Welcome to DisneyBizJournal.com - News, Analysis and Reviews of the Disney Entertainment Business!

Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Friday, December 13, 2019

Thumbs-Up from Disney Experts for THE DISNEY PLANNER 2020: THE TO DO LIST SOLUTION

If you love Disney, and are serious about reaching goals and getting things done day-to-day and month-to-month, then THE DISNEY PLANNER 2020 is for you. Consider...

"This is the ultimate to-do list. Oh, my gosh!... This is amazing." - Michael Kay, leading YouTube Disney vlogger

"That is really cool ... looks like fun." - ResortTV1, leading YouTube Disney vloggers

THE DISNEY PLANNER 2020: THE TO DO LIST SOLUTION combines a simple, powerful system for getting things done with encouragement and fun for Disney fans, including those who love Mickey, Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Pixar, and more.

With each day, you’ll enjoy quotes from Walt Disney, other Disney leaders, experts, fans, and hundreds of characters, along with facts about theme parks, movies and much more.

Ray Keating, who is the publisher, editor and columnist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and a novelist, entrepreneur, podcaster, and marketer, explains: “Spending each day during the year using THE DISNEY PLANNER 2020: THE TO DO LIST SOLUTION makes sense if you’re a Disney fan, if you want to enjoy valuable and fun quotes and facts from the Disney universe, and if you’re looking for a daily takeaway that will make at least a small difference in your outlook, your work, and your life.” 

Keating added, “The act of using ‘The TO DO List Solution’ requires reflection on goals; forces prioritization; allows for being more realistic about time management; and generates serious thought on how to best get things done (such as breaking down projects into manageable steps).”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Disney and Paid Promotion Woes

by Ray Keating
December 12, 2019

The Walt Disney Company, according to a Wall Street Journal report, has run into some troubles regarding Japanese artists being hired to promote Frozen 2 on Twitter but failing to disclose that they were paid to do so.

The artists, according to the story, were asked by an agency being used by Disney to not reveal that they were hired to promote the film with their art. The artists have apologized, and Disney issued a statement saying that internal marketing guidelines were not followed.

The Journal noted, “The Federal Trade Commission said in 2017 that influencers ‘should clearly and conspicuously disclose’ paid work. Japan’s consumer laws bar false or misleading advertising, but an official at the country’s Consumer Affairs Agency said the agency hasn’t issued guidance on paid posts by influencers.”

Ethically, it would seem pretty straightforward that if one is being paid to promote or positively review a movie, television show, book, or whatever, that should be disclosed. Yes, honesty remains the best business policy – whether online or in a brick-and-mortar setting. The article ended by noting that those damaged by such controversies go beyond the entities doing the hiring: “Some artists said the practice was troubling because fans would assume any favorable post about a product or service was the result of an undisclosed payment, even when it wasn’t.” Indeed, this amounts to a passing matter for Disney, while the independent artists are the ones who could suffer more lasting damage.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solutionand the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

The Disney Planner 2020 for Christmas!

The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution is the ideal Christmas gift for the person who needs to get things done and loves all things Disney. 

Get it here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Disney Vlogger Michael Kay Opens a Gift

by Ray Keating
December 11, 2019

Michael Kay is a fun and prolific vlogger-YouTuber on Disney. Indeed, as stated on his YouTube channel: “My name is Michael and I LOVE Disney. Whether it's sharing my favorite meet and greet interaction, my review of a resort or just some fun I love sharing my passion for Disney with all of my Friends.” In a recent video, Michael opened a package from the Keating family with The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution inside. Check out his reaction below at about the 16:45 mark of the video! Thanks, Michael Kay! 

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solutionand the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Excerpt: Inspired to Get Things Done by Walt Disney

by Ray Keating
Book Excerpt
December 10, 2019

My favorite quote from Walt Disney is: “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” That quote captures my own outlook on much of life, and it served as an impetus for me to put together a to-do list system to help my own productivity and to help others. The following is the Introduction to The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution. In this Introduction, I explain why I wrote a Disney planner, and what “The TO DO List Solution” is, how it has helped me and can make a difference for you as well. So, check out the Intro, and I hope you can use and enjoy The Disney Planner 2020.

