Disney Opening Branded Stores at Target

The Walt Disney Co. and Target Corp. Aug. 25 at D23 Expo announced a retail collaboration aimed at jumpstarting the Disney brand in third-party retail locations.

Disney is launching 25 branded stores within select Target stores nationwide on Oct. 4, with 40 additional locations opening by October 2020.

The partnership also includes a Disney-focused digital experience on Target.com. Additionally, a new Target store will open at Flamingo Crossings Town Center at the western entrance of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.

To Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and former head of home entertainment, the retail collaboration combines two companies’ focus on families at the retail level.

“Disney and Target share a common vision to provide our guests and consumers with innovative and unique experiences, and high quality product,” Chapek said in a statement.

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Brian Cornell, CEO at Target, said the companies’ combined omni-channel retail platform would create “inspiring and unique” experiences for consumers.

“This collaboration reflects the strength of our platforms and assets to create value for guests and growth for both companies beyond the traditional retail model,” he said.

The branded stores will showcase specialty merchandise from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, in addition to featuring clips of movies available theatrically and in home entertainment.

Target remains one of the largest retailers of packaged media entertainment.

The launch will include a new assortment of merchandise from Disney’s Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Additional locations will be added to more Target stores over the next year to expand the Disney store retail footprint.

The Disney stores will be Target-operated, branded “shop-in-shop” with an average of 750 square feet, strategically located inside Target stores adjacent to kids clothing and toys, replicated online at Target.com/Disneystore and on the Target app.

The “shop-in-shop” will feature an enhanced Disney assortment of more than 450 items, including more than 100 products that were previously only available at Disney retail locations.

Consumers will be able to browse and shop a variety of Disney Princess, Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Junior characters, classic Disney plush, apparel, home and holiday-specific products.

They’ll also be able to access collectible merchandise, including the Disney Animators’ Collection with dolls, clothing and accessories. Items will range in price from $2 to $200, with many items under $20.

Disney store at Target promises an engaging shopping experience with music, interactive displays, photo opportunities and a seating area where families can relax and watch Disney movie clips and Park events.

Consumers will be able to take advantage of all of the benefits of shopping at Target when they purchase items from Disney store at Target, whether online or in stores.

Target consumers can purchase Disney products with 5% off using their Target REDcard and can take advantage of convenient pickup and delivery options, including same-day pickup, same-day delivery and free two-day shipping.

Disney store at Target will open in October in the following 25 Target stores:

Allen North #2516 (Allen, Texas)
Austin NW #1797 (Austin, Texas)
Bozeman #1237 (Bozeman, Mont.)
Brighton #922 (Brighton, Mich.)
Chicago Brickyard #1924 (Chicago, Ill.)
Clearwater #1820 (Clearwater, Fla.)
Denver Stapleton #2052 (Denver, Colo.)
Edmond #1398 (Edmond, Okla.)
Euless #1368 (Euless, Texas)
Houston North Central #1458 (Spring, Texas)
Jacksonville Mandarin #1300 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Keizer #2110 (Keizer, Ore.)
Lake Stevens #1331 (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
Leesburg #1874 (Leesburg, Va.)
Loveland #1178 (Loveland, Colo.)
Maple Grove North #2193 (Maple Grove, Minn.)
Mobile West #1376 (Mobile, Ala.)
Murrieta #1283 (Murrieta, Calif.)
New Lenox #2028 (New Lenox, Ill.)
Pasadena #1396 (Pasadena, Texas)
Philadelphia West #2124 (Philadelphia, Pa.)
San Jose College Park #2088 (San Jose, Calif.)
South Jordan #2123 (South Jordan, Utah)
Stroudsburg #1260 (Stroudsburg, Pa.)
Waterford Park #2068 (Clarksville, Ind.)

 

‘Star Wars Resistance’ Season 1 on DVD Aug. 20

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.

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The Rise of the Cons

In a simpler time, a comic book convention was little more than a humble gathering of comic book fans. But in today’s age of franchises and big-budget blockbusters, the largest of these conventions have become a major destination for the Hollywood hype machine.

The modern concept of a fan convention dates back to the late 1930s, with various gatherings of science-fiction fans in Philadelphia and New York, which attracted a few dozen attendees. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York saw the first World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event now known as Worldcon.

