Player Profile is a series that highlights major Hollywood personalities that could and should change the status quo for video game movies.
Not long ago, Disney was synonymous with 2D fairy tales and memorable and marketable princesses. But as animation entered the twenty-first century, the company needed to make major changes in order to keep up with the changing times. In 2006, Disney purchased Pixar, the studio behind instant classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. In 2009, Disney purchased Marvel, their comic book properties, and most importantly, the film rights for many of their properties. Since 2012, Marvel films The Avengers and Iron Man 3 have combined for over $2.7 billion in ticket sales. Sound investments such as these gave Disney the flexibility and confidence to make perhaps their most significant investment to date. In 2012, Disney purchased Lucasfilm for just over $4 billion and immediately announced several Star Wars sequels in the works. In a span of just a few years, Disney extended their kingdom from not just a monopoly on children’s animation, but to a significant portion of nerd culture. And while these moves made significant headlines, some other shrewd moves may lead to an even stronger foothold on all things geek.
Flying under the radar in 2010 was the Disney film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on the video game of the same name. And while the movie did not make headlines the same way Avengers did, it made $335 million at the box office and holds the record for the highest Tomato Meter score for a video game movie on rottentomatoes.com. The Jake Gyllenhaal film may not have the recognition of some of Disney’s bigger franchises, but it was a start for a studio looking to capitalize on the success of video games. In 2012, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph was a commercial and critical success that incorporated several iconic video game characters, but itself was not a video game adaptation. But Ralph made it clear that Disney recognizes our love for the genre and its cornerstones. In 2014, Disney’s Need for Speed starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul is set to be released. Need for Speed is an iconic Electronic Arts car racing game with seemingly-countless sequels and a feverish fan-following. Add an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and an up and coming director, and you have the makings of another Disney success story. But what about some of the most iconic game characters of all time?
Should Disney find success with their latest video game adaptation, it is conceivable that they might set their sights on some of the more commercially successful video game entities. We saw that a Super Mario Brothers live-action film is a difficult task to accomplish. Perhaps a Pixar-produced CG Mario adventure could find the same success Wreck-It Ralph garnered. The Legend of Zelda could be a more attractive Pixar option as it has more fantasy elements and is less constrained to nonsensical themes like plumbers using magic mushrooms and dinosaurs to help them save a princess from a fire-breathing turtle monster with a crown. Maybe even Donkey Kong could get the CG treatment. Live action adventures are a possibility as well, especially for the likes of games like Metroid, Skyrim, and Fable. Given the questionable status of Nintendo consoles in North America, a film deal between Nintendo and Disney could lead to many of these and other projects becoming a reality that would benefit both companies. Regardless of what action Disney may take in its future video game projects, it is difficult to ignore their recent film successes and hope for the future of video game movies.