Introduction: Why Day-to-Day with Disney?

by Ray Keating

The purpose of a planner is to get organized, to make sure things are accomplished, and to set, work toward and achieve goals. In the essay following this one, I’ll make the case as to why the TO DO List Solution is a simple, but ideal tool for making all of this and more happen. But for now, let’s consider another question: Why does it make sense to work with The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution – emphasis on the word “Disney”?

First, and most obvious, The Disney Planner 2020 is ideal for the Disney fan. And today, that covers a big chunk of our popular culture, and it’s not surprising given that Disney ranks as one of the largest entertainment companies on the planet. 

So, being a Disney fan can cover a rather breathtaking sweep of entertainment, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and such friends as Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto. But it also includes animated feature films ranging from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 to Frozen II in 2019. On television, Disney’s television shows have covered, for example, The Mickey Mouse Club, premiering in 1955, to ABC’s Once Upon a Time, running from 2011 to 2018, to The Mandalorian, with its November 2019 debut on the Disney+ streaming service.

Naturally, there are fans of the many Disney princesses, including Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora in early Disney movies, to more recent additions like Rapunzel, Merida and Tiana.

Of course, a major reason to be a Disney fan for millions of people are the theme parks around the world. There are six major locations in the Disney family – Walt Disney World in Florida (featuring the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), Disneyland in California (featuring Disneyland and California Adventure), Tokyo Disney (featuring Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea), Disneyland Paris (featuring Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park), Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland. And within each are lands or events that provide further focus for fans, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both Hollywood Studios and Disneyland, annual festivals (including the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival), Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios, Pandora – The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Oogie Boogie Bash in Disney California Adventure, and so much more.

Along with the theme parks come assorted hotel resorts that rank as destinations in themselves. In Walt Disney World, for example, such lodgings range from Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened in October 1971, to the currently under construction Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (The Halcyon), which will offer two-night immersive experiences.

Don’t forget the multiple cruise ships, including the soon-to-launch Disney Wish, and various worldwide excursions through Adventures by Disney. Looking for an island oasis? Try Hawaii’s Aulani Resort.

But wait, there’s still more. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars movies, then you’re a Disney fan (see above and, yes, you must check out Galaxy’s Edge!). If you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, then you’re included as a Disney fan. If you enjoyed Avatar, then you’re a Disney fan. And most notably in recent years given the enormous financial success and pop culture impact, if you are a fan of Marvel movies, comics, video games and/or television shows, then you’re a Disney fan.

For good measure, though we don’t delve into it in the following pages, if you’re a sports fan who enjoys ESPN, well then, you’re technically a Disney fan.

So, you get the idea. There are many ways to be a Disney fan, and if you love all things Disney, or significant parts of the Disney universe, then The Disney Planner 2020 is a fun way to be reminded of and motivated by such fandom each day.

Second, throughout the long and expanding history of all things Disney, the storytelling that lies at the center of this entertainment enterprise serves up characters, tales, quotes and moments that offer inspiration, insights, and humor. Indeed, many people love Disney for this very reason. Therefore, each day in The Disney Planner 2020, you are presented with a Disney character quote and a Disney fact that will, hopefully, provide a moment to reflect, to smile, to laugh, to get focused, to learn, and/or to be encouraged.

Third, The Walt Disney Company started in 1923, and has been a leader in the entertainment industry throughout much of its history. As the company approaches its 100th birthday, there’s a heck of a lot to learn from this enterprise, and from the people who started and ran it, who have worked at Disney, who have studied it, and who are Disney customers. The lessons offered are wide-ranging, including how to start up and run a business; how to improve your career and work experience; how to deal with problems and seize on opportunities that crop up in all aspects of life, from family to career; how to treat others, including customers, employees, and co-workers; and more.

That learning process, of course, starts with Walt Disney, who was a unique entrepreneur in that he excelled at not just starting up and running the Disney Company in its earliest stages, but was at the helm to guide it to becoming a global leader in entertainment. He did so in an assortment of sectors, including film, television, and theme parks. That’s unique in that many entrepreneurs who start up businesses and lead them to a certain point of success, do not necessarily possess the skills to productively guide the firm after it’s reached a certain level of development. Since Walt was able to do so, there’s much people can learn from him no matter where they might be in life, business and career. 

