tower of Terror and, in one fell swoop destroyed the themes of Hollywoodland,
Grizzly Peak Airfield and Buena Vista Street. These are both popular and fun
attractions, but popular and fun aren’t a theme, and the original versions were
just as popular and fun.
In 2018, Paradise Pier became Pixar Pier. Pixar isn’t a
theme. It’s a collection of (if the Internet is to believed) vaguely related
films with different settings. Even if Pixar properties were relegated to Pixar
Pier, the them wouldn’t work. Mixing the superheroes of “The Incredibles,” the
shrinking you down to toy size of Midway Mania and Jessie’s Critter Carousel,
and the Inside/Out characters of the mind isn’t a theme; it’s a cacophony. Add
to it that Mickey’s Fun Wheel and Flik’s Flyers just received paint jobs, with
no significant changes otherwise, to go along with the Pixar theme and it looks
like Disney has just decided to throw in the towel. They probably could’ve left
Flik’s Flyers alone since it was a Pixar film and the theming would’ve worked
with Midway Mania, but “A Bug’s Life” has other problems when it comes to theme
Leftovers from Paradise Pier, the Golden Zephyr and Jumpin’
Jellyfish make no sense in terms of theming. They aren’t related to Pixar or
Disney characters and only represent the former California Beachside aesthetic.
With all of the incohesive changes, Disney California Adventure doesn’t really
celebrate Disney or California. Instead, it focuses on providing Pixar a place
to put its movie franchises. Things won’t be much better when Marvel joins the
scene with its own land. Marvel Land will be able to adopt Guardians of the
Galaxy, but this will leave the Red Car Trolley out in the cold and gut the
main attractions of Hollywoodland – the Marvel Meet and Greets.
This mishmash of rides and attractions keeps DCA from
achieving greatness through theming. Instead it’s a great example of what
Disneyland never wanted to be – an amusement park (except DCA is clean and the
cast members are friendly).
Why Bug’s Land Had to Change
While the new Marvel Land may not fix DCA’s theming, it does
address another relatively small problem: the relevancy of A Bug’s Land. Based
on the 1998 Pixar film “a bug’s life,” the land opened in 2002. The land itself
was made to be attractive to the younger set, except the 4D film experience “It’s
Tough to Be a Bug,’ which was terrifying for some adults. It’s environmental
and educational feel was a welcome respite from some of the larger areas of the
park, but there was no way these bugs could survive.
The film itself was not one of Pixar’s best. It earned $363
million at the box office, but without a sequel, TV shows, or a cuddly, iconic
character, the film has no relevance to today’s children. How many people even
remember the film without confusing it for “Antz”? Disney’s classic animation
fare has been able to remain relevant through marketing (specifically, the creation
of the Princess line, which keeps all of the princesses in the public light as long
as new princesses are added every couple of years or so) rereleases and remakes.
These movies hold up even through the changing times, and the theming of the
lands act as a crutch.
Attractions at Disneyland also remain relevant through the
sheer size and scope. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash
Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are iconic, beloved attractions
that create their own atmosphere and fans. Flik’s Flyers? Tuck and Roll’s Drive
‘Em Buggies (which were not bumper cars)? Francis Ladybug Boogie… Does anyone
even remember this ride? These were all rides with no real creation to them and
without a Dumbo to keep them aloft. Only Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train seemed to
make an effort to provide something akin to a new place to visit.
With nothing new on the bug front, DCA needed to come up with something new. Marvel provided the answer. As long as they stay away from the now deceased Iron Man, the land will remain relevant for the next few decades.
World of Color’s and Incredicoaster’s Footprints
The World of Color, which debuted in 2013, is arguably the
best show in DCA. The fountains are spectacular, the water screens are amazing,
the pyrotechnics are amazing, and the show is flexible enough to be changed
almost on the fly to advertise new movies subtly and include new animated
sequences. One Christmas show featured the magic of snowflakes a foot in
diameter that floated up into the sky. Even the dining options and the viewing
areas that go with them are incredible.
