Pending retirement and 20/20 hindsight can do wonders for the printed page.
With his departure from The Walt Disney Co. set for 2021, CEO Bob Iger has already authored a memoir on his long-running stint heading the world famous brand.
The book, “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” is available everywhere Sept. 23, including Amazon.
In excerpts disclosed on Vanity Fair’s website, Iger delves into his relationship with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and how he was stunned to find out 10 minutes before announcing Disney’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar in 2006 that Jobs’ cancer had returned.
Iger suggests that had Jobs lived (he died in 2011), he believes — surprisingly — that the two would have facilitated a merger of sorts between Disney and Apple.
It’s an interesting revelation, if not unrealistic considering who Jobs was.
The mercurial executive was a majority shareholder of Pixar and a member of Disney’s board. He was also notoriously self-centered in his vision for Apple and the world revolving around it — not the other way around.
While fighting a return of terminal cancer (despite being one of the richest people on Earth) would cloud anyone’s judgment, when it comes to streaming video and content IP, Jobs’ insolence toward the emerging distribution model and owning content was glaring.
Despite pioneering music, TV show and movie distribution through iTunes, Jobs infamously dismissed Apple TV as a “little hobby,” to be re-evaluated in the distant future.
That attitude contributed to Apple (with more than $200 billion in cash) sitting on the sidelines as Iger-led Disney swooped in to buy Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) — the latter two properties for a combined $8 billion.
Disney has made more than $18 billion on its Marvel investment. The first four Star Wars movies produced by Disney-owned Lucasfilm have already paid for that acquisition. And Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is the fourth film from that studio to top $1 billion at the global box office.
It seems doubtful that had Jobs lived, Apple would have jumped into content ownership. Jobs’ successor Tim Cook has only now decided to push Apple TV into the SVOD ecosystem.
Indeed, Iger, in his book, said Jobs had grown frustrated dealing with the Disney culture and former CEO Michael Eisner.
“Among his many frustrations was a feeling that it was often too difficult to get anything done with Disney,” Iger wrote.
Yet, today Apple has ratcheted up original content, spending Netflix-like billions on programming featuring ‘A’-list talent such as Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
The move has generated headlines but comes as Disney, AT&T/WarnerMedia, Comcast and Viacom all bow separate and competing over-the-top video platforms.
Instead of being an innovator as it was with the PC, iTunes, smart phones and tablets, Apple is chasing the competition, a reality noted earlier this year by Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.
“We’ve been competing with 500 channels of cable and penetrated nearly every household in the world for a long time,” Sarandos told the media in March. “So, it’s the same stable of competitors [Apple, Disney, AT&T, Viacom]; just very late to the game.”
Disney+ unveiled six series in development, a slate of original series and films, and details about the service during a showcase presentation at Disney’s D23 Expo Aug. 23 in Anaheim, Calif.
The Disney+ app made its debut on the show floor, with features and functionality confirmed for theglobal launch dates in November. Disney+ ($6.99 per month; $69.99 annually in the U.S.) offers viewers:
• Unlimited Downloads: Subscribers have access to unlimited downloads of shows and movies on the Disney+ app to watch offline later on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded per year. Once downloaded, subscribers can watch on the go and without an internet connection. The number of titles stored at one time on a device is dependent upon the available storage space on a subscriber’s device.
• High-Quality Viewing: Subscribers can get ultra-high-definition viewing with up to 4K Ultra HD video playback in Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio on supported devices for available programming.
• Commercial-free Viewing: Subscribers can access unlimited viewing of Disney+ content without having to watch commercials.
•Profile Customizations: Subscribers can set up to seven different profiles and choose an avatar tailored to their favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel or “Star Wars” characters, with more than 200 avatars available.
•Concurrent Streaming: Disney+ allows subscribers to concurrently stream video content on up to four registered devices with no up-charges.
• Multiple Languages: At launch, Disney+ will offer support for English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages, including both user interface as well as audio support and/or subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney+ originals.
• Accessibility: The app offers support for closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance for subscribers with disabilities.
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who stars in the Disney+ original film Lady and the Tramp, hosted the content presentation, welcoming Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international.