In addition, Walt was a complete human being. I certainly don’t mean that he was perfect or without faults. None of us are. Instead, for all that he achieved in business, it’s clear from much of what he said and did, that Walt Disney understood that life was not just about business, but instead, also very much about family, faith and fun.

So, each day in The Disney Planner 2020 serves up a valuable comment from Walt, other Disney leaders like Bob Iger and Michael Eisner, creators such as Marvel’s Stan Lee and Star Wars’ George Lucas, or assorted people influenced by Disney.

Spending each day during the year using The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution makes sense if you’re a Disney fan, if you want to enjoy valuable and fun quotes and facts from the Disney universe, and if you’re looking for a daily takeaway that will make at least a small difference in your outlook, your work, and your life.

The Case for “The TO DO List Solution”

After establishing why a Disney planner is for you, a question that comes up is: How can the Disney fan get organized in order to make things happen? 

Life seems increasingly hectic, whether one is running a business, advancing a career, building a family, teaching others, juggling multiple tasks, managing retirement, or simply organizing a vacation to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or some other magical destination. It’s a challenge to get everything done on a daily basis, never mind making sure that you’re progressing toward your bigger goals.

Technology, of course, has been a tremendous benefit, but at times it takes something simple to be added to the mix to make a real difference. For me, that was the TO DO list. So, I now offer a helpful planner/tool called “The TO DO List Solution.”

Think for a moment about all of the roles you play in life, or perhaps a better way to put it, the many vocations or callings you have. For example, in no particular order, I’m a husband, father, son, economist, novelist, columnist, publisher/editor of a website, podcaster, reader, nonfiction author, golfer, moviegoer, active Lutheran, teacher, business owner, policy analyst, and marketer. I also would like to do more, including travel, moving, taking up some new hobbies, losing weight, and writing new books. No doubt, you have your own long list. So, how can we better manage the assorted undertakings in life – from the daily routine to special or out-of-the-ordinary endeavors? That is, how do you make it happen?

I’ve become far better organized – though far from perfect – with the TO DO list becoming my main planning, organizing and execution tool. “The TO DO List Solution” provides confidence that everything that needs to happen will be remembered; most (though not necessarily all!) will be accomplished; changes can be factored in (just add the item to the list); and life will be more organized. 

In addition, the act of using “The TO DO List Solution” requires reflection on goals; forces prioritization; allows for being more realistic about time management; and generates serious thought on how to best get things done (for example, such as breaking down projects into manageable steps, and checking each off along the way). And as one checks off each completed item, your sense of success and accomplishment is enhanced, with hope and confidence growing. 

By the way, it also helps to put everything on one TO DO list. That is, while one can limit the use of “The TO DO List Solution” to certain aspects of life – most think of it for “work” – it pays to include much of life in “The TO DO List Solution.” After all, your daily life and long-run goals have work, family and other endeavors and responsibilities intertwined and overlapping to various degrees. “The TO DO List Solution” covers most of life.

Along the way, using TO DO lists led me to think about a more effective TO DO list. For quite some time, my TO DO list process involved periodically making a big TO DO list covering longer term goals; drawing up a weekly TO DO list usually on a Sunday night or early Monday morning; and then breaking that down into daily TO DO lists. I used all kinds of means for making this happen, including the usual planners/datebooks, notebooks, smartphones, et al. While this process proved to be a tremendous benefit, it led me to realize that having the right tool to create and utilize my TO DO lists would be a major plus.

Hence, I created “The TO DO List Solution.” It was driven by meeting a need in my own life, and it followed with the realization that if I benefit from this, others might as well. I hope this becomes a handy tool in your efforts to set and achieve all sorts of goals.

Ways to Use The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution

The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution can help Disney fans become more productive.

The following are my thoughts on why I organized The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution the way I did, and how to best use it:

• First, the arrival of the New Year serves as an excellent moment to assess one’s goals, and to adjust, subtract and add to them, accordingly. So, this book starts out with the annual, big TO DO list. This calendar also is set up so that this big TO DO list can be updated at or near the start of each subsequent month, from checking off accomplishments (Wooo!) to adjusting goals to adding new efforts.

