Out with the old year, in with the new, right? In all honesty, I can say that 2011 may be the year I am most looking forward to in the world of Disney films. There are great stories, interesting plots and lots of intrigue. And that’s just in the studio offices. So let’s take a look at a few of the different types of films coming out from Disney and their associated studios in 2011.
The Castoffs – The first couple of films coming out from Disney this year are films that exist on the fringes of the Disney brand. Gnomeo and Juliet (February 11) is a film that was developed by Disney for years, working with Elton John to tell the story of lawn gnomes that act out the Shakespearean story of Romeo and Juliet. Just a month later, Image Movers Digital, the people behind A Christmas Carol will release Mars Needs Moms (March 11), based on the book by Berkeley Breathed. Both are projects that were produced outside the normal studio at Disney and, honestly, I don’t know enough about them to give any kind of preview.
The Documentary – African Cats (April 22) is the third in the Disneynature series of films, after Earth and Oceans. This time, the company is trying to take a different tactic, and comparing this film to The Lion King and pushing the story over the visuals. It will be interesting to see how it works.
The Hopeful – You may or may not know that Rich Ross is the head of Walt Disney Studios these days, and that he made his name at the Disney Channel. The first project solely created by Ross to come out from Disney is Prom (April 29), which looks remarkably similar to Ross’ big hit from TV, High School Musical. Prom is a franchise in training, looking to copy the model of High School Musical and create a brand new tween creation. We’ll see if it works.
The Muscle Men – Even though they are not Disney films, Thor (May 6) and Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22) are now Disney characters. If you’re a comics fan, like me, these are two of the biggest movies this year. Marvel has set itself up as a mini-studio inside Disney, and if these films succeed as they should, it could become the next Pixar with the release of Avengers in 2012, combining Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk in one film.
The Franchises – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20) is Disney’s biggest release of the year, continuing the highly successful Pirates franchise without Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley. But really, does that matter? Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow. I’m sold.
Ditto for Cars 2 (June 24). The first Cars film is among my favorite Disney films ever, and all the key players are back for the sequel. Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen are overseas for this one, and I am seriously looking forward to it.
High Stakes – There are gambles, and then there are the biggest possible rolls of the dice. Two of Disney’s final films of 2011 fall into the latter category. Winnie the Pooh (July 15) is Disney’s second hand drawn animated film since their return to the art with The Princess and the Frog. After that film was not as big as expected at the box office, Winnie the Pooh needs to do well to continue hand drawn films at Disney. Not only that, but Disney has chosen to release the film the same day as the final Harry Potter movie, possibly the most anticipated film in decades. To me, it doesn’t look good for Pooh or hand drawn films, but let’s hope I’m wrong.
Even higher stakes than that potentially is The Muppets (November 23). This reboot of the Muppets is not just for the films, it’s for the whole franchise. With Jason Segel of How I Met Your Mother fame steering and starring in the film, I’m confident in the quality of the film. However, if it doesn’t do really well, it’s entirely possible that the Muppets will fade away, possibly even being sold by Disney. We don’t want that to happen, now do we?
So there you have it, Disney’s film slate for 2011, adding in the Marvel films that will be distributed by other companies. Which ones are you most looking forward to?
Contributed by: Ryan K. (NDD #137). Ryan is our resident film expert and creator of Disney Film Project.