Jon Favreau was making the press rounds for his new J.J. Abrams-produced world-without-electricity television series “Revolution,” but Crave Online, wisely acknowledging that talking about “Revolution” is kinda boring, instead quizzed the “Iron Man” director about his plans for “Magic Kingdom,” the Michael Chabon-penned project that would combine mythology from both the Disney films and the Disney parks. While Favreau says not to expect the film anytime soon (“Jersey Boys” will definitely shoot beforehand), he is getting some heavy duty help in the form of Pixar’s vaulted Brain Trust (which has included Pete Docter, Brenda Chapman, Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, and Andrew Stanton, at various times).
“I went back to back to back with three movies in a row, ‘Iron Man,‘ ‘Iron Man 2‘ and ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ all of them with release dates announced as I walked in,” Favreau told Crave. “As I cracked the script for the first time we already knew the date and the poster, in some cases the cast. On this one, ‘Magic Kingdom’ is a big film. It’s a very special piece of intellectual property with all the characters from the park and the legacy of Walt Disney.”
The process on “Magic Kingdom” sounds like a combination of traditional development and the more labor-intensive Pixar process (as Pixar director Pete Docter told The New Yorker last year, the Pixar attitude is “Everybody holds hands and jumps out of the airplane with the promise that they’ll build a parachute before they hit the ground”).
“What we’ve been doing is writing a script, going up to Pixar, meeting with the brain trust, coming back down, bringing on artists, story editors and putting it together as though it were an animated film so that by the time we actually film it, we’ll have a rock solid story,” Favreau said to Crave. (Keep in mind this is how they developed “John Carter” too, but even more intensively at Pixar.) “I don’t want to rush anything. I want this thing to be perfect. I want it to be one shot one kill, like a sniper. I want to make sure this movie’s right in the crosshairs that we can really knock it out of the park so to speak.”
What we’ve never understood is why the movie is primarily concerned with Disneyland iconography when “The Magic Kingdom” is a distinction afforded to Disneyland’s counterpart in Central Florida (part of the larger Walt Disney World resort, which also includes EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios, a pair of sophisticated water parks, an outdoor shopping center, an ESPN-themed sports complex and more high-end hotels than you can count on all fingers and toes). There a number of issues that seem to be getting in the way of this project actually getting made – Favreau’s commitments to “Jersey Boys,” Disney’s skittishness with big-budget, high-concept stuff after “John Carter” (especially since the two share a screenwriter in Chabon), the general difficulty of trying to pull off this kind of cross-platform synergistic thingamajig – we suspect there may be something else at play.
To explain: once the $1 billion+ overhaul of Disney California Adventure, the much-maligned second gate in California, is totally up and running and bringing in tourists from across the land (something that in large part seems to have been accomplished, thanks to the opening of Carsland this summer), Disney will announce plans for a THIRD gate in California. (The announcement of a West Coast equivalent of the wildly popular Harry Potter section of Universal Studios has certainly sped up the decision making process.) Once the third gate is established, then Disneyland proper will probably be referred to as the Magic Kingdom, while the entire resort will be under the umbrella term of Disneyland. (A fifth park in Florida and a new park in Brazil still have yet-to-be-announced but are very much in the planning stages.)
But what about the story for “Magic Kingdom?” Is it as “Night of the Museum“-y as we all assumed it would be? Well, yes. Favreau told Crave: “It’s going to be a family in the park. It’s an alternate reality version of the park that they get launched into. So much of it is just how it weaves together as a tapestry and what the visuals look like in creating this rich world. It’s informed by everything that I remember and know about the park from going there since I was a small child.” He continued: “I don’t know which ones are going to make it in but it’s definitely informed primarily by Walt’s vision of the park, even before and immediately after it opened. A lot of it for people our age there’ll be a nostalgic element to it. People who know Disneyland are going to see that we did our homework, but then it’s ultimately an adventure that’s going to be for the family and for the kids too. I had a lot of fun playing to that type of crowd with ‘Elf‘ and ‘Zathura.’ This seems to be mixing elements from all the films I’ve done, from ‘Iron Man,‘ ‘Cowboys & Aliens,‘ ‘Zathura,‘ ‘Elf‘ all rolled into one project that really is calling upon everything I’ve learned up to this point.”
Again, don’t expect it anytime soon. Favreau has acting gigs lined up in Disney’s “Iron Man 3” and Martin Scorsese‘s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and as we mentioned, a gig directing “Jersey Boys,” so it’s not on the immediate calendar. “Fortunately there’s no rush on it. I’ve been working on it as a writer now and we’re looking forward to beginning that long lead prep as you would on an animated film,” Favreau told Crave. “Then you work your way to where you know what the whole movie is going to be before you ever roll camera. You actually watch it as the Pixar people do and actually watch it on a screen and evaluate it before you ever roll camera.”
While it would undoubtedly be a super-cool movie (we wonder where Pirates of the Caribbean would fall into this story – could they possibly get Depp to do a cameo? Also, how would this effect the proposed “Matterhorn” and “Haunted Mansion” movies?), we wonder if there are just too many moving parts. But it does seem they’re taking their time, so we’ll see how this all plays out.