• Second, a TO DO list is established at the start of each week throughout the year. This naturally feeds off of the big, annual TO DO list, as well as encompassing other regular and irregular matters that must be done. Since I argue that most of life’s undertakings – from the smallest to the largest, from work to family life, from daily routine to Disney vacation planning, and so on – be included, the weekly TO DO list is quite lengthy. I offer 55 boxes (with an extra one for whatever else you might need to toss into the mix). To fit on one page, these boxes might be seen as being relatively small. But I find in making my weekly TO DO lists, I tend to abbreviate, and by doing so, it limits my weekly list from being pages long and allows for a helpful one-page review. When each item on this list is accomplished, I put a slash mark through it, and with each slash, a moment of accomplishment is recognized.

• Third, soon after I started using TO DO lists, I came to realize that the weekly list needed to be further broken down into daily lists. Again, I’ve done this here, with each individual day allowing for TO DO items. The left-hand column allows for either numbering the items or assigning times for each. There are days when my TO DO list merely requires a list that I get done in no particular order, while other days require some exact times. This book allows for either option, or a mix. The right hand column allows for checking items off as accomplished – again, always a positive during the day. In addition, a “Key Reminders/Thoughts” box is included for each day to highlight the most important points, needs or objectives.

• Fourth, I appreciate a good thought or quote each day that adds some value to my thinking and outlook. As we’ve already noted, with The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution, those quotes and thoughts come from the Disney universe – which adds some extra fun into the daily mix.

Finally, the fact that you set goals, think about how to achieve those goals, and choose to seek out and use tools like The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution says something very positive about your outlook on work and life. If I might say, I think Walt would approve.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Mobile Ramblings with Ray About Books and Stuff #1

In this first "Mobile Ramblings with Ray About Books and Stuff," Ray Keating is excited about the release of The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, as well as his Free Trade Rocks! book ... and more.

NEW BOOK RELEASE: “The Traitor” is the New Action-Packed, Full-of-Intrigue Thriller from Award-Winning Novelist Ray Keating

From Protests in Hong Kong to the CIA to a French Monastery, Pastor Stephen Grant Returns in this Breathtaking Page-Turner

Long Island, NY –Stephen Grant, a former Navy SEAL, onetime CIA operative and current pastor, returns in a high-octane, torn-from-the headlines thriller titled The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel

From pro-freedom protests in Hong Kong to a theft at the CIA to a French monastery, this 12thbook in the Pastor Stephen Grant Series packs a wallop in terms of action, intrigue, faith, consequences and justice.

Grant looks forward to a time of prayer and reflection during a retreat at a monastery in France. But when he stumbles upon an infamous CIA traitor in a small village, Grant’s plans change dramatically. While a debate rages over government secrets and the intelligence community, a deadly race for survival is underway. 

Ray Keating said, “I’m excited about this novel. It’s jam-packed with action, and serves up fascinating places, unique characters, and some interesting discussions. I hope readers enjoy it!”

Paperbacks and for the Kindle at Amazon via https://www.amazon.com/dp/1709209771

About Keating and his Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, Lutheran Book Review says, “I miss Tom Clancy. Keating fills that void for me.” The retired host of KFUO radio’s BookTalk declares, “Ray Keating is a great novelist.” David Keene of The Washington Times calls these novels “great reads.”  And another reviewer simply observes, “How I'd love to see Pastor Grant on Netflix!”

Keating’s previous Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers/mysteries – Deep Rough (2019), Shifting Sands (2018), Heroes and Villains (2018), Reagan Country (2018), Lionhearts (2017), Wine Into Water (2016), Murderer’s Row (2015), The River (2014), An Advent For Religious Liberty (2012), Root of All Evil? (2012)and Warrior Monk (Second Edition 2019) – have received widespread praise from all kinds of readers. Keating also is the publisher, editor and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com.

Paperbacks and Kindle editions of The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel are available at Amazon.com, and signed books at RayKeatingOnline.com.

Review copies, and author interviews and appearances are available upon request. 

