August 13, 2011

"Walt Disney Studios has shut down production of 'The Lone Ranger,' a big-budget film starring Johnny Depp as Tonto..."

Johnny Depp as Tonto. Weird. Possibly... fascinating. I guess it wasn't working out. We're told it was getting too expensive. My guess: The whole thing depended on the Johnny-Depp-as-Tonto angle and they could see it wasn't going to work and cut their losses.


edutcher said...

Given what's come out of Disney the last 20 years or so, it was probably a bad idea from the start.

So, since Robin Williams' career is officially dead (I assume Disney paid for his detox over the decades), is Depp their new one-size-fits-all star?

MayBee said...

It's hard to tell from that story if it was actually filming or in pre-production.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ndspinelli said...

Depp can pull off any role. He's talented, fearless, and maybe the best star for signing autographs and truly appreciating fans.

MayBee said...

Deadline Hollywood says it wasn't filming yet. So it may just be a negotiation tactic w/Verbinski.

chickelit said...

Johnny Depp as Tanto: It's kemo sabe, savvy?

chickelit said...

Have Johnny Depp and Robert Downey, Jr. ever acted together? They are my favorite actors. Untainted by femininity.
Appearing together, they would drive Joan Rivers nuts which would be a good thing, I think.

gerry said...

chickenlittle, great stuff. Fortunately, I did not have coffee in my mouth.

Carol_Herman said...

I think the last Pirate's of the Caribbean was a financial loss.

And,I also noticed that the price to get into the park if $150 per person. Plus, whatever the family arriving has to pay to park in the lot.

Definitely, the costs are higher ... to keep the park operational. While the crowds sluffed off.

Everybody this summer is feeling the ZOMBIE ECONOMY.

I don't think it's Johnny Depp as an actor. He's fine. It's the financial axe that swings because PRODUCTION needs to be cut. (And, unlike Cngress, DINSEY is very bottom line oriented.)

When I was a kid (and our TV was black and white), I can remember the Lone Ranger (who wore a mask) ... and left a silver bullet. Had as his companion: TONTO. When Tonto wanted to say HELLO to the Lone Ranger, he said: Kimasabi.

And, invariably I thought it was the story of the LONG ranger. There was also Hopalong Cassidy. And, none of the had girl friends. Some had guitars. All loved their horses. Not until Gunsmoke does a woman enter the scene: Kitty, But there are no love scenes between Matt and Kitty.

You know, there are pieces of film where Marilyn Monroe and a stupid boss locked horns. She swam nude in a pool. Dean Martin was also in the film. But Monroe was fired. Film didn't get finished.

Firing Monroe from the film was stupid. A power plow.

Disney canceling a budget buster ... just means our economy stays sick that you won't see a recovery by this Christmas. Or next.

Nor can you think of anything right now where Hollywood or politics can appeal to most Americans. Save as much as you can. Buy as little as you need.

Scott M said...

One of the reason's they "canceled" it (shelved instead, my insider says) is that a) the date they selected for release put it squarely up against two powerhouse epics; Brad Pitt's World War Z and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, and b) the lead and the director salaries ate up way to much of the budget.

William said...

Tonto means stupid in Spanish. Chemosabe means white mother fucker in the Commanche language. They never really got along those two.....Disney wanted to tell their real story, but, like telling the real story of the Alamo, who really wants to know.

Pastafarian said...

OK, the comments section here at Althouse is frequently a great place to learn new things, because commenters include lawyers, teachers, artists, historians, people in the music industry, etc.

So maybe someone here is involved at least obliquely with the film industry, and you can explain this to me:

How in the fuck do they manage to spend $200 million to make a 1 hour and 40 minute shitty movie, most of which consists of two people on screen talking to one another?

Let's say it has two big stars, each of whom make $10 million, plus some cut of the box office, but "just" $10 million each up front. Let's say there are 10 other actors that make $1 million each; and after that just extras that make a total of $1 million.

Then you have a couple of writers, a producer, a director, all that many people, including the camera operators, would it really take to put 100 minutes of action into a digital recording? I just don't see how you can require more than about $50 million for salaries for everyone.

And I can't believe that sets cost that much. Hell, you can build a goddamned small town of 20 actual houses, with plumbing and electrical, for $5 million.

Does anyone know why it costs this much?

edutcher said...

William said...

Tonto means stupid in Spanish. Chemosabe means white mother fucker in the Commanche language.

It was Kemo Sabe. According to Fran Striker (who created the Lone Ranger; he said he added Tonto so the Ranger would have somebody to talk to), it meant, "Trusty scout", in Potawattomie (Tonto's tribe), but the phrase was probably Spanish.

There is also a clan of the Apache known as the Tonto Apache, so it may mean something in Apache

chickelit said...

