24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Disney Channel

'Phineas and Ferb' gets the 'Toy Story' treatment

October 27, 2011 |  6:11 pm

Phineas and Ferb

EXCLUSIVE: Fans of Disney Channel property "Phineas and Ferb" learned earlier this month they would get a theatrical movie on July 26, 2013. Now they might be heartened to learn that movie is becoming as big a deal as that summer date suggests.

Disney is hiring Michael Arndt to write a draft of the script, said a person familiar with the movie who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.  Arndt brings some heat--he's of course the writer of "Toy Story 3," for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and also won an Academy Award for writing "Little Miss Sunshine" back in 2007.

The initial "Phineas and Ferb" script has been written by show creators Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, who have spent recent months working on that script and continue to work on the show. Unlike "Toy Story"--and the cable series itself--the "Phineas and Ferb" movie will be a mix of live action and animation. A Disney spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Although the plotline for the "Phineas and Ferb" movie is still being developed, the film is becoming a priority at Disney. The project will now be produced by Mandeville Films, the company behind another upcoming Disney tent pole, "The Muppets."

The TV series, now in its third season and with more than 130 episodes under its belt, tells the story of stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher, who spend their summer holiday working on fanciful inventions, as well as their sister Candace, who's always intent on getting them in trouble with their mother. Meanwhile, the family platypus, Perry, leads a double life as a secret agent fighting the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

Disney has been working to turn the property into its next big marketing vehicle: In June 2010 it revved up plans to retail as many as 200 Phineas and Ferb-related items — including boxer shorts and skateboards.

The show continues to prove its popularity with solid weekly ratings, while a "Phineas and Ferb" television movie drew nearly 8 million viewers this summer.
Most Disney Channel movies are made for television but some, like the third "High School Musical" film, make the jump to the big screen. Plenty of animated television hits have done well as features, from "The Simpsons Movie" at Fox to "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" at Disney Channel rival Nickelodeon, the latter of which took in more than $85 million in the U.S. back in 2004.

Disney, meanwhile, has had both filmic and merchandising success with its own, non-Pixar animated movies: The fairy tale-inspired "Tangled" grossed $200 million in the U.S. last season.


Review: 'Phineas and Ferb'

'Phineas and Ferb' to be Disney's next big marketing vehicle

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from "Phineas and Ferb." Credit: Disney XD

Elizabeth Olsen: Hollywood gets young women wrong

August 16, 2011 |  6:01 pm

There is no shortage of young women on the big screen these days, with the "Twilight" movies in full flower and Disney Channel "it" girls like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez solidifying their move into features.

But at least one emerging actress from that demographic says that the abundance of personalities doesn't mean Hollywood accurately portrays women in their late teens and early 20s.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Olsen, the star of Sundance hit "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (more on that film, which looks to be a breakout this fall, in the weeks to come), says she feels frustrated by what she sees as Hollywood's binary depictions of young women.

"A lot of times with female relationships and young women [in the movies], it's either 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' or catty b--," Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, said this week over lunch in New York, where she lives and attends college. "I just have a problem with that. They're supposed to be either as perfect as how they're portrayed on Disney or as mean as they're portrayed in high school movies. And in real life it's neither of those."

Her own solution, she said, has been to take on a new role, in a movie called "Very Good Girls," that she believes avoids both cliches.  A dramatic comedy from Naomi Foner (mother of Maggie Gyllenhaal and screenwriter of "Running on Empty"), "Girls" will star Olsen and Dakota Fanning as teenagers the summer after they graduate from high school.

"This is a very real story of two best friends, about  a real and very raw relationship, and the healthy way that young women interact with each other," Olsen said. (She dismissed the early log line, which had the two lead characters each seeking to lose her virginity, as being unrepresentative of Foner's script. "That happens in the movie, and that's fine for a log line, but that's not really what it's about," Olsen said.)

The Sean Durkin-directed "Martha Marcy," which follows a young girl in the weeks after she escapes from a cult, opens Oct. 21, and the Fox Searchlight film is likely to garner its young star some Oscar buzz. While the films marks Olsen's screen debut and is certainly the most anticipated of her upcoming features, it's hardly the only place she'll appear: The 22-year-old has already shot four other films, including the dramatic comedy "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" opposite Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, and she plays Josh Radnor's younger friend and love interest in the college-set "Liberal Arts."

"Good Girls" was scheduled for an early fall shoot, working around Olsen's class schedule as a senior at New York University, but now may not happen right away, conceded Olsen. In part, she intimated, that's because of the same frustrations that prompted her to take the role in the first place. "It's difficult," Olsen said. "A lot of people don't want to finance movies like that. Unless, of course, there are vampires or something weird that can animorph."


Martha Marcy May Marlene breaks out--and faces some obstacles

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins: This year's Sundance It Girl?

Selena Gomez starts to move away from her Disney roots--sort of

— Steven Zeitchik, reporting from New York


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

With 'Ramona and Beezus,' can Selena Gomez branch out from her Disney Channel roots?

July 22, 2010 |  4:37 pm

Selena Although having your own hit Disney Channel show might get you a record deal, clothing line, or lunchbox with your face on it, it doesn't always help you land A-list film roles.

Selena Gomez, who plays a girl with magical powers on the hit Disney Channel show "Wizards of Waverly Place," is the latest Disney teen star to try to make a go of it on the big screen. In Friday's "Ramona and Beezus," based on Beverly Cleary's beloved children's book series, Gomez will have her big-screen starring debut. In a print interview with the actress, she said she was nervous about making the jump.

