Category: Walt Disney Pictures

Mr. Banks

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Saving Mr. Banks

Taglines: When her book ended, their story began.

Two-time Academy Award–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.

For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.

It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Saving Mr. Banks Movie Poster

Mr. Banks

Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell
Screenplay by: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Production Design by: Michael Corenblith
Cinematography by: John Schwartzman
Film Editing by: Mark Livolsi
Costume Design by: Daniel Orlandi
Set Decoration by: Susan Benjamin
Music by: Thomas Newman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: December 13, 2013

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Frozen

Frozen Movie

Anna, a fearless optimist, sets off on an epic journey – teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven – to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. From the outside Anna’s sister, Elsa looks poised, regal and reserved, but in reality, she lives in fear as she wrestles with a mighty secret-she was born with the power to create ice and snow.

It’s a beautiful ability, but also extremely dangerous. Haunted by the moment her magic nearly killed her younger sister Anna, Elsa has isolated herself, spending every waking minute trying to suppress her growing powers. Her mounting emotions trigger the magic, accidentally setting off an eternal winter that she can’t stop. She fears she’s becoming a monster and that no one, not even her sister, can help her.

Frozen is an American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy-comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 53rd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, the film tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on an epic journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal pet reindeer and a clueless, naive snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.

Frozen Movie

About the Story

Elsa, Princess of Arendelle, possesses cryokinetic powers, with which she is able to produce ice, frost and snow at will. One night while playing, she accidentally injures her younger sister, Princess Anna. Their shocked parents, the King and Queen, seek help from the troll king, who heals Anna and removes her memories of Elsa’s magic. The royal couple isolates the children in their castle until Elsa learns to control her powers. Afraid of hurting Anna again, Elsa spends most of her time alone in her room, causing a rift between the girls as they grow up. When the girls are teenagers, their parents die at sea during a storm.

When Elsa comes of age, the kingdom prepares for her coronation as Queen. Among the guests is the Duke of Weselton, who seeks to exploit Arendelle for profit. Excited to be allowed out of the castle again, Princess Anna explores the town and meets Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, and the two quickly develop a mutual attraction. Despite Elsa’s fears, her coronation goes off without incident. During the reception, Hans proposes and Anna hastily accepts. However, Elsa refuses to grant her blessing and forbids their sudden marriage. The sisters argue, culminating in the exposure of Elsa’s abilities during an emotional outburst.

Panicking, Elsa flees the castle, while inadvertently unleashing an eternal winter on the kingdom. High in the nearby mountains, she casts off restraint, building herself a solitary ice palace, and unknowingly brings to life her and Anna’s childhood snowman, Olaf. Meanwhile, Anna sets out in search of her sister, determined to return her to Arendelle, end the winter, and mend their relationship. When obtaining supplies, she meets an iceman named Kristoff and his reindeer, Sven, and convinces Kristoff to guide her up the North Mountain. On their journey, the group encounter Olaf, who leads them to Elsa’s hideaway.

Anna and Elsa reunite, but Elsa still fears hurting her sister. When Anna insists that Elsa return, Elsa becomes agitated and her powers lash out, accidentally striking Anna in the heart. Horrified, Elsa creates a giant snow creature to drive Anna, Kristoff and Olaf away from her palace. As they flee, Kristoff notices Anna’s hair turning white and deduces that something is very wrong. He seeks help from the trolls, his adoptive family, who explain that Anna’s heart has been frozen by Elsa. Unless it is thawed by an “act of true love”, she will become frozen solid forever. Believing that only Hans can save her with a true love’s kiss, Kristoff races back with her to Arendelle.

Meanwhile, Hans, leading a search for Anna, reaches Elsa’s palace. In the ensuing battle against the Duke’s men, Elsa is knocked unconscious and imprisoned in Arendelle. There, Hans pleads with her to undo the winter, but Elsa confesses that she does not know how. When Anna reunites with Hans and begs him to kiss her to break the curse, Hans refuses and reveals that his true intention in marrying her is to seize control of Arendelle’s throne. Leaving Anna to die, he charges Elsa with treason for her younger sister’s apparent death.

Elsa escapes and heads out into the blizzard on the fjord. Olaf finds Anna and reveals Kristoff is in love with her; they then escape onto the fjord to find him. Hans confronts Elsa, telling her Anna is dead because of her. In Elsa’s despair, the storm suddenly ceases, giving Kristoff and Anna the chance to find each other. However, Anna, seeing that Hans is about to kill Elsa, throws herself between the two just as she freezes solid, blocking Hans’ attack.

Frozen Movie Poster

Frozen

Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Screenplay by: Jennifer Lee, Hans Christian Andersen (inspired by the story “The Snow Queen”
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Eva Bella
Production Design by: David Womersley
Film Editing by: Jeff Draheim
Art Direction by: Michael Giaimo
Music by: Christophe Beck
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and mild rude humor.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: November 27, 2013

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Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World Movie

Thousands of years ago, a race of beings known as Dark Elves tried to send the universe into darkness by using a weapon known as the Aether. Warriors from Asgard stop them but their leader Malekith escapes to wait for another opportunity. The warriors find the Aether and since it cannot be destroyed, they try to hide it. In the present day, Jane Foster awaits the return of Thor although it has been two years since they last saw once another.