Contact: Ray Keating
Phone: 631-909-1122
Twitter: @KeatingNovels

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Disney Parks Investments Will Increase the Magic for Guests

by Ray Keating
December 4, 2019

Today, the biggest fans seem to be the harshest critics – which is kind of weird, if you think about it. Anyway, that strange phenomenon seems to be most glaringly on display when it comes to Star Wars. Indeed, there seem to be no harsher critics of various aspects of the Star Wars universe than Star Wars fans. 

But for The Walt Disney Company, this fan-as-biggest-critic happening is not limited to its Star Wars properties, but occurs with the Disney theme parks as well. Lots of people love the Disney theme parks, but that leads to these same folks being hyper-critical of the parks as well.

A regular complaint among Disney parks aficionados is the cost of attending Disney parks. Naturally, no one likes to see the price increase of something that they love to experience. And any company has to perform a balancing act when trying to find the price that strikes the right mix of revenue and market size when trying to maximize profits. After all, if you aggravate consumers to the point that revenue and profits decline, that’s a recipe for decline. 

At the same time, though, one of the big issues that complainers tend to either ignore or only mention in passing is that the quality of the guest experience at the Disney parks has increased by multiple times over the decades thanks to investments made in those parks.

And those investments continue to be made – indeed, perhaps at the most rapid pace in recent decades – as made clear by Disney’s new announcement regarding opening dates for an assortment of attractions and experiences. Consider the following:

• The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – a hotel/space cruise experience - will open in 2021.

Source: DisneyParksBlog.com

• It was announced that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open onMarch 4, 2020.

Source: DisneyParksBlog.com

• In the summer 2020, guests will be able to enjoy Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure  in the France pavilion at Epcot.

Source: DisneyParksBlog.com

• Disney announced: “Mickey Shorts Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will show an original short film in the style of the popular Disney Channel animated series ‘Mickey Mouse,’ and will feature photo-opportunity locations for guests.  Today’s new rendering shows the interior of the theater, including fun Mickey Mouse-themed seats.”

• Three new films will debut in Epcot on January 17, 2020: “Awesome Planet” in The Land pavilion; “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” in the France pavilion; and “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” in the Canada pavilion.

• Coming this winter is the Space 220 Restaurant, which will be an Epcot table-service restaurant positioned 220 miles above the Earth’s surface, offering impressive views.

• Also opening this winter will be the Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue, which will be a fast-casual restaurant located at The American Adventure in Epcot. The menu will feature regional barbecue and craft brews.

• For those who cannot get enough barbecue – like me – the immersive, family-friendly Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant will open in 2020 in Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios.

Source: DisneyParksBlog.com

• Oh yeah, and don’t forget that the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction opens in Galaxy’s Edge in Walt Disney World tomorrow (Dec. 5). And yes, Disney is ready with an array of related merchandise.

Of course, investments in new attractions and experiences are not cheap, and are meant to enhance the guest experience. That’s just worth keeping in mind the next time you hear knee-jerk complaints about the cost of going to a Disney theme park – yes, from the same people who expect ever-improving park experiences.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Disney Closes Out 2019 with Big Tests

by Ray Keating
December 1, 2019

November and December of this year rank as an important moment for The Walt Disney Company. Specifically, it’s a time of creative and financial tests for the House of Mouse. It also captures the firm’s reach across forms of entertainment.

The company came through November in stellar fashion.

First, the Disney+ streaming service launched on November 12 in generally smooth fashion, and the number of subscribers moved beyond the 10-million mark in a day. That was welcome news in financial markets. For good measure, the content has been impressive, from the existing vast Disney-owned library to originals, including, most notably, The Mandalorian.

Second, on November 15, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows) was launched to rave reviews in the gaming community. It has become a big hit in terms of sales as well, according to a variety of reports.

Third, looking forward to what’s coming this month, the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride opens on December 5 in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios park. (It will open on January 17, 2020, in Disneyland.) Disney describes Rise of the Resistance as “a massive attraction with multiple ride systems that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World Resort.” 

The Rise of the Resistance ride will be another test for Disney’s investment in Galaxy’s Edge at both Walt Disney World and in Disneyland. Doom-and-gloom talk about Galaxy’s Edge largely has been off the mark. With the opening of Rise of the Resistance, I fully expect Galaxy’s Edge to become a much more obvious plus for Walt Disney World and the company, which will be further fed by the eventual arrival of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser immersive hotel. For good measure, the success of Star Wars streaming originals like The Mandalorian will further feed interest in Galaxy’s Edge.