“With less than three months until launch, Disney+ will soon entertain and inspire audiences of all ages for generations to come, and we’re excited to preview some of the amazing original content being created for the service exclusively from our world-class brands today at the D23 Expo,” said Mayer. “Storytelling is the cornerstone of The Walt Disney Company and we’re thrilled to unveil a new slate of original shows from the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes, along with popular television franchises set to return with all-new series streaming only on Disney+.”
Executives behind the Disney+ content slate also appeared, including Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production; Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios; Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm; and Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channel Worldwide.
The executives discussed the status of previously announced content as well as introduced additions to the slate:
• Ewan McGregor was on hand to confirm his return as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new series from Lucasfilm, presumably set between the events of the “Star Wars” prequel and original trilogies, when the character was exiled on Tatooine watching over young Luke Skywalker. Alec Guinness played the role in the original “Star Wars” in 1977, as well as 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi. McGregor played the younger version of the character in the prequels from 1999 to 2005. Reports about the series had been swirling in the week leading up to the D23 Expo, following years of speculation that McGregor would return to the role in a spinoff movie;
• Feige announced that Marvel Studios is developing three new live-action series, “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight” and “She-Hulk,” all derived from Marvel comics;
• Hilary Duff surprised the audience with an appearance to announce she will reprise the role she made famous in an all-new Lizzie McGuire series from Terri Minsky; and
• Forty years after leaving the swamp in his big screen debut in The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog along with the Muppets gang will appear in their first-ever unscripted short-form series, “Muppets Now.”
Disney+ also showcased original movies and shows set to stream when the service launches on Nov. 12.
• For Lucasfilm’s “The Mandalorian,” executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni joined series stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers and Giancarlo Esposito, along with Taika Waititi, who brings the droid IG-11 to life, to premiere the teaser trailer for the first Star Wars live-action series. Earlier in the day at the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, Robert A. Iger,chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Co., announced that new Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen will join the cast of the series. Set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, “The Mandalorian” follows the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
• The cast of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” participated in a live performance of the multi-platinum hit song, “We’re All In This Together.” Following the presentation, cast members Joshua Bassett, Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Julia Lester, Larry Saperstein, Dara Reneé, Frankie A. Rodriguez, Kate Reinders, Mark St. Cyr, and Showrunner Tim Federle invited 3,600 fans to watch the first episode in the D23 Expo Arena and revealed the series’ teaser trailer. The 10-episode scripted series, set at the real-life East High, where the original movie was filmed, follows a group of students as they countdown to opening night of their school’s first-ever production of “High School Musical.”
• Host Brown joined fellow Lady and the Tramp cast members Rose (“Lady”) and Monty (“Tramp”) — the canine stars of the film — to premiere the first trailer of the live-action remake of the 1955 animated classic, In the film, a pampered house dog and a tough but lovable stray embark on an unexpected adventure and, despite their differences, grow closer and come to understand the value of home.
• Noelle stars Anna Kendrick and Billy Eichner joined Sean Bailey to announce their film will premiere on Disney+ Nov. 12 before sharing a new trailer. In the holiday comedy, Kris Kringle’s daughter is full of Christmas spirit and holiday fun, but wishes she could do something important like her beloved brother Nick, who will take over from their father this Christmas. When Nick is about to crumble from all the pressure, Noelle suggests he take a break and get away. When he doesn’t return, Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas.
• Jeff Goldblum, who stars in and hosts 12-episode “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” from National Geographic, gave fans a peek inside the series including a new trailer for the show.
• Executive producer Kristen Bell shared a first-look trailer and a taste of what’s to come in the unscripted series “Encore!” that brings together former castmates of high school musicals, tasking them with re-creating their original performance years after they last performed it.
• Tony Hale, who reprises role as Forky from Toy Story 4 in the new collection of Pixar animated shorts “Forky Asks a Question,” premiered the first short (“What is Money?”). In the 10 shorts, Forky explores important questions about how the world works, such as: What is love? What is time?
