What Lucasfilm Could Learn From Marvel

After the box office let down of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, it is difficult to not talk about what Lucasfilm should do going forward. Personally, I never think about the quality of a film depending on its box office success because many of my favorite films were considered huge flops during their initial release. The difference for such blockbuster movies is that they’re supposed to be mainstream media phenomenons, making sure theres a ROI at the box office. For ‘Solo’ to have a return of investment from merchandise and digital sales takes much more time compared to the cinema.

But this isn’t the end of Star Wars, as many articles suggest in the web. This is just a misstep, a huge one, that happened because of several components that Lucasfilm should take care of.

Whats good is that they can learn from a partner, as we might say. It is inevitable to compare Star Wars to Marvel, as they work on a similar film schedule and it creates a whole storytelling universe. Kevin Feige has had its bad moments with Marvel on films like The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Thor 2. With 18 movies under his belt in less than 10 years, he could be considered that has the same experience as Kathleen Kennedy. Here are some things that Lucasfilm could learn from the mighty superheroes.

Give Permission

With two to three movies being released almost every year from Marvel Studios, it is difficult to think the days when they started released one movie per year.

Back when Disney purchased Marvel, Kevin Feige was releasing two movies the same year and see how they turned out: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. In that same year, he released one of the best movies Marvel has ever done and the worst movie in the whole history of the franchise.

How was Marvel able to recover? They retreated and went back to a yearly schedule for the next 2 years. Why?

First, they had to work more slowly paced to learn from the filmmaking process. Second, they just haven’t earned the right to release more films per year. They had to let the audience give them permission to release more Marvel films.

And so they went back to a yearly schedule until the audience in 2012 asked them for more Marvel films with the first Avengers movie. Only then was Marvel fully committed to a more expansive set of films released yearly, up to three movies per year. They understood that they were able to explore more unknown characters for different audiences.

Embrace The Filmmakers

Of the four Star Wars films that have been released under the Disney era, two have had major problems with its directors. Even though Rogue One gives credit to Gareth Edwards as its director, it is known that Tony Gilroy was the actual director during the reshoots after his process for rewriting the final act of the film as well as many other scenes. The most known of all these controversies happened with Solo, when Kathleen Kennedy fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord as the directors of the movie, being replaced by Ron Howard. Compared to Rogue One, this was a noticeable announcement that created a lot of bad press for the film.

Lets take a look at Marvel.

Never had a movie had any directorial shift, at least known to the public. The Marvel Studios is very tight to their chest, having a clear production focused process that sometimes didn’t let directors fully do what they want with the films. This happened until most movies started looking fairly the same. People started feeling some superhero fatigue and Marvel had to do something about it.

Enter Peter Gunn and Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Kevin Feige knew that if he let other directors explore lesser known superheroes, he could be able to have a new style of movies. He has mentioned that he doesn’t believe in the superhero genre, but on stories with clear character that you can relate with. Guardians Of The Galaxy showed the world that they were able to have movies were the director were able to do their own thing.

Which is what Lucasfilm should do.

Kathleen was able to give Rian Johnson free reign over The Last Jedi, creating one of the most divisive movie ever in the franchise. Say whatever you say, but if the movie is as divisive, it means that Rian was able to do many things that turned the tables. What would happen it they would let Miller and Lord to direct Solo?

Lucasfilm should think of giving more life to their directors, giving them opportunities to expand on the Star Wars franchise.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Have you heard about a Marvel producer, director, screenwriter, or actor, debating with fans about a movie? No. You know why? Because it is a recipe for disaster.

Marvel knows this, but Lucasfilm doesn’t.

Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, Chuck Wendig, and other talents related to Star Wars have been vocal about the films and their fans. From Hamill saying he doesn’t like Luke in Episode 8, to Rian just trying to explain The Last Jedi to fans, each moment has affected the franchise. These are ambassadors, like it or not. Yes, they may be able to comment on things, but why going straightforward?

Also, Lucasfilm hasn’t been able to make true statements to the fans, also affecting the perception. You see Kevin Feige doing open interviews all the time, and Kathleen should do it every once in a while. It is healthy for the fandom and it allows Lucasfilm to explain some things without apologizing.

Respect The Fandom

Marvel knows that they are handling characters that people have loved for decades. This isn’t a reason to don’t experiment, but they fully respect their legacy and fans that have followed the comics for so many years. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked so well; they are able to take risks while keeping the heart and soul of each comic.

Only ten years after the launch of the MCU they are willing to take some big risks. But the fans are OK with it. They fully invest themselves into the MCU and after ten years of great movies, they know they are in good hands.

But just two years after relaunching Star Wars, The Last Jedi is being released with some significant plot twists for the fans. And these are fans that have followed the saga for 45 years.