Subsequent years saw hundreds of local and regional conventions spring up to celebrate science-fiction and, eventually, related genres. Among them was the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon) founded in 1948.

In early September 1966, Gene Roddenberry attended the Tricon World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, to promote his new series called “Star Trek” a week before its premiere on NBC. Guests were treated to a few early episodes, including the original pilot. By the time “Star Trek” was canceled in 1969, it had built up a loyal fanbase that only grew once the episodes were syndicated. While “Star Trek” had become a presence at various sci-fi conventions, typical sci-fi fans at the time were mostly focused on literature and looked down on TV and movies, which weren’t taken as seriously. As such, a group of “Star Trek” fans believed celebrating their favorite show merited its own event.

Many historians consider the first dedicated “Star Trek” convention to have taken place in March 1969 — a low-key meeting at the Newark Public Library that attracted about 300 attendees, but no one associated with the show. The first major “Star Trek” convention took place in January 1972 at New York’s Statler Hilton, a three-day affair known as “Star Trek Lives!” Guests included Roddenberry and legendary sci-fi author Isaac Asimov. Organizers anticipated about 500 attendees, but more than 3,000 fans showed up. The 1973 event had nearly 10,000 fans register to attend, and up to 14,000 in 1974.

Currently, the largest and most notable “Star Trek” conventions are staged in Las Vegas by Creation Entertainment. The first Creation “Star Trek” convention took place in 2001, and the annual events regularly draw about 15,000 fans.

The show that evolved into what’s now known as San Diego Comic-Con International has its roots in a one-day event known as San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, held March 21, 1970, in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel. About 100 people attended the event, which was organized by a comic book fan group that included Shel Dorf and bookstore owner Ken Kreuger, who was part of the earlier sci-fi fandom. The organizers used the exhibition to raise funds for a three-day event they were planning for later in the year. The first of what was then called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con took place Aug. 1-3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel basement and drew about 300 people to what was primarily a show for comic book and sci-fi/fantasy fans. The second show a year later at the UCSD campus in La Jolla drew 800 attendees, and the third show in 1972 drew more than 900 people to the El Cortez Hotel.

The show changed its name to San Diego Comic-Con for its fourth show in August 1973 at the Harbor Island Sheraton Hotel, which drew more than 1,000 attendees.

In 1974 San Diego Comic-Con returned to the El Cortez, where it stayed for the next five years and again in 1981, as attendance steadily grew, peaking at 5,000 in 1978. The 1974 show featured a film room and hosted a screening of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

The first “Star Wars” poster, designed by Howard Chaykin, sold at Comic-Con and other fan shows in 1976.

But it wasn’t until 1976 that the seeds were planted for Comic-Con as a promotional vehicle for major Hollywood productions. That show, held July 21-25 at the El Cortez with an attendance of more than 3,000 fans, featured an early preview of Star Wars nearly a year before the landmark sci-fi film’s May 1977 release. PR guru Charles Lippincott, fresh off an appearance at Westercon in L.A. July 2, showed photos from Star Wars to a crowd of a couple hundred people, promoted the forthcoming comic book adaptation and novelization, and set up a booth to answer fan questions and sell movie posters for $1.75 each (copies of the poster today can be found on eBay listed for more than $7,000). Lippincott’s appearance at Comic-Con and other fan gatherings, such as Worldcon, was part of a concerted effort to build buzz and recognition among the fan community for the then-unknown sci-fi property, which paid off when Star Wars became the highest-grossing film of all time up to that point.

Lippincott’s efforts to promote the original Star Wars touched off a long collaboration between the franchise and San Diego Comic-Con, as previews for The Empire Strikes Back at the 1979 Comic-Con and Return of the Jedi in 1982 would draw huge crowds as well, and the model for building brand awareness at fan conventions would eventually be used to create the Star Wars Celebrations.

For its 10th show in 1979, San Diego Comic-Con moved to a new home at the Convention and Performing Arts Center (CPAC), and attendance would grow from 6,000 to 13,000 by 1990.

The 22nd show in 1991 saw Comic-Con move to its current home at the then-new San Diego Convention Center, attracting 15,000 guests. With the new venue, attendance would quickly grow, hitting 40,000 in 1997.
In 1995, the 26th show became Comic-Con International: San Diego and unveiled the “eye” logo that is still in use today.

