Photographer: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

Disney's Film Lineup Leans Heavy on Remakes, Villains, Rides

  • Mary Poppins, Cruella are among the characters to be revived
  • Live-action fairly tales are the new superheroes, analyst says

Walt Disney Co. revealed casting information and titles for nine new pictures, underscoring a strategy that relies heavily on the company’s existing intellectual property, including villains and theme-park rides.

The films, some already in development, include “Cruella,” starring Emma Stone as the villain from the company’s 1961 hit “101 Dalmatians,” and a sequel to 1964’s “Mary Poppins,” featuring Emily Blunt, Disney said Monday in a statement. Dwayne Johnson will star in “Jungle Cruise,” based on the ride that opened along with the Disneyland park in 1955.

Disney’s film studio had record sales and profits last year in part due to its strategy of mining its own past hits and deep bench of characters. The pictures included “Cinderella,” a live-action remake of the company’s 1950 animated classic, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with an ensemble cast of Marvel superheroes.

This year’s lineup looks at least as strong, analysts said, with “The Jungle Book” remake leading the box office for the second week in a row, “Captain America: Civil War” scheduled to open May 6 and other sequels including “Finding Dory” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” slotted for this summer. Disney, based in Burbank, California, has stepped up efforts to draw from its classic fairy-tale canon for live-action spinoffs since the 2014 hit “Maleficent.”

New Superheroes

“Live action fairy tales are the next superheroes,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. in Los Angeles. “And Disney has a lock on it.”

The company didn’t provide specific release dates for any of the nine pictures, but staked claims to five weekends from July 2017 through December 2019. In fiscal 2015, Disney’s film division earned $1.97 billion on revenue of $7.37 billion.

Other studios are struggling to keep up. Last weekend, Universal Pictures released another installment in its Snow White prequel series, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.” The feature, which cost $115 million, generated just $19.4 million in its debut. Warner Bros., which has been planning its own take on “The Jungle Book,” said on April 6 that it was delaying the release for a year to October 2018.

There’s no certainty that Disney will continue on its current streak. Last year’s George Clooney feature “Tomorrowland,” loosely based on one of the company’s theme-park attractions, was a dud, as was 2013’s “The Lone Ranger.”

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