The investment in the equipment that Disney made and the
popularity of the show make changing the venue area around the show basically
impossible. Imagineers are constrained by the World of Color’s space needs.
Just as constraining is the space required for a lesser
attraction, the now-called Incredicoaster. Wait times for this attraction hover
around 25 minutes, but it is still large enough and technically advanced to
warrant protection by the bean counters. It’s change over from California
Screamin’ is also an advance in storytelling, especially when it comes to
By Any Other Name
When it first opened, the park was called Disney’s California Adventure. Ironically, it didn’t include Buena Vista street, but was more the company’s interpretation of what California was. Wine country, the Bay Area, the Redwoods, these were all represented. Yes, critics wondered why people would want to see the Disney version of the Golden Gate Bridge when it was just a seven-hour drive up north or a 2-hour flight. Still, that’s what Michael Eisner and his team came up with.
It changed its name to Disney California Adventure in 2010. Linguistically,
this could mean that this park is an adventure in California Disney-style. Something
along the lines of “have yourself a Disney California Adventure.” It doesn’t
have to have the California theming in order to work, except it’s already
associated with its first incarnation, and the California parts haven’t been
drummed out of it. Choosing another name might work better as far as managing expectations,
but it doesn’t change the fact that the park has no cohesive theming.
People come to Disneyland and its related theme parks for the cleanliness, the wonderful cast members and the theming. In its effort to cash in on its acquired IP, the Disney Company has forgotten about the theming at least as far as Disney California Adventure is concerned. Maybe they’ll get it fixed sometime in the future, but for now DCA will suffer from its continued lack of relevance and inability to inspire people to come for more than a day.
It’s our turn for Blue Sky thinking! What could Disney do to
make California Adventure better?
There are few things more annoying than a prequel. Even if
it’s a character that I care about, prequels lack the necessary tension and
drama. Instead of being worried whether or not a character will be able to
survive his or her trial, the outcome is already certain. There’s no reason to
be worried that the character will die or face other drastic consequences.
Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson deserve better than that. Unfortunately, all
signs point to the Black Widow movie as being a prequel. After all, Black Widow
is dead. She traded her soul for the soul stone and that trade was “an
Why and how would a stone require a soul? In order for the
information on the deal to be transferred to the Red Skull and enforced by the
stone, the stone itself must have a consciousness. It must be a living entity. Unless
Vormir, the stone’s home, is the living entity that guards the stone.
If the stone is a living entity, it is clearly evil. It
desires a living sacrifice in order for others to access its power. That soul
for a soul exchange and the disposition of the stone could be the subject of
the Black Widow movie.
The stone could just require the soul to power it up.
However, other versions of the soul stone have included a soul stone universe
where all the souls that were sacrificed reside. Black Widow could realize she’s
trapped in an alternate universe and work to find and fight her way out,
possibly with the help of Gamora.
It would be an interesting story line to explore and with obstacles that Black Widow would be more than capable of overcoming. Imagine Marvel’s next villain being the Soul Stone Irregularity. Of course, the Black Widow movie doesn’t have to take place in the current MCU at all; the multi-verse and alternate timelines open up so many story telling possibilities.
If you love movies and movie memorabilia or you love a
certain movie from the last couple of years, we’ll have something for you at the
Penguinate table (A1). Our Russian lobby cards are double-sided advertisements
for films given away at the Russian cinemas.
Lobby cards used to be a staple of the American cinema, but
now, they are collectible and rarely seen at movie theaters in the United States.
However, in Russia, movie cards are put out every week, and they are an exact
replica of the Russian movie poster. We have brought a limited number of these
cards from Russia to the U.S. for you to enjoy. These cards range in size from
approximately 3×5 to 4×6 with some being more unique than others.
We have done our best to get the lobby cards from every film
in the last year, and many of the cards are from foreign films. We have Marvel,
Disney and DC lobby cards, as well as other top-rated films, including Godzilla
Here is a complete list of the lobby cards we will be bringing
to our table (A1) at Lilac City Comicon 2019. Come by and find your favorite
movie (while supplies last).
24 Hours to Live
A Dog’s Way Home
A Quiet Place
A Star Is Born
Alita Battle Angel
Animation Film Ad
Asterix and the Secret Mission
Bad Mamas 2
Bad Times at the El Royale
Bahubali: Birth of a Legend
Big Road (Russia)
Blade Runner 2049
Cold Skin (Atlantida; Spain)
Corridor of Immortality (Russia)
Daddy’s Home 2
Dark Mirror (Russia)
Day of the Dead: Bloodline
Disney Christopher Robin
Disney Incredibles 2
Disney Mary Poppins Returns
Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet
Disney The Jungle Book
Disney The Last Warrior
Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Disney Wrinkle in Time
Disney: Beauty and the Beast
Escape Plan 2
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindewald
Fixiki: The Big Secret
Foto na pamyat
Gogol Beginning (Russia)
Gogol Vii (Russia)
Gogol: Scary Place
Going Vertical (Russia)
Happy Death Day
Hard Times (Russia)
Holmes and Watson
Hotel Transylvania 3
How to Train Your Dragon 3
I Feel Pretty
Island of Dogs
Jim Pykovka and Machinist Lucas
John Wick 3
Jurassic World 2
Just Getting Started
Just not them (Russia)
Kong: Skull Island
Lego Film 2
Marvel Ant-Man and Wasp
Marvel Avengers: Endgame
Marvel Captain Marvel
Marvel Kingsman: Golden Circle
Marvel Thor: Ragnorok
Marvel/ DC: Defenders (Russia)
Marvel/DC: Justice League
Marvel/DC: Suicide Squad
Marvel: Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel: Black Panther
Marvel: Captain America: Civil War
Marvel: Deadpool 2
Marvel: Once Upon a Deadpool
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Mary Queen of Scots
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Mission Impossible Fallout
Mowgli Decoy Planets
Murder on the Orient Express
My Favorite Dinosaur
My Little Pony
Pacific Rim 2
Play or Die
Proza Brodyach Psob Anime
Ready Player 1
Robin Hood 2018
Robot Park Ad
Santa and Company (France)
Selfie from Hell
Shape of Water
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Star Wars: Solo
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Super Bobrovyi (Russia)
Tad and the Secret of King Midas
The Boy and the Beast
The Curse of Llorna
The Dark Tower
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The Greatest Showman
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
The Kid Who Would Be King
The Legend of Kolovrat (Russia)
The Little Vampire
The Mountains Between Us
The New Year (Russia)
The Predator 2018
The Professor and the Madman
The School (2018)
Three Warriors and the nasledushi prestola
Three Warriors and the Princess of Egypt
Time of Monsters
Truth or Dare
What Happened to Monday
Who Is Who
Winchester: The house that Ghosts Built
You Were Never Really Here
Marvel was hailed for its decision to finally give fans what
they had been asking for: a “Black Widow” movie starring Scarlett Johansson.
This is a movie fanboys and fanwomen can get behind with little controversy.
The only problem is (spoilers ahead) –
Black Widow is dead.
ICYMI, (and with a global box office take heading beyond $2 billion, how could you?): Black Widow sacrificed herself to get the Soul Stone, so that Hawkeye could go back to his family. This exchange is permanent according to the paragon of truth known as the Red Skull (Do we really trust his word on it and how did he get to be an expert after being sent to Vormir by the Tesseract?). Hulk Banner tried to bring her back with his snap and failed. So, as far as anyone knows, Black Widow is dead forever and ever. Amen.
Of course, permanent in the comic book world is really more like “until pent up demand will sell a whole lot of comics with the right story line.) And Marvel has a problem with keeping its characters dead. Just ask Agent/Director Phil Coulson (I thought his name was “agent”), or any of the dozens of characters brought back in “Avengers: Endgame.” So, what will the “Black Widow” movie be about?
Let’s assume that Black Widow is dead and not coming back.