In the meantime, Thor has been trying to bring peace to the nine realms. Jane discovers an anomaly similar to the one that brought Thor to Earth. She goes to investigate, finds a wormhole, and is sucked into it. Back on Asgard, Thor wishes to return to Earth but his father, Odin refuses to let him. Thor learns from Heimdall, who can see into all of the realms, that Jane disappeared. Thor then returns to Earth just as Jane reappears. However, when some policemen try to arrest her, an unknown energy repulses them.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos… but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Thor: The Dark World Movie

About the Story

Eons ago, Bor, father of Odin, clashes with the Dark Elf Malekith, who seeks to destroy the universe using a weapon known as the Aether. After conquering Malekith’s forces, including enhanced warriors called the Kursed, on their home world of Svartalfheim, Bor safeguards the Aether within a stone column. Unbeknownst to Bor, Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim, and a handful of Dark Elves escape into suspended animation.

In present-day Asgard, Loki stands imprisoned for his war crimes on Earth. Meanwhile, Thor, alongside warriors Fandral, Volstagg, and Sif repel marauders on Vanaheim, home of their comrade Hogun; it is the final battle in a war to pacify the Nine Realms following the reconstruction of Bifröst, the “Rainbow Bridge” between realms, which had been destroyed two years earlier. The Asgardians soon learn that the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, is imminent; as the event approaches, portals linking the worlds appear at random.

In London, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster and her intern Darcy Lewis travel to an abandoned factory where such portals have appeared, disrupting the laws of physics around them. Separating from the group, Jane is teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether. Heimdall alerts Thor that Jane has moved beyond his near omniscient sight, leading Thor to Earth. When Thor finds Jane, she inadvertently releases an unearthly force, and Thor returns with her to Asgard. Odin, recognizing the Aether, warns that the Aether will not only kill Jane, but that its return heralds a catastrophic prophecy.

Malekith, awakened by the Aether’s release, turns Algrim into a Kursed and attacks Asgard. During the battle, Malekith and Algrim search for Jane, sensing that she contains the Aether. Thor’s mother Frigga is killed protecting Jane, and Malekith and Algrim are forced to flee without Jane. Despite Odin’s orders not to leave Asgard, Thor reluctantly enlists the help of Loki, who knows of a secret portal to Svartalfheim, where they will use Jane to lure and confront Malekith, away from Asgard. In return, Thor promises Loki vengeance on Malekith for killing their mother. With Volstagg and Sif stalling Asgardian soldiers and Fandral assisting their escape, Thor, Loki, and Jane head to Svartalfheim.

There, Loki tricks Malekith into drawing the Aether out of Jane, but Thor’s attempt to destroy the exposed substance fails. Malekith merges with the Aether and leaves in his ship as Loki is fatally wounded while killing Algrim. Thor, cradling Loki in his arms, promises to tell their father of his sacrifice. Afterwards, Thor and Jane discover another portal in a nearby cave and reunite in London with Darcy and Jane’s mentor Dr. Erik Selvig — who was briefly institutionalized due to the mental trauma he suffered during Loki’s attack on Earth. They learn that Malekith plans to destroy the universe and restore the Dark Elves to dominance by unleashing the Aether at the center of the Convergence in Greenwich. Thor battles Malekith through various portals and across multiple worlds until one portal separates them, leaving Malekith unopposed on Earth. Thor returns in time to help his mortal comrades use their scientific equipment to transport Malekith to Svartalfheim, where he is crushed by his own damaged ship.

Thor returns to Asgard, where he declines Odin’s offer to take the throne and tells Odin of Loki’s sacrifice. As he leaves, Odin’s form transforms to that of a grinning Loki.

In a mid-credits scene, Volstagg and Sif visit the Collector and entrust the Aether to his care, commenting that, with the Tesseract already in Asgard, having two Infinity Stones so close together would be dangerous. As they leave, the Collector remarks, “One down, five to go.” In a post-credits scene, Jane and Thor reunite on Earth while somewhere in London a frost monster from Jotunheim, accidentally transported to Earth during the final battle, continues to run amok.

Thor: The Dark World Movie Poster

Thor: The Dark World

Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård
Screenplay by: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus
Production Design by: Charles Wood
Cinematography by: Kramer Morgenthau
Film Editing by: Dan Lebental, Wyatt Smith
Costume Design by: Wendy Partridge
Set Decoration by: John Bush
Music by: Brian Tyler
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: November 8, 2013

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The Little Mermaid 3D

The Little Mermaid 3D Movie

Taglines: Love has no boundaries.

Swimming into the hearts of a new generation—beautifully restored and this time in 3D—“The Little Mermaid” features the beloved Ariel (voice of Jodi Benson), a fun-loving and mischievous mermaid, who is enchanted with all things human. Disregarding her father’s order to stay away from the world above the sea, she swims to the surface and, in a raging storm, rescues the prince of her dreams. Determined to be human, Ariel strikes a bargain with the devious seawitch Ursula (voice of Pat Carroll), trading her fins and beautiful voice for legs.

With her best friend Flounder (voice of Jason Marin), misguided seagull Scuttle (voice of Buddy Hackett) and the calypso-singing Caribbean crab chaperone Sebastian (voice of Samuel E. Wright) at her side, Ariel must win the prince’s love and save her father’s kingdom – all in a heart-pounding race against time. Originally released in 1989, “The Little Mermaid” garnered two Academy Awards®, including Best Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Original Song (Menken/Howard Ashman, “Under the Sea”).

