Screen Talk: Valuable Cars

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The Independent Culture

It hasn't been all about the movies for Walt Disney for a long time now, but motion pictures certainly provide a jumping off point for the multi-billion dollar corporation.

It came as a surprise to industry observers, however, when Disney recently revealed the movie that is the source of one of its top merchandising franchises. It's not Mickey Mouse, Aladdin or even the incredibly popular Toy Story films. It's Cars. The studio said the Cars franchise (number two is out this year) has clocked up an amazing $10bn in total retail sales. And while the rollout of merchandise for summer release Cars 2 began in mid-May, retail projections show it will exceed the performance of Toy Story 3 (which bagged a healthy $2.4 billion in merchandise sales last year) to become the largest merchandise program in licensing industry history.

Paris beat

US-French collaborations are not especially common in film these days, especially when it comes to collaborating on cultural leanings. But The Last Beat from writer-director Robert Saitzyk is mixing it up in Paris. The script details the story of Jay Douglas, a rock star who travels to the French capital in search of a more artistic existence as a poet and writer. The original soundtrack is includes 1970s rock 'n' roll and French pop, and the film will star Cyndi Lauper alongside Shawn Andrews, French actress Virginie Ledoyen, Cameron Richardson and Oscar nominated Seymour Cassel. It's scheduled to shoot in Paris later this year.

Risky business

Speaking of French inspiration and Hollywood: The first dice has been rolled on plans to create a big screen adventure based on the classic Parker Brothers board game Risk, launched in the fifties by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. Columbia Pictures has called up screenwriter John Hlavin (who co-wrote Underworld: New Dawn and has several other projects currently in development) to deliver an action thriller based on the Cold War-era strategy game. Risk players form armies and use them to attack rival territories. Over the years, versions have been designed around different historic eras, as well as on the moon. Hlavin's take will be set in modern day and take place all around the world.

Protect and serve

For one of the main proponents and evangelists of 3D, both as a cinema event and a saviour of cinema-going itself, Jeffrey Katzenberg has issued a stern warning to Hollywood and beyond. Katzenberg, the head of DreamWorks Animation and purveyor of such 3D fodder as Kung Fu Panda 2, let rip, saying that too many movies are being made in the format which are more show than substance, betraying the consumer. In the US recently a majority of audiences opted to see a studio 3D picture in 2D. Katzenberg says 3D output has disappointed audiences multiple times recently compared to a year and half ago when the format was exciting, delivered an experience and rewarded the movie-goer with a good story. But he does think Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon will exceed audience expectations, so don't expect Katzenberg or any other blockbuster maker to give up on 3D quite yet.

Collette and Hogan wed again

Plans are coming together to see Muriel's Wedding director PJ Hogan and the movie's star, Tony Collette (above right), reunited after all those years. The pair is lining up to make Mental together. Collette will play a woman who becomes the nanny to five girls in the autobiographical screenplay by Hogan. The movie is scheduled to film in Australia this summer.