Disney Downshifts on Feature Production

According to Daily Variety, Disney will soon announce plans to cut its feature film output by half as the studio works to cut expenses by retooling it infrastructure. Despite racing to the top of the charts with Pixar’s Cars and scoring the biggest opening in cinema history with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Disney currently releases an average of 18 films a year, a number of which fail to connect with audiences. The recent animated feature The Wild reportedly cost $80 million and barely broke even at the worldwide box office.

The cutbacks will mean more layoffs at the Mouse House, which will primarily focus on Disney-branded movies. This will likely mean less action at ancillary shingles Touchstone and Miramax. Since Disney isn’t discussing the matter yet, there’s no word on what’s to become of DisneyToon Studios, the unit that produces moderately budgeted theatrical-release and direct-to-video features such as the recently released Bambi II. That film was animated at DisneyToon Studios Australia, which was shuttered after the completion of Brother Bear 2 and Cinderella 3.

One operation that is likely to remain unaffected is the Disney/Pixar hit machine, which only produces one animated feature a year but yields huge box office returns and additional revenue from toys and other merchandising and licensing activities. And though Chicken Little was a surprise hit, we may see a moratorium on toon features not produced by the combined forces of Disney and Pixar, given the meager box office for the aforementioned The Wild and 2005’s Valiant.

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