Reboot of Muppets Also Planned for Disney Streaming Service

There’s no stopping the Disney multimedia juggernaut now as it proceeds apace in setting up its own exclusive digital online streaming service, which they have set to launch by 2019. Aside from past content pulled from other streamers like Netflix, Disney is also developing new original programming for their platform.

Streaming TV series for Star Wars and High School Musical are but a few of the possibilities that Disney brought up in terms of original programming. But in line with making their service family-friendly, they’re also prioritizing reintroductions of some of their iconic children-appropriate properties like the famous Muppet characters.

It should be recalled that Disney acquired The Muppets Studio back in 2004, and with it came the rights to famous TV puppet personalities like Kermit T. Frog, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and so much more. The studio is planning a rebooted series with the Muppets, available for streaming.

Disney had once attempted to broaden the Muppets audience base by creating a primetime TV comedy starring them on ABC. Mediocre critic reviews however led to its cancellation after one season. This reboot being planned for the Disney service comes across as a re-conception of the ABC show, but family-oriented.

No date in 2019 has been pegged down yet by Disney for the debut of its service, though it’s probably not going international until it makes a footprint locally first. No price point estimates have been given either. The yet-unnamed service is being headed by OTT programming Chief Agnes Chu.

“Lion King” Director Jon Favreau Doing Voice Cameo on “Solo”

Jon Favreau, director of Zathura, the first two Iron Man films, and the 2016 Disney live-action Jungle Book, is currently at work in the production of yet another adaptation of a Disney animated film, The Lion King set for 2019. But he’s also had time to appear in other productions.

It was easy to figure out which other movie Favreau is getting involved with through a look on Twitter. Earlier this month he tweeted a photo of himself with two major figures in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Those were director Ron Howard and longtime Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.

A week later Howard explained on Twitter that Favreau had dropped in on them to do his cameo role in Solo. Audiences aren’t going to “see” him on the film though, as he’s instead providing the voice for what Howard describes as a “cool and important” alien character.

That does sound exciting, and the Solo director had thanked Favreau for taking a break from his work with the Lion King remake to do a voiceover. When asked if he too would be voicing somebody in his own movie (he was the narrator of Arrested Development), Howard unfortunately said he wasn’t.

Now, fan theorists are having a blast trying to determine which of the various alien creatures seen in the teaser and trailer might be blessed, sort of, with Jon Favreau’s voice. Candidates range from a little four-armed spaceship pilot and a hairy apelike bounty hunter wearing a helmet.

Initially on the verge of being written off due to its troubled production, Solo: A Star Wars Story seems to be doing all it can to reassure fans that it’s sure to make it to theaters and will be good watching. We’ll find out soon enough with the premiere on May 25.

Comcast Planning to Revive Earlier Fox Bid in Competition with Disney

It’s been shaping up to be the mega-deal of a lifetime; not much can quite beat the currently ongoing bid by The Walt Disney Company to acquire several major media assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Should it pull through, The House of Mouse gets a humongous multimedia empire.

But now, recent developments have complicated the Disney-Fox negotiations. Sometime before The House of Mouse showed its hand at acquisition last December, Fox had earlier entertained another offer for their media assets from Comcast. It never got anywhere due to worries about antitrust charges, but now Comcast is apparently reconsidering.

This is an interesting situation here. The offer Disney made for the Fox assets runs to the amount of around $52.4 billion. But the earlier Comcast deal is actually much bigger, at almost $60 billion. Apparently they are now confident that a renewed bid will pass government litigation for antitrust.

At a glance, both Disney and Comcast are rather similar in circumstances. Going into their attempts to acquire 20th Century Fox, FX, Fox Sports and more, the two companies each already have a film studio (Disney Pictures/Universal), TV network (Disney Channel & XD/NBC), animation studio, and finally branded theme parks.

Regarding the edge one has over the other, Comcast may have the higher offer, but 21st Century Fox deciding to go with Disney’s acquisition to comes with the provision that members of the Murdoch family become major Disney shareholders. Rupert’s son James Murdoch could also get a top-level Disney position.

Following standard practice, the period given to finalize a Disney-Fox agreement would take about 18 months on average, with a proxy statement to be released by Fox on the merger for the approval of antitrust regulators. Disney CEO Bob Iger is staying on until 2021 to oversee the asset transfer.

New Alibaba Licensing Agreement to Bring 1000+ Animated Episodes of Disney Shows to Youku Streaming

One of our updates last week concerns the pace of Disney’s move to consolidate most of its massive media library in preparation for the launch of its exclusive streaming platform in 2019. Barring special cases like Marvel Netflix, everything Disney will soon be available only with the House of Mouse.

