By Sarah Sluis
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of Disney's new plan to focus on franchise films that can be carried across multiple platforms. The studio sold off Miramax, shut down development of numerous films (Okay, we really didn't need a sequel to Wild Hogs).
But looking at their slate now, everything makes sense. They had an enormously successful run of Alice in Wonderland, the upcoming re-launch of Tron looks promising, and the studio will add another princess to their stable in this December's Tangled. They are pursuing more theme park-related films, including Haunted Mansion, but are making some exceptions to their "franchise" rule--at least at first glance. Prom, for example, which will feature a high school-age cast of unknowns, could be a one-off, or it could be the first installment of a huge hit, like High School Musical.
Their latest project to hit at the "core" of their development plan is a Night at the Museum-style take on the Magic Kingdom: People trapped in the theme park overnight. I instantly sparked to the idea, and I don't think I'm alone. Disney's huge cult of followers has spawned numerous tell-all books that describe all the behind-the-scenes work at Disney World and Disneyland, and even average Joes are curious about what makes the theme park tick. Disneyland already has to sweep the park every night to kick out would-be overnight guests--there's no question people will be interested.
If the studio pursues a Night at the Museum-style approach, that direction would involve bringing various characters and attractions to life (for some reason, that also reminds me of Jumanji). I like the idea of bringing some magic into the equation, but I'd prefer for the movie to be mainly reality-based and live-action.
One of the biggest challenges for the movie will be brand consistency and character consistency. What happens when characters meet Mickey Mouse or Sleeping Beauty in real life? That conversation is incredibly interesting, but also a real test for a studio that wants to preserve a character's image and keep the brands consistent across platforms. Variety also points to another benefit to the idea: new audiences would have the chance to meet classic properties, which could in turn be prepped for a relaunch.
To properly pull this film off, Disney will have to think critically about which characters to include and how to maintain consistency. For that reason, it's not expected that we'll see this film anytime soon. But when it does happen, it could have a tremendous positive (or negative) impact on Disney's brand.