Besides this, the creators have been pretty vocal about it. I’ve never seen a Marvel director or screenwriter defend The Incredible Hulk or Thor. Even Avengers: Infinity War hasn’t been fully explained because the creators don’t need to give explanations to the fans.

The fans have their reasons to be upset, and you need to respect that.

Yes, Lucasfilm should be able to deal with the toxic area of fandom, but they should also understand it. Even though Marvel has its own path, one thing they truly do is that they listen to the fans. These people have been reading comics for decades, and they know these characters from top to bottom. Shouldn’t they be at least heard?

Even though we are at the early stages of Star Wars, the best course of action to show respect to the fans is to reflect it in the upcoming projects. They shouldn’t be chained to the fans, but they should at least show that they care about this franchise (Hint: they obviously do!) and show it with the upcoming projects. Only this way can the fans embrace the direction of Lucasfilm.

Im sure there are Marvel fans somewhere that truly hate how the MCU is being handled, but the people who like it far surpasses them. Let’s all remember that Marvel has a new generation of kids that grew up watching their films, thus having more solid ground than Star Wars. But with new films and series, Star Wars will be able to gain some new ground from the smaller generations that are also growing up with the sequel trilogy.

Balancing Acts

Lucasfilm is in a tough position from fans, critics, and news reporters. They need to be able to recover from the bad press of Solo and they haven’t been able to do that. They are just receiving the punches. Is this a conscious thing or does the PR team doesn’t even know how to handle it?

What I believe is that Lucasfilm knew that Solo would be their first major box office disappointment. They knew it the moment they fired directors and when they saw how many movies they were competing with. This was just a move to see how strong is the brand. As we see, it isn’t as strong compared with the mighty Thanos and Deadpool.

A minor change in leadership could go a long way. Not replacing Kathleen Kennedy, who is a veteran filmmaker, but adding a Chief Creative Officer of sorts like someone from the Lucasfilm StoryGroup. This should be able to keep the fans sure that everything is fine. The other major thing is that the Lucasfilm team should be able to speak about their upcoming projects just like Marvel. Kevin Feige constantly talks that they have movies lined up until 2025, showing a strong belief in the brand and showing the fans that they have a road map to make everything logical in the storyline. Star Wars is failing in this aspect, without a clear road map to show the audience.

These small touches, as well as the many mentioned in this article, will be the ones that will make Lucasfilm rise up from this complicated time and move on. If George Lucas did it after the prequel trilogy, then Lucasfilm could do it after this Solo incident.

What’s Next For Cirque Du Soleil At Disney Springs

After the final bow of Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba, everybody expected that a new show was in the works. Even though La Nouba kept bringing audiences to the big top, it was a 19-year round with a rough ending. In the past years, acts were added as a way to bring back more audiences from Orlando. Live shows don’t have the rewatchability that parks do, so the show struggled in the past few years.

On December 20th, 2017, they announced that a Disney themed Cirque Du Soleil show was in development as a replacement. This would go in tandem with the circus’ recent strategy, blending IP’s into their shows like Love (based on The Beatles), Toruk (based on James Cameron’s Avatar), and One (based on Michael Jackson). Many months after, we haven’t seen any pictures or promotional material about the show. Taking into account the huge building Cirque has in Disney Springs, I thought the new show will open much faster, probably within this year. If it doesn’t occur like this, then it is because they are working on changing the layout of the multi layered theater. I would also think that the show could open before or after the open of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, handling the huge crowds expected at this moment. With a Disney related theme, more families will be interested in the show. In my case, I didn’t go to La Nouba until I was around 10 years old because my family thought that I wouldn’t appreciate the show as a kid. Cirque Du Soleil has always been a more mature, adult oriented show, so the Disney theme helps bringing children to the show and eliminate that barrier.

Even though the press release refers that the show will use Disney movies as inspiration, I don’t know how they will use them. I believe they’ll just use the movies from Walt Disney Animation Studios, recreating some scenes as part of acts. Also, the shows from Cirque Du Soleil don’t usually have a storyline. Even though they try to make a story, it is abstract enough so that everybody can have its own interpretation about it.

The most complicated issue about Cirque Du Soleil’s next show is less on the production and more on the pricing. With the recent pricing inflation in the theme parks, people will be less attracted for extra events that cost more money. These shows usually are expensive by themselves. As the theme parks tickets rise their prices and different offerings, a live show could be more of an afterthought. This wouldn’t be good for Cirque and Disney, as this could mean that less families could enjoy these vacation add ons.

We don’t know much details about Cirque’s next show, but it will sure give a different offering for many people that already saw La Nouba and that want a more Disney experience.

The Battle For A Diverse Menu In Disney Parks

The ABC Commissary is the usual place were I eat for lunch every time we go to Disney Hollywood Studios. It isn’t as crowded, the food is good, and it in the middle of the park, so I can go straight to some attractions. The theming is quite neutral, something my family enjoys, and there are some costume exhibitions from the ABC shows. During the past three or four years, every time we visit, there’s a new menu in place.

