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Team Disney--flying High In Burbank

July 28, 1985|DAVID T. FRIENDLY

"Offbeat"--A comedy about a library worker whose life is changed when a cop friend asks him to take his place at an audition for a modern dance program sponsored to promote community relations. To his surprise, the librarian finds he's a natural and wins a spot in the show. In a series of masquerades where the librarian is impersonating the cop, the two now have to play out the lie. Judge Reinhold and Meg Tilley star, Michael Dinner ("Heaven Help Us") directs. Shooting now, due out in February.

"Tough Guys"--A rare star vehicle for Team Disney, this comedy employs Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster as two bank robbers just released from prison who are having a tough time catching up with a much-changed world. To make matters worse, someone is committing robberies in their famous style. Ink is still drying on deals for Lancaster and Douglas, but Jeff Kanew ("Revenge of the Nerds") is set to direct a script by James Orr and Jim Cruickshank. If the deal comes through, due out next spring.

"Ruthless People"--Who could imagine a Disney movie starring Madonna? Disney is feverishly trying--and reportedly close--to hiring the singer to play a lead in this very black comedy written by newcomer Dale Launer about a man who refuses to pay the ransom on his kidnaped wife. The Zucker brothers and Abrahams have agreed to direct and are collaborating on the rewrite. The project is said to be a high priority. Interestingly enough, Columbia put this script into turnaround (making it available for pickup by other studios).

Los Angeles Times Friday August 2, 1985 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 12 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Lauren Shuler was mistakenly credited with producing "Desperately Seeking Susan" in an article in Calendar on Sunday. Shuler recently produced "Ladyhawke" and is now making "Pretty in Pink"; producers of "Desperately Seeking Susan" were Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury.

"The Navigator"--Randal Kleiser is directing this adventure about a kid's relationship with an alien spacecraft that has its own personality. The two go off on an adventure together. Should start shooting this fall for next summer. To be co-financed with Producers Sales Organization.

"Big Business"--Producer Steve Tisch's first movie for the revamped studio, this is billed as an updated version of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." Two sets of identical female twins are born in the same town the same night and are accidentally mixed up. Thirty-five years later, the unsuspecting four women wind up in adjacent suites at the Plaza Hotel. A series of mistaken identity mishaps ensues. This project has what is known as a "flashing green light." That is, "It's going to get made," says one Disney insider. Screenwriters Dorie Pierson and Mark Rubell are working on the rewrite.

"A Night on the Town"--The story of a man about to go in for heart surgery who is convinced he is going to die and decides to go out for one last night on the town. Script is being written by Joseph Rubin and David Loughry and will be produced by Ufland/Roth Productions. This one getting a lot of "heat," as they say.

"In the Hall of the Mountain King"--The odds-on favorite to mark Sidney Poitier's return to the screen, this is the story of an urban cop who tracks a psycho-killer with the aid of a mountain man. Initially, the pair stalk the killer in the wilds relying on the mountain man's skills. The story concludes in an urban setting--perhaps Toronto--where Poitier takes over. The project has priority because of Poitier's interest.

The aforementioned is anything but a traditional Disney menu but, in addition to these projects, Disney will continue to re-release classics from the past, including "101 Dalmations" at Christmas and "Sleeping Beauty" next year. In addition, the new regime has just released "Pinocchio" to the burgeoning videocassette market where, at $79.95, it has sold more than 100,000 copies in its first week. A Disney insider says that does not mean the film will be taken out of theatrical rotation but that "Pinocchio" won't be back in theaters for seven years. Disney executives are monitoring this situation closely before deciding whether to go the same way with other classics.

They also seem intent upon stepping up production of animated features from one every four years to one every 18 months. Still, don't expect to see $25-million budgets (i.e., "The Black Cauldron"). As they were at Paramount, these people hope to keep the vast majority of their features in the medium-priced $10-million to $15-million budget range. (While the bulk of their films were moderately budgeted at Paramount, there were exceptions. "Explorers," for example, cost $23 million and is fizzling at the box office.)

In TV, Disney is producing the "Disney Sunday Movie" for ABC, which will air 23 of the one- and two-hour made-for-TV movies.

It also has sold two Saturday morning cartoon shows, "The Wuzzles" to CBS and "The Gummi Bears" to NBC. (Ironically, the two shows will compete in the same 7:30 a.m. time slot.) To save dollars, both shows will be voiced and designed here, but the actual animation work will be done in Japan and will employ cheaper limited-animation techniques. While this wouldn't seem likely to enhance the company's historic achievements in the animated arts, the results will be known--and perhaps debated--in the fall.

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