That makes the “Black Widow” movie a prequel – or, as I like to call prequels,
a movie with no stakes. We already know what happens to Natasha Romanoff in the
future. We know she joins the Avengers and ends up sacrificing herself for the
greater good. We spent the last decade learning who Romanoff is now, not
knowing much about her past.
This type of “Black Widow” movie would have the same problem
that “Solo” had. It’s playing with a character that everyone knows and loves. In
“Solo,” there wasn’t enough character turning to explain how Han went from someone
who loves a woman to someone who is only out for himself. (Maybe future movies
would’ve explored this arc, but those look to be defunct as do many of the
other Star Wars movies that were planned.” To succeed, the prequel would have
to fully explain how Romanoff went from U.S.S.R. super spy to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent,
especially after going through extensive brainwashing and the cultural
brainwashing that comes from living in any society.
You could write her change in heart and nature while comparing
it to the fall of the U.S.S.R., but this type of political and historical
action will need a context that many people today, even those who lived through
it, simply lack. It’s a risky proposition fraught with peril and landmines.
A prequel would also necessitate another landmine situation.
Scarlett Johansson would have to go through the same de-aging process as Samuel
L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Douglas, and to a lesser extent, Michelle
Pfeiffer. In the body-positive age, will anyone be happy with a de-aged ScarJo?
No one’s made a bug deal about it with the men or with Pfeiffer, but done
incorrectly, it could have a negative impact greater than the trolls that
regularly come out to jeer Marvel’s superwomen.
While it’s unlikely that any titular character is going to die in his or her own movie, the possibility of Black Widow’s death in a prequel is zero. Prequels, like flashbacks, have no weight. They have no stakes. Instead of advancing the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they stop it dead in its tracks. “Captain Marvel” was well-received, but knowing she was in Endgame took away some of the power the movie could’ve had. “Black Widow” would suffer in the same way. The film will be like watching a biography or documentary made by a company that usually deals in high stakes movies.
The Alternate Timeline
It’s an alternate timeline Black Widow! This could certainly be more entertaining to watch as Romanoff gets plucked out of time and transported to the present day that requires her specific set of skills. This “Black Widow” could more fully develop Marvel’s version of time travel and the problems it causes. It could even be set up as part of the story line that Black Widow’s death and some seriously negative side effects. (What if she’s the glue for a team that otherwise won’t work together and fails at their mission?) The story could really be anything with an alternate timeline Romanoff.
The problem with this “Black Widow” movie is that people are
used to Marvel films and television (even the Netflix shows) taking place in
the same timeline. That’s what built up the colossal success of “Endgame.” While
some shows may be moving in that direction (i.e. Disney+’s “Loki”), the movies
could have a problem keeping their audiences and their tie-ins to each other.
Marvel could come up with a designation to separate out the timelines, but it
could get messy for quickly and destroy the cohesiveness that has allowed the
MCU to flourish on the movie screen. Fortunately, fan sites can help keep people
straight on which movie goes where.
The Soul Stone
The Soul Stone is said to trap the souls exchanged for its
use inside a pocket dimension or alternate reality. Exploring this world would
definitely be interesting and move the story forward. Perhaps, because Black
Widow sacrificed herself, the Soul Stone reacts differently to her. It may be
the reason she’s able to return, proving the Red Skull wring in the process.
The self-sacrifice and its purity in act and intention would explain why Gamora
can’t escape, as could her child form. However, it’s possible for her child
form to play the role of mentor and guide for Black Widow.
The souls trapped in the stone could be like crabs in a
bucket. They keep each other trapped, and Black Widow will have to figure out
how to fix that. In this scenario Gamora could be used to betray Black Widow
when its revealed that Gamora has been sabotaging Romanoff from the beginning.
The Soul Stone doesn’t sound like a good entity if it wants to trap souls. In
the case of Gamora, it may be that the longer a soul spends in the stone, the
more corrupt it becomes.