The 1990s would see Hollywood expanding its presence at Comic-Con. The 1994 convention hosted screenings for Natural Born Killers and The Mask. The 1996 show featured a celebration of the 30th anniversary of “Star Trek.”

Promotional efforts would increasingly include celebrity appearances at the convention. The 1997 show featured director Paul Verhoeven and Starship Troopers, and Michael Jai White and John Leguizamo promoting the live-action Spawn movie. One of the most popular attractions of the 1998 Comic-Con was the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” panel and signing featuring creator Joss Whedon and most of the cast.

Over the next few years, films such as The Blair Witch Project, The Iron Giant, Terminator 3, Hellboy, Daredevil, the “Lord of the Rings” movies, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man would take to the stage.

The 2001 convention drew 53,000 attendees, and by 2003, Comic-Con was drawing unprecedented coverage from mainstream press outlets.

As the San Diego Convention Center expanded, Comic-Con expanded with it, moving programming into new exhibit halls and even nearby venues in downtown San Diego. In 2000, Comic-Con added an Anime Showcase programming track, and devoted Sunday to children’s and family entertainment. Major panels were moved to the 4,800-seat Ballroom 20 in 2002, and the 6,500-seat Hall H in 2004.

The 2006 Comic-Con featured the first panel for Marvel Studios, which had just entered an agreement to finance its own films. The panel led by producer Kevin Feige included director Jon Favreau to discuss the upcoming Iron Man, which would be released in 2008. Marvel’s announced slate also included The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Ant-Man (eventually released in 2015). Future movies announced for what would eventually be known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe included Captain America (2011), Thor (2011) and a Nick Fury standalone movie that thus far has yet to happen. Feige also teased the possibility of an “Avengers” movie should the early films perform well enough. In the 13 years since that first panel, Marvel Studios has produced 23 films (including four “Avengers” movies) with a combined worldwide box office of $22 billion.

By 2010, fans would be required to wait in long lines to see the major presentations in Hall H, Ballroom 20 and even some of the mid-size meeting rooms. Fans would even take to camping out in the long Hall H lines the night before major presentations.

Attendance grew from 95,000 in 2004 to 130,000 by 2010, peaking at 167,000 in 2015. Capacity limits have since brought attendance back into the 130,000 range.

The Bay Area of California would get its own annual convention in 1987, the Wonderful World of Comics Convention, now known as WonderCon. The show, typically held a few months prior to Comic-Con, was held at the Oakland Convention Center until 2002, before moving to San Francisco’s Moscone Center in 2003.

In 2001, the Comic-Con International group took control of WonderCon, opening it up to a wider audience and giving it greater exposure to Hollywood studios. With the Moscone Center under renovation in 2012, WonderCon moved to the Anaheim Convention Center, where it has been held every year since, with the exception of the 2016 show taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

With its Southern California presence, WonderCon has taken on the flavor of a “Comic-Con lite,” drawing about 60,000 fans each year.

As scheduling conflicts hampered WonderCon’s return to the Bay Area, the void was filled by the Silicon Valley Comic Con, which began in 2016, co-founded by Apple’s Steve Wozniak.

Amid the newfound massive media attention heaped on Comic-Con, Reed Exhibitions in 2006 staged the first New York Comic Con at the Javits Convention Center. Initially held in February, the annual event moved to October in 2010. The New York event quickly became as important a venue as Comic-Con for promoting movies, TV shows and video games. In 2018, NYCC surpassed San Diego Comic-Con as the largest comic book convention in North America, with attendance passing 250,000.

In 1999, the hype surrounding the release of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace helped inspire Lucasfilm to organize its own fan event dedicated to “Star Wars.” The first Star Wars Celebration took place from April 30 to May 2, 1999, in Denver, Colo., home of the official “Star Wars” fan club. The second and third Celebration events were held in Indianapolis in 2002, timed for the release of Episode II — Attack of the Clones, and in 2005, to promote Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Subsequent Celebrations would be held semi-regularly to promote major “Star Wars” anniversaries and new films, in locations such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando and Anaheim, and internationally in Japan, Germany and England. With Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, Star Wars Celebration joined the D23 Expo as one of the studio’s key promotional tools for fan outreach.

