Celebrities

Inside Disneys Content Hurricane! Guava Island Secrets! And More!

Greetings from Los Angeles, where were contemplating the magnitude of Disney+; deciphering Donald Glovers new mini-movie, Guava Island; cheering for the revitalized L.A. Times; and admiring the burgeoning power of Black-ishs Marsai Martin, the youngest executive producer of a major Hollywood film, with the release of Little.

Be Our Guest

If I learned one thing at Disneys 2019 Investor Day Thursday, a.k.a. Disney+ debut, a.k.a. “D-Day,” its that the worlds biggest entertainment company did not come to play. Just three weeks after the studios industry-transforming acquisition of 21st Century Fox closed, Disney converted Soundstage 2 on the Burbank lot into a tiered-seating theater for investors and press to get a glimpse of the streaming service it hopes will put it on equal footing with Netflix and Amazon. Stormtroopers welcomed the crowd into the theater, while Beauty and the Beasts “Tale as Old as Time” played over the speakers. But that was largely it in the pomp department. Whereas Apple trotted out its many stars for its preview of its streaming service last month, Disney, led by C.E.O. Bob Iger, eschewed the glitz. Instead, it simply showcased many of the properties that its spent the last decade either buttressing or acquiring: Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. When the $6.99-per-month app launches on November 12, those brands will serve as the five primary navigation bars. Each was introduced by its division head: Disneys Sean Bailey, Pixars Pete Docter, Walt Disney Animation Studios Jennifer Lee, Marvels Kevin Feige, Lucasfilms Kathleen Kennedy, and National Geographics Courteney Monroe.

The most recognizable talent to claim the stage was Jon Favreau, the actor-turned-director who went from being Monica Gellers boyfriend on Friends to the man who turned Marvel into a movie studio with Iron Man, and later contributed to Disneys live-action adaptation trend with The Jungle Book. Favreau pulled double duty during the three-plus-hour presentation, presenting a new trailer for his much anticipated summer release, The Lion King, and his new exclusive Disney+ Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. The eight-episode program stars Pedro Pascal as its titular bounty hunter and will help launch the service. (Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow, and Dave Filoni will each helm individual episodes.)

Disney+ will obviously already have the worlds parents over a barrel, thanks in large part to the studios catalogue of classic animated films and Disney Channel shows. But the service is also offering up such a massive trove of familiar I.P. that even if the studio werent making new television shows and movies—which it is, and plenty of them—its easy to imagine even casual fans shelling out the cost of two lattes a month for the service: 30 seasons of The Simpsons, the majority of the Star Wars movies, and all 21 Pixar movies will all be available on day one. (Plus, Disney is allowing its customers to download as much of its content as theyd like, as long as they remain subscribers, a solid retention strategy when the price inevitably rises.)

By Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Disney brass said it expects to reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by 2024. In a subtle subtweet of some of its competitors (cough, Netflix, cough), the company said it expects Disney+ to reach profitability that same year. When you figure in all the new content the studio is sending directly to the service, which also includes a new Phineas and Ferb movie; a live-action Lady and the Tramp featuring the voice talent of Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, and Sam Elliott; a film from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy; and two Marvel live-action series, it just might.

Said Iger during a post-presentation Q&A: “The aggressive numbers that [C.F.O.] Christine [McCarthy] laid out, in terms of profitability and global subscribers, are a direct result of us being all in from the beginning. We are really committed to this.”

And with that, the Content Wars got their latest heavyweight combatant. There will be mega-winners and epic losers in the months and years to come, and its going to be a blast for us insiders to watch it all shake out. Just know that we will never be able to watch all the content Hollywood is about to make. Never.

Getting Guava

Sign youre at the apex of your career: you can show a studio executive a four-and-a-half-minute sizzle reel of your still-unfinished film and not only secure a distribution deal on the spot, but convince the company to alter its very business model to please you. Such is the power of Donald Glover at present. The often-shirtless multi-hyphenate with a seemingly endless range of talent did just that with his new hour-long movie Guava Island, which premiered Thursday night on a specially constructed screen erected on the campgrounds of Coachella, before it bows on Amazon Prime on Saturday at 12:01 A.M. P.T. for free for 18 hours.

If youre not in Indio (and god bless you, if you are), be warned. Spoilers ahead!

The music-themed fable is set on the mythical Guava Island (Cuba served as the real-life locale) and co-stars Rihanna as Glovers love interest. It tells the tale of a local musician trying to put on a festival for his community, despite the unreasonable demands of the islands big boss, played by Nonso Anozie. Opening with a mythical bedtime story about the origins of the island, told through an innovative animation sequence created by Six Point Harness, Guava Island appears to be expanding on the themes Glover explored in his provocative music video for “This Is America” last year. In fact, when his co-worker reveals his dreams of leaving for the U.S., Glovers character, Deni, responds “This is America. Guava Island is no different from any other country. America is a concept. Anywhere, in order to get rich, you have to make someone else richer is America.” The line launches Glover into a new rendition of the hit, complete with backup dancers, and some new moves that appear to be taken directly from the video game Fortnite. (Glover, as one would expect, is an excellent flosser.)

Glovers rise has coincided with the battle among the various streaming services and the related arms race over distinguishing talent. A number of interested parties (including Netflix) courted Glover for Guava Island, which was financed by New Regency (for under $10 million, according to an industry source). Only one was prepared to offer the free-viewing window Glover and his team so desperately wanted. In the end, Amazon came through, offering a free 18-hour window for non-Prime Video subscribers to watch the film. (Two industry sources with knowledge of the deal told me the sale price was $20 million. Amazon wouldnt divulge what it spent on the film, but one source at the company said it was far less than that.)

According to Amazon Studios chief, Jennifer Salke, she would have bought the project with even less details. The former NBC executive worked with Glover on Community and is, to put it mildly, a big fan. “I would have committed to Donald sight unseen.” she told me this week. “I knew whatever he wanted to amplify would have relevance and be entertaining. He has that ability to create cultural moments and spread a message thats interesting.”

For my full report inside the deal to bring Guava Island to Coachella and beyond, click here.

He Opened His Wallet in El Segundo

Hollywood readers, in case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times is back in business thanks to its new billionaire benefactor Patrick Soon-Shiong. The paper is hiring journalists at a mad pace and adding new sections (its new weekly Food section began Thursday), while reinvigorating a staff that compared its previous slew of terrible bosses to “the Twenty Years War.” My colleague at the Hive, Joe Pompeo, takes an inside look at Shiongs efforts to revive the organization, including spending $50 million on top of the $500 million he already invested to buy the paper. Its not paradise, especially the brutal commute to El Segundo, but for many of the employees whove endured Sam Zell, Tronc, and all the other knuckleheads, its getting close!

Read Joes full report here.

Can Little Do Big?

Its no Hellboy, which, according to the recent reviews, is a very good thing, and its likely to receive some stiff coRead More – Source

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