‘Toy Story 4’ Box Office Debut Bodes Well for Home Video

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 quietly opened with a reported $118 million gross at the North American box office — on par with the 2010 opening weekend for Toy Story 3, which went on to generate $415 million domestically.

The fourth installment of the animated toy-talking franchise, which began in 1995 with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen supplying the voices to memorable characters Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, respectively, and Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack, continues Disney’s theatrical success following Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin.

The title also portends success for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, which has established a lucrative business selling “Toy Story” DVD and Blu-ray Disc units, among other formats.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The original Toy Story — directed by John Lasseter — ranks the 8th best-selling VHS title with more than 19.5 million units sold for $463 million in revenue (based on inflation) since its Oct. 29, 1996 retail release. It was also released on Laserdisc.

It is the 12th best-selling home entertainment release with 5.65 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units sold since its March 20, 2001, DVD release and Blu-ray on March 23, 2010.

The title was released on the defunct Universal Media Disc (UMD) format on Sept. 6, 2005.

Toy Story 2 was released at retail in 1999, with a special edition re-release on Jan. 11, 2000. It generated $42.2 million in domestic DVD sales; $16.3 million in Blu-ray.

Toy Story 3 sold 10.8 million discs for $192 million in revenue, and was the No. 2 selling disc in 2010. Overall, the title sold $184 million worth of DVDs and $53.2 million on Blu-ray, according to The-Numbers.com.

Indeed, when asked whether franchise films such as Toy Story 4 would be fast-tracked to Disney’s pending subscription streaming service, Disney+, CEO Bob Iger told CNBC in April that there was little financial incentive to do so.

“Don’t forget, in that [home video] window after it’s available in first theatrical run, these movies will be available for a form of rental or download or purchase,” Iger said. “Physical copies are still being sold.”

Skydance Media Names Former Pixar CCO John Lasseter Head of Animation

In a controversial move, former Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter has been named head of Skydance Animation.

Lasseter, who abruptly resigned from The Walt Disney Co. in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, will report to David Ellison, CEO, Skydance Media, in Santa Monica beginning later this month.

“We did not enter into this decision lightly,” Ellison said in a statement. “John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

Ellison said Lasseter is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated.

“He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe,” Ellison said.

Indeed, Lasseter’s signature animation style to Pixar’s films grossing more than $11 billion in global box-office receipts. Lasseter was the executive producer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning feature Frozen (2013), which also won an Academy Award for best original song (Let It Go). The film, which crossed the $1 billion mark in March 2014, is the number one animated feature of all time.

Lasseter made his directorial debut in 1995 with Toy Story, the world’s first feature-length computer-animated film, for which he received a Special Achievement Academy Award recognizing his inspired leadership of the filmmaking team. He and the rest of Toy Story’s screenwriting team earned an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, marking the first time an animated feature had ever been recognized in that category.

Lasseter also directed A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011). Lasseter executive produced all Pixar features since Monsters, Inc. (2001), including the studio’s eight Academy Award-winners Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), WALL•E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Brave (2012), and Inside Out (2015), as well as films The Good Dinosaur (2015), Finding Dory (2016), Cars 3 (2017), Coco (2017) and Incredibles 2 (2018).

Lasseter said he was grateful to David and the Skydance team for the opportunity and acknowledged being entrusted with an “enormous” responsibility.

“I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for,” Lasseter said. “It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”

In his new role, Lasseter will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and creative direction for Skydance Animation. He will drive the division’s artistic growth, overseeing production and operations, to ensure a robust slate of animated entertainment across all media.

Established in 2017, Skydance Animation has embarked on a multi-year partnership with Ilion Animation Studios, a dedicated CGI feature animation studio based in Madrid, to develop and produce a slate of high-end animated feature films and television series.

Its first two animated feature-length films have been announced: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and an Untitled Action Fantasy, directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton.

Changes at Disney Accelerate as New Digital Streaming Service, Fox Acquisition Loom

Walt Disney Co. is shuffling executives and shuttering animation division Disneytoon Studios, based in Glendale, as it sets up for major changes at the company.

Disney is in the final stages of a possible acquisition of Fox, with shareholders scheduled to vote on the merger July 27. The company is also planning to bow a Disney streaming service next year to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Last week, the company placed film marketing president Ricky Strauss in charge of content and marketing for its streaming service. He will handle original film and TV series for the new service. Strauss reports to Kevin Mayer, installed in March as head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer unit. Among Mayer’s duties are leading the ESPN+ streaming service launched this year and the company’s stake in Hulu. Asad Ayaz will take over Strauss’s former role as studio marketing president. Also, theatrical distribution chief Cathleen Taff was upped to president from EVP.

Last week was also a fadeout for Disneytoon Studios, which was known for direct-to-video sequels to The Little Mermaid, Mulan and other Disney classics; the “Fairies” DTV series featuring the Tinker Bell character; and theatrical forays such as Planes: Fire and Rescue.

“After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. The closure, first reported by Indiewire, is expected to result in the loss of an estimated 75 staff positions.

Animation veteran John Lasseter, who spearheaded Disneytoon Studios, was replaced by Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee on the creative team this month after acknowledging a pattern of inappropriate conduct with employees.

Disneytoon Studios’ Shuttering Due to John Lasseter’s Exit?

News that Disney is officially pulling the plug on one of its namesake animation units – Disneytoon Studios – is noteworthy since the business segment was considered dead nearly five years ago.

“Disneytoon Studios, as of now, is pretty well kaput, Steve Hulett, with The Animation Guild, blogged at the time.

After Disney laid off hundreds from the Glendale, Calif.-based facility, a skeleton crew of less than 100 continued — rejuvenated in part by Pixar Animation founder John Lasseter’s personal interest in the company.

What followed was a string of box office and home entertainment hits, including Planes and its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue. The unit’s last theatrical release was Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast, released in theaters overseas in 2015. Disneytoon most recently focused on direct-to-video DVD releases and Blu-ray Disc titles.

Notable home video releases included the Disney “Fairies” franchise, which featured TinkerBell and the Great Fairy Rescue, TinkerBell and the Lost Treasureand TinkerBell and Her Magical Arrival, among other titles.

A planned movie about the future of aviation from director Klay Hall (Planes) and Bobs Gannaway (Fire & Rescue) is now reportedly abandoned.

“After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.

What wasn’t mentioned was the impact of Lasseter’s resignation at Disney last month following allegations of inappropriate conduct in the workplace. Lasseter had been on a six-month leave of absence following the allegations.

In a statement, Lasseter said he would begin “focusing on new creative challenges.”