I think Jim nailed what I was going to say, in that so much of what Disney does, as it’s always been, is formulaic, geared toward pleasing the whole family. With Jack Sparrow it figured out how to expand that market, and I’m still convinced that Iron Man, and as such the entire Avengers franchise, owes a huge, huge debt to Jack. Disney still tries to do purely Disney stuff (Tomorrowland, folks, which like John Carter before it, is actually better than folks tend to admit, often going off its reputation as a nonstarter at the box office as some kind of signal that it had to be rubbish), and more often than not, because it so closely looks like Disney as we all know it, people don’t think of it as Disney anymore, because of all those cool franchises it acquired and its animation renaissance (redux). But more often than not the results are kind of hollow, which is disappointing to anyone looking for something other than movie glitz. I mean, my movie glitz is more movie pizzazz, and if you can’t tell the difference, I suggest you watch a few Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson movies. I want stuff that really knows what it’s doing, not just a cynical calculation to try and please everyone.
But generally, what Disney has been doing right in this latest rebirth (heh) is not so much developing franchises but franchises within franchises. It’s the full meta approach, kind of like how the Weinsteins in the '90s absolutely dominated the indy scene by buddying up with all the hip filmmakers. The problem is that really only one entity can have that kind of control at any given moment. Warner Bros. got that kind of synergy when it acquired DC’s intellectual property, and thanks to Star Wars, Fox Studios had that. Paramount always hoped Star Trek would do that for them, but until recently it just couldn’t really compete on the blockbuster scale as it had been redefined by Star Wars. New Line became a major player for a while, boasting the likes of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Really, only Warner stands a chance of competing, as always, with the still-emerging DC landscape and the world of Harry Potter. Remember the dream of DreamWorks? That was basically the new version of United Artists. Now it has to partner for all its projects. But Warners, if you go through their catalogue, has more depth than Disney. I don’t know if it adds up to the bulk of what Disney is able to draw with all those big tickets, but Warner can hit with comedy (Central Intelligence), horror (The Conjuring 2), and even animation (The Lego Movie), plus the franchise material. It had the biggest-grossing movie (in the States) of 2014, American Sniper.
So I’d say Disney does have a match, in Warner, just not an immediately obvious one, because the approaches are different.