Disney+ also detailed titles set to premiere after the service launches:
• The audience was treated to a scene from the Disney+ original film Togo, an untold true story set in the winter of 1925 in the Alaskan tundra. The film, which will launch on the service in December, stars four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe and is directed by Ericson Core. It also stars Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Richard Dormer, Michael Greyeyes, Michael McElhatton and Michael Gaston.
• Director Kari Skogland introduced Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, the stars of Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which finds Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up after Avengers: Endgame. Emily VanCamp came on stage and Feige revealed that she will reprise her role as Sharon Carter. Then, he introduced the crowd to Wyatt Russell who will play John Walker — a character from the comics coming to the screen for the first time. Head writer Malcom Spellman was also on hand to greet the crowd. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will launch on Disney+ in 2020.
• Stars Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were on hand for their new series, Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision.” Bettany returns as Vision and Olsen as Wanda Maximoff — two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. Feige surprised the audience by bringing to the stage Kat Dennings and Randall Park who will reprise their roles from Thor and Ant-Man and The Wasp, and then he introduced Kathryn Hahn who has been cast as a new character in the series. Director Matt Shakman and head writer Jac Schaeffer joined everyone on stage to reveal that the streaming series will blend the style of classic sitcoms with Marvel Cinematic Universe. “WandaVision” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
• Feige welcomed the director, Kate Herron, and head writer, Michael Waldron, of “Loki” to the stage. In Marvel Studios’ series “Loki,” Tom Hiddleston returns as the mercurial Loki, the god of mischief, in stories that take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame. “Loki” debuts on Disney+ in 2021.
• For Marvel Studios’ “What If …?” Hayley Atwell was on hand to greet the audience. Atwell will voice Peggy Carter in Marvel Studios’ first animated series that focuses on different heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and imagines what would happen if the events in the films worked out differently. Feige also introduced director Bryan Andrews and head writer Ashley Bradley to the crowd. “What If…?” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
• Kennedy announced that the new season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will stream on Disney+ in February 2020. The Emmy award-winning animated series will be returning with 12 new episodes and will mark the return of classic characters Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex.
• Stars Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk joined Kennedy to introduce the audience to the second Lucasfilm live-action series for Disney+, which is now in development. Both actors are reprising their roles from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the stories follow Cassian Andor’s adventures as a rebel spy during the formative years of the Rebellion, before the events of A New Hope.
• Executive producer and recurring guest star Gina Rodriguez joined “Diary of a Female President” lead Tess Romero to announce the series will premiere on Disney+ in January. Told using the narration from her diary, the half-hour single camera comedy follows 12-year-old Cuban-American girl Elena’s journey through the trials of middle school, which set her on the path to ultimately become president of the United States.
• Bailey shared a first look at the original film Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made based on the best-selling book series by Stephan Pastis and launching on the service in early 2020. The film follows the exploits of a quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency.
• The stars of Stargirl, Grace VanderWaal and Graham Verchere, helped introduce the coming-of-age film based on the New York Times best-selling young adult novel. The film also stars Karan Brar, Maximiliano Hernandez, Darby Stanchfield and Giancarlo Esposito. It will launch on Disney+ in early 2020.
• “Monsters at Work” stars Ben Feldman and Aisha Tyler unveiled the latest design of their characters Tylor and Millie. Inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning feature film Monsters, Inc., the new series from Disney Television Animation returns to Monstropolis and follows a new cast of monsters with special appearances from Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman).
Lucasfilm and Disney will release Star Wars Resistance: Complete Season One on DVD Aug. 20.
The set includes all 21 episodes, 12 bonus shorts, four audio commentaries, a “Path of Resistance” behind-the-scenes featurette, and 22 “Resistance Rewind” featurettes.
Set in the lead-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the season follows Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono, a young pilot recruited by Resistance hero Poe Dameron for a top-secret mission to spy on the growing threat of the First Order. Stationed aboard an aircraft refueling station, Kaz quickly finds himself in over his head as he struggles to keep his cover as a mechanic while gaining the trust of his newfound friends. They find themselves entangled with ace pilots, marauding pirates and creatures of all shapes and sizes.
The second season will air in fall 2019 on the Disney Channel.