In this place, I would love to get spicy shrimp with fish, a great option from the menu. It tasted really good, being a different style of food for a quick service restaurant. My mom enjoyed a great salad during her meals. The next year, this would all be replaced with the usual meals: cheeseburgers, nuggets, and a less-than-desirable salad.

Why would they change it if the plates were so good? Menu changes have been pretty standard for many restaurants within the park, moving to the usual food options after trying a superior, more varied menu. The American food could be good for US-based visitors, but international visitors (like me) want a break from the hamburger, nuggets, french fries, and turkey legs. Yes, I like all of those, but I don’t want to eat them for four days straight.

When Skipper Canteen opened its door in Adventureland, people were surprised about the varied a menu it had. It looks like the chefs were doing their best at improving the variety of options. It even included arepas, a typical food in Venezuela which I was happy to give it a try. Months later, the menu would change once more, with a more reserved menu. Even though it tries to keep the variety and uniqueness, it still tries to give a safer taste. At least they replaced arepas with cachapas, another typical food common in Venezuela and Colombia.

Management at the parks are missing a great opportunity to give guests some unique meals at quick service and table served restaurants, giving priority to more exclusive offerings. And even though this could make sense from a business standpoint, the truth is that most guests aren’t heading to those exclusive offerings. The parks are the forefront of The Walt Disney Company as a whole and it should be treated as such. Even though it is important to make money, they should at least take some risk in food offerings to see how a restaurant can slowly have a great following.

I miss those spicy shrimps from ABC Commissary at Disney Hollywood Studios. I miss the menu from Pecos Bill, which, in my opinion, had the best hamburgers in the resort (even though tacos and nachos are good from the newest menu). We can get variety from quick service restaurants to table restaurants so all guests could enjoy a great meal around the parks.

What We Can Expect From John Lasseter: The Next 6 Months

After 6 months of uncertainty about John Lasseter’s future, Disney has announced that the creative leader will exit the company at the end of 2018. Lasseter will work as a creative consultant during this time for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Some weeks ago I released an article talking about what we can expect after Lasseter’s leave of absence.With many options for the creative leader, a possible retirement after some clean up time was one of the most expected due to his importance in the company. Disney has decided a nuke and pave, letting him tie some loose ends and groom the next leaders for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation.

What undone projects does Lasseter have? Why does he need so much time to leave the company? After the Roseanne Barr incident leading to the cancellation of her show on ABC, looks like John Lasseter is being given much more time (and compensation) for matters just as worse as that of Roseanne’s. The difference between these two are the roles they have in the company; ABC is fine with the cancellation of a show, but Pixar and Walt Disney Animation can’t run too far without a solid creative leader that keeps the development of future projects. John Lasseter might have a more forgiving exit, but it is for reasons beyond his missteps.

No, I’m not saying his sexual misconduct should be forgiven. The fact that he is taking a year to retire from the company doesn’t hide the fact that he destroyed his entire career and gave uncomfortable situations to several women under his leadership at the animation studio. In fact, it is impressive how this conduct was tolerated for decades from personalities like Steve Jobs, Michael Eisner, Ed Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith, and Bob Iger. This doesn’t include other colleagues such as Pete Docter, Brad Bird, and Andrew Stanton. The details on Lasseter’s misconduct haven’t been fully disclosed besides some unknown sources, but it should be prominent enough for him to leave the company. Was this a problem from the past decade? Or was it just his attitude that was perceived as predatory? Again, I’m not defending Lasseter, but many of the details have been closely guarded by Disney PR, shutting up sources from Hollywood.

With Lasseter leaving his position as Chief Creative Officer, many news sites suggested Pete Docter as a possible successor. This information has been stated again recently, but with a minor change; Pete Docter could be the leader for Pixar, but Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Zootopia, Wreck It Ralph) would become the leader for Walt Disney Animation. Separating the leadership from both studios should help in keeping their identities. John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took over the Walt Disney Animation Studios way back when the future for the company’s main asset was uncertain. With a solidified revival era for Walt Disney Animation, the studio already has enough in-house talent to take care of their own projects. While Ed Catmull will keep both studios under his guidance, Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter should be able to handle the creative interests from each studio.

The Pixarization of Walt Disney Animation has been criticized, first burying to the ground the possibilities of future 2D animation because of the box office disappointment of ‘Princess and the Frog’ (because they had enough information to predict that Avatar would dominate the box office for the next 2 months, right? 🤣) Even though Pixar has an usual focus on more mature stories, this has been less than true in the past years. Movies like The Good Dino, Brave, and the Cars show that Pixar also is catering to younger audiences while Zootopia and Wreck It Ralph have a much broader appeal than the usual Walt Disney Animation film. A creative leader for each studio should help in making a clearer line between what makes a Pixar film and what makes a Walt Disney Animation film.