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who went on to direct “Aladdin” and “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Little Mermaid” returns to the big screen on September 13, 2013, and be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

The Little Mermaid 3D Movie Poster

The Little Mermaid 3D

Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: Rene Auberjonois, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Paddi Edwards
Screenplay by: John Musker, Ron Clements
Film Editing by: Mark A. Hester
Art Direction by: Michael Peraza Jr, Donald Towns
Music by: Alan Menken
MPAA Rating: G for general audiences.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: September 20, 2013

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Disney’s Planes

Disney's Planes Movie

Taglines: From above the world of Cars

“Disney’s Planes” is an action-packed 3D animated comedy featuring Dusty, a plane with dreams of competing as a high-flying air racer. But Dusty’s not exactly built for racing–and he happens to be afraid of heights. So he turns to a seasoned naval aviator who helps Dusty qualify to take on the defending champ of the race circuit. Dusty’s courage is put to the ultimate test as he aims to reach heights he never dreamed possible, giving a spellbound world the inspiration to soar.

Hitting theaters in August, “Disney’s Planes” is an all-new big-screen adventure produced at Southern California’s Disneytoon Studios. Directed by aviation enthusiast Klay Hall (“King of the Hill,” “The Simpsons”), produced by Traci Balthazor-Flynn (“Return to Never Land,” “Bambi II,” “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” as digital production manager), and executive produced by John Lasseter, the film showcases the crop duster’s desire to do more than what he was designed to do.

Says Hall, “I think people will really relate to ‘Disney’s Planes’ because it’s a great underdog story. It has a lot of heart and a message we can all use: If we can believe in ourselves, step out of our comfort zones and get past whatever fear is holding us back, we’d be surprised with the results. And that’s exactly what happens to Dusty in this movie. He’s a crop duster who’s never flown above 1,000 feet, but he dreams of being the fastest air racer in the world. He has a lot of obstacles to overcome and needs to dig pretty deep to find the courage to become more than what he was built for.”

According to Balthazor-Flynn, the global setting of the film invites audiences along for the ride. “Dusty has never been far from home, so he’s experiencing the world for the first time,” she says. “The film visits places many of us–like Dusty–have never seen. It features characters from all over the world–diverse personalities we can get behind and root for. It’s a real adventure–a road movie in the sky.”

Disney's Planes Movie

Head in the Clouds

Klay Hall was into airplanes long before “Disney’s Planes” ever got off the ground. So when executive producer John Lasseter asked the Disneytoon Studios veteran if he’d be interested in directing a feature film set in the skies, it was a no-brainer. “I’ve always loved airplanes,” says Hall. “My dad was in the Navy and his dad was also a pilot. They flew all their lives and passed that love of aviation to me.

“When I was a kid here in California,” continues Hall, “my dad and I would grab some burgers and Cokes and go to the local runway to watch the planes take off and land. I’d sit there and sketch as he talked about the characteristics of the airplanes. I still have a couple of those drawings. So when this project came up, I was able to really jump into this universe.”

Hall’s passion for and background in aviation clearly made him the ideal choice for the film — but the director was already on board another project when “Disney’s Planes” landed in his lap. At the suggestion of John Lasseter, Hall spent more than six months researching and building a story set in the American frontier and featuring railroading. “I’m a history buff — just like John — and it was neat world full of steam locomotives,” says Hall. “It really seemed to be coming together and then John called me. I remember exactly where I was when my phone rang. He said, ‘What do you think about shifting gears and working on a film about planes?’ I paused for a second — John likes to say that as soon as the blood went back to my head after I got off the floor, I was all in. I told him that if there’s one thing I love more than trains and the wild west, it’s planes.”

The director, who attended Cal Arts with fellow animation vets Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”) and Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL*E”), came to Disney in 2005. “My background has always been primetime comedy,” says Hall. “I spent 10 years at ‘The Simpsons’ and then ‘King of the Hill.'”

So when it came time to build the story for “Disney’s Planes,” humor was a key ingredient — along with the kind of action a film about airplanes called for and — of course — authenticity and heart. Hall credits the story team with finding the right blend. “What’s really cool about making an animated film is — hands down — the collaboration. I think animation is the most collaborative art form there is. It takes an army of talented people to do one of these films.”

Hall, Lasseter and Jeff Howard came together early in the process to hammer out the story. “We sat in a little room for five or six hours,” says Howard, who welcomed the opportunity to brainstorm with Lasseter. “We all respect him so much, creatively — and we were invited to hang out and spitball with him. That’s when we came up with the idea of a crop duster who wants to be a racer. We named him Dusty that first day and talked about a race around the world where he’d meet racers from different countries.”

“It just felt right,” says Lasseter. “There’s a great group of new characters who fly throughout different parts of the world — Iceland, Germany, India, Mexico. We knew from the start that it had to be better than good. It had to be great. And it is. It’s beautiful. To say that I’m excited about this movie is an understatement.”

Disney's Planes Movie Poster

Disney’s Planes

Directed by: Klay Hall
Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Priyanka Chopra, Gabriel Iglesias
Production Design by: Ryan L. Carlson
Film Editing by: Jeremy Milton
Art Direction by: Ryan L. Carlson
Music by: Mark Mancina
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: August 8, 2013

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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger Movie

Taglines: Never take dff the mask.

