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The backstory: So, you remember when Disney acquired Pixar in 2006? The plan was to inject some of that Pixar magic into Disney's animation game. But lately, Pixar has hit a few bumps in the road. Its recent releases, like the "Lightyear" prequel to "Toy Story," didn't exactly set the box office on fire. It only brought in about US$227 million globally. And then there's "Onward," which came out just before the COVID havoc. It managed to make US$142 million worldwide, but that pales compared to one of Pixar's hit films, "Inside Out" in 2015, which earned US$858.8 million at the box office and was nominated for two Oscars.
On top of that, Disney+ has been losing subscribers over the last few quarters, and its stock slumped 44% last year, the worst year for it since 1974, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
More recently: Bob Iger, the former Disney CEO who retired in 2021, made a surprising comeback, being reinstated as CEO last November after the company fired Bob Chapek. Disney wanted to boost its profits and thought Iger was the person for the job. His plan was to cut costs by US$5.5 billion, but there was a catch. The company had to scrap a bunch of shows on Disney+ after its second straight quarterly drop in subscribers.
Now, Disney has had its fair share of successes, like the mega-hit "Avatar: The Way of Water," which raked in a mind-blowing US$2.3 billion at the box office. It holds the record as the third highest-grossing film ever. And the most recent Marvel movie “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” has already passed the US$700 million mark globally for another win.
But things haven't been going as smoothly for Disney recently. Take the live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid," for instance. It didn't quite capture the attention of international audiences as much as Disney had hoped. And its newest Pixar-animated film “Elemental” is projected to take in around US$31-$41 million in the US this weekend, according to researcher Boxoffice Pro, which would make it one of the lowest debuts ever for a Pixar film.
On top of all that, we’ve got the ongoing strike in Hollywood by the Writers Guild of America that is causing major production delays to ongoing and upcoming projects.
The development: Disney just announced a tidal wave of changes to its upcoming release calendar, and it's causing quite a stir. The company is hitting the brakes on a bunch of movies from the Avatar, Marvel and Star Wars franchises. Disney has decided to push back the release dates of two anticipated "Avengers" movies by at least a year. As for the Avatar series, the release of the third film has been rescheduled for 2025, and the two other sequels could be pushed back as far as the end of the decade. And Star Wars fans will have to wait until at least May 2026 for the next flick in the franchise. Disney hasn't spilled the beans on the reasons behind these delays, but the writers’ strike, production delays and the epically-complicated visual effects used in the Avatar franchise probably are all factors in this new scheduling lineup.
"Each Avatar film is an exciting but epic undertaking that takes time to bring to the quality level we as filmmakers strive for and audiences have come to expect," said Avatar producer Jon Landau on Twitter.
“We still are developing Star Wars films,” said Bob Iger, Disney CEO, at a Morgan Stanley conference in March. “We’re going to make sure that when we make one, that it’s the right one. And so we’re being really careful there.”
“If you look at the trajectory of Marvel over the next five years, you’ll see a lot of newness,” said Iger at the Morgan Stanley event. “We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise, but with a whole set of different Avengers as an example.”
"Movies like this can't be made without scripts (despite what some critics might say), and with writers not currently working on them, things have to be delayed," said media website Gizmodo.