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HIT MAKER

Disney, built on franchises, says not everything needs to be a franchise

By Ashley Rodriguez

Disney says not all of its films are destined to become franchises. The hit maker, which boasts 11 franchises that generate more than $1 billion in sales each year, says it doesn’t set out to build franchises every time it makes movies.

“When we go out to make a movie, people think we’ll try to check every box,” CEO Bob Iger said at a Morgan Stanley conference on Monday. “It is a franchise, check this and that and that. You can’t do that, you have to just try to make a great movie. And if in making a great movie, it becomes a franchise, that’s fantastic…. not every great movie we make becomes a franchise.”

Iger pointed to Coco, which is up for Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars this year. The Pixar film, inspired by the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, isn’t “necessarily a franchise,” Iger said. He thinks of franchises as a character or set of characters that Disney can leverage across its businesses—in film, TV, parks and resorts, and merchandising. “Typically they’re global in nature. And the last thing we’ll look at is, essentially, longevity, something that will last a long time,” he said. “That’s a franchise for us.”

The media conglomerate followed that formula with entertainment properties like Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar movies like Toy Story, Frozen, and Cars, Disney Princesses, and classic Disney Animation characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others. It’s been very lucrative for the company, which has a $158 billion market capitalization.

Coco is a bit of an outlier for Disney. Six of the eight other movies Disney released in the US last year were part of franchises, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, two Marvel sequels, more Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars films, and a live-action Beauty and the Beast remake. The eighth movie was a Disney Nature documentary about pandas.

Most of the movies on Disney’s film slate this year, like its live-action Mary Poppins reboot, Star Wars standalone film, and Christopher Robbin film, are tied to franchises. There are two that may end up like Coco—A Wrinkle in Time, which Disney has not yet announced a sequel for (though there is a sequel to the book it’s based on), and its The Nutcracker remake.