If Marvel still wants to include an origin story for Black
Widow, it can use the Soul Stone alternate reality as a place made up of the
person’s past experiences. This could be a sort of health, especially if the
Soul Stone gains its powers through the torture of souls (or through their
screams, like Monstropolis in “Monsters Inc.” before they found the true power
of a child’s laughter).
Marvel continues to surprise and wow audiences, but even the
best of studios is going to make a misstep. Let’s hope “Black Widow” isn’t the
The biggest debate in the movie community is where will “Avengers:
Endgame” end its box office run. Will it finish in the top spot worldwide and
domestic, or will it finish second? Some movie writers have gone so far to call
out the manipulations of misleading articles saying that the box office for “Avengers:
Endgame” could never reach the domestic gross of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
or the global box office of “Avatar” if the numbers are adjusted for inflation.
Comparing today’s box office with 2015’s take for “Force Awakens” and 2009’s gross
for “Avatar” is a bit of mathematical chicanery according to critics. “Endgame”
is only ranked #36 domestically when adjusted for inflation.
However, whatever ranking “Endgame” finishes with shouldn’t
matter. In fact, true Marvel and movie fans shouldn’t be concerned about the
final numbers. These movies are so huge, even if they don’t look that great
when compared to the adjusted for inflation numbers, because they are currently
making money hand over fist for the company that owns their creative rights:
Disney. People who love Marvel films have nothing to worry about, even if one
of the films underperforms. Instead, Marvel fans need to worry about the other
movie properties that aren’t going to rake in the types of numbers these tentpoles
do. Those are the films that Marvel fans should rally behind.
I’m not talking DC films or the other big budget releases that may fall into the Box Office hole never to recover (i.e. “Solo”). I’m talking about genuinely small budget films that are amazing. Films like “Hidden Figures,” “BlackKklansman,” or “The Imitation Game” have something to say about our world and are great entertainment to boot. They may get recognition at the Awards ceremonies, but they need box office recognition in order for movie goers to see more films like them on the big screen.
Rather than seeing the next big tent pole five times, or even three time, put that third movie ticket behind a film that isn’t getting much love from the advertisers or from the movie industry. Check out an indie film, a documentary, or even a film that was just overlooked because of the hype behind the big tent pole films. This will help bring more diversity to the movie screen. Creatives will have more opportunity to step away from the ordinary that big budgets have become, and you’ll have a richer life experience. Every time, you see a film, you vote with your dollars showing what you want more of. Don’t let superheroes be the only films we have an opportunity to watch.
As “Avengers: Endgame” prepares to fall short of the domestic
box office total of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” we should ask who has the
better movie fans. Are Star Wars fans better than Marvel fans?
In the top 20 domestic movie box offices of all-time, there
are five movies form the Star Wars franchise: “Star Wars” at 16, “Star Wars: Episode
1 – the Phantom Menace” at 15, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” at 12, “Star
Wars: The Last Jedi” at 9, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on top of the domestic
box office with almost $1 billion. The total take for these films is about $3.02
Marvel also has five films in the top 20: “Avengers: Age of
Ultron” at 17, “Marvel’s The Avengers” at 8, “Avengers: Endgame” at 7 (still in
theaters and projected to grab the number two spot), “Avengers: Infinity War”
at 3, and “Black Panther” at 2. These films have totaled about $3.1 billion.
Based on these two metrics, Marvel movie fans have the edge over Star Wars fans.
(“Captain Marvel” is still in theaters and could make it to the top 20 if it
receives a continued “Endgame” boost. It stands at 24 and is about $14 million
away from passing “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and taking the 20th
Until “Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker,” Marvel fans will
continue to have the edge, especially with “Endgame” making it to the second
spot, giving Marvel three films in the top 5 for domestic gross. (In case you’re
counting, when “Endgame” passes “Titanic,” Disney properties will own the top 5
movies of all time for unadjusted domestic box office.)
