Step Right Up

The internet is abuzz today with snippets from Disney’s Bob Iger confirming Disney’s interest in expanding the presence of Star Wars at their theme parks leading up to the December 18, 2015 release of Episode VII. These statements come with Disney’s fiscal Q3 report released yesterday. My question while reading these reports was, just how important are theme parks to a company’s bottom line? While thinking about this, I also realized how vital theme parks are to studios in general and that while movie decisions from the studios are obviously important, creating a movie franchise that can translate into park ticket sales is arguably more important than a creating a box office hit. Below I’ll look at some movie decisions made in the last few years that were almost certainly made with theme park bottom lines in mind. 

Marvel Studios


Disney’s purchase of Marvel in 2009 left many with their doubts. There were concerns that Marvel didn’t have a cast of characters strong enough to warrant a $4 Billion price tag. Keep in mind The Avengers behemoth hadn’t happened yet. Marvel Studios was still in it’s infancy and most people assumed the success of Ironman was luck. Oops. What a lot of people failed to realize at the time was that Marvel was the key to millions of boys aged 5-15, a demographic that Disney struggles to capture, particularly with it’s theme parks. Let’s face it, The Magic Kingdom (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Mickey) is way less cool to a 14 year old boy than Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Jurassic Park, The Hulk, Spider-man). This purchase was the first step towards competing head to head with Universal for comic-focused ticket sales. Disney now holds the rights to make Marvel themed rides everywhere except Orlando (Where Universal has a comic book world). Cha-Ching.

Guardians of the Galaxy


is it a coincidence that Marvel’s first major non-Avengers release was Guardians of the Galaxy? It is a fun, sci-fi, wild, action-filled romp with hundreds of merchandising opportunities and almost limitless franchise potential. How about if I tell you that Disney is allowed to use Guardians in Orlando for rides, attractions and merchandising? Now the smash hit that may well be the biggest box office movie of summer 2014 becomes a whole lot more profitable and not just this year, but every year, for maybe the next 15-20 years when you have a futuristic ride in every Disney park and a gift-shop filled with ships, guns, costumes and stuffed raccoons. Now add that you can have an upgrade for each sequel (one has already been promised) and it is impossible to say that the decision to make this movie next wasn’t driven by the desire to cash in on Marvel’s incredible theme park potential. 

Jurassic World


What is Universal’s response? Let’s take a massive movie franchise that takes up a huge amount of real estate in one of our parks, is perfect for boys 5-15, has dinosaurs, and reboot it in a way that will allow us to totally revamp our rundown ride and sell more tickets. Say hello to Jurassic World. Ironically Chris Pratt also stars in the upcoming thriller where we revisit Jurassic Park almost 25 years since it destroyed the 1993 box office. In this new film the park is a fully functioning, bustling, slick and futuristic theme park, until something goes wrong of course. Sounds like the perfect recipe to get people to buy tickets to see the new and improved Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. Don’t be surprised to see a massive expansion in the next year or two as Universal strives to compete with Disney’s Marvel-based success. 

Star Wars


Star Wars is coming to Disney parks in a big way. While there are already some Star Wars rides, the full potential is far from realized. With Episode VII coming in 2015 and multiple spin-off movies coming in the next decade, don’t be surprised to see an entire Disney park devoted to Star Wars. There could have areas based on each planet, rides for each movie, meet and greets with all the characters. What Dad/Grandpa from 30-65 wouldn’t want to take their kids to this park and introduce them to the worlds they grew up with? Episodes VII-IX promise to introduce legions of young padawans to Star Wars and you can bet Disney cashes in on this in every way possible, including with their parks. 

Doctor Strange – who will it be?


Doctor Strange, earth’s sorcerer supreme, will get his own Marvel flick in summer 2016 but Marvel has yet to announce which actor will be performing spells and saving the world from demons. I expect that announcement to be made soon, possibly this weekend in San Diego. There have been dozens of rumours and names tossed around but here are my predictions based on Marvel’s past choices. Kevin Feige has said that this will be Marvel’s most important film since Iron Man as they need to prove they can pull off the magical side of the Marvel universe as well as the sci-fi and technical side that has been portrayed already.

viewDoctor Stephen Strange was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and debuted in Strange Tales #110 (1963). He was a genius level neurosurgeon who was obsessed with two things: money and himself. When a car accident shatters his hands and ends his career, he travels the world looking for cures and meets The Ancient One, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Through a series of events, the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme is passed to Strange and he acts as Earth’s defender against all sorts of magical and demonic entities. The role of Doctor Strange will need to be serious and brooding at times but he also has a sense of humour. The toughest part of this role will be ensuring it doesn’t come across as campy or cheesy.


For the most part, Marvel has picked lesser-known actors to fill their roles so far. See below for their past choices. This is why I believe Doctor Strange will not be portrayed by the likes of Jonny Depp. I’m not saying there were no big names cast in Marvel phase 1 or 2 but for the most part the household names were not members of The Avengers. When you sign someone on to a 5-10 picture deal, you can’t cast someone that will cost $20 million per movie. All of this being said, here are my picks:

Jon Hamm


His name has been floating around recently. Aside from having the perfect looks for the role, he has a seriousness that would work as well as some comedic chops which he displayed on SNL. With Mad Men coming to a close next year he’ll be available as well.

