Walt Disney, which recently took over 21st Century Fox, has unveiled a schedule that includes films opening deep into the third term of Donald Trump's Presidency. Only joking (I hope). The White House will, like the rest of the planet, be dust by 2027, but the Mouse House is still planning a release of Avatar 5 in December of that year.
The standout points of the recent press release include confirmation that another Star Wars trilogy is on the way and that Avatar 2 has been kicked back a year.
"We're excited to put in place a robust and diverse slate that lays the foundation of our long-term strategy, bringing together a breadth of films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Fox, Fox Searchlight and Blue Sky Studios to create an extraordinary collection of cinematic experiences for audiences around the world," Cathleen Taff, president, of theatrical distribution at Disney, told the world.
“With a strong summer already in place, we are eager to carry that momentum forward over the coming years thanks to a creative wellspring of bold and imaginative stories coming from our world-class studios.” And so on.
Somewhat unnoticed in all the chatter is some news that will be of particular interest to Irish readers. Just three months before its original release date, Disney's Artemis Fowl, adapted from the novels by Wexford man Eoin Colfer, has been kicked way back to August, 2020.
Posters for the fantasy movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh, had already arrived online and punters were anticipating an imminent trailer.
“It looks like you will need to wait a little longer for #ArtemisFowl to hit cinemas,” Colfer tweeted. “Let’s hope this extra time will enable their hardworking team to double the amount of fairies and flatulence.”
The move does not indicate any problems with the project. The merger with Fox has caused Disney to shuffle its schedule dramatically — it doesn’t want to be competing with itself — and the May 29th, 2020 slot looks like a good way of easing into that summer.
The industry was keener to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and Avatar. Having acquired Avatar from Fox, Disney now controls all three of those dazzlingly lucrative franchises. The money involved is scarcely conceivable.
At time of writing, Avengers Endgame, the latest in the Marvel sequence, has passed Titanic to become the second highest-grossing title ever. Avatar’s all-time record of $2.8 billion now looks in reach.
James Cameron’s sequel to Avatar was expected in Christmas 2020, but it has now been edged back by 12 months. Sequels will arrive once every two years. That leaves next year’s seasonal market open for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (thanks, Fox), a live-action Cruella De Vil movie and the intriguing “Untitled Disney Animation”.
After that, Disney has elected to divide its Christmases between Star Wars and Avatar. The beginning of the new trilogy in the former sequence arrives in 2022 and the sequels will land biennially thereafter. When there’s no Jedi, there’ll be bluer aliens.
The Star Wars films have stumbled a little in non-Anglophone territories — The Force Awakens wasn't even the highest-grossing US release of its year in China — but they still make such huge overall totals that Disney can have little worries about that saga.
Avatar is a trickier beast. It’s been a nearly a decade since the first film, and the characters haven’t lodged in the collective consciousness as the studio might have expected. So there must be at least a slim possibility that the sequel could fail and make a mess of Disney’s plans.
Then again, only a fool would bet against Cameron. Never forget that, before release, almost everyone expected Titanic to be one of the great commercial catastrophes.
The news about Marvel asks more questions than it answers (“no spoilers” in other words). We know we’ve got a Spider-Man film in two months. There will then be a long wait until May 1st, 2020 for an as yet untitled Marvel release. There will be another mystery Marvel film in November.
The feeling is that the first of those will be the standalone Black Widow film that — whenever it does land — seems likely to be a prequel. Fan sites are betting that the second will be a long-mooted take on superhero team The Eternals. Sequels to Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy will arrive in due time.
Hard though it may be to credit, Disney releases films that are not part of the franchises above. Fans of Bob's Burgers, the charming animated series, can catch a big-screen adaptation next July. Three months later, Kenneth Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile.
After that its Untitled This and Untitled That all the way to the apocalypse.
DISNEY’S UPDATED SCHEDULE
Tolkien (Fox Searchlight) – May 10
Aladdin (Disney) – May 24
Dark Phoenix (Fox) – June 7
Toy Story 4 (Disney)– June 21
Stuber (Fox) – July 12
The Lion King (Disney) – July 19
The Art of Racing in the Rain (Fox) – Aug 9
Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight) – Aug 23
Ad Astra (Fox) – Sept 20
The Woman in the Window (Fox) – Oct 4
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney) – Oct 18
Ford v. Ferrari (Fox) – Nov 15
Frozen 2 (Disney) – Nov 22
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Dec 20
Spies in Disguise (Fox) – Dec 25
Underwater (Fox) – Jan 10
Untitled Kingsman Movie (Fox) – Feb 14
Call of the Wild (Fox) – Feb 21
Onward (Disney) – March 6
Mulan (Disney) – March 27
The New Mutants (Fox) – April 3
Untitled Marvel (Disney)– May 1
Artemis Fowl (Disney) – May 29
Untitled Pixar (Disney) – June 19
Free Guy (Fox) – July 3
Bob’s Burgers (Fox) – July 17
Jungle Cruise (Disney) – July 24
The One and Only Ivan (Disney) – Aug 14
Death on the Nile (Fox) – Oct 9
Untitled Marvel (Disney) – Nov 6
Ron’s Gone Wrong (Disney) – Nov 6
Untitled Disney Animation – Nov 25
West Side Story (Fox/Amblin) – Dec 18
Cruella (Disney) – Dec 23
Untitled Disney Marvel – Feb 12
Nimona (Fox) – March 5
Untitled Disney Live Action -March 12
Untitled Disney Marvel – May 5
Untitled Disney Live Action – May 28
Untitled Pixar – June 18
Untitled Indiana Jones – July 9
Untitled Disney Live Action – July 30
Untitled Disney Live Action – Oct 8
Untitled Disney Marvel – Nov 5
Untitled Disney Animation – Nov 24
Avatar 2 (Fox) – Dec 17
Untitled Disney Marvel – Feb 18
Untitled Pixar – March 18
Untitled Disney Marvel – May 6
Untitled Disney Live Action – May 27
Untitled Pixar – June 17
Untitled Disney Live Action – July 8
Untitled Disney Marvel – July 29
Untitled Disney Live Action – Oct 7
Untitled Disney Live Action – Nov 4
Untitled Disney Animation – Nov 23
Untitled Star Wars (Disney) – Dec 16
Untitled Disney Live Action – Feb 17
Avatar 3 (Fox) – Dec 22
Untitled Star Wars (Disney) – Dec 20
Avatar 4 (Fox) – Dec 19
Untitled Star Wars (Disney) – Dec 18
Avatar 5 (Fox) – Dec 17