Marvel fans can make a huge statement with several films
still on the docket before the next Star Wars release. The biggest statement
would come if they can propel “Endgame” to the top spot and get “Captain Marvel”
into the top 20. “X-Men: The Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black International,” “Spider-Man:
Far from Home,” “The New Mutants,” and “Kingsman 3” are all opportunities for
Marvel fans to exercise their power as the best fan base by voting at the box
With the crash and burn of “Solo,” Disney has taken a step
back from its Star Wars movie properties. However, in real life, Star Wars is
the only property with its own land: “Galaxy’s Edge.” While Marvel characters
have taken over Hollywood Studios at Disney California Adventure, it isn’t Marvel’s
land; the heroes are scheduled to be moved into the former Bug’s Land in
2020. This seems like a tie. So, what do
In his examination of Disney’s “Dumbo,” “Forbes” writer Scott Mendelson laments the Disney Company’s penchant for releasing big budget films that have already been made, including the live-action remakes of animated classics and the multiple sequels that Disney has released over the course of roughly the last decade, and while he acknowledges that the studios are in part to blame, he also lays the blame on movie goers. “The studios can’t responsibly green-light what they know audiences will not go to see in theaters.”
The Dollars and Sense
of It All
In 1984, when Michael Eisner became CEO of the Disney Company, the top grossing movie was “Beverly Hills Cop” with almost $235 million and $316 million worldwide. Disney’s movie releases were in the tank and not making what they should be with a few exceptions. In 1984, Touchstone’s “Splash” opened at No. 1 on the chart and grossed over $69 million (Box Office Mojo) by the time it finished its run; it cost $8 million to make. The film was a huge success at the time, and it brought in about $62 million profit.
Eisner looked at the situation and decided that Disney and its movie making companies would make smaller budget films that would make money rather than hope for a summer blockbuster that could fail. They were going to hit singles rather than try for homeruns. In 1986, “Ruthless People,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “The Color of Money” were released with grosses of $71, $62 and $52 million making them the 9th, 11th and 12th highest grossing movies of the year. Eisner’s strategy was successful, and Disney carved out a niche with these low budget, over-performing types of films.
Flash forward to 2018 and the surprise hit (not Disney) “A Quiet Place.” With a budget of $17 million dollars, this is the type of film Disney would’ve happily made in the 1980s. The movie made $340 million dollars worldwide ($323 million profit). Marvel’s “Black Panther” cost about $200 million to make and brought in over $1.3 billion; domestically, it was the top grossing film of the year. It would take about three “A Quiet Place” size releases to make the same amount of profit as “Black Panther.” However, “Black Panther” was a surprise in its own way.
Marvel’s sure thing for the year was “The Avengers: Infinity War” – a sequel, which according to the just over $2 billion box office gross, you’re probably familiar with. The estimates for the cost of the film run between $300 million and $400 million. Even on the high side of the estimate, the film brought in $1.6 billion, or the rough equivalent of five “A Quiet Places.”
I understand these numbers aren’t exact. There are marketing costs to consider as well as what the actual theaters make, which is different depending on the country. However, the point is it doesn’t make any sense for a company that brings in $12.6 billion (2018 net income) to worry about $10 or $20 million, the budget of “A Quiet Place” for a return of only $323 million. As Mendelson pointed out, Disney had taken risks with “Tomorrowland” (profit at a scant $20 million), “The Finest Hours” (losses estimated at $20 million), and “The Queen of Katwe” (estimated loss of $5 million). These movies didn’t return enough profit to justify their existence.
Other Sources of
When “Star Trek” dolls were released and the series ended,
the sales of the toys dried up as well. There wasn’t anyway to remind people about
the purpose of the toys without the show. When “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
returned the Star Trek universe to television, toy sales skyrocketed.
In 1983, Funimation released “He-Man and the Masters of the
Universe” after Reagan deregulated children’s programming. The show was designed
to sell He-Man action figures. Once it made it on the air and He-Man sales
sky-rocketed every toy company got involved in Saturday Morning Cartoons: “Transformers,”
“Go-Bots,” “M.A.S.K.,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and “G.I. Joe” to name a few.
