At Walt Disney Studios, which is phasing out the Buena Vista moniker that used to accompany its releases to the marketplace, summer 2007 smacked of deja vu. The Burbank-based studio, headed by chairman Dick Cook and production president Oren Aviv, again depended heavily on a gang of pirates and a new gang of animated characters from Pixar Animation Studios.
Gore Verbinksi’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — following the last “Pirates” movie, “Dead Man’s Chest,” by less than a year — predictably triggered a boxoffice tidal wave during the Memorial Day weekend. With producer Jerry Bruckheimer reuniting all the familiar faces, led by Johnny Depp, while also making room for new players like Chow Yun-Fat, the movie commanded $308.7 million to become the season’s fourth-highest grosser — though it didn’t come close to equaling the most successful film in the series, “Dead Man’s Chest,” which unearthed $423.3 million domestically.
Brad Bird’s food-obsessed animated fantasy “Ratatouille,” however, was a bit of a tougher sell. Although it was greeted by some of the best reviews of the summer, the Pixar tale of a rat with a taste for the good life wasn’t quite as cute and cuddly as previous Pixar offerings. By summer’s end, its gross hovered slightly above the $200 million mark; by contrast, last summer’s Pixar film, “Cars,” grossed $244 million.
Having hit two-for-two, Disney chose not to flood the market with product. In August, it sent out the live-action “Underdog” with modest expectations.