From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the filmmaking team behind the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, comes Disney / Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “The Lone Ranger,” a thrilling adventure inf used with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice–taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.

“The Lone Ranger” also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter.

The Lone Ranger is an American action western film directed by Gore Verbinski from a screenplay written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio. Based on the radio series of the same name, the film stars Johnny Depp as Tonto, the narrator of the events, and Armie Hammer as John Reid (The Lone Ranger).

It relates Tonto’s memories of the duo’s earliest efforts to subdue the immoral actions of the corrupt and bring justice in the American Old West. William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, Ruth Wilson, James Badge Dale, Tom Wilkinson and Helena Bonham Carter also are featured in supporting roles. It is the first theatrical film featuring the Lone Ranger and Tonto characters in more than 32 years.

The Lone Ranger Movie - Rebecca Reid

A Legacy Reborn

Eighty years after they first rode into the public’s imagination, the classic characters of the Lone Ranger and Tonto remain enduring fixtures of the American cultural landscape. “There’s something about these characters that have appealed to every generation since they were invented,” notes producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “I grew up in Detroit, and ‘The Lone Ranger’ radio and TV shows were part of my youth, and millions of others as well.” On radio, television, theater screens, TV animation, comic strips, books, graphic novels, and video games, the perpetual popularity of these iconic American characters represents a continuum that confirms the continuity of the public’s fascination with them.

The program first made its way onto the airwaves courtesy of WXYZ radio in Detroit, Michigan, on January 30, 1933. The station owner, George W. Trendle, wanted a Western that would appeal to a children’s audience. The character he created was wholesome, honest and an authority figure kids could admire. The concept of the Lone Ranger was thus born and handed off to Fran Striker, a script writer from Buffalo, and the station’s staff director, James Jewell.

Jewell went on to direct “The Lone Ranger” radio series through 1938, by which time it was a national phenomenon. Jewell’s father-in-law owned Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee in Mullet Lake, Michigan, which became the obvious linguistic inspiration behind Tonto’s name for his friend, the Lone Ranger (Tonto was introduced 11 episodes into the series). It’s believed that the camp was named after an Ojibwe word, “giimoozaabi,” which has been varyingly translated as “trusty scout” or even “someone who does not follow the normal path.” The name Tonto might also derive from another Ojibwe word, “N’da’aanh-too” (pronounced “Nduh-on-toe”) meaning “wild one” or “to change.” Jewell also suggested Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” as the program’s theme music.

The Lone Ranger Movie - Rebecca Reid

There were 2,956 radio episodes of “The Lone Ranger” (the last new one was broadcast on September 3, 1954), a 21-year history that actually overlapped the hugely successful television series, starring stalwart Clayton Moore as the titular character and dignified Jay Silverheels as Tonto. This program, which became an international phenomenon, began airing on ABC in 1949 and continued until 1957.

The huge popularity of the show also spun off into two theatrical feature films, “The Lone Ranger” (1956) and “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” (1958). But now it’s time for Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer to put their own indelible stamps on Tonto and the Lone Ranger. As they respect some traditions established over the past eight decades, they also fearlessly interpret the characters for an entirely new generation.

Shaping the Story

As with many ambitious projects, it was a long and winding road that brought the new version of “The Lone Ranger” to fruition. But neither producer Jerry Bruckheimer nor director Gore Verbinski are men to be easily dissuaded once their hearts and minds are focused. “We knew that it was time for ‘The Lone Ranger’ and Westerns to be reborn,” says Bruckheimer, “just as Gore and I knew that it was time for pirate movies to be resurrected when we first developed ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ for the screen a decade ago. There’s a reason why people have relished these characters and genres for decades, and we knew that if we re- introduced them in a fresh and exciting way, they would fall in love with them all over again.”

Verbinski was interested in directing “The Lone Ranger” only if they could take the classic story and stand it on its ear. “I think if you’re a fan of the original TV series,” Verbinski says, “you’re going to be surprised by the movie, because everybody knows that story, and that’s not the story we’re telling. We’re telling the story from Tonto’s perspective, kind of like ‘Don Quixote,’ told from Sancho Panza’s point of view. I would say that at its core, our version is a buddy story and an action-adventure film with a lot of irony and humor and enough odd singularity to make it distinct.”

To write the fresh take on the legendary tale, the filmmakers hired the brilliant screenwriting team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who had also scribed all four of the hugely successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, the first three of which were collaborations between Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski, and Justin Haythe, who wrote “Revolutionary Road” for Sam Mendes.

Commenting on the story, producer Jerry Bruckheimer says, “This is the story of how John Reid becomes the Lone Ranger,” adds Bruckheimer, “but in the framework of a ‘dramedy’ between two characters from totally different backgrounds, who are really at odds at the beginning of the story and through the course of their relationship come to a kind of uneasy bonding. Our version has a lot of excitement, adventure, drama, comedy, spectacle and emotion. And because of Gore’s vision, it’s also huge.”