The Walt Disney Co. in 2009 started staging its own proprietary fan convention, the D23 Expo, held every two years at the Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from Disneyland. D23 is the official fan club of The Walt Disney Co., founded in March 2009. D23 had its own booth at Comic-Con that year in advance of the first D23 Expo Sept. 10-13. Organized like a typical fan convention, the expo included panels promoting new Disney projects, retrospectives of Disney company history and classic films, an exhibit floor featuring merchandise, and prop displays. Subsequent to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, “Star Wars” was added to the roster of promoted brands in 2013. The 2015 Expo featured a major presence from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney Studios. By 2017 the D23 Expo was rivaling Comic-Con in terms of attendance, drawing an estimated 100,000 fans.

In 2015, Cinedigm partnered with Wizard World, an organizer of several annual regional conventions, to launch streaming service ConTV (www.ConTV.com), which provides behind-the-scenes access to Wizard World Comic Cons, along with classic films, television series and comics.

The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/7/19;
Screen Media;
Documentary;
$29.98 DVD;
Not rated.

This eight-part documentary series that originally premiered on Netflix delves into the history of some of the most influential toy brands from the past 50 years.

With a particular focus on toys that were big in the 1980s, when the loosening of the rules governing television programming blurred the line between content and advertising, it’s no surprise that many of the toy lines profiled here also rank among the most significant pop culture franchises as well.

Fittingly, then, the first episode deals with “Star Wars,” and how the George Lucas space opera forever changed the landscape of movie merchandising, while elevating a small toymaker such as Kenner into a national powerhouse. Not that other major players such as Hasbro and Mattel aren’t represented.

The hour-long episodes are divided into two seasons — one season per disc — and smartly focus on a different toy brand each episode. That allows each episode to find its own voice in telling the story of that particular toy, while letting viewers pick and choose which episodes they want to watch based on which of the toys are of interest to them.

Other season one episodes focus on “Barbie,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “G.I. Joe.” Season two deals with “Star Trek,” “The Transformers,” “Lego” and “Hello Kitty.”

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Aside from some invaluable under-the-radar lessons about business and marketing, the episodes offer a pure blast of childhood nostalgia, particularly for Gen Xers who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Which isn’t to say that younger viewers can’t find something to enjoy in the show, as most of these toy lines are pretty timeless. Plus, the upcoming third season will look at newer toys such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Power Rangers” (in addition to “My Little Pony” and professional wrestling toys).

The shows offer a lot of fascinating details about how the toys were created and evolved. The “He-Man” show is entertaining simply for how so many of the line’s creators want to take credit for coming up with it. The story of the creation of Battle Cat is particularly hilarious.

The first disc offers an eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with series creator Brian Volk-Weiss, who delves into what his goals for the show were and why certain toys were chosen to be profiled.

It seems like a bit of an odd choice to include “Star Trek,” which has never really been associated with a robust toy line. But as the narrator continually brings up how less successful “Trek” toys have been compared with “Star Wars,” the episode comes across more as an avenue to profile the various toy companies like Mego, Galoob and Playmates that tried their hands at “Star Trek” toy lines over the years, with varying degrees of success.

In fact, the lone deleted scene included with the DVDs is from the “Star Trek” episode, consisting of a two-minute clip of various talking heads wondering why the toys based on the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” reboot didn’t sell well.

That discussion hints at the challenges that not just toymakers, but any steward of a popular brand face in the rapidly changing information age. Some brands have always had better success than others in crossing from one generation to the next, but the means of instant gratification brought on by the Internet have altered the tactile relationship viewers have with their favorite content, both in the collectability and playability of the merchandise associated with it.

As one of the talking heads notes in the deleted scene, we don’t really have pop culture anymore. We have a customizable culture, in which consumers can focus on their fandoms like never before.

Whatever the case, at least we have shows like “The Toys That Made Us” to help remind us why we love these things to begin with.

Documentary Series ‘The Toys That Made Us’ on DVD May 7

Screen Media will release The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD May 7.

The eight-episode Netflix documentary series chronicles the creation, marketing evolution and rise in popularity of several key toy lines, with each episode focused on a different brand.

The first four episodes focus on “Star Wars,” “Barbie,” “He-Man” and “G.I. Joe,” with the second season dealing with “Star Trek,” “Transformers,” “Lego” and “Hello Kitty.”

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Disney Creating Star Wars, Marvel Series for Streaming Video Service

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 of Rogue 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’s Monsters 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).