The anxiety was ratcheted up when Cleary herself sent Gomez a DVD of herself explaining how she envisioned the part of Beezus, the studious teen who is continually embarrassed by her pest of a younger sister, Ramona.

“She’s like, ‘Hi, Selena, I’m very excited you’re playing the role. I wanted to give you some of the views of how I created Beezus,’ ” Gomez recalled last week, sitting in a trailer on the CBS lot, where she had just filmed a singing appearance on “America’s Got Talent.”

After watching the author’s video, she began to, as she says, “freak out.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, great. What am I getting myself into? This is my first thing.’ I was nervous. It was definitely a big responsibility.”

Even director Elizabeth Allen acknowledged that she'd had some concerns about Gomez and her wholesome television background but was reassured once the young actress got on set.

"I was personally concerned that she would turn in TV beats and moments," said Allen, "and was really delighted to see that she has an ability to match the actors around her, as far as tone."

Gomez, who is very clearly a product of the well-oiled Disney machine, said she chose "Ramona" because of its family-friendly qualities. Allen, for her part, sees this as evidence that she is making smart choices about her career. By the time the movie got a green light, Gomez -- who had auditioned earlier in the development process -- had her pick of feature film roles.

"She chose this, which was not a big payday, and she's a supporting role," the director said. "I think many other kids in her position would have taken the money and the leading role, but she felt there was a pedigree to the property... She wanted to work with a high-caliber cast [including John Corbett, Josh Duhamel and Sandra Oh] and soak up all their abilities."

But being aware about the challenges involved in transitioning from Disney to the multiplex doesn't make navigating them any easier. As my colleague Steve Zeitchik noted back in April when Miley Cyrus starred in the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker "The Last Song": "There’s an issue for Disney Channel stars trying to make the jump to movies, even frilly ones. The network's shows give their actors plenty of exposure, but they don’t exactly showcase their best acting. Even good acting gets lost there."

Indeed, many former Disney stars have struggled to be taken seriously on the big screen, including Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff and Vanessa Hudgens, whose new film "Beastly" recently had its release date pushed to early next year. Still, "The Last Song," the Cyrus film, fared moderately well at the box office, bringing in over $60 million stateside. And Zac Efron's face is currently plastered all over town for the campaign of "Charlie St. Cloud."

Gomez, who next stars in "Monte Carlo" opposite Leighton Meester, says that while she's certainly part of a certain Disney generation, she's looking to some established film actresses as templates. “I love Rachel McAdams. She is incredible,” she said. “I think that her career and project choices are really appropriate and perfect for her, and she kind of stays out of the spotlight; you never really see anything about her. Yeah, that’s how I would like to be.”

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Selena Gomez. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.


The Performance: Selena Gomez

Preview Review: The Quimbys are back in 'Ramona and Beezus'

Original 'Ramona' Sarah Polley hopes revamped character isn't 'too cute'

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Can Miley Cyrus make ‘Last Song’ her opening number?

April 5, 2010 |  3:02 pm

With “The Last Song” performing respectably at the box office this weekend, earning $25.6 million over five days, it’s fair to wonder whether Miley Cyrus isn't entirely delusional in thinking a serious, or at least a commercial, acting career lies ahead of her.

Cyr The tween pin-up has said repeatedly that over the coming years she wants to eschew singing in favor of acting. ("I'm really good at comedy," she recently told my colleague Amy Kaufman.) Producers, their hearts a-twitter at the fan following Cyrus comes with (if not exactly her Angela Lansbury-esque acting skills) have done their part; in recent months, they’ve attached Cyrus to projects ranging from an action-comedy called “Family Bond” to a remake of the Sarah Jessica Parker '80s dance movie “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

“Miley is coming of age as an actress, and you’re seeing her fans follow her even when she’s doing something that has nothing to do with 'Hanna Montana,' ” Disney executive Chuck Viane told us ahead of "The Last Song's” opening.

Of course, if you're trying to make this kind of transition, talent helps too. Like that of other emerging tween stars, Cyrus’ acting isn’t without promise, but it’s not without shortcomings either. In “The Last Song,” she’s perfectly fine playing to type as a pouty, lovelorn teenager, but runs into trouble when she’s trying something more  substantial.

Cyrus may also want to keep in mind that the path has been rocky for the many Disney Channel stars who’ve tried to walk it before. Zac Efron (and before him, in a slightly different way, Shia LaBeouf) parlayed their exposure and fan base into a significant film career. But most of the others to come from the network’s crop of shows and movies this past decade have thus far failed -- personalities like Vanessa Hudgens, Hilary Duff and Ashley Tisdale (whose careers have given us the combined cinematic output of “Bandslam,” “Material Girls” and “Aliens in the Attic”).

There’s an issue for Disney Channel stars trying to make the jump to movies, even frilly ones. The network's shows give their actors plenty of exposure, but they don’t exactly showcase their best acting. Even good acting gets lost there.

So it’s almost impossible for anyone casting these movies to know what an actor can or can’t do.  And it may be unreasonable for the rest of us to expect that because someone is a star there they’ll be a star anywhere else.

With this weekend's box office performance, Cyrus will get at least one or two more cracks at big film roles; look for at least one of the 17-year-old's development projects to gain some new elements and momentum. But it's a long road from life as a stadium pop star to life as a film celebrity. Cyrus could well wind up being good at comedy. Let's just hope it's not the unintentional kind.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Miley Cyrus at "The Last Song" premiere. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press


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