Jared Leto


Has proven he can play a character that is a little out there. I feel like he may be too much of a household name after his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club but he certainly has the talent and look to pull off this role. His cost may be a draw back.

Aiden Gillan

Aidan Gillen [6]

Definitely best known for his role as Petyr (Little Finger) Baelish on Game of Thrones, I think Aiden has the talent and the look to pull of Doctor Strange. He is unknown enough to not cost a fortune and has the experience playing the mysterious creep. A bit of a stretch here but so was Chris Hemsworth (now number 5 on highest paid actors 2014)

Matthew Macfayden


Better known for his stage work in Britain, Macfadyen is an incredible actor with an intriguing and unique voice. Probably best known for his work in Pride and Prejudice, he would be a newcomer to the U.S. action genre. Marvel has dipped into the British stage acting pool before (see Tom Hiddleston) why not do it again?

Hugh Dancy


This is probably a huge stretch and would involve Marvel going totally rogue in terms with their selection but I think Dancy could be phenomenal. He is currently appearing on NBC’s Hannibal and is stellar. He plays the damaged hero better than I have ever seen and stands out each week among a stellar cast.

Hopefully we will all find out soon. Maybe I just wasted 30 minutes and it will end up being Benedict Cumberbatch after all.

I am Jack’s feeling of uncontrollable excitement


I will start off with two disclaimers. One: If you haven’t read or seen Fight Club ( the 1996 book and 1999 film) written by Chuck Palahniuk and directed by David Fincher, then there are some serious movie-ruining spoilers ahead. Two: I am obsessed with Chuck Palahniuk and everything he has done (with the exception of Pygmy) in his writing career. I’ll admit my bias when it comes to both his style and subject matter. I am Jack’s unending admiration.

While Chuck let it slip that he was working on a graphic novel sequel to Fight Club last year, USA TODAY published an interview confirming many more details on the upcoming novel from Dark Horse. When I first got wind of the sequel I was upset as I assumed it would be a film, made without Palahniuk’s consent, pumped full of marketing money with many a spoiler in the trailers. After all, it is the twist in the third act of Fight Club that makes the film so memorable. I will never forget it as being the first film I saw with a shocking twist on the scale of The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, or Memento. I am Jack’s sense of shock and delight.

In the 1996 novel, The Narrator, AKA Jack, ends up shooting himself to destroy his alter ego, Tyler Durden. With this act, he saves humanity from the pervasive and steadily growing cult that is Project Mayhem. The Narrator goes to heaven (mental hospital), has an argument with God (hospital director) and the novel ends under the assumption Tyler might return some day. I am Jack’s need for closure.


In a rare instance of an author preferring a film’s adaptation, Palahniuk has often said he wished he had ended the book the same way as the movie, with Jack failing to kill himself, holding Marla Singer and watching the five major banks in the U.S. explode in front of him. For this reason I was surprised but pleased that the graphic novel would not be a sequel to the film. I actually tend to prefer the ending of the book. The line, ” Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can’t teach God anything.” Is pure, poetic Palahniuk. I am Jack’s use of alliteration.


This graphic novel is being illustrated by Toronto’s own Cameron Stewart, best known for his work on DC’s Catwoman and his many collaborations with Grant Morrison. I personally cannot wait to see the continuation of The Narrator’s story and what causes him to get sucked back into the Project Mayhem world. It is great to see more films based on comics and graphic novels but I think it is even more important that folks from other industries are using comic books to extend their stories. Tarantino released a Django Unchained series last year to expand on the film based on his original screenplay and director’s cut. The books were fantastic and were definitely not the typical prequel/ movie tie-in books that are churned out for blockbuster flicks. I am Jack’s appreciation for comics.

I think in the future this graphic novel will become a film. I am a little nervous given the fact that I doubt Brad Pitt, Ed Norton, Helena Bonham-Carter and David Fincher will be involved but you never know. If they are involved, I expect the film to be incredible. If they are not involved, then I have serious concerns. Either way we will get to see the return of some of the most interesting literary characters of the 20th century in a completely different medium in 2015. I am Jack’s unbridled excitement.




Comic Pick of the week: Ragnarok #1 (2014 IDW)


Walter (Walt) Simonson is probably best known for his incredible work on Marvel’s Thor in the 80’s. He returns to Norse mythology this week with IDW’s Ragnarok #1, featuring tales of the the destruction of the Nine Worlds. It looks like this comic, in true Simonson fashion, puts a new spin on the tale and I’m sure there will be some stunning art and great twists in the first issue.


Simonson revitalized Thor in 1983 (issue #337) with the introduction of Beta Ray Bill and a very original cover (seen above). His art and creative storytelling helped Thor gain the popularity he enjoys today. I actually found a beat up copy of this comic last year and it is one I really treasure. Beta Ray Bill is a badass warrior and I’m sure Ragnarok will introduce many more. Both covers on this one look great and are already sold out. I would get this comic if you can for the read but also for the potential value. Rangarok #1 (2014 IDW) comes out tomorrow, July 23rd.