Universal banks on ‘Migration’ to expand its animation lead over Disney

Universal and Illuminations latest animated film centers on a family of ducks who decides to leave the safety of a New England pond for an adventurous trip to Jamaica. However, their well-laid plans quickly go awry when they get lost and wind up in New York City.


Disney dropped the animation crown. Universal has picked it up.

And, with “Migration” opening Friday, the studio is looking to strengthen its grip.

“Migration,” a comic tale about a family of New England ducks that leave their pond for Jamaica, but end up in New York City, is expected to tally $25 million during its domestic debut. Universal has more conservative expectations, forecasting between $10 million and $15 million in ticket sales for the film’s opening.

While that pales in comparison to the $100 million-plus debuts of Illumination/Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the latest “Minions” film, it’s comparable to the studio and DreamWorks Animation’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which ran in theaters for several months, securing nearly $500 million globally.

“‘Migration,’ with solid word-of-mouth and strong reviews, will have to be judged more on its long-term results than the opening weekend splash,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Disney’s most recent animated film “Wish” failed to connect with audiences. After generating $31.6 million domestically over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, the film has grossed a total of $55.2 million in the U.S. and Canada. Globally, the film has reached $127.1 million. The film had a budget of $200 million, not including marketing costs.

For comparison, “Trolls Band Together,” which was released the week before Thanksgiving, secured $30 million for its three-day debut and nearly $180 million worldwide. The film had a budget of $95 million, not including marketing costs.

Representatives from Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

How Disney lost the crown

Ariana DeBose stars as Asha in Disney’s new animated film “Wish.”


Disney established its animated feature empire in the early 20th century with 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and continued to dominate, more or less, into the 1980s and 1990s with “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Later, it acquired Pixar, which together with Walt Disney Animation, generated billions in box-office receipts for the company.

“The world of feature animation has been dominated for decades by Disney and for good reason,” said Dergarabedian. “They set the gold standard.”

Then came the Covid pandemic. While theaters closed, Disney sought to pad its fledgling streaming service Disney+ with content, stretching its creative teams thin, and sending theatrical movies during the pandemic straight to digital.

The decision trained parents to seek out new Disney titles on streaming, not theaters, even when Disney opted to return its films to the big screen. Compounding Disney’s woes was a general sense from audiences that the company’s content had grown overly existential and too concerned with social issues beyond the reach of children.

As a result, no Disney animated feature from Pixar or Walt Disney Animation has generated more than $480 million at the global box office since 2019.

“I think what’s changed is that Disney doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt,” said Josh Brown, CEO at Ritholtz Wealth Management and a CNBC contributor. “And people will not go to a movie just because it’s the latest Disney movie in the way that previous generations did.”

Universal appeal

But as moviegoers have returned to cinemas in the wake of the pandemic, more are gravitating toward Universal’s fare.

“Simply put, Illumination Animation’s only agenda is entertainment,” said Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “Their animated films are sweet and simple and family audiences appreciate that. Disney sometimes attempts to pack too much into their animated features, and lately have been losing sight of the simplicity of the genre.”

Not to mention, Universal has been revisiting tried and true fan-favorite stories and characters. In fact, Illumination hasn’t released a nonfranchise film since 2016, and only three of the last 10 DreamWorks features have been original stories.

For comparison, of the last eight films released by a Disney animation studio, seven have been original films with just 2022’s “Lightyear,” a “Toy Story” spinoff, tied to an existing franchise. Previously, Disney has thrived bringing new animated material to audiences, but in the post-pandemic world, it has struggled.

It is the exact opposite strategy of Disney’s live-action theatrical releases, which have relied heavily on established franchises. Think “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “The Little Mermaid,” Marvel franchise films and “Haunted Mansion.”

Iger has said that Disney will continue to make sequels, without apology, but admitted that the company needs to be more selective in which franchises it revisits.

“I think there has to be a reason to make them, you have to have a good story,” Iger said during The New York Times’ DealBook Summit in late November.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is the sequel to the 2015 film, “Minions,” and spin-off/prequel to the main “Despicable Me” film series.


In animation, returning to popular characters and worlds is an easy way to capture the attention of parents and kids.

“Because they have seen these characters and related stories before, they have high confidence that they will be high quality, entertaining and ‘brand safe’ for their kids,” said Peter Csathy, founder and chair of advisory firm Creative Media. “And they may even anticipate franchise animated films as much as their kids.”

In developing consistent franchise content like Minions and Trolls, Universal is now able to introduce a new film like “Migration” with a sense of clout. Parents who see that the film is from the same studio that brought other fan favorites to the big screen are then more likely to come out to see it.

It’s what Pixar was able to do so well for nearly three decades.

“With ‘Minions,’ ‘Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Sing,’ I think Illumination is a brand people are aware of by now,” said Bock. “And that awareness will boost ‘Migration’s’ flight pattern, likely extending its box-office run. That’s key. The long play.”

So far, “Migration” has generally favorable reviews from critics. If audiences respond well, and spread the word, the film could see a solid run, adding to the prestige of Universal’s animation brand.

“The kids animation market opportunity will never grow old, so those playing at the top of the game – as is Illumination – hold the promise and possibility of becoming the next go-to brand for quality animation after Pixar,” said Csathy.

Next year, Disney and Pixar are set to release “Inside Out 2” in June, while Universal and Illumination’s “Despicable Me 4” is scheduled to hit theaters weeks later in July.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Pictures and CNBC.

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IFFK 2023: Cinephiles explain what brings them to the annual festival of cinema every year

It is that time of the year when Thiruvananthapuram gets set for its annual tryst with the best of world and Indian cinema. As the 28th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala begins on December 8 (Friday), MetroPlus catches up with cinephiles who talk about their IFFK experience.

For many residents in the city, age no bar, this is the time of the year to romance the screen. Long queues outside theatres, heated debates over hot tea and eats, headline-making panel discussions and fashionistas turning heads with their signature style are familiar vignettes of the IFFK.

So, for city residents Praveen Mohan and Murali Krishnan, the buzz around the IFFK was not an unfamiliar one. While Praveen has been a regular since 2011, Murali has been a delegate for the last five years.

Praveen Mohan
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Praveen, 35, vividly remembers his first look at IFFK. “It was exciting, especially watching foreign language films in the same theatre where I used to watch mainstream films. Since the theatres are spread across the city it was like entering a different world. A group of us friends, all of us aspiring filmmakers, gathered every year to enjoy and discuss cinema,” says Praveen.

It is true that the IIFK has shaped the viewing culture of several generations of film buffs in Kerala. UK Mrunal, who did his masters in filmmaking from the University of Reading, UK, has been watching films from his school days. “Since, my father, TK Rajeev Kumar (film director), has been closely involved with different editions of the IFFK, it is difficult to say when I began frequenting the screenings,” he says.

Filmmaker UK Mrunal 

Filmmaker UK Mrunal 
| Photo Credit:
UK Mrunal

In 2017, he helped his father direct the signature film of the fete and also participated as a delegate for the first time. Mrunal has been an avid viewer since then. He says the movies he watched has certainly shaped his decision to become a filmmaker. He recalls with a laugh how he created a furore when he got into a discussion with Shyam Benegal about new stipulations of the Censor Board during a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the festival.

Ahaana Krishna

Ahaana Krishna
| Photo Credit:

Another city resident who found her way to cinema via IFFK is actor Ahaana Krishna. Although she was a regular at all the editions when she was in the city, once she left for Chennai to pursue her graduation, it became difficult to be a part of IFFK.

