As expected with D23 just around the corner, Disney kept its cards close to its chest at CinemaCon, where the studio opted to debut Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in full instead of any new footage from its Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm stables.
Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis (CinemaCon’s best dressed executive so far) led the studio’s presentation, which basically just recapped a bunch of movies, release dates and cast members that have already been announced, including the basic details of Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which just wrapped.
If there was one piece of news, it was that the untitled Wreck-It Ralph sequel is now officially titled Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, though I’m not quite sure why the title wasn’t flipped. Disney confirmed that Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch will reprise their voice roles in the sequel, though eagle-eyed readers of the Tracking Board would’ve already known that from our scoop about Ana Ortiz joining the ensemble.
Sure, Disney’s presentation felt a little lackluster compared to other studios, but it’s all part of a larger plan at the studio, which probably couldn’t afford to risk any spoilers about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Star Wars: The Last Jedi getting out there. Instead, Disney went with a facts-and-figures approach, touting its $7.6 billion in worldwide grosses last year — its first to feature films from all five branches of the studio (Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Disney Animation and Disney proper).
Not only did Disney rake in the dough last year, but critics also approved, as Hollis noted how the studio’s films averaged an 83% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — far better than any other studio fared (especially Sony). Though Disney’s rivals can point to the studio’s A-list IP as the reason it’s doing so well, the truth is that quality actually seems to matter at the Mouse House. Paramount’s Transformers series performs incredibly well for that studio, but how many people can say they actually enjoy those films? That’s not necessarily the case for most Disney titles.
Of course, Disney has its own Transformers-esque franchise preparing to take a (hopefully) final bow this summer in Pirates of the Caribbean, which is well past its expiration date at this point. Though studio insiders insist that Dead Men Tell No Tales is better than the last few sequels thanks to a fresh take from Kon-Tiki directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning, as well as the addition of Javier Bardem, I headed for the exits as soon as the screening started… and I wasn’t alone.
Hundreds of CinemaCon’s 6000 attendees filed out before the Disney logo even finished playing out on screen, which can’t be an encouraging sign for the studio. It’d be one thing if everyone had something else to do on Tuesday night, but people seemed eager to eat dinner, hit the blackjack tables or get a good night’s sleep rather than walk the plank with Johnny Depp again. Believe me, if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was screening, no one would’ve left their seat.
It seems many industry folks are looking ahead to that film and its fellow Marvel sequel Thor: Ragnarok, as well as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Hollis casually mentioned that the latter film hits theaters in 262 days, so clearly the studio is just counting the days… same as you.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief