Disney+ Greenlights Season 2 of ‘The Santa Clauses’ Series

Disney+ on Dec. 14 announced it has greenlighted a second season of the original series “The Santa Clauses.”

Tim Allen will executive-produce and continue in his role as Santa/Scott Calvin from the Walt Disney Pictures theatrical franchise. Elizabeth Mitchell will reprise her role as Mrs. Claus/Carol.

Alongside Allen, Jack Burditt will continue as executive producer and showrunner, and Kevin Hench, Richard Baker and Rick Messina will serve as executive producers along with Jason Winer and Jon Radler for Small Dog Picture Company. Season one of the series, which premiered on Nov. 16, is currently streaming on Disney+. 

“This franchise has had a lasting impact for so many families, truly becoming part of their annual holiday traditions,” said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television. “Bringing it back as a series has been a true gift, and I’m grateful to our producing partners at 20th Television and, of course, Tim Allen and team, that we have yet another reason to celebrate this holiday season.”

Allen first portrayed Santa/Scott Calvin in the 1994 film The Santa Clause. Mitchell was introduced as Carol in the 2002 sequel The Santa Clause 2 when Allen’s character must find a Mrs. Claus in order to continue being Santa. 

Allen, whose popularity skyrocketed as the star of the top-rated ABC series “Home Improvement,” earned numerous awards for his role of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, including a Golden Globe in 1994 and The People’s Choice Award for eight consecutive years from 1992 to 1999. Allen also starred for nine seasons on the hit series “Last Man Standing.”

In 1995, Allen voiced the Buzz Lightyear character in Pixar’s first computer-animated film, Toy Story. He reprised the role in two sequels, 1999’s Toy Story 2 and 2010’s Toy Story 3. He also appeared as the character in a number of “Toy Story” short films, including “Hawaiian Vacation,” “Small Fry” and “Partysaurus Rex.”

In season one of “The Santa Clauses,” Scott Calvin returns after being Santa Claus for nearly 30 years, and he’s as jolly as ever. But as Christmas declines in popularity, so does his Santa magic. Scott struggles to keep up with the demands of the job, as well as being there for his family. Upon discovering there is a way to retire from his post, Scott considers stepping down as Santa Claus and finding a worthy successor so that he can become a better father and husband.

The Disney Branded Television series is a production of 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.

Lightyear

Street Date 9/13/22;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $ 118.31 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action/peril.
Voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Efren Ramirez, Keira Hairston.

When first announced, the idea of a solo Buzz Lightyear movie caused a lot of confusion among “Toy Story” fans, particularly with the casting of Chris Evans to voice the character instead of Tim Allen.

The rationale, as originally explained, was that the movie would be the story of the astronaut that provided the basis of the toy that ends up in Andy’s collection. This conjured notions of Pixar doing a “Right Stuff” type movie set during the Cold War, which would seem to justify the casting change.

Then the trailers arrived and previewed a story containing the usual Buzz Lightyear staples associated with the toy: futuristic ships, Star Command and Zurg, belying the notion of this being about a “real” character within the “Toy Story” universe.

No, as the opening text of the film makes clear, Lightyear is a movie released in the early 1990s in the “Toy Story” universe that provided the inspiration for the Buzz Lightyear IP and became Andy’s favorite movie, which is why he wanted the toy.

Providing in-universe backstories for the fictional toys in Andy’s room is certainly not out of the ordinary for the “Toy Story” franchise. The second movie went into a lot of detail about Woody’s origins as a character in an old 1950s Western puppet show.

When it comes to Buzz Lightyear, however, Disney and Pixar already played the IP expansion card with the “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” cartoon in 2000 that established in its first episode that it was the inspiration for the Buzz toyline. The show even had a spinoff video game like the one seen in the second movie.

But if the Buzz Lightyear the toy is supposed to be the merchandising for Lightyear, then that just brings back the question of why Tim Allen isn’t doing the voice, since the actors in sci-fi movies record voices for toy versions of their characters all the time.

Changing the voice isn’t so unusual in those circumstances either, as toy tie-ins often bring in soundalikes to save money. But is that supposed to mean Tim Allen’s voice for the Buzz Lightyear toy has now been retconned to be a cheap imitation of Chris Evan’s voice from this movie? That doesn’t seem very respectful to Allen’s contributions to the franchise for the past 25 years. (And it’s doubly ironic considering how much Evans is trying to echo Allen’s performance.)

To be fair, the “Star Command” series did have Patrick Warburton voicing Buzz, though Allen did the voice for the movie version of the first episode.

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Lightyear pretty much disregards any storyline connections to the “Star Command” show anyway. It plays a lot more like a reimagining of the Buzz character, with the tag line about it being Andy’s favorite movie added later to tie it more explicitly to the franchise.

The idea of Lightyear being a big-budget sci-fi adventure movie from the early 1990s doesn’t quite ring true either, as it presents themes and plot points that while common among Hollywood attitudes today would not have been touched by studios 30 years ago.

On top of that, Lightyear, though animated for us, is supposed to be a live-action movie within the context of the “Toy Story” movies. That’s yet another aspect to the presentation that franchise fans couldn’t quite wrap their heads around, and when all was said and done it ended up being among the lowest-grossing box office performers in the Pixar canon.(Maybe that’s the movie they should have made — an actual live-action Buzz Lightyear movie done in the style of early 1990s actioners with minimal CGI. It certainly would have upped the curiosity factor.) 

The story itself seems like a pastiche of better films of the past decade, from Interstellar to The Lego Movie 2, that presents a rather generic Buzz Lightyear adventure layered with subtle references to the “Toy Story” movies.