Keen cinephiles come from all across Kerala as delegates of IFFK. James Thakara, founder and frontman of the band, Thakara, has been attending the IFFK since 2011. “I was staying in Kochi with students of Cochin Media School in Kochi and heard about the festival from them. I travelled all the way to Thiruvananthapuram on my bicycle. Later, I used to come on my Activa. This time it’s on my Royal Enfield Himalayan,” says James.

James Thakara

James Thakara
| Photo Credit:

What brings them to the festival every year?

Learning experience

James says that each edition has helped him learn and unlearn various aspects of cinema. “The films have shaped my world view as I make it a point to watch as many as possible from all countries. That’s how you learn about their culture, history, politics etc.”

Murali, a photographer, writer and short-filmmaker, calls the festival a learning experience as one understands filmmaking, subjects to be chosen and the pulse of the audience.

Murali Krishnan

Murali Krishnan
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

For Mrunal, what is special about the IFFK is that it screens the best movies from Asia, Africa and South America in addition to films that make an impression at high-brand festivals such as the ones at Cannes and Toronto. “The spectrum of films that IFFK screens is not seen at at any other festival,” he maintains.

Murali points out that the general perception about film festivals is that it includes only slow movies, called in jest as award padam (award-winning movie). “I remember, however, watching the Argentinian movie Back to Maracana at IFFK 2019. What fun it was! You don’t expect to see a light-hearted movie at a film festival.”

For actors Devaki Rajendran and Anumol, the IFFK was their ticket to world cinema. Both of them had their debut films screened at the IFFK.

Devaki Rajendran 

Devaki Rajendran 
| Photo Credit:

“As a student in Mumbai, I had heard a great deal about the IFFK. It was in 2017, however, when my movie, Sleeplessly Yours, was screened that I participated in the festival. It was an unforgettable experience. Since then, I have been a regular at all the editions. It is an opportunity to watch world cinema and interact with people who seem to breathe cinema.”

Actor Anumol

Actor Anumol
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Engineer-turned-actor Anumol became an IFFK fan in 2012 when her film Akam was chosen for the fete. “Five of my movies were chosen in succession in the following years. It was an eyeopener for me – the films, the delegates, rubbing shoulders with filmmakers, who were household names, the endless cinema discussions…”

She recalls that her mother, Kala Manoharan, a fan of mainstream cinema, was awestruck when she watched French movie Amour. “She said loudly ‘so films can be made this way too’. It was about an elderly couple’s love for each other as they negotiate ailments and ill health! That is what IFFK does – open your eyes to different kinds of naratives, themes, approaches and filmmaking.”

This year too, her film Ennennum is part of the Malayalam Cinema Today category.

The festivals have been special for Praveen. “Sleeplessly Yours in which I worked as an associate director was screened at the IFFK in 2018. This time, I am an assistant director in Shalini Ushadevi’s Ennennum. I had watched her first film, Akam, at my first IFFK.”

Memorable experience

Each delegate usually has a fond IFFK memory to cherish. Ahaana, for instance, remembers watching Parasite on the big screen during an edition of the IFFK. “It was a mind-blowing experience. If I am a delegate, I watch at least 15 to 20 movies with my friends. The movies provide a great learning curve to understand culture, politics and society.”

While the increase in the number of delegates speaks of the festival’s popularity, both Praveen and Murali feel not all the delegates turn up to watch the films. “Some are there to grab everyone’s attention and there are quite a few who come only to have fun at the cultural programmes in the evening,” says Praveen.

Murali adds, “In 2019 I watched 38 films! There might be others like me who watch that many movies. But some of them skip screenings seeing the crowd not knowing that half the delegates have no plans to watch the movies.” Murali hopes for a better website this time. “It often crashes when the registration opens due to heavy traffic. I hope it has been revamped this time.”

Meanwhile, the magic begins as the curtain goes up on the first screening in the morning at theatres across the city.

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Paramount’s Shari Redstone is open for business, but business may not be open for her

Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements and controlling shareholder of Paramount Global, walks to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 12, 2023.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Shari Redstone may have missed her window.

Paramount Global‘s controlling shareholder is open to a merger or selling the company at the right price, according to people familiar with her thinking. And she has been open to it for several years, said the people, who asked not to speak publicly because the discussions have been private.

Spokespeople for Redstone and Paramount Global declined to comment.

The problem has been finding the right deal for shareholders. Market conditions have made a transformative transaction difficult at best and highly unlikely at worst.

“The market is crying out for reshaping media company portfolios and consolidation,” said Jon Miller, chief executive at Integrated Media and a senior advisor at venture firm Advancit Capital, which Redstone co-founded. “But the deck is stacked against large-scale transactions now because of both immediate concerns in terms of ad sales, subscription video numbers and the cost of debt. No one wants to transact at the current market valuations that these companies are given.”

Paramount Global is an archetype for the media industry’s consolidation conundrum. The company consists of Paramount Pictures, the CBS broadcast network, 28 owned-and-operated local CBS stations, the streaming service Paramount+, free advertising-supported Pluto TV, “Star Trek,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and Showtime. It also owns the physical Paramount studio lot in Los Angeles, California.

From a sum-of-the-parts perspective, the company holds a strong hand. Many of Paramount Global’s assets would fit nicely within larger media companies.

“Paramount has a tremendous amount of assets in its content library and they own some pretty powerful sports rights in the form of the NFL contract, Champions League soccer and March Madness,” Guggenheim analyst Michael Morris told CNBC last week.

“But, they are still losing money on their streaming service,” Morris said. “They need to pull these things together, right-size the content, super charge that topline through pricing and penetration, and then we can see investors get excited about this idea again.”

Declining revenue from the acceleration of pay-TV cord-cutting, continued streaming losses and rising interest rates have put Redstone in a bind. The company’s market capitalization has slumped to $7.7 billion, nearly the company’s lowest valuation since Redstone merged CBS and Viacom in 2019. At the time, that transaction gave the combined company a market valuation of about $30 billion.

It’s unclear whether staying the course will help turn investor sentiment. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of Paramount Global’s biggest shareholders, told CNBC in April that streaming “is not really a very good business.” He also noted that shareholders in entertainment companies “really haven’t done that great over time.”

Paramount Global’s direct-to-consumer businesses lost $424 million in the second quarter and $511 million in the first quarter. The company reports third-quarter earnings Nov. 2.

CEO Bob Bakish said 2023 will be the peak loss year for streaming. Paramount Global cut its dividend to 5 cents per share from 24 cents per share to “further enhance our ability to deliver long-term value for our shareholders as we move toward streaming profitability,” Bakish said in May.

Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall suggested earlier this year that Bakish should shut down the company’s streaming business entirely, despite the fact that Paramount+ has accumulated more than 60 million subscribers.

“We believe Paramount Global is worth a lot more either as a content arms dealer or as a break-up for sale story,” Cahall wrote in a note to clients in May. “Great content, misguided strategy.”

Big Tech lifeline

Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount, speaks with CNBC’s David Faber on Sept. 6, 2023.


Executives at Paramount Global continue to hold out hope that a large technology company, such as Apple, Amazon or Alphabet, will view the collection of assets as a way to bolster their content aspirations, according to people familiar with the matter.

Paramount+’s 61 million subscribers could help supersize an existing streaming service such as Apple TV+ or Amazon’s Prime Video, or give Alphabet’s YouTube a bigger foothold into subscription streaming beyond the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket and YouTube TV.

While Federal Trade Commission Chairman Lina Khan has been particularly focused on limiting the power of Big Tech companies, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet may actually be better buyers than legacy media companies from a regulatory standpoint. They don’t own a broadcast TV network, unlike Comcast (NBC), Fox or Disney (ABC). It’s highly unlikely U.S. regulators would allow one company to own two broadcast networks. Divesting CBS is possible, but it’s so intertwined with Paramount+ that separating the network from the streaming service would be messy.