A California District Court jury June 17 ruled bankrupt VidAngel must pay Disney, Warner Bros., Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, among others, $62.4 million in damages for illegally altering/filtering plaintiff’s DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies for its proprietary streaming video service.
VidAngel, based in Provo, Utah, had taken the discs and filtered out content it deemed objectionable, including nudity, profanity and violence, and then made the content available for streaming to subscribers.
“We disagree with today’s ruling and have not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families one iota,” Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel, said in a statement. “VidAngel plans to appeal the District Court ruling and explore options in the bankruptcy court. Our court system has checks and balances, and we are pursuing options on that front as well.”
Studios in 2016 filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Vid Angel, alleging the service circumvented anti-pirating safeguards embedded on DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies.
VidAngel responded with an antitrust counter-suit, which was denied. A federal judge ordered a preliminary injunction against the service, ordering it to remove the studio movies. An appeal by VidAngel to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals failed as well.
To the studios, the issue wasn’t censorship as much as it was infringement.
“The jury today found that VidAngel acted willfully and imposed a damages award that sends a clear message to others who would attempt to profit from unlawful infringing conduct at the expense of the creative community,” studios said in a statement.
Disney’s Nov. 12 launch of standalone subscription streaming video service Disney+ will offer unfettered access to the media giant’s brands, including Disney Animation, Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and National Geographic.
The service, which will cost $6.99 monthly, and $69.99 annually, will be co-branded across Disney business segments, including merchandise, parks and resorts, live event entertainment, cruise ships and home entertainment.
fBy comparison, Netflix basic monthly pricing just increased from $7.99 to $8.99.
“We’re designing a product that we want to be accessible to as many consumers as possible,” CEO Bob Iger told attendees April 11 at the company’s annual investor day event in Los Angeles. “Disney is loved by so many many millions of people around the world.”
Disney projects 60 million to 90 million SVOD subscribers globally by 2024, including about 30% in the United States. Content spending will top $1.5 billion cash in the current fiscal year, reaching $2 billion by fiscal 2024. Disney said the service is projected to become profitable by 2024.
“There truly is no bigger priority for the Walt Disney Co. moving forward,” said Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing at Disney Streaming Services.
The streaming service will offer subscribers exclusive pay-TV access to Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, which recently topped $1 billion at the global box office.
Marvel is also creating 12 original long-form episodic series for the streaming service, including “What If?” the studio’s first animated series, based on the Marvel comic book that looks at how famous comic book storylines might have played out differently. The show will focus on storylines from the Marvel movies.
The first episode of the first live-action “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian,” will be available at launch as well, in additional to other programming.
Notably, long-running animated Fox TV series “The Simpsons” will move to Disney+, including the series’ entire 30-season catalog. The series previously streamed on Hulu.
Kevin Mayer, chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International, said the service would offer different fonts and user interfaces depending on user access points, including TV and portable devices such as tablets and smart phones.
All Disney+ content will be available to download on any device for non-Internet streaming.
“No restrictions and for an unlimited basis for as long as you are a subscriber,” Mayer said. “That’s a key subscriber benefit.”
“Never before has our content been as broadly, conveniently, or permanently available as it will be on Disney+,” he added. “We are confident consumers will love the service.”
Michael Paull, CEO of Disney Streaming Services (formerly BAMTech), said the streaming service would be available across all portable media devices, including video game consoles. Current partners include Roku TV and PlayStation 4.
“We insure that our service will be prominently featured in merchandise on our [streaming media] partner platforms,” Paull said. “We are confident that by the time we launch, we will have a full array of device platform partnerships.”
Paull said current content license agreements with third parties globally will expire over the next four years, at which time Disney+ will be rolled out market-by-market over a two-year period depending consumer SVOD adoption, familiarity with payment (credit card) options and assimilation with distribution partner platforms.
Disney+ will bow in the United States in Disney’s Q1 fiscal period and in Western Europe and Asia in Q1/Q2 fiscal year 2020. Rollouts in Eastern Europe and Latin America will occur in 2021.
“We prioritize [markets worldwide] where product is available … in addition to markets where consumer have already demonstrated a willingness to pay for SVOD service and content more generally,” he said. “By considering all these factors together, we created our global Disney+ launch roadmap.”