Buzz is part of a Star Command expedition that crashes on an alien world. Vowing to get the crew home, he volunteers to test-fly new ships with hyperdrive technology, but each mission pushes him years into the future while he doesn’t age at all. He witnesses the crash survivors form a new colony, and a new generation decides to stay on the planet and cancel further missions. So Buzz finds himself a man out of time, but after his last attempt to break the lightspeed barrier he discovers the planet is under attack by an army of killer robots led by Zurg. To stop them, he is forced to team with a ragtag squad of Star Command cadets, their efforts ultimately conveying a message of teamwork and togetherness over individualism. Plus there’s a cute little robot cat.

Lightyear has its moments, but it’s probably going to end up as the least memorable “Toy Story” movie. The funniest thing about it just might be how many kids will want to see it thanks to the glut of Lightyear toys released to stores as a marketing tie-in, just like Andy did, apparently. Judging by the box office returns, not that many — I guess parents weren’t fooled (or waited for it to show up on Disney+).

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The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with the key filmmakers, who discuss how the story evolved and how scenes changed over time because they weren’t meeting expectations. For example, the film was originally going to be the story of Buzz’s first Star Command mission and earning his iconic suit, while the final product starts with him already on active duty and wearing the suit.

Also included are nearly 27 minutes of deleted sequence storyboards that provide more insights into this early conception for the film’s storyline.

Rounding out the extras are three featurettes. The 14-minute “Building the World of Lightyear” show’s off the process of designing the film’s various environments, ships and characters; The nine-minute “The Zap Patrol” profile’s Buzz’s new team; and the 10-minute “Toyetic” is about the film’s toy merchandise, as well as how toys such as Legos were used to help design various ships for the film with an eye toward creating the toys later. The heavy toy haul isn’t unexpected for a “Toy Story” movie, but seeing the how the production and toy development are tied together certainly explains a lot.

Universal/Focus Features Top Plodding Weekend Box Office as Trade Group Warns of Exhibitor Bankruptcy Without Congress Help

Universal Pictures’ specialty films unit Focus Features saw two of its releases — Let Him Go and Come Play — top another sluggish domestic weekend (through Nov. 8) undermined by wary moviegoers and scant major new studio titles due to the ongoing pandemic.

The yearly domestic box office topped $1.978 billion through the weekend — largely based on theatrical releases prior to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down all screens in mid-March. That’s down more than 75% from last year.

New release Let Him Go, which stars Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as a Montana couple who seek to rescue their grandson from a dangerous living situation, topped the weekend with $4.1 million in ticket sales. It was followed by $1.7 million in box office receipts for horror film Come Play, which has generated $5.6 million after two weeks of release.

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Both titles are earmarked for early PVOD release as part of Universal’s landmark agreement with AMC Theatres enabling the studio to offer theatrical releases to consumers in the home three weekends after their big screen launch. AMC gets a share of the direct-to-consumer revenue.

Rounding out the podium was The War With Grandpa, the 101 Studios’ family comedy starring Robert De Niro that took in $1.5 million to reach $13.4 million after three weeks. Liam Neeson drama Honest Thief grabbed $1.1 million to help the Open Road Films title reach $11.2 million after four weeks of release.

Disney/Pixar Animation’s catalog title Toy Story finished fifth with $500,000 in ticket sales — nearly 25 years after the animated classic was first released.

In a media interview, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, warned that without an immediate fiscal lifeline from Congress, the exhibitor industry could face a wave of bankruptcies. The industry is pushing “Save Our Stages,” a bipartisan addendum to a larger stimulus bill languishing on Capitol Hill.

“Even though we’re allowed to open in 48 states, without a substantial slate of big movies, and with people still worried about the virus, our revenues have been decimated,” Fithian told Variety. “We’re losing money while operating. And we were shut down entirely for many, many months. It’s life or death for many, many, many theater companies.”

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

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The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.

 

‘Toy Story 4,’ From Disney, Pixar, Gets Home Release Dates

Toy Story 4, the year’s No. 4 movie at the box office, will become available for home viewing in October, the Walt Disney Co. announced Aug. 22.

The animated film, with a domestic gross of $425 million, will arrive on digital Oct. 1, with a Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release following on Oct. 8.

The fourth film in the “Toy Story” franchise is a sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3, which took in $415 million in North American movie theaters. The franchise was launched in 1995 with Pixar’s original Toy Story, the world’s first fully computer-animated feature film. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.

Toy Story 4 features an all-star voice cast that includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves and Joan Cusack.

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The home editions of Toy Story 4 contain more than an hour of bonus features celebrating Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the franchise’s other iconic characters. Extras includes deleted scenes such as an alternate ending; a new featurette that chronicles Woody and Buzz’s friendship through the years; studio stories shared by members of the Pixar team; a nostalgic look back at the creation and first storyboard screening of Toy Story with filmmakers; and a documentary on the pioneering efforts of Pixar artists who created the sets, characters, look and feel of the original film.

In Toy Story 4, Woody (Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s new craft-project-turned-toy Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) calls himself “trash,” Woody decides to teach Forky how to embrace being a toy. But a road-trip adventure, including an unexpected reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), shows Woody how big the world can be for a toy. New additions to the cast of animated characters include carnival prizes Ducky (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Peele) bring a new level of fun to the film.

The fourth installment in the “Toy Story” series will be packaged several ways for home consumption. Toy Story 4 arrives home a week early on digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD with two exclusive extras, including a deleted scene, “Bonnie’s Playtime.”

A week later, fans will be able to buy physical copies of the film on disc, also in various incarnations: as a 4K Ultra HD combo pack (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital code), a Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital code) and a single DVD.

Also available is a digital bundle of all four films.