Saturday, October 16, 2010

Disney built an empire on public domain works

It’s well known that Walt Disney built his media empire using fairy tales from the public domain. He started with his first feature-length animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937.
He followed that with “Pinocchio” (1940), “Cinderella” (1950), “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) and “Sleeping Beauty” (1953). Disney put his own spin on all of those tales and created some terrific family entertainment.
But today the Disney corporation is one of the staunchest proponents of extending copyright lengths. Whenever Mickey Mouse’s first film “Steamboat Willie” (1928) is nearing the end of its copyright protection, Disney unleashes its army of lobbyists and lawyers to convince lawmakers to extend it.

Part 3: Disney mines public domain gold

Disney is still mining the public domain for works that it can capitalize on.
The studio is scheduled to release an animated feature called “Tangled” on Nov. 12 that’s based on the tale of long-haired princess Rapunzel.
The CGI-animated movie features the voice talents of Mandy Moore, who plays the heroine in the story, and Zachary Levi from “Chuck.”

Director Tim Burton is working on live-action movie for Disney called “Maleficent.” It will take the classic story of Sleeping Beauty and put the focus on the villain. Angelina Jolie has been rumored for the lead role.

Disney also is moving forward on a live-action reimagining of the classic fairy tale “Cinderella” that will be written by Aline Brosh McKenna, reports. She’s the scribe behind “The Devil Wears Prada” and “27 Dresses.”

Plus, Disney is developing a live-action Snow White movie called “Snow and the Seven,” which is being directed by Francis Lawrence.

Disney isn’t the only movie studio looking for gold in public domain children’s stories.

Relativity Media is working on a dark, edgy Snow White movie called “The Brothers Grimm: Snow White,” possibly with Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) as director. Meanwhile, Universal is developing “Snow White and the Huntsman,” according to Vulture. So, that’s three Snow White movies in development.

Warner Bros. is working on a live-action movie of “Pinocchio,” according to Geektyrant.

The SyFy cable network is prepping a new TV movie called “Neverland,” which will be a four-hour prequel to the story of Peter Pan, Geektyrant reports.

But wait, there’s more. Director Tommy Wirkola (“Dead Snow”) is working on a film called “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” The movie will show what happened to Hansel and Gretel 15 years after the gingerbread house incident. They’ve become bounty hunters specializing in tracking down and killing witches.
Meanwhile, a rival production called “Hansel and Gretel in 3D” is getting under way, Geektyrant says.

Then there’s “Red Riding Hood,” starring Amanda Seyfried. The werewolf movie is being directed by Catherine Hardwicke and also stars Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen and Julie Christie. “Red Riding Hood” is scheduled to hit theaters on April 22, 2011.
Not to be outdone, SyFy is doing a take on Little Red Riding Hood for a TV movie called simply “Red.” It stars Felicia Day in the title role. She plays the descendent of the werewolf-hunting family from the classic fairy tale.

This is the latest in a series on how Hollywood and the public benefit from works off copyright and in the public domain.

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