1) We always knew that Goofy was a mutant. Walt Disney Co. has bought Marvel Entertainment Inc., home of Marvel Comics and Marvel Films, for around $4 billion in cash and stock. Disney gets to own Marvel’s comic characters (some 5,000 of them,) but film licensing deals Marvel has with other studios, giving them dramatic ownership rights, remain in place. Marvel had a record year with a 47 percent increase in profits after it decided to produce its own franchise movies instead of just licensing them, and scored big with Ironman.
2) Not surprisingly, the other studios with Marvel licensing franchises are itching to jumpstart them even further. 20th Century Fox announced plans for a third Fantastic Four movie, with Michael Green (Heroes, Green Lantern) writing the script. Fox also holds the licensing rights to Marvel’s X-Men, Daredevil and Silver Surfer. Fox put out X-Men Origins: Wolverine this summer, and plans a sequel to the movie, with possible spin-off films concerning the characters Deadpool and Gambit. They are also planning to put out more X-Men Origins movies: First Class and Magneto. Columbia Pictures is well along in their plans for filming Spider-Man 4 in 2010 with Sam Raimi directing again, and have hired screenwriter James Vanderbilt to write scripts for the fifth and sixth installments of the series that will probably be helmed by new directors.
3) A sequel to the Will Smith superhero film Hancock is in the works, also from Columbia Pictures. In the first movie, Smith played John Hancock, a superhero with amnesia about his past and a drinking problem who gets an image makeover from PR entrepreneur Jason Bateman and his wife, played by Charlize Theron, and who discovers a new understanding of his origins.
4) British director Guy Ritchie has signed on to direct Lobo, a live action adaptation of the DC Comics character about an alien bounty hunter. Lobo was originally from the 1980’s comic series Omega Men, and is one of DC’s most popular characters. He will be portrayed in the film as a seven-foot-tall, blue-skinned antihero who lands on Earth in search of four alien fugitives. Don Payne (The Simpsons, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) is the screenwriter.
5) Actor Tom Baker is well-known as the Fourth Doctor in Britain’s venerable Doctor Who series. After 28 years, he has returned to the role in five new Doctor Who audio adventures for BBC Audiobooks. The series is called Doctor Who: Hornets’ Nest and is written by Paul Magrs. In addition to Baker, Richard Franklin, Susan Jameson and Rula Lenska will add their voices to the production. The series is available for downloading from www.audible.co.uk. Additional information is available at www.bbcshop.com/hornetsnest.
6) J.R.R. Tolkein’s heirs have settled their lawsuit out of court with New Line Cinema over the proceeds of The Lord of the Rings films. Tolkein’s estate claimed that they were not paid their share of the gross proceeds of the mega-blockbuster trilogy based on Tolkein’s legendary novel, the last of which, Return of the King, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Warner Brothers, which bought New Line in 2008, was eager to resolve the lawsuit in order to begin production on two prequel films based on Tolkein’s children’s novel The Hobbit, due to be produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Guillermo del Toro. The bulk of the Lord of the Rings settlement will go to the Tolkein Trust, a British-based international charity.
7) Ben Ketai will direct the sequel to the vampire horror film 30 Days of Night, to be called 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. The first film was based on the graphic novel 30 Days of Night, written by Steve Niles. Ketai and Niles co-wrote a thirty minute on-demand, Web-based prequel to the original movie, called 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails, and a Web sequel, along with Ed Fowler, called 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust. The new feature film will focus on main character Stella Oleson (played by Melissa George in the first film,) who wrote a book about the vampire attack on the Alaskan town of Barrow of the first film, which draws the attention of a vampire clan in Los Angeles.
8) Matthew Hughes has made a three book deal with HarperCollins’ Angry Robot imprint for a contemporary fantasy series about a mild mannered actuary who becomes a caped crusader crime fighter with the assistance of a mobster-like demon. The first three chapters of the first novel in the series will run as a novella called “Hell of a Fix” in the Dec/Jan issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The first novel in the series will be released in the UK and North America in 2010.
9) Angry Robot has also signed up two futuristic thrillers from Thomas Blackthorne, a pen name of SF author John Meaney. The duology, Edge and Point, take place in the near future. In the first one, ex-soldier Josh Cumberland has to investigate the newly legal “sport” of knife dueling in order to find a missing child. In the sequel, Cumberland investigates the razor-wielding world of Cutter Circles among UK teens. Edge will be released early in 2010 in the UK and Australia, with a North American edition to follow.
10) Bestselling fantasy writer Tim Powers has confirmed that Disney’s next Pirates of the Carribean movie, starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, will borrow elements and the title from his historical fantasy novel On Stranger Tides, about a young man named Jack who becomes a pirate and searches for the Fountain of Youth. Disney had optioned On Stranger Tides from Powers some time ago, and decided to adapt parts of it into the next chapter of their major film franchise, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.