Disney Digest 2/21/24 (MIA Ironheart, AI Acceleration, Begging a Mouse)

Today, we try to figure out how much Marvel should actually produce, discuss Disney’s embracing of AI, and ponder the latest version of an iconic magazine.

But What About Ironheart?

When Disney+ was announced, Bob Iger wanted to make an impact by announcing a large content slate and a shockingly low price point. The pandemic caused a delay in that slate, which then caused a bunching up effect with multiple high profile projects debuting at the same time. This led to consumer overload, with too much content debuting in a shorter time frame at a time when people wanted to be anywhere except the house they were forced to live in during the pandemic.

In addition to a glut of content, the mandate to rush production caused the talented Marvel team to be spread thin. In addition, on-set health & safety rules limited in-person oversight, which has also been cited as a cause of the quality control issues. But with Bob Iger saying they will be producing less, what is the right amount of shows to and films to release?

According to a Hollywood Reporter article this morning, Marvel will be releasing just one film, Deadpool & Wolverine, as well as two live-action series with Echo and Agatha: Coven of Chaos. This is in addition to two live-action series with X-Men ‘97, Eyes of Wakanda, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. In 2025, we expect two features, two live-action series, and a few animated series as well. Basically, Marvel seems to be running a year behind the plan they announced at San Diego Comic Con in 2022, which makes sense due to the strikes and the corporately mandated slowdown — but one series seems to be running further behind and I can’t help but wonder why: Ironheart.

In 2022, at D23 Expo, we got a look at footage from the series but, at this point, we don’t expect the series until 2025. What is the cause of the delay? Is it just holding on to a completed series in order to continue pacing things out? Or, upon review, they realized the show needed more work through reshoots or additional tweaks in post-production? It is easy to draw a comparison to Ironheart and Pixar’s Elio as they are both productions that had footage released before being delayed over a year. It will be interesting to gain insight into what changed, if anything, between the initial release date and when it actually hits our screens.

But, even when they figure out what they are doing with Ironheart, Disney and Marvel need to figure out what the right level of content is for both the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. While I believe Marvel can release more theatrical films than Star Wars due to the more varied universe, they need to walk the line between oversaturating the market while also keeping fans of the franchises subscribed to Disney+. One of the things that Disney has learned from Disney+ is that, while people say they sign up for original content, once they subscribe, they end up watching library content. Oftentimes, when theatrically released films debut on the service, they make as big of an impact on the service as the original do. But, one or two theatrical films won’t be enough. So, perhaps we will see even more of the cheaper to produced animated projects to keep the pipelines going instead of very expensive live-action series. Disney has the data to make these decisions so we will learn a lot about how the public engages with Disney+ once we know what a “normal” content stream will look like.

The Following Is Not Written By AI:

Today, the Disney Accelerator announced their class for 2024 after skipping 2023 amidst the Hollywood strikes. Looking at whom they selected, it was probably wise to wait for the unions to make their agreements on AI before revealing that three of the five companies are involved in AI technologies.

In many respects, AI is used as a buzzword by many who don’t know what they mean to either jump on a bandwagon or to scare their constituencies. That being said, there is no question that increased computer processing power will result in technologies that are able to accomplish things that sound like science fiction. During the strikes, the writers and actors wanted limitations on what AI can do while the studios wanted the flexibility to adjust to a technology that everyone is just starting to understand. Let’s be honest, AI will result in jobs being lost. But, like computers themselves, it will also lead to job creation. The market will adjust and the studios didn’t want to be handcuffed by labor agreements that didn’t allow them to adjust to market forces.

Personally, I am a big fan of the Disney Accelerator program. While some of the companies don’t last long after their participation, sometimes they result in some nifty ideas. Let’s not forget the Epic Games participated in the program and now they are the backbone of ILM’s StageCraft system, power over 20 Disney attractions, and have a $1.5 billion investment from Disney as they lead Disney’s largest video game project ever. It will be interesting to see how the stories of these five companies play out.

In Our Mailbox:

Today, I received our March 2024 issue of National Geographic in the mail. On the first page is a letter from the editor Nathan Lump who introduced the new look for the magazine ,which he said will be livelier and easier to read. That could be a euphemism for less thorough and shorter, as National Geographic laid off their writers as they ended newsstand distribution relying on freelancers to fill their pages. So, I decided to compare this March issue to the February issue. While there were noticeable visual changes, the issues were about the same number of pages and it felt the content was at the same level. But, if you compare today’s issues with the famed August 1963 issue featuring Disneyland, you will notice the magazine was once 307 pages. Magazines are changing, and Nat Geo has to adjust with the times, but I will always be sentimental for that famous yellow border.

Decision 2024:

It seems like The Blackwells, who have submitted their own set of directors, have more against Nelson Peltz, Jay Rasulo, and Ike Perlmutter, than they do with the current management of Disney. They shared an image (seen above) of the Peltz team begging a corporate mouse for a board seat while bringing up that this is the 24th time since the summer of 2022 that either Peltz or Perlmutter had sought a Board seat for Peltz. They have also shared a campaign that highlights Disney’s recent achievements from increasing the dividend to having Taylor Swift on Disney+. While The Blackwells do want their nominees on the Board, it seems that it is more important to them that Peltz and Rasulo (and, by proxy, Perlmutter) remain off.

Quick Hits:

6 Things to Watch For Tomorrow:

  • Disney may not own them anymore, but Disney California Adventure will host the first of two days to celebrate the Anaheim Ducks… even if their current record isn’t worth celebrating.
  • If Ducks Day isn’t enough hockey for you, ESPN will feature the Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay at 7 p.m. ET.
  • In case you never want to be comfortable sending your kid to college, Hulu will debut the second season of ABC News’ Death in the Dorms. You can check out Mack’s review.
  • Mike will be attending an event to celebrate the home video release of Poor Things which may be one of the last marketing events for that group before it is outsourced to Sony.
  • Jeremiah will be checking out the latest at Disney Springs at 1pm ET on the Laughing Place YouTube channel.
  • It is National Chili Day so celebrate one of Walt Disney’s favorite foods.