Carol_Herman wrote: And,I also noticed that the price to get into the park if $150 per person. Plus, whatever the family arriving has to pay to park in the lot.

You so don't know how to do Disneyland* do you?

I could give you tips and pointers to save money and enjoy it, but why should I? You're prejudiced against it. Why do you h8 Walt? :(

If you wanna talk rip-offs, talk Universal Studios.
*Full disclosure:taking family there for two days in October for less than $100 per person per day.

Aridog said...

William said...

Tonto means stupid in Spanish. Chemosabe means white mother fucker in the Comanche language.

No good reason for it ... but just reading that made me crack up in laughter.

Palladian said...

"Untainted by femininity."


MayBee said...

Then you have a couple of writers, a producer, a director, all that many people, including the camera operators, would it really take to put 100 minutes of action into a digital recording? I just don't see how you can require more than about $50 million for salaries for everyone.

The equipment itself is very expensive. The cameras are incredible. They need entire crews to set them up, get them on tracks, get them on cranes, and move them around.

Each day's work translates to just a few seconds in the finished product.

If it is a location shoot- and I'm assuming this would be- the amount of work and people it takes just to get production up and running every day is amazing. You need generators to power everything, and people to set them up and keep them running.
You need all kinds of lighting rigs so you can keep the sun look like it's coming from the same spot in the sky for a scene that will look like 5 minutes in the finished product but may take days to shoot. You need people to operate all those rigs.
Trailers for the stars, co stars, producers, directors, etc. On-site craft services throughout the entire shooting day for everyone involved in the production. Hair, makeup, wardrobe people and supplies. Special effects makeup people.
You need casting directors to hire the actors for the smaller roles, as well as the extras.
You need people and cars to drive people from their own cars or trailers to the set.
You may need air conditioners or heaters.
You need bathrooms for everyone.
You need to pay the location for use of the property, as well as property used for the "base camp"- where the trucks park.

Then you need all the post production, the editors, the CGI guys, the composer, the musicians.
The marketing guys, the marketing research people, the people who do PR, trailers, ads....

It gets expensive really fast. The movie industry really supports a lot of different kinds of people.

cassandra lite said...

Your estimate of what Depp gets paid is on the low side, to say the least. His upfront fee is more in the $25 million neighborhood. Then there's the first-dollar-out provision in his contract; it's what's made him colossally wealthy. Knowing that you can't trust studios to pay off on "net profits" (which in Hollywood is considered an oxymoron; see, for ex, Art Buchwald v Paramount), the biggest stars get paid on the gross box-office receipts. And on this movie, so do the director and producer. Which means that the studio/distributor that already has to split the revenues with the exhibitors can lose money on an otherwise "profitable" film unless it's truly a smash hit. Even with Johnny Depp as an attraction, there are no guarantees that a "western" (considered B.O. poison) will bring in the repeat business that studios count on for blockbusters. And by the way, Depp isn't considered to be in Will Smith's stratum as a star who will deliver an audience regardless of the film. Depp has been in several real tankers. Outside of the Pirates franchise, he's had few bona fide hits.

Then, too, the costs of marketing a film to make sure that everyone in the known universe knows about it can often get up in the neighborhood of the production itself. There's even a separate category called P & A, which stands for prints and advertising. Advertising the film's release and duplicating 5,000 or prints to blanket the screens (until everything goes digital) are enormous.

The cost of production itself would surprise you. All you have to do to estimate it is sit at the end of any big budget films and count the names listed on the screen, all of whom are reasonably well paid, particularly on a union film like this. There will also be at least seven figures, and probably eight, for just the CGI stuff (this is, after all, a Disney popcorn movie), and other post-production costs.

Though this is far from comprehensive, also keep in mind that much/most/all of this money is borrowed from somewhere...and is paid back to the investors at better than passbook rates.

It's expensive making a movie. And incredibly risky. Which is why people who can, if they wish (see Spielberg), finance all of their own movies out of their own pockets NEVER put in a dime. I hope that helps.

Palladian said...

"how many people, including the camera operators, would it really take to put 100 minutes of action into a digital recording?"

Well, most films are still shot on actual film, which is very expensive. Remember how much it cost to develop and print a 36 picture roll of 35mm film? That length of 35mm film would run a little more than one second if you put it through a projector. So multiply the price of buying, developing and printing a roll of 35mm still picture film by 6000 (which is the number of seconds in 100 minutes), then multiply that result by about 8, which is the shooting ratio of the average feature film (meaning 8 times the actual length of the movie's worth of film is shot). These numbers are just averages. Stanley Kubrick shot over 1.3 million feet of film during the production of The Shining", a 143-minute movie, which makes a shooting ratio of about 102:1.