Fourth, there is the arrival of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters on December 20. This film perhaps ranks as the true test of Disney’s magic regarding Star Wars. Quite simply, the question is: Can The Rise of Skywalker make people forget the financial failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story and the creative mess of Star Wars: The Last Jedi? That part of the story will be told soon, but for now, we know that early ticket sales point to a big opening weekend topping $200 million domestically.

If The Rise of Skywalker turns out to be a financial and fan hit – as I expect – that will feed back into further Star Wars success for Disney on the streaming, theme park, gaming and movie fronts.  Oh yeah, and don’t get me started on Star Wars merchandise. Yes, November and December 2019 serve as a kind of test period for Disney, which the company is likely to pass with flying colors.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Racing Ahead with “Ford v. Ferrari”

by Ray Keating
November 28, 2019

DisneyBizJournal.com Movie Rating: 4 stars out of 5
DisneyBizJournal.com Box Office Rating:  $$ out of $$$$

Forget about Fast and Furious. If you want to see some high-speed cinema, check out Ford v. Ferrari.

And even better, while the Fast and Furious franchise is about over-the-top fantasy, Ford v. Ferrari is rooted in the true story of how Ford challenged Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966. And while Ford v. Ferrari truly excels in its many scenes of racing and testing cars, this ultimately is a story about friendship, family, and overcoming personal and corporate challenges.

Matt Damon shines as the famed driver and car designer Carroll Shelby, as does Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. But Ford v. Ferrari also offers fine supporting performances, including Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca, Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles, and Noah Jupe as Peter Miles.

For good measure, while Ford v. Ferrari offers the expected moments of reaching competitive heights on the racetrack, it does not shy away from powerful character moments. In that sense, it is full storytelling on the big screen.

Unfortunately, Ford v. Ferrari, a Disney 20thCentury Fox production, has under-performed at the box office. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, Ford v. Ferrari carried a production budget of $97.6 million, and as of November 28, generated $108.5 million in revenue.

Perhaps there will be some nominations at Oscar time that will give this worthy movie an extra boost at the box office.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda: Merch on the Way

by Ray Keating
November 21, 2019

Fans have decided that the hit character from “The Mandalorian” should be called “Baby Yoda” – though Disney uses the name “The Child.” And according to a CNBC report, “Baby Yoda” merch is on the way! 

Source: CNBC

CNBC offered two big points:

• “Apparel and accessories featuring the yet unnamed creature will soon be available through Amazon, Zazzle, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Hot Topic and Box Lunch, a person familiar with the company plans said. These items could arrive as early as Friday.”

• “Other products will also arrive at the Disney Store, ShopDisney and at the Disney Parks before the holidays. In addition, presales for toys and plush will be available in the coming weeks. It is uncertain when that merchandise will be shipped.”

Jon Favreau and his team behind “The Mandalorian” achieved an incredible feat in our Internet culture by keeping “Baby Yoda” a secret. And now Disney’s product and marketing machine kicks in with “Baby Yoda” merch.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Movie Date Night at a Disney-Owned Movie Theater?

by Ray Keating
November 20, 2019

What about heading to a movie theater owned by the Walt Disney Company, or for that matter, by Paramount or Sony? Well, it’s a possibility.

For people who are unaware, movie studios are barred from owning movie theaters due to a Supreme Court decision in 1948 that agreed with the government, and separated movie production and distribution. A subsequent series of decrees – known as the Paramount decrees – barred movie studios from owning movie theaters.

Such government intrusion into the entertainment marketplace made little sense at the time, and given myriad choices for consumers today, make no sense whatsoever in the 21stCentury.

Apparently, according to a report from Variety, government thinking might finally be catching up to market realities. 

On November 18, Variety noted: “The Department of Justice will seek to end the Paramount consent decrees, the landmark agreements that have barred studios from owning theaters for the last 70 years.” In a November 18th speech, Makan Delrahim, who heads up the DoJ’s antitrust division, “argued that the decrees are a relic of the past, as the old studio system has long since expired.” He was quoted: “We have determined that the decrees, as they are, no longer serve the public interest, because the horizontal conspiracy — the original violation animating the decrees — has been stopped. The Division finds the consent decrees no longer meet consumer interests.” 

