January 22, 2009
Did Anschutz Alienate Disney?
The man behind Walden Media may have ticked off the studio with his demands, thus killing Disney's commitment to the Narnia films.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Phil Anschutz, the money man behind Walden Media, may have pushed Disney too far with his demands regarding the Narnia movies, thus killing what had been a profitable partnership.
Disney announced last month it was dropping out of the Narnia business, and will no longer distribute the films based on C. S. Lewis's beloved children's books. At the time, Disney cited economic reasons, but this new report from the Times indicates there may have been much more to it.
"According to multiple sources," says the Times, "the once-close relationship between Disney and Walden began to unravel when, after the first 'Narnia' film cleaned up at the box office, Anschutz essentially put a gun to Disney's head and demanded that the studio renegotiate its deal with Walden. Anschutz insisted that Disney either gave back a sizable chunk of the studio's lucrative distribution fee or Anschutz would distribute the 'Narnia' series on his own. Believing the franchise was too good to give up, Disney reluctantly changed the terms of its Walden deal, but the renegotiation poisoned relations between the two behemoths. When the second film faltered, there was so little good will left over that Disney had far less qualms about cutting its ties with the franchise."
The story goes on to say that "Walden wasn't all that happy with the way Disney handled [Caspian]," and cites Disney studio chief Dick Cook as defending Disney's decision to release it in the summer--up against such blockbusters as Iron Man and Indiana Jones 4.
Walden's plans to make Voyage of the Dawn Treader are temporarily on hold until they can find a distributor. The most likely candidate is 20th Century Fox, with whom Walden has partnered on all of its other films.