“We believe Paramount Global is too small to win the streaming wars, but it is bite-size enough to be acquired by a larger streaming competitor for its deep library of film and TV content, as well as its sports rights and news assets,” Laura Martin, an analyst at Needham & Co., wrote in an Oct. 9 research note to clients.

Acquiring Paramount Global would be a relative drop in the bucket for a Big Tech company. Paramount Global’s market value was below $8 billion as of Friday. It also has about $16 billion in long-term debt.

Still, even with huge balance sheets and trillion-dollar valuations, there’s no evidence technology companies want to own declining legacy media assets such as cable and broadcast networks. Netflix has built its business specifically on the premise that these assets will ultimately die. Paramount’s lot and studio may be appealing for content creation and library programming, but that would leave Redstone holding a less desirable basket of legacy media assets.

Breakup difficulties

It’s possible Redstone could break up the company and sell off legacy media assets to a private equity firm that could milk them for cash. But Paramount Global’s diminished market valuation, relative to its debt, likely makes a leveraged buyout less appealing for a potential private equity firm.

Moreover, rising interest rates have generally slowed down take-private deals in all industries, as the cost of paying debt interest has soared. Globally, buyout fund deal volume in the first half of 2023 is down 58% from the same period a year ago, according to a Bain & Co. study.

If a full sale to Big Tech and a partial sale to private equity won’t happen, another option for Redstone is to merge or sell to another legacy media company. Warner Bros. Discovery could merge with Paramount Global, though putting together Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures may hold up deal approval with U.S. regulators.

Beyond regulatory issues, recent history suggests big media mergers haven’t worked well for shareholders. Tens of billions of dollars in shareholder value have been lost in recent media mergers, including WarnerMedia and Discovery, Disney and the majority of Fox, Comcast/NBCUniversal and Sky, Viacom and CBS, and Scripps and Discovery.

Merger partners such as Warner Bros. Discovery also may prefer to sell or merge with a different company, such as Comcast’s NBCUniversal, if regulators allow a big media combination.

Redstone has recently dabbled around the edges, shedding some assets, such as book publisher Simon & Schuster, and engaging in talks to sell a majority stake in cable network BET.

But Paramount Global shelved the idea of selling a stake in BET in August after deciding sale offers were too low to outweigh the value of keeping the network in its cable network portfolio. With the total company’s market valuation below $8 billion, it’s difficult to convince buyers to pay big prices for parts. A change in broader investment sentiment that pushes the company’s valuation higher may help Redstone and other Paramount Global executives get more comfortable with divesting assets.

Selling National Amusements

If Redstone can’t find a deal to her liking, she could also sell National Amusements, the holding company founded by her father, Sumner Redstone, that owns the bulk of the company’s voting shares. National Amusements owns 77.3% of Paramount Global’s Class A (voting) common stock and 5.2% of the Class B common stock, constituting about 10% of the overall equity of the company.

Redstone took a $125 million strategic investment from merchant bank BDT & MSD Partners earlier this year to pay down debt, reiterating her belief in Paramount Global’s inherent value.

“Paramount has the best assets in the media industry, with an incredible content library and IP spanning all genres and demographics, as well as the No. 1 broadcast network, the leading free ad-supported streaming television service and the fastest-growing pay streaming platform in the U.S.,” Redstone said in a statement in May. “NAI has conviction in Paramount’s strategy and execution, and we remain committed to supporting Paramount as it takes the necessary steps to build on its success and capitalize on the strategic opportunities in our industry.”

Selling National Amusements wouldn’t alter Paramount Global’s long-term future. But it is a way out for Redstone if she can’t find a deal beneficial to shareholders.

Paramount Global isn’t actively working with an investment bank on a sale, according to people familiar with the matter. The company is content to wait for a shift in market conditions or regulatory officials before getting more aggressive on a transformational deal, said the people.

Still, Redstone’s predicament aptly sums up legacy media’s current problems. The industry is counting on a turn in market sentiment, while executives privately grumble that in the near term there’s little they can do about it.

WATCH: Mad Money host Jim Cramer weighs in on Paramount Global

Lightning Round: Paramount Global might drop another two to three points lower, says Jim Cramer

Disclosure: Comcast’s NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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Anant Nag reminisces his 50-year journey in cinema

When he entered the world of film, Anant Nag was lanky and handsome. Whether he played the mean, selfish son of a landlord in Shyam Benegal’s Ankur, the conniving brother in Kalyug, or the romantic pilot in Puttanna Kanagal’s Bayalu Daari, he portrayed every role with  élan and intensity. He could evoke sympathy as a lovelorn youngster as well as hatred for his negative roles. He was capable of tickling our funny bone with his comedy turns in films such as the Ganeshana Maduve series.

Though he was a newcomer, the audience saw him sharing the screen space with legendary actors of his time like the late actor Kalpana and Julie Lakshmi. If his commercial films ran houseful across Karnataka, he also worked in parallel cinema in Kannada (Minchina Ota, Accident, Nodi Swamy Naavu Iradu Heega) and Hindi (Nishant).

He was part of the iconic television series, Malgudi Days, directed by his late brother Shankar. The two brothers were the main propagators of Kannada theatre in Bengaluru in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They even founded the amateur theatre group — Sanket. Despite his success in cinema, Anant always made time for theatre.

With Shabana Azmi and Amol Palekar in a Kannada Film Kanneshwara Rama
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

From his debut in PV Nanjaraja Urs’ Kannada film Sankalpa to KGF Chapter 1, Anant has been there and done that. He has worked with legends and budding directors.

This year, he celebrates 50 years in the film industry. Even today, he is a busy man. The actor is being felicitated by fans and organisations for the remarkable milestone.

Amidst this hectic schedule, Anant, speaks to The Hindu over a call about cinema and what it means to him starting at the very beginning.

One way ticket

“I grew up in two ashrams — one in Uttara Karnataka and then in Dakshina Karnataka. I led a sheltered life and was adept at the life in the ashrams. Academically, I was in the top five ranks always.” Things changed drastically for Anant when the family moved to Mumbai. “School was in English medium. I could not cope and felt lost. Suddenly, I was at the bottom of the class. I chose arts, I was unsuccessful, tried literature, failed there too.” Anant tried to join the Army, but was rejected as he was underweight. “I lost interest in academics, and was thinking of going back to the ashram.”

That was when someone suggested acting. “Those days, failures were told by teachers and family to become actors. It was considered a profession for those who could do nothing else. I got a break in theatre and felt destiny had ushered me on stage.”

Though terrified initially, Anant says, he dived into the world of rehearsals and characters. “I started discovering myself. I regained my lost confidence. Theatre helped me find myself and in five years I had acted in 50 plays.” Anant started his stage journey with Konkani theatre. “I enjoyed acting because though my personal life was miserable, I could be anyone on stage. Gradually, film offers started pouring in.”

Cinema, Anant says, is like going on a road with a one-way ticket. “Once you get into this field, cinema consumes you. There is no way you can return. It is like riding a tiger all the time. Try getting off its back, and you can be attacked.”

In a still from the Kannada film Hamsa Geethe with Rekha Rao

In a still from the Kannada film Hamsa Geethe with Rekha Rao
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Second wind

About him sustaining in the industry for 50 years, the actor says, “It was not my efforts alone, but the love the audience gave me. They made my films a success. Equal credit goes to the directors, producers, and most importantly, the writers. They wrote specific roles for me and I am grateful to each one of them.”