Bruckheimer was thrilled that his “Pirates” partner Gore Verbinski was onboard the “The Lone Ranger.” “Gore is an amazingly talented director, someone who encompasses it all. Sometimes you find a director who does comedy well but can’t do action, or those who can only do action,” says Bruckheimer. “Gore is one of the very few directors who can do everything — action, drama, comedy, animation — with equal brilliance. He’s highly visual and lets nothing stand in his way to create sequences that have never been seen before, and then he somehow finds a way to shoot them to maximum effect.”

Back to School… Cowboy School

The cast and background players of “The Lone Ranger” discovered that if you want to be a cowboy, gunslinger, or railroad builder on screen, you’ve got to go back to school and be properly taught. “Cowboy Boot Camp” began three weeks before Gore Verbinski called “Action” for the first time and was attended by the vast majority of the primary cast at the Horses Unlimited ranch in Albuquerque. Their teachers included stuntmen, horse wranglers, the prop master, and armorers, and nobody was cut an easy break — not even the guy playing the film’s eponymous character.

“Cowboy Boot Camp is basically all the actors running around like six-year-old boys,” says Armie Hammer. “Riding horses for two hours a day, throwing lassos for an hour, shooting guns, riding in a wagon, putting on a saddle and taking it off. It was like an immersion project. After just a few days of boot camp, I did more riding than I cumulatively had in my entire life.”

“What Gore wanted,” explains stunt coordinator Tommy Harper, “was to have a Cowboy Boot Camp where we basically teach each actor how to shoot a gun, how to saddle and ride a horse, along with other training. This way we get to know the actors, what their abilities are, and how to keep them safe. The main thing for me is to make sure that at the end of the movie they’ve done as much as they can do safely, and end the movie being completely healthy.” Although boot camp started before filming actually began, Harper points out that the actors’ training went “all the way to the end. Just when you think you know everything, something backfires on you, so we never let them get too comfortable.”

Clearly, it was crucial for the actors to learn the correct handling of firearms, and for that they were under the expert tutelage of armorer Harry Lu. “Even though they’re shooting blanks,” notes Harper, “it’s still a dangerous piece of equipment that they’re working with, and we have to make sure that they know every bit of handling and how to look correct doing it.”

William Fichtner, who as ultimate badass outlaw Butch Cavendish had to feel absolutely secure with his weaponry, was glad to put himself in the safe hands of the experts. “With Mr. Harry Lu around, I’m comfortable with anything when it comes to firearms,” says the actor. “It’s hard… the first time you hold that heavy gun in your hand. But every time I would arrive on set and see Harry, I would ask him if I could handle the gun for a little bit, and he would always show me something new to practice, then show me a little more.” After a time, Fichtner was doing dangerously cool flips and twirls with the gun, which were captured on film during shooting in Creede, Colorado. “You know why you try so hard with things like that?” asks Fichtner. “Because as an actor, you want little moments to equal everything else that’s happening on this film. I wanted that gun move to be as good as the amazing backdrop and set we were shooting on in Creede.”

Schooling the talent on horsemanship was the film’s crack wrangling team under the supervision of head horse wrangler Clay M. Lilley and wrangler gang boss Norman Mull. “A horseman can look at an actor and know that person can’t ride a horse,” says Harper. “You can just tell by how they walk up to it, or how they mount and dismount. So teaching them how to look correct was really important.” Adds Norman Mull, “What we’re trying to do in boot camp is to get the actors comfortable with horses, pick horses for them, and teach them whatever we need to make sure they can ride. Some of the actors had some previous experience, including Armie Hammer and Ruth Wilson. “I’ve fallen off a few horses before,” says Wilson with a laugh, “so I thought this was a good place to start learning properly.” Wilson enjoyed being the only woman at boot camp. “Yeah, I loved it, surrounded by cowboys, it was quite fun. It was a really nice way of understanding the world of the movie.”

The normally fearless Hammer, however, was actually a little nervous. “I’d been on horses before, but I thought, ‘This animal thinks for itself, and that makes me a little nervous. What is it going to do if it sees a bunny?’ But they don’t give you a choice; they just stick you on a horse and say, ‘Go ride.’ It was nonstop fun for three weeks.”

The other principal actors also had a blast at boot camp, although they acknowledged the rigors involved. James Badge Dale, the New Yorker who plays tough Texas Ranger Dan Reid in the film, had to come clean about his riding skills when he first met with Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski. “I didn’t have the job yet, and I met with the two of them. Jerry was just sitting quietly, as he often does, observing and listening carefully. Gore asked me if I knew how to ride a horse. I went back and forth with some story, and finally said, ‘Gore, I’m sorry, I have no idea how to ride a horse. I’m from New York City!’ Then Jerry suddenly starts laughing, and said, ‘You’re the first person who’s come in here and told us the truth!’ Then Gore added, ‘Well, you’re going to learn.’ And I did. I learned things about horses that I never thought I would. These wranglers are very good at what they do. They love their horses and they teach you to respect them.”

Also making an important contribution to boot camp was Kris Peck’s prop department, since it was responsible for providing the period-correct tack for the actors’ horses. They custom-made upwards of 80 Western saddles, 25 U.S. Cavalry saddles and 30 Native American saddles. “We have to teach the actors how to take off all their props and look as if they know what they’re doing,” explains assistant prop master Curtis Akin. “They have all kinds of stuff that they’re going to use for the camp scenes, so when they ride up they’re going to get off their horses, pull all this stuff out, lay their saddles around the campfire, and lay their bedrolls out to make camp for the night.”