In China however, it’s another story. Western content providers most of the time must form partnerships with local media distributors to get their programming into the highly-regulated TV or internet landscape. This time, Disney is linking up with the entertainment division of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. with a licensing agreement.

This deal for starters will make available the extensive animation content of the House of Mouse for streaming by Alibaba’s own Chinese-consumer platform Youku. The media group’s Monday press release elaborates on the multiyear license agreement that will funnel over 1,000 episodes’ worth of Disney animated programming into Youku’s library.

Having their content being held by the Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group via license can be seen as Disney’s second attempt to break into the Chinese streaming market. In 2016, they had collaborated with Alibaba to launch DisneyLife, only for Chinese regulators to close them just five months later.

Yang Weidong, president of Youku under the Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group umbrella, hailed the licensing agreement for enriching “the library of quality international content on Alibaba’s media and entertainment ecosystem.” He sees this as a means to ensure Alibaba’s dominance in China as their leading foreign content provider.

Aside from Disney, Youku also has similar agreements for content streaming with global heavyweight names like Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Television and NBC Universal among others. The Alibaba subsidiary has 580 million devices like set-top boxes in its network, and boasts a daily-view total of 1.2 billion.

Details on Planned Content for Disney Streaming Service by 2019 Revealed

Even before the bombshell announcement that was Disney’s intent to acquire Fox’s media assets, from its film studios to TV networks and more, the House of Mouse has already been sending shockwaves through the industry with plans to open its own streaming service, outside of general providers like Hulu and Netflix.

The as-yet unnamed service, which will launch in 2019, has been like a Sword of Damocles to all other major streaming services on the market. That’s because in addition to a number of original films and TV series that they plan to debut on the platform, Disney will fill up their online library with all their currently streaming past movies and TV shows, all withdrawn from the other streaming services where they’re currently hosted.

Unfortunately the soon-to-be-withdrawn materials are not simply those that carry the Disney name. Also to be affected are the Star Wars films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as both Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios are their subsdiaries.

But current streaming subscribers, who might be upset that the House of Mouse is hogging all their media on another platform they must soon subscribe to, can take some comfort with one reality. The Disney streaming service will try to be as family-friendly as possible. In other words, their library will consist only of G and low-PG rated programming.

That means that any other film or TV series with high-PG or R ratings will most likely stay where they are. That means Netflix will retain all the shows they’ve produced in partnership with Marvel, R-rated fare like Daredevil, Jessica Jones and so forth. That at least would be a silver line for Netflix regulars who’re fans of the shows in question.

Disney’s future strategy of generating content for their exclusive streaming platform has also been revealed. Aside from a few original programming, most of their planned fare will be licensed media and adaptations. For instance, while major live-action version of their old animated films like 2019’s Aladdin and The Lion King will premiere in theaters, smaller productions such as The Sword in the Stone and Lady and the Tramp will be on the streaming service instead.

Other possible future content for the service are a Star Wars series or two, and maybe even a High School Musical show. The possibilities are endless. Also, the question of whether or not the platform might soon accommodate 20th Century Fox movies can’t quite be answered just yet, at least until negotiations are completed in about a year and a half more.

Disney CEO Bob Iger “Encouraged” with Negotiations Regarding Fox Assets

On the last month of the year before, The Walt Disney Company stunned the world by announcing its intention to acquire 20th Century Fox and various other assets from the greater Fox media empire of Rupert Murdoch. It’s now close to two months since then. What’s been happening so far?

While negotiations between Disney and Fox continue apace, along with the efforts to make this deal pass muster against government regulations, the House of Mouse’s CEO Bob Iger said Tuesday on a CNBC interview that so far he has been “encouraged” by the progress of the pre-acquisition work thus far.

So what’s Disney been talking about with Fox from December 2017 to early this February? “We spent the last 6 weeks or so learning more about their businesses,” says Iger. He adds that the encouragement isn’t just with him, but also with the senior Fox executives they’ve been meeting with.

Again, for those who are excited about, say, having the X-Men film franchise of 20th Century Fox be “reunited” with Marvel Studios and the MCU, don’t hold your breaths yet. A mega-deal of this magnitude is going to take 12 months to a year and a half to be completed.

Then again, the excitement can be understandable. If the House of Mouse can pass the regulatory process hurdle with Fox on this, then the latter’s film studios, some TV networks and regional sports channels, and majority ownership stakes on several affiliated media companies like Hulu and Sky in the UK.

Disney’s latest quarterly earnings were announced on Tuesday, February 6. While expectations were surpassed, revenue numbers were a bit short. One other thing Iger can share is that if the company’s asset deal with Fox succeeds, then the House of Mouse won’t be repeating that acquisition stunt any time soon.