Delrahim also noted, “We cannot pretend that the business of film distribution and exhibition remains the same as it was 80 years ago.” Well, there’s a crazy idea.

Much lies ahead in terms of making this happen, including lobbying from opponents and getting courts to end the decrees, but the process has started. Heading to the Disney Movie Theater might not be that far off.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Entering the Twilight Zone

by Ray Keating
November 17, 2019

It actually took me a couple of visits before I decided to give The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror a try. It turned out that I regretted the wait, as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror now ranks as one of my favorite rides in all of Walt Disney World.

I appreciate the look of the ride from the outside – especially the seemingly neglected building and “The Hollywood Tower Hotel” neon sign – and the inside includes the decaying, cob-webbed lobby, the spooky boiler room, and of course, the thrill of the ride’s big drops.

But there’s also the appearance of Rod Serling to welcome us into this mysterious, scary setting, just as he did with his television show The Twilight Zone. In fact, given my interest in classic Hollywood – both movies and television – Serling makes a big difference for this ride.

Interestingly, Rod Serling’s introduction in the Tower of Terror attraction came, in part, from a 1961 episode titled “It’s a Good Start.” 

Don’t get confused, though, Disney doesn’t own The Twilight Zone. It’s actually a CBS thing. But Tower of Terror is enough of a Disney link for me. And this past week, on November 14, I journeyed to the movie theater for a 60th anniversary celebration of The Twilight Zone presented by Fathom Events. The line-up featured six digitally remastered episodes, and a short documentary on Serling.

Fathom Events offered the following rundown on the episodes:

Walking Distance: Martin Sloane, a VP of an ad agency, stops his car at a gas station when he realizes he is 1.5 miles away from Homewood, the town he grew up in. He decides to walk there and finds that he has returned to the past... Season 1 episode 5 – aired 10.30.59

Time Enough at Last: Henry Bemis loves to read but he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. After sneaking down the vault in the bank's basement to read and emerges to find the world destroyed. He sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event. Season 1 episode 8 – aired 11.20.59

The Invaders: An old woman who lives alone in a ramshackle farmhouse comes face to face with alien invaders, however, the nature of the invaders is not immediately obvious. Season 2 episode 15 – aired 1.27.61

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: After an unexplained occurrence happens to the residents on Maple Street, a series of events causes paranoia and pandemonium to set in, and the neighbors on Maple Street to turn against each other. Season 1 episode 22 – aired 3.4.60

Eye of the Beholder: Janet Tyler is in hospital having undergone treatment to make her look normal. Her bandages will soon come off, all that to say that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Season 2 episode 6 – aired 11.11.60

To Serve Man: Michael Chambers recounts recent events on Earth after the arrival of an alien space craft. Chambers attempts to decrypt a book the aliens left behind. The book's title seems benign - but it's not what they think. Season 3 episode 24 – aired 3.02.1962

I was pleased that I actually had not seen two of these episodes – “Walking Distance” and “The Invaders.” “Walking Distance,” starring Gig Young, was excellent, with Serling tapping into time travel and nostalgia, while “The Invaders” was interesting for the lack of dialogue from the main character, and the twist at the end. 

“Time Enough to Last,” with Burgess Meredith, has become one of the best known Twilight Zone episodes, and deservedly so. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” serves up a frightening take on how close human beings are to devolving into a mob, and “Eye of the Beholder” employs lighting and camera angles in interesting ways, while Serling got to say some things not just about true beauty and what matters, and segregation, but also totalitarianism. And finally, “To Serve Man” shows The Twilight Zone with a sense of humor.

Finally, there were plusses and minuses in the documentary. Some of the talking heads were interesting; others not so much. The best parts were clips of Serling talking to students at Ithaca College about writing. Give me more from Rod Serling on writing, please!

Yes, this journey into The Twilight Zone has me thinking not only about returning for another spin on Tower of Terror, but also putting the Blu-ray of the complete series of The Twilight Zone on my Christmas list.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.