The Lone Ranger Movie Poster

The Lone Ranger

Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter
Screenplay by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Justin Haythe
Production Design by: Jess Gonchor, Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery
Cinematography by: Bojan Bazelli
Film Editing by: James Haygood, Craig Wood
Costume Design by: Penny Rose
Set Decoration by: Cheryl Carasik
Music by: Hans Zimmer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: July 2, 2013

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Monsters University

Monsters University

Taglines: School never looked so scary.

After visiting Monsters Inc.—Monstropolis’ most profitable and best-known scaring company—on a school field trip, a young monster named Michael “Mike” Wazowski dreams of being a scarer when he grows up. Eleven years later, Mike is a scare major at Monsters University, where he meets his new roommate, Randall “Randy” Boggs, and a large, blue, furry monster named James P. “Sulley” Sullivan.

Mike studies hard, while the privileged Sulley—who comes from a talented family of scarers—relies on his natural scaring ability and begins to falter. At the final exam, Mike and Sulley’s rivalry makes Dean Hardscrabble fail them both and drop them from the program, prompting Roar Omega Roar to remove Sulley from their team. Mike decides to prove himself by entering the Scare Games, but Oozma Kappa—the only fraternity that was removed from the program—is denied entry as they are one team member short. Seeing the competition as his ticket back into the scare program, Sulley joins and Mike reluctantly accepts.

Oozma Kappa fails the first challenge, an obstacle course where the contestants dodge harmful, glowing “urchins,” but miraculously advances when another team is disqualified for using protection gel, which violates the Scare Games’ rules. The contestants attend Roar Omega Roar’s party where the other competitors humiliate and discourage Oozma Kappa. Mike arranges a secret visit to Monsters, Inc. to lift their spirits, but Sulley still doubts that Mike can be a true scarer. After the team wins the final round, Mike discovers that Sulley cheated to improve Mike’s score. Determined to prove he is capable of becoming a scarer, Mike breaks into the school’s door lab and enters a door to the human world, but the door leads to a summer camp and he is unable to scare a cabin full of children.

Back at the university, Sulley confesses to Hardscrabble that he cheated, just as she is notified of the break-in. Realizing what happened, Sulley enters the door to look for Mike. After finding and reconciling with him, they try to return but they find they are trapped in the human world because Hardscrabble has deactivated the door while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Mike realizes that the only way to get back into the monster world is to generate enough scream energy to power the door from their side.

Monsters University Movie Poster

Monsters University

Directed by: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Peter Sohn, Aubrey Plaza
Screenplay by: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Dan Scanlon
Production Design by: Ricky Nierva
Film Editing by: Greg Snyder
Music by: Randy Newman
MPAA Rating: G for all audiences.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation
Release Date: January 14, 2013

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Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 Movie

Taglines: Even heroes fall.

Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle.

With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

The Story

“The exciting thing about ‘Iron Man 3,’ is that it’s not only the culmination of the first two films, but it’s also a follow up to ‘Marvel’s The Avengers,’” says producer Kevin Feige. “It’s one of the first situations where you have a movie that is the sequel to two different films and in a way that liberates it to be more unique than anything that has come before it, which is what we’re most excited about.”

In the Marvel cinematic universe, all events that happen within each film have a direct influence and consequence in future films and franchises. For Tony Stark the events and encounters he faced in “Marvel’s The Avengers” may be behind him, but he is still working hard to balance the demands of his own personal life.

For the storyline of Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” the filmmakers decided on a “back-to-basics” tone where they could explore what Tony Stark would do if all of his money and toys were stripped away from him and he was forced to find a way back to being a Super Hero.

“Early on in the development, we talked about this notion of taking Tony Stark back to basics because we wanted to see him just use his brain,” explains executive producer Louis D’ Esposito. “You want to see what he can do when the odds are against him and it makes you wonder, ‘How is he going to get out of this one?’”

Iron Man 3 Movie

Executive producer Stephen Broussard explains the filmmakers’ decision to blend two different storylines together for the film. “There are two classic stories that have appeared in the ‘Iron Man’ comics–one is older and the other is more modern,” explains Broussard. “The older is the character called The Mandarin, and he is one of the most famous villains in the franchise. The character dates back to the 1960s and we wanted Shane [Black] and Drew [Pearce] to take that idea and contemporize it for present-day audiences.”

Broussard adds, “We also wanted to combine that with another storyline in the comic called Extremis, which came out not too long before the first ‘Iron Man’ film in 2008. It deals with the biological enhancement of humans and Tony must face super-powered humans in that. So we just thought, wouldn’t that be interesting if we tried to combine these two stories into one for ‘Iron Man 3′?”

An early believer in the Extremis story line, Downey Jr. says, “I remember when we were getting ready to shoot ‘Iron Man,’ I started reading ‘Iron Man’ comics and there was this one called ‘Extremis,’ and I thought it was really interesting and cool.”

“The thing about the Extremis storyline that always interested me in the comic books was that you had a sense that Tony Stark puts on an iron suit and hides inside it in a way,” says director Shane Black. “The character wouldn’t call it that, but that’s kind of the case. With the Extremis people, you always got a sense that they’re burning up from the inside. So one of them could actually say to Tony for instance, ‘you drive a car, I am the car.’”