After a while, Anant started getting bored with his roles. “By the time I was 40, I was questioning myself — what was I doing? Why was I repeating the success formula over and over again? Once again, I was in a dilemma, I did not want to repeat myself on screen. Art cinema, which offered me scope for experimentation, had limited reach those days. Even the remuneration was nominal. Ultimately, cinema is meant for entertainment. People come to watch your film, not to get patronised, but to get entertained.”

“Success and failure is not in anyone’s hand. A film you think nothing about, may become a blockbuster and one that you pinned all your hopes on, may go unnoticed. Also, when you are an actor, sometimes you are left with no choice, but to do the role you are offered as that is what people wish to see you as. It is also a question of money for the producer. So, in the end the numbers do count.”

That is when Anant started exploring comedy. His Ganeshana Maduve series with Vinaya Prasad is still remembered for the laughs they provide. “I also did a lot of dark comedy in films such as Udbhava, Yaarigu Helbedi where I explored negative characters with shades of humour.”

Anant Nag in a still Godi Banna Saadarana Maikattu

Anant Nag in a still Godi Banna Saadarana Maikattu
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Anant then took a break to venture into politics. After a short stint, he decided to return to films. “I was now in my 50s. As someone who ragged my seniors who still played the lead with significantly younger heroines, I was terrified of being bullied by my juniors. I decided I would not do lead roles and started to explore strong character roles. This attitude comes only from theatre, where you give your best even for a two-minute role on stage. Sometimes supporting roles are written better than leads.”

Despite this switch, the films that he was a part of went on to become major hits including Mungaru Male, Godi Banna Sadharana Maikattu, Kavaludaari and KGF Chapter 1. Because he remains a sought-after actor in his 70s, he is often compared to Amitabh Bachchan. This comparison, the actor says, is unfair on Amitabh Bachchan. “He is a legend and has done more work than me. He puts in the same passion for a three-hour film or a 15-second advertisement, which I am incapable of. He is a terrific brand and is from the Hindi film industry, which has a larger reach. However, comparing me to him is the people’s verdict, and I humbly accept this honour.”

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Christopher Nolan breaks down the best ways to watch a movie, ahead of ‘Oppenheimer’ release

It’s no secret that Christopher Nolan made “ Oppenheimer ” to be seen on the big screen. But not all big screens are created equal.

That’s part of the reason why Universal Pictures has made “Oppenheimer” tickets available early for over a thousand “premium large format” (or PLF) screens, with options including IMAX 70mm, 70mm, IMAX digital, 35mm, Dolby Cinema and more.

Knowing that even those words can get overwhelming and technical, Nolan went a step further: In an interview with The Associated Press, he offered a guide to his favorite formats, explaining why it matters and even where he likes to sit so that audiences don’t feel like they need a film school degree (or one in theoretical physics) before settling on a theater.

“You rarely get the chance to really talk to moviegoers directly about why you love a particular format and why if they can find an IMAX screen to see the film on that’s great,” Nolan said. “We put a lot of effort into shooting the film in a way that we can get it out on these large format screens. It really is just a great way of giving people an experience that they can’t possibly get in the home.”

In a film about about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who oversaw the development of first atomic bomb during World War II, this will be especially pivotal in viewing the Trinity Test, the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. Nolan and his effects teams recreated the blast, with all its blinding brilliance.

“We knew that this had to be the showstopper,” Nolan said. “We’re able to do things with picture now that before we were really only able to do with sound in terms of an oversize impact for the audience—an almost physical sense of response to the film.”

“Oppenheimer,” starring Cillian Murphy, opens in theaters on July 21.


“Oppenheimer” was shot using some of the highest resolution film cameras that exist. Like “ Dunkirk ” and “ Tenet,” “Oppenheimer” was filmed entirely on large format film stock, meaning a combination of IMAX 65mm and Panavision 65mm (think David Lean/”Lawrence of Arabia”), that’s then projected in 70mm.

“The sharpness and the clarity and the depth of the image is unparalleled,” Nolan said. “The headline, for me, is by shooting on IMAX 70mm film, you’re really letting the screen disappear. You’re getting a feeling of 3D without the glasses. You’ve got a huge screen and you’re filling the peripheral vision of the audience. You’re immersing them in the world of the film.”

Nolan has been shooting with IMAX cameras since “The Dark Knight.” Audiences would regularly gasp at seeing its first shot projected in IMAX 70mm. Though it’s “just a helicopter shot” of some buildings in Chicago, it helps explain the ineffable power of the format.

On a technical level, the IMAX film resolution is almost 10 times more than a 35mm projector and each frame has some 18,000 pixels of resolution versus a home HD screen that has 1,920 pixels.

Director Christopher Nolan, center, and Cillian Murphy, right, on the set of ‘Oppenheimer’
| Photo Credit:
Melinda Sue Gordon


The 5mm difference goes back to when that extra space on the film had to be reserved for the soundtrack. With digital sound, that’s unnecessary and it is “purely a visual enhancement,” Nolan explained.


“We have to plan very carefully because by shooting an IMAX film, you capture a lot of information,” he said. “Your movie is going to translate very well to all the formats because you’re getting the ultimate amount of visual information. But there are different shapes to the screen — what we call aspect ratios. What you have to plan is how you then frame your imagery so that it can be presented in different theaters with equal success.”

Starting with “The Dark Knight,” they developed a system that they call “center punching the action” so that nothing is lost.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema is also always aware of the “frame lines for the different theaters” when looking through the camera.

On the biggest presentations, IMAX 1.43:1 (the massive square screen) the screen essentially disappears for the audience. For other formats like 35mm, the top and the bottom get cropped.

But, Nolan said, “from a creative point of view, what we’ve found over the years is that there’s no compromise to composition.”


The IMAX cameras are just too loud for dialogue heavy scenes, but Nolan is optimistic about the new cameras being developed.


Some of “Oppenheimer” is presented in black and white for a very specific story reason.

“I knew that I had two timelines that we were running in the film,” Nolan said. “One is in color, and that’s Oppenheimer’s subjective experience. That’s the bulk of the film. Then the other is a black and white timeline. It’s a more objective view of his story from a different character’s point of view.”

Nolan’s desire for the black and white portions to be of equal image quality to the rest of the film led to the development of the first ever black and white IMAX film stock, which Kodak made and Fotokem developed.

“We shot a lot of our hair and makeup tests using black and white. And then we would go to the IMAX film projector at CityWalk and project it there,” he said. “I’ve just never seen anything like it. To see such a massive black and white film image? It’s just a wonderful thing.”

Christopher Nolan, right, and Emma Thomas accept the “NATO Spirit of the Industry Award” at the Big Screen Achievement Awards during CinemaCon

Christopher Nolan, right, and Emma Thomas accept the “NATO Spirit of the Industry Award” at the Big Screen Achievement Awards during CinemaCon
| Photo Credit:
Chris Pizzello


For Nolan, the “best possible experience” to view “Oppenheimer” in theaters is the IMAX 70mm film presentations. These are also among the rarest, currently set for 25 locations in North America including the AMC Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles, the AMC Lincoln Square in New York, the Cinemark Dallas, the Regal King of Prussia near Philadelphia and the AutoNation IMAX in Fort Lauderdale.

The prints span over 11 miles of film stock, weigh some 600 pounds and run through film projectors horizontally.

There will also be over one hundred 70mm prints (“a fabulous presentation,” Nolan said) sent to theaters around the world, with over 77 (and more to come) on sale in North America at major chains and many independent locations like the Music Box in Chicago and the AFI Silver in Washington D.C.

