Disney’s new film boss eyes family-friendly pix

As he begins his new job as president of production at Walt Disney Pictures, Oren Aviv must first define exactly what constitutes a Walt Disney picture — especially because the company wants to brand as many of its movies as possible with the venerable name.

"I'll start by telling you a few great examples," Aviv said Wednesday, a day after he was promoted from marketing chief as part of a sweeping revamp that will see 650 people lose their jobs. "They would be 'Pirates (of the Caribbean),' 'Chronicles of Narnia,' 'National Treasure,' 'The Pacifier' and 'Miracle.' If it's a great idea and it's done with quality and care, then it qualifies to be a Disney movie."

As Disney switches its focus to more family-oriented pictures, Aviv has been charged with releasing 10 live-action and animated films per year under the Disney name, along with two or three adult-skewing pictures under the Touchstone Pictures label.


Asked if he would put a film into production before first deciding if it fell under the Disney or Touchstone banner, Aviv said: "No. I'm very clear as to what defines a Disney movie, and the movies themselves will help shape those definitions. We'll take each project as it comes."

Ratings classifications alone will not delineate a Disney movie. Although the Disney label will not go on any R-rated movies, it can embrace everything from a G to a PG-13.

"We had a movie called 'The Rookie,' that was rated G, while 'Pirates' is PG-13," Aviv said. "To us, anything that's not an R has broad appeal, that you can take the whole family to — that to us has always defined a Disney movie, and that definitely hasn't changed. What we're looking for is to make movies based on great ideas that have appeal across the board."

Aviv's predecessor Nina Jacobson, who was ousted Tuesday, cultivated a reputation for nurturing eclectic directors, such as Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers, who might not fit Disney's current emphasis on tentpole family films. Recently, she'd been talking of getting Disney into the potentially lucrative horror genre, possibly releasing those movies under the revived Hollywood Pictures label. Aviv didn't rule out continuing to explore that genre, either — "if the idea is great and the script is great."

Aviv hasn't yet had a chance to begin a review of projects in development or to meet with Disney-based producers. But given that he's moving over from the marketing arm, where he'd been serving as president, he already knows most of the players on the lot. 

"I just got this job. As soon as I get my sea legs, I'm sure I will meet with everyone," he said. "I've been very fortunate that I have terrific and close relationships with people on the studio lot where I've been for the past 15 years. I'm also very familiar with the filmmaking talent throughout the town, and I look forward to working with and meeting with everyone."

On the less pleasant side, Aviv hasn't begun to consider how Disney's companywide cutback of 650 jobs could affect the production side. "Honestly, I can't answer because I just literally walked in the door," he said.

His new post does come with one guaranteed perk. "From now on," Aviv joked, "if a film doesn't work, I can blame marketing."


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