Bob Iger, having just extended his contract last night to continue as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company until 2026, is tasked with addressing the dwindling creative output concerning Disney+ and the adverse impact of the company’s overextension in generating content for the streaming platform.
In a recent discussion with CNBC on Thursday, Iger confessed that the company plans to decelerate its production of movies and TV series under its Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm franchises. This decision comes amidst the company’s efforts to slash costs following the underperformance of several releases at the global box office.
All of Disney’s films this year have fallen short in their initial weekends, despite having substantial budgets. Specifically, Marvel films have been underwhelming – a trend that has continued since last year. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, experienced the steepest fall in ticket sales between the first two weekends in the franchise’s history. This movie, which also ranks as the second-lowest reviewed film in the MCU, has received critiques mainly for its subpar visual effects, especially considering the fictitious setting – the Quantum Realm.
Image via Disney
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Reports suggest that the VFX team was divided between this project and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The latter, slated for an earlier release, was prioritized for completion by then-MCU executive Victoria Alonso. According to sources, Alonso, while serving as president of physical and post-production, visual effects, and animation production, was responsible for overseeing visual effects. However, resource constraints due to the pandemic and a surge in Marvel productions for both cinema and television led to a decline in the quality of the output, which failed to meet Marvel’s usual standards.
The sequel to that film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, was met with better critical and financial reception, grossing over $800 million worldwide on a $250 million budget. The film was applauded for its effective special effects and emotionally charged storyline, which was conceived well in advance and not forced into the Multiverse Saga narrative advocated by Marvel.
Overcommitment and Workforce Shortages
Before the pandemic, Marvel Studios had released 23 films in cinemas over 11 years, before venturing into television. Marvel’s TV series maintain budgets similar to those of their feature films. Since Disney+ debuted in 2020, 9 films and 9 TV series have been created and released. In essence, the rate of production has surged from an average of two projects a year to six – with three more films and five series set to be released before the end of 2024. Initially, this surge might have appeared as a boon for fans, but the principle of diminishing returns quickly became apparent as reflected in the underwhelming box office returns for Quantumania, Wakanda Forever, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as Iger pointed out.
“Marvel serves as a prime example of our focus on streaming content. We pushed our staff beyond their capacity and diverted their attention to unfamiliar territory, the television industry. The increase in movie output coupled with the production of several TV series resulted in diluted focus and attention, and that is more to blame [for the poor box office] than anything else.”
The Pixar Predicament
Another factor contributing to the dwindling box office returns is the trend of audience preference for home-viewing of films. Pixar, once a bastion of animation, has endured a series of financial (and some critical) flops since 2020. Films like Luca, Turning Red, and Soul were all launched directly onto Disney+, leading audiences to expect Pixar movies to be readily available for home viewing. This, coupled with a reduced theatrical release window, diminished the immediate need for families to visit cinemas.
Despite returning to a traditional distribution model, Pixar’s box office returns and critical reviews have been lukewarm. Lightyear netted $226.4 million worldwide against a $200 million production budget, costing the studio an estimated $106 million, while Elemental – currently in theaters – has grossed $257 million against a $200 million budget, and is projected to be another financial loss.
“Pixar released three films in succession directly to streaming, largely due to COVID,” Iger mentioned. “This created an expectation among audiences that the films would be available on streaming quickly, removing any urgency to watch them in theaters. I believe we can also agree that there were a few creative missteps.”
While Iger wrestles with other challenges at Disney, such as the WGA strike and the potential SAG-AFTRA strike, he has displayed an understanding of the creative difficulties facing the company’s flagship properties. It’s now up to him to address these issues.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Disney MCU Film Quality
What is Disney CEO Bob Iger’s plan regarding the production of MCU films?
Bob Iger plans to slow down the production of films and TV series under Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm franchises. This decision comes in light of several releases underperforming at the global box office and the realization that the company has been stretching itself thin in generating content for its streaming service, Disney+.
What has been the main criticism of recent MCU films?
The main criticism of recent MCU films, such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, has been their lower-quality visual effects. This issue has been especially noticeable due to the high standards set by previous entries in the franchise.
What has led to the decline in the quality of MCU films?
The decline in quality is largely attributed to resource constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge in Marvel productions for both cinema and television. This increase in output has led to a diluted focus and attention, resulting in a failure to meet Marvel’s usual standards.
What was the impact of launching Pixar films directly on Disney+?
Launching Pixar films directly on Disney+ led audiences to expect that Pixar movies would be available for home viewing immediately. This reduced the urgency for families to visit cinemas and led to diminished box office returns.
What is Bob Iger’s response to the creative issues faced by Disney?
Iger has acknowledged the creative issues facing Disney’s flagship properties and expressed his intention to address these challenges. The CEO has recognized the problems resulting from overextension and plans to make necessary changes.