“The two formats are sort of different and I love them both,” he said.

The sequences projected in IMAX 70mm really “come to life” on those screens, and vice versa for the 70mm sequences on those specific projectors. In IMAX theaters, for example, things shot with IMAX film cameras will expand vertically to fill the entire screen.

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in a scene from the film ‘Oppenheimer,’ written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in a scene from the film ‘Oppenheimer,’ written and directed by Christopher Nolan
| Photo Credit:


The vast majority of moviegoers in North America will have easier access to digital presentations. These include IMAX digital, which can sometimes mean a laser projected image and other times involves a retro formatted screen, and what’s called “exhibitor PLF,” meaning large format screen and projection systems developed by individual theater chains (like Regal RPX, Cinemark XD and Cineplex UltraAVX). When in doubt, look for an “X” in the name.

But don’t dismay: It’ll still look great, according to Nolan, whose team has worked for six months to digitize the original film for other formats to ensure the best experience on every screen.

“This is the exciting thing about shooting an IMAX film: When you scan it for the digital format, you’re working with the absolute best possible image that you could acquire, and that translates wonderfully to the new projector formats like the laser projectors,” he said.

Nolan said the “IMAX impact” over the last 20 to 30 years has resulted in more theaters paying more attention to presentation, from projection to sound, which has been “great for filmmakers.”


Well, that comes down to personal preference but here’s where Nolan likes to sit.

“When I’m in a theater that’s Cinemascope ratio, I like to be right near the front, middle of the third row,” he said. “When I’m in a stadium, IMAX 1.43:1, then I actually like to be a little behind the center line right up at the middle. So, a little further back.”

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Let us now praise single moms | CNN


Roughly 24 million, or one-third of all American children under age 18, are living with an unmarried parent, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis of US Census Bureau data. And 81% of those single parent homes are headed by a mom.

This has been a growing trend since the late 1960s. The number of kids being raised by mostly single moms has more than doubled between 1968 and 2017.

Yet despite growing up in the middle of this trend, in the 1970s and ’80s, when divorce was increasingly common and “Kramer vs. Kramer” felt like the documentary of our childhood, and despite being part of a generation of latchkey kids who came home from school while parents were still at work, I was, I confess, embarrassed to be raised by a single mom when I was growing up.

For the majority of my 12 years of Catholic school, I was the only student who lived with one parent. And for that reason, I was also, demonstratively, the poorest kid in my school. We lived off one paycheck, or paychecks when my mom held multiple jobs at once. The modest child support went to school tuition.

Like most kids, I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be “normal.” “Why can’t we just be normal?” I’d often lament to my mom.

I was embarrassed by our car, which broke down; embarrassed that we didn’t seem to go anywhere for vacation; that I didn’t have brand-name clothes (thank God for school uniforms that greatly leveled the playing field); or video games; or cable TV; or anything else that my classmates had. I was embarrassed that my dad, who lived in a neighboring state, never came to any school events.

And I was teased for it. “Why don’t you get a new car?” “Your gym shoes are fake Nikes.” “Do you even have a dad?” I was often angry. I got into a lot of fights. When the principal’s office called home because I got into it with another kid, it was always my mom who had to come in.

Of course, my mother, like all parents, only added to that embarrassment. She was, and still is, artistically inclined and health-conscious. We went to museums and art stores instead of amusement parks and toy stores. I went to a summer camp run by cloistered monks … in heavy brown robes. My mom performed in community theater and sometimes roped me into bit parts. We went to clown school … together. At Christmas, I often got books and clothes. And my mom shopped for groceries at health food stores, which was much more unusual back then and involved a lot of bulk foods, homegrown sprouts and warm, freshly ground peanut butter. I had an all-carob Easter one year. I was embarrassed by my un-tradable school lunches and embarrassed at meals when friends spent the night.

Sitting under a framed movie poster of Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi,” my friend would stare at an unappetizing breakfast bowl of “natural” cereal I poured for him out of a bulk food bag. His breath would blow a few rice puffs out of the bowl and across the table. “We can drizzle honey on it!” I’d say, as if that would solve everything. And then he’d go home to eat his Honeycomb or Count Chocula or whatever.

“Why can’t we just be normal?”

There has been a lot of research over the decades that has shown children of single parents report more family distress and conflict and live at a lower socioeconomic status compared to those growing up in two-parent households. Two-parent families usually have more income and are generally able to provide more emotional resources to children, and that’s also a reflection of how little the United States in general does to support working mothers with parental paid leave and access to more health services and quality education.

And of course, it’s difficult to compare single parenting outcomes to hypothetical alternatives. For many, a single mom can create a much safer or more stable environment than living with an abusive parent and spouse. Just growing up in an unhappy marriage has an effect on children.

A 2017 study, however, looked at the long-term effects of single parenthood on kids and found that it had nearly no impact on their general life satisfaction. The authors also found no evidence “supporting the widely held notion from popular science that boys are more affected than girls by the absence of their fathers.” What mattered most in terms of thriving, they concluded, was the quality and strength of the relationship between children and parents.

A separate 10-year study on single parenting that collected data from 40,000 households in the UK came to a similar conclusion last year. “There is no evidence of a negative impact of living in a single parent household on children’s wellbeing, with regard to self-reported life satisfaction, quality of peer relationships, or positivity about family life,” the report states. “Children who are living or have lived in single parent families score as highly, or higher, against each measure of wellbeing than those who have always lived in two parent families”

Speaking for myself, I’d go further and say there were benefits to being raised by a single mother, that it was foundational to becoming the adult I am now.

Being raised by a single parent required an Emersonian amount of self-reliance. I got myself to school in the morning, figured out how to apply to college, paid my way through that education and embarked on a career with no shortcuts or introductions. Our poverty made me class-conscious even as I earned my way into the middle class myself. My role model for what women are and should be was smart, strong, independent and deserving of all respect.

Even my childhood embarrassment was character-building, giving me a deeper sense of self-worth that is dependent neither on material things nor the opinion of those I don’t admire.

I’m not embarrassed now. Being raised by a single mother means the opposite to me today: I have a pride in her for enduring so much (including the indignity of a son perpetually embarrassed by our situation).

But even as a kid, I thought of her as a role model of resilience and resourcefulness. She imparted integrity, a love of the arts and a sense of occasion for the things I loved, like “Star Wars” and Orioles baseball. Before the age of 10, I was exposed to classical music, classic film, anti-nuclear activism, boxing (as participant) and yoga (long before it was a thing people did at gyms). And her exuberant creativity meant she was also a lot of fun growing up. We once invented a board game about the holidays of the world’s religions. On weekend mornings, we went to a park near a music conservancy to hear musicians practice while we ate our granola breakfast.

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  • Nothing about the financial and logistical stress of our years together kept her from raising a responsible, decent, curious, creative and accomplished son with very high life satisfaction. She gets more credit for that than any other individual, except maybe me. I’m not embarrassed, I’m grateful.

    Let us now praise single mothers. All of them. The “weird” ones. The struggling ones. The driven ones who choose to parent alone. The widowed, who didn’t. The brave ones who divorced for the well-being of their kids and/or themselves. They are all raising about 19 million children right now, and they need all the support they can get.

    This story was original published in October 2019. It has been updated.

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    The rash of remakes of south Indian movies by the Bombay industry

    For more than a year, the Hindi film industry is unspooling a popular concept of computer science on the screen: garbage in, garbage out. Bachchhan Paandey, Jersey, Cuttputli, Hit, Vikram Vedha, Mili, Drishyam-2, Cirkus, Selfiee, Shehzada, Bholaa, Gumraah, and Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan — there has been a glut of remakes of South Indian masala. A few of these such as Drishyam-2, Jersey, and Vikram Vedha have been fermented organically but the rest raised a stink at the box office and were trashed in review columns.