Pete Docter has been a relevant artist for Pixar since the early days of the studio, with a knack for original stories like Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. In the case of Jennifer Lee, she doesn’t have the experience, but she has been able to help develop stories like Frozen, Wreck It Ralph, and Zootopia, all of them relevant projects of this current revival era. Let’s not forget that a female leader is a welcome addition to the male dominant world of animation.

John Lasseter will stay for the next 6 months as a creative consultant because there is a project close to his heart that appears to be in trouble: Toy Story 4. Lasseter was the person that announced on November 2014 that a Toy Story sequel was in the works for 2018, later rescheduled for 2019. Insiders have said that the movie isn’t in a good ground, without a clear story. Rashida Jones, one of the screenwriters signed for early development, left the project because of creative differences. In the past weeks, it has been rumored that the story has been scrapped completely, leaving the story development group to start all over.

If Lasseter saved Toy Story and Toy Story 2, can he be able to do it again with Toy Story 4? Maybe that is what he hopes for. It is known that full animation on these films begins a year ahead of release, with the tests and pre production already in place. With the TV specials like ‘Toy Story Of Terror!’ And ‘Toy Story That Time Forgot’, Pixar has shown that there’s enough space of ideas for the Toy Story franchise and they are still able to pull off these great projects without repeating themselves. They might be worried because the expectations of every sequel to Toy Story are so high. Each sequel has built upon the original in a way that few franchises achieve to do.

If all of these areas of development are on track and Lasseter focuses solely on fixing the story, he might be able to help the screenwriters, giving him even more time to expand on future films. Early development for projects in Disney and Pixar should create a road map for the new leadership to have something to work with.

Pixar might be on the right path, but the Walt Disney Animation Studio might start to lose its momentum. With a grim horizon after the cancellation of Gigantic, it isn’t clear what is the path for the studio besides Frozen 2. Similar to Pixar, Disney has relied on some sequels that have given them enough time to develop more stories, but there is no clear path for them. It is time that the studio shifts on more interesting storylines that include the Disney touch of fantasy, beloved characters, and a timeless quality. (Because we all know that Ralph Breaks The Internet is going to age really fast.) After all, John Lasseter coming back for a while doesn’t sound as crazy as you might think. It is just one more step to get rid of his toxic behavior while patching up some work so that new leaders can take over Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

What FanDaze Told Us About Disneyland Paris

Over the past weekend, the Disney FanDaze event took over Disneyland Paris. A myriad of long forgotten characters posed for meet & greets such as Hunchback, Milo from Atlantis, Eddie Valiant, Roger Rabbit, Meg, and much more. In short, the event was a complete fan service pleaser for many fans and press invitees. Even though attendance was low, the event had the energy that is seen in more popular parks like Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.

After watching this event, many questions opened up about the overall strategy for Disneyland Paris. Here are some things that were important during this event that showed fans a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.

Disneyland Paris Is Important

Neglected for many years, the company wants to show that the park is important and their focus is to be as top quality as any other park around the world. With further improvements and refurbishments along the way, Disney has made sure that the park starts having much better maintenance compared to its dark past.

Disneyland Paris has the unique opportunity to become a great park. Since its original opening, very few has changed about it. Even though it is smaller, there’s room for new attractions and experiences in every land. If Disney is willing, they could make Disneyland Paris just as prominent as Tokyo Disneyland.

European Fans Deserve Attention

Even though Disney made a move on inviting many press groups from the US, this event showed how important it was for them to involve fans from Europe for this event. Disney knows how important a consistent fan base could be, especially for a struggling park like Disneyland Paris. AP’s and recurring guests could help the park have some recurring revenue while they conquest other countries from the European market.

This park has the unique opportunity of being in the midst of the European Union which allows millions of guests to have easier access to the parks and France as a whole.

Events Should Be Really Good

When fans started seeing how many rare characters appeared in the event for meet & greets, it is inevitable to consider even visiting the park for next year’s FanDaze. These events are for the loyal, hardcore fans, but as word of mouth starts building, some people might be interested in showing up with their families. I believe that events give Disneyland Paris a unique opportunity because they are competing with the many tourist opportunities around Paris. A family could visit the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Champs Elysses. They take a rest, go ahead to Disneyland Paris at night and enjoy an event that makes them see the park as part of their visit. Going forward, Disney should consider these opportunities to draw the attention of tourist planners and offer these events for families that want to visit the park but don’t have the time to enjoy a full day experience.

Besides these events for normal tourists, I expect more events coming for the parks to invite more fans to the park. Events related to food, similar to Food & Wine, could be a great opportunity for the parks as well as seasonal events. These efforts bring extra revenue to the park and cater to specific targets within the fandom.