Original Disney movies available at launch include Noelle, a fantasy adventure Christmas comedy film directed and written by Marc Lawrence. The film stars Anna Kendrick as Noelle Claus, the daughter of Santa Claus. It also stars Bill Hader, Billy Eichner, Shirley MacLaine, and Julie Hagerty.
Other content includes original series “Falcon & Winter Soldier,” based on the Marvel movie characters; a new Phineas and Ferb animated movie; and “The Imagineering Story,” which looks at the past, present and future achievements of Walt Disney’s Imagineering staff at the numerous Disney theme parks, among other content exclusives. The National Geographic section of the service will have a docuseries called “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” starring the actor.
“Disney+ subscribers will be able to customize their profiles to their favorite Disney characters,” Mayer said, adding that parental controls could limit children to access only family friendly content.
Disney’s animated movies will be available at launch, including the company’s shrewdly-marketed “vault” titles. In addition, 18 Pixar movies will be available, including all short films.
Disney’s Lucasfilm unit is in development on a second “Star Wars” live-action series for Disney+, the over-the-top subscription streaming video service launching in 2019.
The series will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events ofRogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Andor, which he originated in the 2016 movie.
The spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. A release date has yet to be announced.
Disney+ is also creating (through Marvel Studios) a live-action series based on Loki, the god of mischief, to star Tom Hiddleston.
The new projects join a slate of movies and series planned for Disney+ that includes new stories set in the worlds of Pixar’sMonsters Inc., Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” and “Star Wars.”
Earlier this year, Lucasfilm revealed that Emmy-nominated producer/actor Jon Favreau would write and executive produce “The Mandalorian”for Disney+.
The live-action series, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, is currently in production with a lineup of directors that include Deborah Chow (Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Dave Filoni (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Star Wars Rebels”), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios’Thor: Ragnarok).
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Solo: A Star Wars Story stayed on top of the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Oct. 6.
Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom held onto the No. 2 spot on both charts.
Disney’s Hocus Pocus was No. 3 on the overall chart and No. 4 on the Blu-ray sales chart.
Two newcomers rounded out the top five.
Sony Pictures’ Sicario: Day of the Soldado debuted at No. 4 overall and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart. The sequel to 2015’s Sicario (which is distributed on home video by Lionsgate) earned $50 million in U.S. theaters, about $3 million more than its predecessor.
Universal’s The First Purge bowed at No. 5 on both charts. The fourth film in the “Purge” franchise earned $69 million at the domestic box office.
Blu-ray Disc accounted for 69% of Sicario: Day of the Soldado sales, with 14% coming from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. For First Purge, Blu-ray comprised 51% of total unit sales, and 9% on UHD BD.
On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Oct. 7, Sicario: Day of the Soldado was No. 1 and First Purge was No. 2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom slipped to No. 3, with Solo coming in at No. 4 and Warner’s Ocean’s 8 at No. 5.
Lucasfilm has begun production of the new “Star Wars” live-action series slated to debut with the Disney direct-to-consumer streaming service that is expected to launch near the end of 2019.
Executive producer Jon Favreau took to Instagram Oct. 3 to reveal the working title of the series is “The Mandalorian” in a graphic that resembles the style and coloring of a “Star Wars” film’s title crawl:
“After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. ‘The Mandalorian’ is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”
The show would thus take place within the 30-year period after the events of Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.
Mandalorians in the “Star Wars” canon are a race of warriors that have been heavily featured on the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels,” where it was revealed they once lost a war to the Jedi of the Old Republic. By the time of the Clone Wars, the people of Mandalore had largely moved beyond their aggressive history, though splinter groups were trying to revive the ancient ways.
They are best known for their distinctive armor, usually consisting of helmets with T-shaped eye slits, as well as jet packs. Mandalorian armor was worn by the characters of Boba Fett and Jango Fett in the films. The first production photo for the series, posted Oct. 4 by Favreau, shows an individual wearing traditional Mandalorian armor.