    The art of remake is neither new nor confined to the Bombay film industry alone. But gone are the days when Mehboob Khan updated his film, Aurat (1940), to make Mother India (1957), a masterpiece rooted in Nehruvian socialism. Or when film director Tapi Chanakya successfully relocated the entertaining Ramudu Bheemudu as Ram Aur Shyam (1967) or for that matter, Farhan Akhtar reimagined Chandra Barot’s Don (1978), co-written by his father Javed Akhtar, into a sleek tribute in the new millennium.

    Not on par

    In the last few years, there has not been a single remake that is at par or better than the original. There is no Amar Prem (1972) that made one discover its Bengali original Nishi Padma or an Akhree Raasta (1986), which made us compare Amitabh Bachchan’s performance with that of Kamal Haasan in the Tamil original, Oru Kaidhiyin Diary.

    Over the years, even the best in the business has featured in remakes that played a part in either changing the course or resurrecting their careers. Much before Ram Aur Shyam, when Dilip Kumar was advised to come out of the tragic hero image, he chose to do Azaad (1955), a remake of the M.G. Ramachandran-starrer Malaikkallan, which fetched him a Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Years later, in Shakti (1982), he essayed the role of an honest police officer in conflict with his antagonistic son, played by Sivaji Ganesan, in Thangappathakkam, when the Tamil hit was imbued with a fresh soul and verve by Salim Javed. The writer duo knew the craft of reinventing the original as they did in their first major success, Hathi Mere Saathi (1971), an adaptation of Deiva Chayal. Interestingly, the film’s success prompted producer Sandow M.M.A Chinnappa Thevar to remake it in Tamil as Nella Neram, with M.G. Ramachandran playing Rajesh Khanna’s part.

    Jeetendra survived a slump in his career by acting in a series of remakes of Tamil and Telugu films, particularly with N.T. Rama Rao. Likewise, Mithun Chakraborty found a lifeline when T.L.V. Prasad rehashed Amaithi Padai as Jallad and Rajendrudu Gajendrudu as Jodidaar. Meanwhile, Anil Kapoor won respect by doing remakes of superlative films from the South such as Eeshwar (1989), a remake of Kamal Haasan’s Swathi Muthyam.

    After legendary actor-director-producer L.V. Prasad set the trend by turning Missamma into Miss Mary (1955) and Edhir Paradhatu into Sharada (1957), K. Bhim Singh, K. Viswanath, Bapu, and T. Rama Rao frequently transcended barriers of language and culture to remake their South Indian films into Hindi. Later, Priyadarshan showed immense skill and a bit of creativity in Hera Pheri ( Ramji Rao Speaking) and seamlessly transported the soul of a South Indian potboiler into a Bollywood body with Bhool Bhulaiyaa ( Manichitrathazhu) as a shining example, but of late, remaking films from the South has become a formula for those who believe a star can sell trash and that a writer becomes redundant in the remake business.

    Flashy treatment

    Even the translation of concept films such as Sairat and Driving Licence as Dhadak and Selfiee, respectively are marred by flashy treatment, emasculating the essence of the original. Both came from the stable of Karan Johar. So, when recent reports suggested that Dharma Productions is planning to redo Pariyerum Perumal, one wonders whether Johar would make a mess of yet another good film from the south.

    The casual approach that is being put in making remakes can be gauged from the fact that director Farhad Samji first wanted to make Ajith’s Veeram as Bachchhan Paandey, but then made Jigarthanda as Bachchhan Paandey with Akshay Kumar and remade Veeram as Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan after Salman showed interest in it.

    Lack of flair

    Remaking a film doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of originality in a particular industry but in the present scenario, it does suggest the Hindi film industry’s lack of investment in screenwriting and inability to gauge the taste of the audience. The writers lack the flair that Gulzar showed in turning Uttam Kumar’s Bhranti Bilas into Sanjeev Kumar’s Angoor. In Rohit Shetty’s Cirkus, only those portions worked which were directly lifted from the original. It seems Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan has been green-lit just because director Farhad Samji told Salman Khan and his advisers that the protagonist in the original runs away from making a matrimonial commitment.

    Salman is not new to remakes. Be it Tere Naam ( Sethu) or Wanted ( Pokiri), in fact, when there was a lull in his career, it was revived by a remake. But those were the days when the term, ‘pan Indian’ hadn’t gathered weight and the southern stars didn’t shine on the northern horizon. One feels sorry for the likes of Kamal Haasan and Uttam Kumar who were often replaced in the remakes just because producers felt they could not sell enough tickets up north.

    Remakes like Sooryavansham had always been the driving force of television channels dedicated to cinema but during the pandemic, the consumption of South Indian films on OTT and YouTube increased manifold because of time and cheap internet rates. For instance, the Hindi dub of Veeram was already watched more than two crore times on YouTube before Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan arrived this Eid. After COVID, when buying a cinema ticket has become a luxury, audiences expect a little more than fantasy from filmmakers.

    They are not only aware of the source material but have also accepted the lead actors as their heroes. Prabhas, Allu Arjun, and Yash are household names now in the north and the audience prefers to watch the Hindi dub of Baahubali, RRR, Pushpa, KGF, and Kantara rather than wait for their remake. Technically refined, they touch the raw religious and caste nerve of the masses in the garb of entertainment.

    A regressive shift

    Industry sources say that the recent spurt in remakes of South Indian films is because audiences have rejected the Hollywood tilt of Hindi film content and want something rooted and polyphonic which the films from the South are providing. Many young Bollywood filmmakers, who handle Hindi films with an English mind and prefer to remake a European or Korean film, find this shift regressive and chaotic, and are taking time to adapt. Also, with the OTT space taking care of the dark, realistic themes, the big screen is increasingly meant for larger-than-life experiences which the single-note treatment of Hindi films has stopped delivering in recent years.

    Industry insiders also say that it is not necessarily the film but the budget of remakes that is failing. When the original made in ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore is remade with a budget of ₹100 crore, the creative imagination doesn’t swell in the same proportion as the fee of the star, who in most cases, has a major say these days. For instance, a non-vegetarian Bholaa is no match for Kaithi in the present environment. The writer watched the film at an IMAX theatre with great expectations only to find how director Devgn failed actor Ajay in the din that the background score created.

    It is time, the producers employ the rules of remake where reimagining the original is more important than a shot-to-shot copy and try to lace it with something original that we don’t have.

    It is time the Hindi film industry gets picky when shopping for a remake, and that if it has to make garbage, why not churn out its own?

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    Disneyland reopens Toontown, designed to be inclusive of ‘every single guest’

    Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Clarabelle, Goofy, Pluto and Pete stand outside Mickey’s house in the refurbished Toontown at Disneyland.


    Parkgoers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, will finally be able to return to Mickey’s Toontown this weekend after a yearlong closure for refurbishment.

    The cartoon-inspired land has long been a haven for Disney’s younger park guests, offering character meet-and-greets with the likes of Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, as well as kid-friendly coasters and play areas.

    The reimagined Toontown honors the space that first opened in 1993, keeping existing structures like Mickey and Minnie’s houses in tact, albeit with a paint touch-up. But there’s also quite a bit of new infrastructure for kids to explore — with an eye toward inclusivity.

    At its core, Toontown’s revamp is all about intention. Imagineers have designed a space for all kids, crafting accessible play spaces, plus quiet areas and shady spots so that its youngest parkgoers have a place to exert their pent-up energy or decompress.