Then take in to account that the footage is usually printed more than once during the production, and then the actual finished movie has to be printed many more times for distribution to theaters. This is a big part of the technical expense of film production.

Then add 3-12 (or more) month's pay for about 100 people (the size of an average larger-budget film crew), some of whom are highly-paid and highly-skilled technicians, to the tally. Then add the price of every single object (either rented, purchased or fabricated) used in the film, such as costumes (the film Quo Vadis? had 32,000 costumes), props, vehicles &c. On top of that, add the cost of power, transportation, lodging and insurance for this giant, inefficient machine. Then add the cost of complicated special effects and post-production, which often requires months of work by dozens of people.

And after all that, add the cost of advertising and promoting the film...

It's pretty easy to see how absurd amounts of money are spent, even on "cheap" films.

Known Unknown said...

I think the last Pirate's of the Caribbean was a financial loss.

Domestic receipts: $239 million.
Worldwide box office: $798 million.

Made over a billion dollars. That's why there's a fifth one in the works. So, no Carol, it was not a loss.

See here.

Depp is as close to bankable (aside from The Tourist) as you can get in the business, but he certainly is a very unique performer.

Trooper York said...

The amount of money they waste on movies is crazy. This summer they paid the merchants on Court St $160,000 just to keep their lights on over night.

Carol_Herman said...

William at 11:04 AM

The Alamo's real story is that Santa Ana went into a tent with a whore, who stole his wooden leg. There's a song to her: The YEllow Rose of Texas.

It's not as if the story's gone untold.

Pastafarian said...

Maybee, Cassandra, Palladian -- holy crap, you guys answered the hell out of that question. I'll never complain about big movie budgets again.

These comments sections are like an oracle. I should ask more important questions.

Phil 314 said...

You got a "detailed" answer. I believe this will give you an analogous answer.

In other words:

That's a shit-load of money!!

That's why Hollywood-types and liberal government official like each other so much; they see the world the same way:

"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream up stuff that never should have been, and ask why not?"

(OK, I changed the quote a little.)

cassandra lite said...

Have to disagree with you that Depp is as close to bankable as it gets. A quick scan of his IMDB page shows that if you factor out the Pirates movies, he's not much above the Mendoza line. There are some otherwise watchable films in there that lost quite a bit of dough.

Carol_Herman said...

DISNEY's a business model.

Walt's older brother Roy was on top, after his brother died. And, the whole thing was chewing up cash. And, not turning profits.

There was a big fight. Which Roy lost. And, Eisner won. Back, I think, in the mid-1980's. As soon as Eisner was on top ... a lot of the old Disney folk hightailed it out of town. (DisneyWorld, in Orlando, Florida, was already built.)

Eisner, however, went into Disney's vaults. And, marketed profits from "old prints.") We entered the digital age. And, Disney has ended up on top.

It churns money.

But to survive, with hollywood down and out ... Disney's cancellation just tells ya that film won't be the "new" way information gets sent into theaters.

Not that idependents won't make films. Heck, you don't need hollywood for that!

But the model of MYTH is CORPORATE AMERICA'S signature dish.

You see Main Street that has no smells. No dog shit. Nothing a passing pedestrian can throw on the floor. It magically disappears.

Security? Oh, man. TIGHT! Everything's on video. Every penny in the register is seen going in. And, only management can open the drawers and take it out.

I don't even think pickpockets can work the park. Dunno how they do it. The crowds never even see the police.

Plus, it's been a learning curve ... getting people to curve around stuff ... And, not stand in long lines ... where they can count how long it takes to reach the front of a ride.

Ain't Coney Island!

Coney Island's run by carneys. And, all the little stalls are boarded up when the season ends.

And, oddly enough ... even though the major sales productions of coney island are just a block from the beach ... just a block from the water. It has smells that are so unique.

Oh, and you can reach Coney Island for a subway token.

But beware of pickpockets.

Youngblood said...


A couple of people have tried to answer your question, but here are some very important expenses that I haven't seen anyone mention:

Food - Every film requires an army of personnel. They all have to be fed, and they have to be fed where they work is being done. (Producers don't want even the lowliest extras and PAs wandering off to forage for food.) Given the long days that film production requires, the producers end up springing for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And it has to be good food, or it'll put everybody in a bad mood.

Unions - Everyone's in a union in the entertainment industry. Generally, a production is either union or non-union, and union productions are a hell of a lot more expensive. (I'm neither ragging on unions nor saying that they're great, just pointing out that they create a massive expense.)

Insurance - This is huge expense. Equipment houses won't rent to an uninsured production, some cities won't let a production film without insurance, and so on. This is expensive to begin with, but the costs go up if the production involves firearms, stuntwork (human or vehicular) and so on.

