Maybe Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen head can finally rest in peace.
Since Joe Roth replaced Michael Eisner as the head of Disney's film empire, the Magic Kingdom has gone from being "the house that Uncle Walt built" to "the studio and reputation that Joe destroyed."Actually, the argument can be made that Eisner was responsible for starting the studio's slide into mediocrity. But his tenure there has produced nothing to rival Roth's vulgar live-action comedies, such as "Krippendorf's Tribe," "RocketMan" and "Meet the Deedles."
Fortunately, some sweeping changes finally seem to be underway at Disney.
Steve Burke, president of broadcasting for ABC (which is owned by Disney), recently resigned his post, and Donald DeLine, president of Disney's "adult" movie production arm, Touchstone Pictures, is expected to follow in his footsteps any day now. Their resignations, which have occurred in tandem with a series of layoffs at Disney-owned companies, may be just the start of things.
DeLine has reportedly been on the corporate hot seat for months and has been told by members of the Disney board of directors that they are planning to drastically reduce the Touchstone division's output and concentrate on making Disney "a world leader in family and animated films again."
You can't help but wonder if the decisions haven't been made because of financial concerns (i.e., declining box-office grosses for recent Disney and Touchstone films), rather than a genuine concern for quality.
- GOING DOWN WITH THE SHIP AGAIN, LEO? In the wake of the controversy surrounding the planned film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel "American Psycho," people are dropping out of the project left and right.
Christian Bale (the 1994 version "Little Women") and director Mary Harron ("I Shot Andy Warhol") bailed out when Lions Gate Films announced plans to make "American Psycho" as a multi-million-dollar thriller rather than one of the smaller-budget pictures the indie studio has become known for.
That left Leonardo DiCaprio, who committed to the project when he heard Bale and Harron were involved, to bear the brunt of what was to come.
Officials from the National Organization of Women originally urged a boycott of the book when it was released, and then later attacked the "Titanic" star for accepting the role as the title character.
DiCaprio's publicists have been on damage control duty ever since, going so far as to say that he was "never firmly attached" to the project.
Of course, they add, "he's still interested" if either Harron or Bale decides to come back. Has anyone told the studio yet?
- MORE FROM THE POT-CALLING-THE-KETTLE-BLACK DEPARTMENT: Anyone who's been on the Internet during the past six months knows there are more Web pages dedicated to the new "Star Wars" movie trilogy than almost any other subject out there.
Admittedly, the majority of these pages are filled with misinformation and spurious speculation. So, perhaps to fend off questions from diehard fans and set the record straight, LucasFilm Ltd. has created an official site (www.starwars.com) of its own, which contains photos and brief plot outlines for the first of the new movies - still untitled - scheduled for next May. (There's no word on the site about when theaters will start showing trailers for "Episode 1," but rumor has it they may appear with the "X-Files" movie in two weeks.)
Also on the site is a page that parodies the marketing campaign for the disappointing revisionist version of "Godzilla." It sarcastically notes that "Plot Does Matter" (as opposed to TriStar's "Size Matters" campaign) - a reference to the fact that box-office grosses for "Godzilla" have been good but not as terrific as expected.
Of course, for George Lucas, a filmmaker whose works have never really been known for deep, thoughtful plotting (with the possible exception of "American Graffiti"), to grouse about someone's movie seems a tad hypocritical, doesn't it?
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "A certain degree of paranoia and distrust is healthy. But as you may have gathered, I'm pretty much suspicious of everything and everyone. If anyone ever pays me a compliment, I'm sure there's got to be ulterior motive for it." - Andrew Niccol, writer of the conspiracy-tinged movies "Gattaca" and "The Truman Show."