    The redesigned land, which opens to the public March 19, is entirely wheelchair accessible, including its slides, and is visually and auditorily approachable for kids who are easily overwhelmed by loud or bright sensory stimuli. The entire land has been repainted in softer colors, and some areas feature more subdued, spa-like musical scores.

    “We want every child to know that when they came to this land that this land was designed for them,” said Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, executive portfolio producer at Walt Disney Imagineering. “That they were seen, and that this place was welcoming to them.”

    Shaver-Moskowitz said the Imagineers spent time looking at children’s museums and water play spaces to see how kids engage and developed different stations throughout the land to cater to different types of play patterns.

    “We know a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, running from one attraction to another, one reservation to the next,” he said. “We wanted Toontown to not only be exciting, but also decompressing and relaxing and welcoming.”

    With that in mind, the Imagineers have introduced more green spaces within the land, places to have picnics, sit and unwind, or play freely.

    “We really wanted to take a look at Toontown, knowing how important it was for so many of our guests for many generations growing up and the so many memories here that are connected to the land, and make sure we don’t lose any of that,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “But, bring a lot of new magic.”

    ‘Thinking of every single guest’

    When guests enter the new Toontown, they will pass through Centoonial Park. The area is anchored by a large fountain, featuring Mickey and Minnie, as well as water tables for kids to dip their hands into, and the “dreaming tree.”

    The live tree was selected from the Disney property for its cartoonish limbs and leaves. Around the trunk are sculpted roots that kids can climb over, crawl under and weave through.

    “One of the main play functions for little ones is learning the concepts of over, under and through,” Shaver-Moskowitz explained during a media tour of the land earlier this month. “So you’ll see some of the roots are big enough for little ones to crawl under, some of them can be used as balanced beams for little ones who are learning to get their feet underneath them.”

    (There is a wheelchair accessible path that navigates through the roots, too.)

    Centoonial Park is also situated next to the El Capitoon Theatre, home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride. Riders are invited to the premiere of Mickey and Minnie’s latest cartoon short “Perfect Picnic.” However, hijinks ensue and guests are whisked away for a ride on Goofy’s train, entering the cartoon world.

    The El Capitoon Theatre exterior of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.


    The trackless ride has no restrictions on height or age, allowing even the littlest Disney guest to join in.

    Continuing through the land, guests will see Goofy’s new play yard, which wraps around Goofy’s house and features a sound garden, filled with musical bridges and melons, as well as Fort Max, a climbable clubhouse with attached slides.

    Shaver-Moskowitz said the roller slides were chosen for the space so littler guests, who often have less mobility in their legs, don’t get stuck at the bottom of the slide. There’s also more space at the bottom of the slides to accommodate guests who need time to get back into wheelchairs.

    “We are trying to make sure we’re thinking of every single guest in here,” he said. “Making sure that every little one who comes to play here feels like we’ve designed the space for them.”

    Also outside is a small cordoned-off area for babies to crawl around and experience the area safely.

    Goofy stands outside his new How-To-Play Yard at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.


    Inside Goofy’s house are a series of games that kids can play to help Goofy cultivate honey from the beehives on his property into candy. Here, little parkgoers can sort candy by flavor and color and watch as a kinetic ball machine activates all around the space.

    Extra care was taken to ensure that the sound of the air compressors pushing the balls around has been suppressed, said Shaver-Moskowitz, in an effort to make sure that those with sensory sensitivity won’t be overwhelmed and can still enjoy the experience with their peers.

    In a separate area next to Goofy’s new play yard is Donald’s Duck Pond, a water experience for kids. Imagineers intentionally separated this space from the play yard so that parents could better monitor their children around the water elements.

    Donald Duck stands outside the new Duck Pond at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.


    Shaver-Moskowitz noted that the previous design of the land meant that kids would occasionally run back to their parents soaking wet, having wandered into the water play place.

    Donald’s Duck Pond features a tug boat that spits out water, spinning water lilies, balance beams and rocking toys. Inside the boat, kids can help Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby with a leak in the hull, turning wheels and levers to push the water outside.

    Pack a picnic

    The Imagineers have also revamped the food at Toontown. New restaurants such as Cafe Daisy and Good Boy! Grocers offer a wide variety of selections and flavors for young parkgoers and more mature palates.

    Michele Gendreau, director of product optimization for food and beverage, explained that the team wanted to make eating easy by creating hand-held food that can be munched on the go.

    The menu at Daisy’s café features “flop over” pizzas, hot dogs and wraps. Here, adults can grab a cold brew coffee or honey-mango sweet tea. For dessert, there are mini doughnuts covered in cinnamon sugar.

    “Kids want to eat what their parents eat,” said Gendreau, highlighting kid-friendly versions of traditional pizzas.

    At Good Boy! Grocers, guests can pick up grab-and-go drinks, snacks and novelties. The roadside stand offers up the “perfect picnic basket,” including up to three snacks and a drink. Kids can choose from a variety of options, from hummus and pickles to granola bars and apple slices.

    Baskets are set up at multiple heights to allow even the smallest guests to select their own items, giving them a little autonomy when it comes to meal time.

    Merchandise from Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.


    Parkgoers can scoop up picnic blankets, T-shirts, toys and other exclusive Toontown merchandise at EngineEar Souvenirs.

    Additionally, meet-and-greets with fan favorite characters return to the land. Guests can take photos with Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, Pluto, Clarabelle and Goofy. And for the first time at any Disney park, Pete will make an appearance, causing mischief around the neighborhood.

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    ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ reviews: The villain is good, but the movie is bad

    Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, alongside Johnathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in “Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania.”


    Are the pint-sized heroes of Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” enough to take on the newest — and baddest — villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Not quite.

    Peyton Reed’s previous Ant-Man installments offered the MCU a smaller-than-life look at what it means to be a hero. The small-stakes romps were welcome excursions away from the apocalyptic stakes of the wider franchise and offered a lighthearted counterbalance to the greater threats of the universe.

    However, the demands of Disney‘s Marvel machine came calling for Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and his partner the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly).

    Enter Kang the Conqueror.

    Played by “Lovecraft Country” star Jonathan Majors, Kang is the next overarching villain of the MCU and is expected to remain a looming threat throughout the Multiverse Saga, which includes the planned phases four, five and six of the franchise. He was introduced in the Disney+ show “Loki.”

    Critics praised Majors’ performance in the film, as the actor was able to bring gravitas to the the role and exude the kind of menace that made previous big bad Thanos (Josh Brolin) such a compelling, and threatening, villain. However, Kang’s larger-than-life presence overshadowed the quirky and charming narrative that fans have come to expect from Ant-Man side quests, critics say. (Majors will also appear as the antagonist in next month’s “Creed III.”)

    “Majors is certainly chilling and captivating, but Kang seems like a mismatched foe for a standalone Ant-Man film and the result is a ‘Quantumania’ that is trying to be too many things,” wrote Lindsey Bahr in her review of the film for Associated Press.

    “Quantumania” is at its best when it keeps things “light and quippy,” Bahr said.

    Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”


    This sentiment was shared with numerous other reviewers, as the latest Marvel film became one of only two in the 31 movies that have been released as part of the MCU to receive a “Rotten” score from Rotten Tomatoes.

    “Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania” held a 48% “rotten” rating from 293 reviews, as of Saturday. The only other film from the MCU to slip below the 60% “fresh” threshold was 2021’s “Eternals,” which ultimately earned a 47% rating.