Iron Man 3 Movie

There is plenty of angst from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to fuel Tony Stark’s arc too. Before “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Tony Stark thought he was the only Super Hero in the world, and in “Iron Man 3″ he must deal with the revelation that he is not the only one out there. As Kevin Feige explains, “In ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’ he faces a world-changing event that not only includes seeing the powers of other Super Heroes, but also having a portal to another world opened above his head.”

For Robert Downey Jr. the journey of Tony Stark in the “Iron Man” franchise is one that is very relatable to audiences. “The great thing about ‘Iron Man 3′ is that we really are going back to kind of an extension and continuation of some of the things that made the franchise fly to begin with,” says Downey. “With the execution and incredible success of ‘Marvel’s The Avengers,’ we’re afforded the opportunity to not have to set up another film and can really explore the character of Tony Stark in ways that are very organic and connectable and play to the strength of the franchise.”

Director on Board

While Downey and Marvel were both on board for the third installment of the franchise, one of the big questions that needed to be answered was who was going to take over the directorial reigns from Jon Favreau, the director who put the “Iron Man” franchise on the map and delivered two worldwide blockbuster hits.

“All of our films are defined by the filmmakers we collaborate with to bring these stories to the big screen,” says producer Feige. “What Jon Favreau was able to do on the first two films was groundbreaking and astounding. So, when we realized we needed to bring in a new director, it was a daunting task. We needed somebody who had the experience, taste and ability to make a big action movie, but was grounded at the same time.”

The filmmakers turned to Shane Black, who serendipitously directed Robert Downey Jr. in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” the film that was a big factor in propelling the actor into the running for the role of Tony Stark in “Iron Man.”

For Downey, hiring Black to write and direct the film brought the franchise full circle and was a little bit of karmic payback for the director’s behind-the-scenes help on “Iron Man.” “During the preproduction of ‘Iron Man,’ Jon Favreau and I used to call Shane and ask him for advice about scenes and he would give us these metaphors and sometimes direct comments, but it was always great advice and he would never take a penny for it –although he did once asked for a piece of well-done salmon and some blueberries,” laughs Robert Downey Jr. “Shane has been so instrumental in shaping the buddy comedy/action genre and I was delighted when Marvel brought his name up and obviously very much in favor of him directing ‘Iron Man 3.’”

For director Shane Black, a lifelong “Iron Man” fan and self-proclaimed fan boy, reteaming with Robert Downey Jr. was one opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. “Having the opportunity to direct and write ‘Iron Man 3,’ was just the greatest opportunity, and Robert always seems to elevate the material–that’s what’s great about him,” says Black.

“We wanted ‘Iron Man 3′ to have a fresh tone and Shane Black has an incredibly unique style to his writing,” concludes producer Louis D’ Esposito. “He does action very well, but he also does twisted black comedy with heart and emotion very well too. What’s amazing about Shane is he finds ways to do all that in one scene. It’s always been his trademark that his scripts are kind of quirky and off-kilter, but with big emotion and a lot of heart.”

The “Iron Man 3″ Experience

Reflecting on the journey of making Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” Gwyneth Paltrow says, “I think this movie ends in a really unexpected way and there’s so much heart to it. It’s about discovering yourself and what’s really important. And, of course, it’s done with all the fireworks and action and excitement, but there’s real heart underneath it.”

“The most gratifying part of the journey thus far at Marvel Studios is seeing the way worldwide global movie audiences respond to these films,” says Kevin Feige. “I think people like the notion of going to see a film that fits into a broader mythological framework and ‘Iron Man 3′ continues that tradition. I think audiences will be satisfied when they see what Tony Stark has been up to.”

Sums up Robert Downey Jr., “In a way, this is the holiday season for us all as far as the ‘Iron Man’ of it all. If it never gets any better than this, I think we’ll be satisfied because this might be our best effort yet.”

Iron Man 3 Movie Poster

Iron Man 3

Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley
Screenplay by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Production Design by: Bill Brzeski
Cinematography by: John Toll
Film Editing by: Peter S. Elliot, Jeffrey Ford
Costume Design by: Louise Frogley
Set Decoration by: Danielle Berman
Music by: Brian Tyler
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: May 3, 2013

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Oz: The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful

Taglines: Find yourselif in Oz.

Walt Disney Pictures’ fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — fame and fortune are his for the taking — that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting.

Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even a bit of wizardry — Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

The Story

“This is a story of how the wizard came to be the wizard; of how a smalltime carnival magician — a faker, a charlatan — came to a fantastic world and was just the thing that they needed to save the day. It’s the tale of how an average man who was selfish became a great wizard who is selfless.” — Sam Raimi, director

L. Frank Baum, who wrote 14 novels between 1900-1920, all set in the Land of Oz he so vividly created, never fully portrayed the wizard character’s background in any of his books. Producer Joe Roth found that fact fascinating. “I love origin stories and I liked the idea of how the wizard came to be,” says Roth. “So, going back to Baum’s books to research and imagine his beginnings seemed like a great idea.”

Oz The Great and Powerful

“L. Frank Baum wrote a series of adventures with multiple characters in Oz,” states Raimi’s longtime producing partner, Grant Curtis. “I think the beauty of what Mitchell Kapner originally did, along with producer Joe Roth and executive producer Palak Patel, was that they took some of the adventures throughout these books and brought them together into one concise story that depicts how Oz became the great wizard.”

Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s imaginative screenplay follows Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, Oscar thinks he’s hit the jackpot — fame and fortune are his for the taking — that is until he meets three witches, Theodora, Evanora and Glinda, who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use, along with some ingenuity — and even a bit of wizardry — Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.

“It begins with a circus con artist who gets caught up in a tornado in a hot-air balloon and lands in this magical Land of Oz,” screenwriter Mitchell Kapner elaborates about the original story inspired by the works of author L. Frank Baum. “Because his name is Oz, his arrival coincides with a prophecy that states that a new and great leader is forthcoming. Because the Wicked Witch has taken over the land, the people look to this stranger as this great Wizard. They bow down to this mere mortal when they see his name on the side of his balloon.

Oz The Great and Powerful

“This is a guy, bluffing his way through life because he doesn’t have real magic powers like these witches do, who can become their leader and get Emerald City back from the Wicked Witch,” the screenwriter resumes about the story. “I liked the dynamic that people expected him to be this powerful wizard, which he knows he’s not. Yet, he can claim this throne, and essentially be the King, if he convinces enough people. Along the way, he realizes it’s not just about him. He has to do it to save these people.”

“What I love most about this character of Oz is that he is such a dastardly heel,” says co-screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire about the film’s unlikely hero. “But, he also craves something greater, both from his life and for himself as a person. He wants to do great things, and, in the beginning, it’s only about money and power and riches. By the end of the story, he finds out it’s actually about finding love and friendship. It’s a very human story.”

Before Lindsay-Abaire joined the project, Roth sought a director to bring Kapner’s story to life before the cameras. In choosing the acclaimed Sam Raimi, no stranger to Hollywood’s arena of epic film works (the “Spider-Man” trilogy), the veteran producer and former studio executive found what he felt was the best of a small fraternity of seasoned filmmakers who could bring the necessary scope to Kapner’s script.

“In tackling the Oz story, I could think of no better director than Sam Raimi,” says the filmmaker. “Sam is one of our leading directors who has great heart as well as visual artistry. Everything makes him the right director, frankly. He’s worked on films of this size and scope. He’s worked in a world of special effects and live action combined. And more than anything, he has the heart and the sensibility of the story.”

When Raimi read the script for “Oz The Great and Powerful,” he “fell in love with it.” He says, “I thought it was engaging and that it had a great, flawed main character. His adventure was fun and, eventually, his character’s transformation gave it an uplifting quality that I really enjoyed.”

Working in 3D

“When I came on the film, the first draft of the screenplay already existed and I heard that producer Joe Roth and the Walt Disney Studios wanted to make the film in 3D,” Sam Raimi explains about his very first foray in the digital 3D realm. “I thought it was a good idea. I think that for this project, the fact that it introduces the audience to Baum’s fantastical world and can give them a sense of dimensionality, a sense of space, is very exciting.”

Not only did the project mark Raimi’s first in digital 3D, but also that for his cinematographer, another longtime ally, Peter Deming (“Drag Me to Hell,” “Evil Dead II”), who remarks that “3D is definitely a different animal. You’re working at different light levels. Your choice of lenses is much different than for a 2D film. You’re always looking for new ways to cover your scenes or maximize the 3D in the blocking and the staging, as opposed to a 2D movie.

“In taking on the project, Sam was faced with two new ventures, 3D and digital,” Deming continues. “We talked a lot about that, about what cameras to use, about shooting in 2D and converting in post-production, a practice called dimensionalization. Shooting on film and converting to digital. We probably spent a month prepping and shooting tests in Los Angeles on two different 3D systems, two different cameras, and film. And then posting all that through 2D or 3D imaging and comparing them all.

“The camera we ultimately settled on was the Red Epic because in 3D, much like your eyesight, you need two images to make a three-dimensional fact,” the veteran cinematographer explains about the 3D camera process. “Our eyes are fairly close together and there’s no way to get two cameras that close together. So, you end up with a 50 percent mirror and you have one camera conventional and one on top so they’re looking through the same mirror at the same subject.

“Yet, the center of each image is only about an inch apart, and you can vary that distance between the center to create various 3D effects. So, it ends up being quite a large structure compared to a normal motion picture camera. We obviously wanted the highest quality camera, but as compact as we could get without giving up quality. And that’s what the Epic gave us,” the camera veteran concludes.

“Our story begins in Kansas in the year 1905. It’s presented in black and white. The 3D is dialed down. The soundtrack will be mono. When we get to the Land of Oz, the screen opens up to a widescreen format,” Raimi explains about the opening 18 minutes of the film. “We’ll transition from mono into the full 7.1 sound, bring the choir up on the track, go to full color and dial up the 3D. And I hope that together these effects will be a powerful experience for the audience.”

“And, while we shot the entire film in 3D, we shot it at a very shallow depth for these opening scenes,” Deming adds. “When we get to Oz, we transition from black and white to color. We also go from 1:66 to 2:40 widescreen and we expand the 3D.”

Oz: The Great and Powerful Movie Poster

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, James Franco, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Abigail Spencer
Screenplay by: L. Frank Baum, Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Production Design by: Robert Stromberg
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Film Editing by: Bob Murawski
Costume Design by: Gary Jones
Set Decoration by: Nancy Haigh
Music by: Danny Elfman
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: March 8, 2013

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