Favreau, who is also writing the series, voiced the Mandalorian revivalist Pre Vizsla during a prominent story arc on “The Clone Wars.” He later voiced the multi-armed pilot Rio Durant in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
According to StarWars.com, longtime “Star Wars” animation producer Dave Filoni will make the jump to live action to direct the first episode of “The Mandalorian.” The announced line-up of additional episodic directors includes Deborah Chow (“Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok).
The team of executive producers, in addition to Favreau, will include Filoni, Colin Wilson and Kathleen Kennedy, who was recently given a three-year extension as president of Lucasfilm. Karen Gilchrist will serve as co-executive producer.
Lucasfilm’s Solo: A Star Wars Story debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Sept. 29.
The film, distributed by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, is a prequel to the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie, telling the story of how a youthful Han Solo became embroiled in the galactic criminal underworld. Amid numerous production problems, however, Solo grossed just $213.8 million at the domestic box office, the lowest tally of any live-action “Star Wars” film to date.
Slipping a spot to No. 2 on both charts was the previous week’s top seller, Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, followed by Disney’s Hocus Pocus at No. 3.
Another newcomer, Lionsgate’s Uncle Drew, landed at No. 4 on both charts. The basketball comedy, which stars NBA player Kyrie Irving reprising his old-man streetball legend character from a series of Pepsi commercials, earned $42.5 million in U.S. theaters.
Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War was No. 5 on both charts in its seventh week on shelves.
Blu-ray Disc accounted for 73% of first-week Solo sales, compared with 50% for Uncle Drew. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format comprised 18% of Solo‘s unit sales total, compared with 4% for Uncle Drew.
On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Sept. 30, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom held onto the top spot for a second week.
Uncle Drew debuted at No. 2, followed by Solo at No. 3. Redbox does not have a distribution agreement with Disney, which sometimes limits the number of copies of Disney titles available in the rental market and leads Disney titles to sometimes debut lower than they might otherwise be expected to.
Rounding out the top five rentals were two titles from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment: Ocean’s 8 at No. 4 and Tag at No. 5.
Street Date 9/25/18; Disney/Lucasfilm; Sci-Fi; Box Office $213.75 million; $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD; Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action/violence. Stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau.
The idea of exploring what Han Solo was up to before he encountered Luke Skywalker in that dusty cantina at the edge of the galaxy is certainly not a new concept in the realm of “Star Wars” fiction. No fewer than six novels have been devoted to the subject. A young Han was even considered for a cameo in Revenge of the Sith before that ill-conceived idea was scrapped. Still, the idea of a live-action prequel film devoted to the character was not something most fans would have considered to be in the realm of possibility prior to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm.
In retrospect it’s easy for some fans to say they always thought such a movie was a bad idea, that exploring the backstory of the popular rogue would take some of the shine off his mystery and charm. But really, the prospect of a Han Solo origin movie, in the right creative hands, wasn’t without a certain appeal. It’s just, ask the average “Star Wars” fan what they would want to see covered in a spinoff film, and Young Han probably wouldn’t have been at the top of their list.
But it was at the top of the list of Lawrence Kasdan, the Hollywood veteran who in his own youth wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and was pretty familiar with the character of Han (he also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, a playground for Harrison Ford’s other most famous character). So if anyone was the right choice to write a young Han movie, it would be him (joined by his son, Jon).
That he didn’t sign on to direct it, too, may very well have been at the nexus of what the public would come to perceive as a very troubled production.
Now, two names you won’t hear mentioned throughout any of the bonus materials on a packed Solo Blu-ray are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo originally hired to direct the Kasdans’ script. They ended up leaving the project under curious circumstances very late in the production, reportedly due to their comedic sensibilities not meshing with the studios’ intended tone of the film. (They ended up with an executive producer credit on the final film.)
Arcane union rules blocked Lawrence Kasdan from taking the directing reins, leaving the studio to turn to another Lucasfilm veteran, Ron Howard (who directed 1988’s Willow), who supposedly re-shot much of the film.
The only reference made on the Blu-ray that even hints at what happened before Howard came on board is the mention of a “hiatus,” brought up during a 22-minute roundtable discussion between Howard and the cast that segues into an anecdote about “Star Wars” creator George Lucas visiting the set of the Millennium Falcon just as the new director had come on board. Lucas apparently offered some key advice on how to portray Han on screen.