Favreau Teases New ‘Star Wars’ Series ‘The Mandalorian’ for Disney Streaming Service

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.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

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.

As for Lord and Miller’s influences that carried over into the finished project, fans should check out some production notes posted by Jon Kasdan on his Twitter feed.

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.

Disney CEO Bob Iger: OTT Video No. 1 Priority, Not Competing Against Netflix

With the Walt Disney Co. planning to launch a branded over-the-top video platform in late 2019, the SVOD service, along with digital platform ESPN+ and majority ownership of Hulu will dominate the company’s objectives in the coming year, according to CEO Bob Iger.

Speaking Aug. 7 on the fiscal call, Iger said OTT video is a reality and here to stay. He said the pending Disney services would focus on incorporating core brands, including Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, in an effort to complement, and to a lesser extent, compete with SVOD platforms such as Netflix, which is spending $8 billion this year alone on original content.

“The launch of [direct-to-consumer] product at the end of 2019 is the biggest priority of the company during calendar 2019,” said Iger, adding that the service would initially target core Disney fans.

“There will be significant amounts of support given across all of our assets to see to it that the platform launches successfully,” he said.

The service/app will feature original branded series and movies, including the first-ever live-action “Star Wars” series, and new episodes of the “Star Wars: Code Wars” animated series; a live-action version of The Lady and the Tramp, in addition to other new series based on popular Disney properties.

“The [20th Century Fox Film] acquisition brings even more opportunity to create original programming for this platform,” said Iger, who added Disney plans on walking before running with the new service.

“It’s takes time to build the kind of content library [for the service that] ultimately we intend to build,” he said. “Because the app will feature Pixar, Disney, Marvel, National Geographic, Lucasfilm and Star Wars, we feel that it doesn’t have to have anything close to the volume of what Netflix has.”

“This gives us the ability to not necessarily be in the volume game, but be in the quality game,” said Iger. “It’s not as though the cupboard’s going to bare.”

Iger said the recently launched ESPN+, pending family-oriented Disney service along with the existing Hulu platform appeal to different consumer tastes and audience demographics.

“As we look at the environment today … we don’t want to go to market with an aggregation play that replicates the multichannel [TV bundle] environment, because we feel consumers are more interested in making [channel] decisions on their own,” said Iger. “We can offer that kind of flexibility to consumers because that’s … what consumer behavior demands.”

The CEO reiterated that the Disney OTT service would be priced lower than Netflix to reflect the difference in content offerings. He said that upon closing the Fox acquisition, Hulu would “also fit into our app strategy.”

When asked how the 2019 theatrical slate could impact the streaming service, Iger said existing distribution windows would be configured to benefit the OTT service. Next year’s slate includes Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Avengers 4, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Jungle Cruise, Artemis Fowl, Frozen 2 and Star Wars Episode 9.

“For 2019, the studio movie slate is clean and unencumbered,” he said.

Timing of Releases Lowers Q3 Disney Home Entertainment Results

Sometimes the Star Wars brand is only as good as its fiscal timing.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Aug. 7 said its lower third-quarter (ended June 30) revenue was due to a decrease in unit sales driven by the timing of the release of select Star Wars titles.

The DVD/Blu-ray Disc release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was in the second quarter of the current fiscal year whereas the packaged media release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story occurred in the prior-year third quarter. Other significant titles included Black Panther in the current quarter, while the prior-year quarter included Beauty and the Beast and Moana.

Indeed, The Last Jedi tops all packaged media releases in 2018 thus far with more than $86 million generated by sales of 3.8 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units since its March 27 retail release. Other top-selling titles included Thor: Ragnarok ($67.5 million) and Black Panther ($62.8 million).

Overall studio revenue increased 20% to $2.9 billion and segment operating income increased 11% to $708 million. Operating income growth was due to increases in domestic theatrical and worldwide TV/SVOD distribution results, partially offset by film cost impairments related to animated films that will not be released.

The increase in domestic theatrical distribution was due to the success of Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles 2 in the current quarter compared to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Cars 3 in the prior-year quarter, partially offset by higher pre-release marketing costs. Additionally, the current quarter included the continuing performance of Black Panther and the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, whereas the prior-year quarter included the continuing performance of Beauty and the Beast and the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Higher TV/SVOD distribution results were due to the timing of title availabilities at domestic pay and free television businesses, international growth and higher domestic pay television rates.