Location Fees - Although some films are shot primarily in the studio these days, most involve a great deal of location work. That involves paying people who own those locations, and they can set their fees to whatever they want. (There's also insurance to consider, see above.)

The cost for all of that stuff can easily run into the millions of dollars. And those things are just the basic infrastructure necessary for even the most modest films!

chickelit said...

But the model of MYTH is CORPORATE AMERICA'S signature dish.

You wrote that spitefully. I think that everyone but the smallest kids know that Disneyland is about fantasy.

I think you would enjoy a ride around Pirate Island (ex-Tom Sawyer's Island) onboard the "Mark Twain"

Seeing Red said...

It's also a generational thing, the kids today weren't raised on -- ingrained with cowboys & the mythos.

cassandra lite said...

Carol Herman,
There should be a statue of Eisner up at Disney hq (the bldg with the 7 dwarves). When he came in ('84, I believe), Disney's market cap was less than a billion bucks. Today, a little better, I'd say. The fight with Roy Disney came years on, after Disney was a going concern again. Did Eisner make mistakes? Of course. Plenty. Including the hiring of Mike Ovitz, which may have actually been the spark for Roy's boardroom fight. Also, there was no line of succession after the great Frank Wells, whom everyone liked and respected, died in a helicopter or plane crash. Anyway, had it not been for Eisner, Disney may very well have been sold off piecemeal for its branded properties. His problem was that he stayed at the party too long--long enough for his enemies' view of him to reach critical mass.

Henry said...

America is not ready for lisping dreadlocked Tonto.

Carol_Herman said...

Okay, Casandra @ 7:47 PM. Then, that's what happened to Mubarak, too. (Stayed too long at the party. Cared too much for the People! Not like Assad. Could care less who has to get killed.)

Back to Disney. Did the Roy Disney fight really take years?

When did the "corporate model" of Disney take hold? Where lots of corporations now do it "The Disney Way."

Remind me, again, who was Frank Wells?

Christy said...

Just curious. Anyone know of a modern rewrite from the view of Sancho Panza? Seems like a huge missed opportunity to me.

MayBee said...

Youngblood- I mentioned both food (craft services) and location fees.

The food isn't so much because of producers, but because of the unions and guilds. Even the film schools like UCLA and USC feed people because they operate under the SAG student waiver agreement. Nobody gets paid, but everybody eats!

If you are at a studio, you will have food available during the day but you may have a walking lunch- where you have to go buy your own.
On location, the union and guild rules about getting fed are strict. Feed people at the wrong time and you have to pay them extra. Even the non-union people.

Carol_Herman said...


Algore could be Don Quiote. On his quest to find wind farms. But he needs an entourage. And, limos. Limos. Limos.

cassandra lite said...

Carol Herman,
Yes, the fight took years to start (Eisner couldn't have gotten the job without Roy's consent, given his position on the board). They were desperate at that point, and soon they were elated. I think it's correct to say that Eisner multiplied Roy's fortune quite a bit.

To the degree I understand your question about the Disney way, I'd answer that alone, of all the studios--in fact, of all the recorded/filmed entertainments--Disney was also a brand. A Reprise recording artist could just as easily have been signed by Elektra, while a Warner Bros film almost always could have been released by Paramount. Only CBS, the so-called Tiffany network, came close to purveying branded entertainment, but not nearly to the same degree.

The CEO before Eisner (think his name was Ron Miller) had gotten the job through nepotism (might've been someone's son-in-law, maybe even Walt's). Eisner came in from Paramount, recognized the brand, and began exploiting assets in the vault. He was protective of the Disney name and product, even pioneering the limited released VHS (say, for three months only). Under Eisner, Disney got into book publishing (started Hyperion in about 1990) and expanded every aspect of the extant business model, including taking the amusement parks overseas.

Everything worked liked a charm...until it didn't. Maybe he did stay too long. But I think if Wells (the company president) had not died, or if Katzenberg had not jumped ship, he wouldn't have hired Ovitz, which was the beginning of his end.

Ben David said...

As others pointed out, the last "Pirates of the Caribbean" did very well - setting up story lines and characters for another trilogy.

My guess is they went with the existing Depp franchise instead of risking the launch of a new character.

Youngblood said...


Sorry that I missed your comment then.

It's true that the unions have rules about food, but even if they didn't, it will still be in the interest of producers to provide it. It keeps morale up, it keeps people from wandering off, and it helps to reduce the kind of "us versus them" pettiness that can develop on any hierarchical project. It's like the old military saying, "An army runs on its stomach."

Mitch H. said...

Wasn't Depp playing a postmodern Sancho Panza in that Terry Gilliam production failure?

A) Depp seems to have developed a predilection for scene-stealing sidekick roles
B) He also seems to be on the set for an awful lot of production trainwrecks, what's up with that?