The finished movie is hardly the mess it could have been — Howard is too skilled a director to let that happen. But it’s not exactly a masterpiece, either. It’s really just a serviceable “Star Wars” movie — a slick, fun adventure that doesn’t probe much beneath the surface of Han’s backstory beyond showcasing a rundown of some of the key events we had heard about in the original trilogy.
Think of it as the “Star Wars” equivalent of the Young Indy flashback at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stretched to feature length. Of course, that Last Crusade sequence would go on to inspire “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” TV series. So, maybe the prequelitis in the air from the similar efforts to present younger versions of two iconic Harrison Ford characters has contributed a bit to Solo feeling more like a solid episode of a “Star Wars” anthology TV series, or even a TV movie with top-notch production values. It fits in with the saga, but it’s more like something you can watch to fill in the blanks. It does cast a few scenes from the original trilogy in a new light, so it has that going for it.
Some of the initial concern about the project stemmed from the idea of trying to find an actor to embody the young Solo without drawing too many comparisons to Ford. While Alden Ehrenreich may not have been many fans’ first choice, he’s quite capable in a role that, if given the chance, he may have very well made his own. The problem, alas, is that lackluster box office might limit his chances of playing Han in further prequel adventures. And if this does turn out to be his only chance in the cockpit, then his performance is liable to be viewed in the same vein as George Lazenby’s was in his one-and-only chance trying to replace Sean Connery as James Bond.
This Lazenby effect is the biggest stumbling block to the notion that Ehrenreich’s Han is the same character Ford played, an awkwardness that may well be alleviated if audiences ever gets the chance to get used to him from several appearances that in turn retroactively improve the perception of him in his first.
This is much less of a problem for Donald Glover as Lando, who handles the chores of personifying a young Billy Dee Williams rather effortlessly. Really, though, the whole cast came to play, and the character dynamics are really the biggest strength of the film, particularly between Han and Chewbacca once they finally meet (in a fun sequence that lets the two future partners fight each other).
The story involves Han trying to escape his Dickensian upbringing as an orphan in a street gang, vowing to return to find his lost love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After joining the Imperial military to learn how to fly, he ends up deserting his post to take up with a crew of thieves looking to steal high-grade spaceship fuel for one of the galaxy’s roughest criminal syndicates. When it turns out Qi’ra is a top advisor to the syndicate boss, Han is given a crash course on the intricacies on life in the underworld.
Viewed within the larger context of the saga, this is really the first film to focus on the criminal underpinnings of the “Star Wars” galaxy hinted at in the other films. Thematically, then, the film is of a kind with the franchise’s other prequels, each tied to the role the original trilogy’s three main heroes — Luke, Leia and Han — represented to the story of how the Rebellion defeated the Empire. The Jedi backstory, which Luke came to embody, was explored in Episodes I, II and III. The military and political aspects of the Rebellion symbolized by Leia were fleshed out in Rogue One. And with Solo we get the flavor of the underworld and the shadier dealings of the scoundrels who might not necessarily care who’s in charge.
In addition, composer John Powell’s score imbues the film with a sense of whimsy, meshing fresh material with recognizable cues from the previous films, anchored by a new Han Solo theme composed by the maestro himself, John Williams.
The film takes a few steps to place itself within the larger shared “Star Wars” universe, with references and connections to other movies and TV shows that hardcore fans will notice and are clearly meant to set up larger storylines to pay off in other films that may or may not be direct sequels. Regrettably, the film’s underwhelming box office results caused Disney to pump the brakes on the rapidity of production of future “Star Wars” spinoff films, which would be a real shame if it meant they never made the only potential spinoff the fans actually seem to want, which would be an Obi-Wan movie with Ewan McGregor back in the role).
In addition to the roundtable discussion, the Blu-ray also includes about 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes detailing various subjects such as the writing process, the visual effects, executing key action sequences, and re-creating and re-imagining elements familiar to audiences from the original trilogy.
There are also 15 minutes of deleted scenes, including some interesting looks at Han at the Imperial Academy and an extended version of the fight between Han and Chewie.