Whether the show or the action figures came first is of little consequence,
what mattered was that some of the cartoons were pulled from the air not
because of the cartoons’ popularity, but because the toys lacked sales.
Disney’s synergistic approach to marketing means the media giant isn’t looking just at the movies. It’s also looking at what it can make from tie-ins. Dumbo’s new movie release, regardless of how it’s received, sells more stuffed Dumbos. Marvel’s movies sell more superhero action figures, Lego sets, and whatever else they put their characters on. These things all bring in more money. Disney princesses outsell Barbie now are a multi-billion-dollar market segment. Their inclusion in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” keeps them fresh, updates them for this generation and keeps the product moving. The Disney company not only needs to create movie sequels and remakes because they are smaller financial risks, but also because they sell more toys, products and Disney park experiences.
What’s It All Mean?
There’s no incentive for Disney to green-light smaller film projects, even if they become the next “A Quiet Place.” The movie industry can only stand so many new films before there aren’t enough movie-goers to see them all. Worse, people say they want new stories, but they only think they want new stories. Audiences still flock to their favorite characters and movie franchises because its an acceptable risk. To spend $10 to $15 on a movie that you may not like or know nothing about doesn’t make much sense when you know that Marvel (or DC or Pixar) has a release right around the corner.
Moreover, Disney can make more money from product friendly
franchises that it can tie into its theme parks than it ever could from a movie
that has to stand on its own two legs. This all becomes more problematic with
Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and it’s looming control
of 40 to 50 percent of the box office. The studios will have to schedule movies
so they don’t cut into each other’s profits, which will mean fewer movies and
fewer opportunities for a smaller film to get made.
“Shazam!” is a fun DC romp that shows DC can use humor on
its superhero films. Sure, there are some scary parts (The monsters are
U-G-L-Y; THEY AIN’T GOT NO ALIBI; THEY UGLY!), and 14-year-old Billy Batson
uses his newfound adulthood for some nefarious purposes, one of which he
rejects outright. Another he indulges in and commits a crime to go back for more.
It’s played for comedy, so it works if you don’t think about it too much.
Zachary Levi is at his goofy, charming best, and “Shazam!” is a fun popcorn movie. If you remember “The Greatest American Hero,” you’ll recognize elements of the TV superhero comedy as Shazam tries to learn about his superpowers.
I saw this in Russian with my wife, who laughed far more
than I did, and after discussing with her some of the things I didn’t catch, “Shazam!”
may be a little deeper than a popcorn movie. That being said, it was fun, even
if it has a deeper message about envy and family.
Apparently, there are some people, aka trolls, causing a
ruckus pitting “Shazam!” against “Captain Marvel.” A small part of this stems
from the DC vs. Marvel rivalry. Small minds have an issue with holding two
competing theories in them, and it’s the same with this rivalry. You can like
DC AND Marvel. It’s not either/or; don’t fall for the false dichotomy. In fact,
if you like Indie comics and want to see more of them on the big screen, going
to see films that are like the Indie comics you love will cause the studios to
scour the nation looking for stories they can adapt, thus creating a larger
market for the smaller IP.
A larger part of this trollduggery is the unfounded fear
that males, and usually white males, have at being rendered irrelevant as the
world changes. They lose a power that has been a birthright since before the
U.S. was founded, and the act of taking that power away and distributing it so
that all people have the same equality of opportunity feels like
discrimination. What good are the movies if you don’t share them? While we
could delve deeper into the psychology of this issue, I’m just going to let Zachary
Levi take it from here:
Of course, if you still want to ring in on the Marvel vs. DC question, you can take our poll.
The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death
knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business
decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and
other creatives should fear.
With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.
Writers already face enormous competition to get their
stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on
the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a
living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out
new storylines withdrawn from the market.
Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.
The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.
Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.
Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate
the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar
sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on
Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller
budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing,
have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find
a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the
power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be
an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.
(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar
branded movies they make.)