    “Quantumania” centers on Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, and Hope Van Dyne, aka the Wasp, after their family is sucked into the subatomic Quantum Realm. There, they face off against Kang, a dimension-hopping tyrant who is trying to escape from the realm after being exiled there for his rampages across time and space.

    Here are what critics thought of the film ahead of its release Friday:

    Kristy Puchko, Mashable

    “Michael Pena’s absence should have been a warning,” wrote Kristy Puchko in her review of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” for Mashable. “The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown so massive and all-consuming that it’s not enough for an Ant-Man movie to be an Ant-Man movie.”

    What fans are given instead is a “chaotic, woefully unfunny mess that has forgotten why its hero was such fun.”

    Puchko bemoans that both Ant-Man and the Wasp as almost relegated to sidekicks in their own movie, as Kang and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) are given the spotlight — and shine in it. (Michael Douglas also reprises his role as Dr. Hank Pym.)

    The film itself is anything but light. Puchko likened the dark action scenes to those seen during the final season of HBO’s “Game Of Thrones,” blurry, dim and incoherent.

    “Yet when the lights are turned up, you might wish they weren’t,” she said, noting that the Quantum Realm, a place of endless possibilities, has been imagined as “a mash-up of ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Strange World,’ slime, and those Magic Eye posters that made us squint to make sense of them.”

    “In the end, with its clumsy collision of influences, star power, CGI that is often rubbery or outright ugly, and a convoluted plot that should have an Excedrin tie-in, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ is like a child’s mixed media project, made of paper mache, glitter, and hunks of rotting ground meat,” she said.

    Read the full review from Mashable.

    Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in “Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania.”


    Kate Erbland, IndieWire

    Charlotte O’Sullivan, Evening Standard

    Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in “Ant-Man and The Wasp in Quantumania.”


    Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

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    After a train derailment, Ohio residents are living the plot of a movie they helped make | CNN


    When Ben Ratner’s family signed up in 2021 to be extras in the movie “White Noise,” they thought it would be a fun distraction from their day-to-day life in blue-collar East Palestine, Ohio.

    Ratner, 37, is in a traffic jam scene, sitting in a line of cars trying to evacuate after a freight train collided with a tanker truck, triggering an explosion that fills the air with dangerous toxins. In another scene, his father wears a trench coat and hat while people walk across an overpass to get out of town. Directors told the group they wanted them to look “forlorn and downtrodden” as they escape the environmental disaster.

    The 2022 movie was shot around Ohio and is based on a novel by Don DeLillo. The book was published in 1985, shortly after a chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, that killed nearly 4,000 people. The book and film follow the fictional Gladney family – a couple and their four kids – as they flee an “airborne toxic event” and then return home and try to resume their normal lives.

    Ratner tried to rewatch the movie a few days ago and found that he couldn’t finish it.

    “All of a sudden, it hit too close to home,” he said.

    Ratner and his family – his wife, Lindsay, and their kids, Lilly, Izzy, Simon and Brodie – are living the fiction they helped bring to the screen.

    Officials ordered them to evacuate their home last week, a day after a Norfolk Southern train carrying 20 cars of hazardous materials slid off the rails and caught fire, threatening to explode. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the incident.

    “The first half of the movie is all almost exactly what’s going on here,” Ratner said Wednesday, four days into their evacuation.

    In a way, the movie has provided a point of grim humor about the situation facing the residents of East Palestine – the joke no one wanted to make.

    “Everybody’s been talking about that,” Ratner said of his friends and neighbors who are keeping in close touch through the crisis. “I actually made a meme where I superimposed my face on the poster and sent it to my friends.”

    In the 2022 film

    Scholars who study DeLillo’s work say they are not surprised by the collision of life and art. His work is often described as prescient, said Jesse Kavadlo, an English professor at Maryville University in St. Louis and president of the Don DeLillo Society.

    “The terrible spill now is, of course, a coincidence. But it plays in our minds like life imitating art, which was imitating life, and on and on, because, as DeLillo suggests in ‘White Noise’ as well, we have unfortunately become too acquainted with the mediated language and enactment of disaster,” Kavadlo said.

    The night of February 3, Ratner was watching his daughter’s basketball game at the local high school when the crash happened. He didn’t hear it over the noise of the game, but when they walked out of the building, he could see the massive blaze. He shot a few seconds of video on his cell phone.

    His family returned to their house, which sits less than a mile from the crash site. Throughout the night, he said, they heard sirens but got little information. “We weren’t sure exactly what the danger was.”

    While his family slept, he stayed up, nervously watching the fire and the news.

    The next morning, activity around the site had picked up. “There was a lot of commotion, helicopters and people hightailing it out of town, and it was it was a little intense,” he said.

    His wife and kids headed to stay with his wife’s parents, who live about 2 miles from the crash site. Ratner went to work running the coffee shop he and his wife own, LiB’s Market, in nearby Salem.

    By that afternoon, an official alert warned that people needed to move even farther, beyond a 2-mile radius. Roughly half of the town’s 4,800 residents had to evacuate.

    A friend offered to let them stay in their pool house. They later moved to another friend’s house next to their café.

    School was canceled for the week. They got their dog out of the house, but they had to leave the pet turtle behind.

    For now, they’re keeping their distance. But even after they go back, they have to decide whether they’ll stay.

    East Palestine is in an economically depressed area, Ratner said, but it had been on a rebound. He and his wife had been considering opening another café there, but now they’re worried that plan is in jeopardy.

    “That’s where we’ve been raising our kids, finishing college, buying a business, and that’s been our place,” he said. “In the future, are we going to have to sell the house? Is it worth any money at this point?”

    Five of the tankers on the train that overturned last week were carrying liquid vinyl chloride, which is extremely combustible. Last Sunday, they became unstable and threatened to explode. First responders and emergency workers had to vent the tankers, spill the vinyl chloride into a trench, and then burn it off before it turned the train into a bomb. Authorities feared that an explosion could send shrapnel up to a mile away.

    But that didn’t happen. The controlled burn worked and the evacuation order for East Palestine residents was officially lifted Wednesday after real-time air and water monitoring did not find any contaminant levels above screening limits.

    “All of the readings we’ve been recording in the community have been at normal concentrations, normal backgrounds, which you find in almost any community,” James Justice, a representative of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said at a briefing Wednesday.

    Support team members prepared to assess remaining hazards in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 7.

    Although authorities have assured the residents that any immediate danger has passed, some residents have yet to return home. Ratner said they’re worried about longer-term risks that environmental officials are only beginning to assess.

    Real-time air readings, which use handheld instruments to broadly screen for classes of contaminants like volatile organic compounds, showed that the air quality near the site was within normal limits.

    The decision to lift the evacuation order was based on analysis of air monitoring data, according to Charles Rodriguez, community involvement coordinator for the EPA’s Region 5 office.

    Up to this point, officials have been looking for large immediate threats: explosions or chemical levels that could make someone acutely ill.

    “Under this phase, it’s been the emergency response,” Kurt Kohler of the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response said Wednesday. “As you see the emergency services go back home, off-site, Ohio EPA is going to remain involved through our other divisions that oversee the long-term cleanup of these kinds of spills.”

    The cleanup and monitoring of the site, he said, could take years.

    Although the explosion risk is past, Ratner said, people who live in East Palestine want to know about the chemical threats that might linger.

    Fish and frogs have died in local streams. People have reported dead chickens and shared photos of dead dogs and foxes on social media. They say they smell chemical odors around town.

    When asked at Wednesday’s briefing about exactly what spilled, representatives from Norfolk Southern listed butyl acrylate, vinyl chloride and a small amount of non-hazardous lube oil.

    “Butyl acrylate is a lot of what we’re gathering information on,” said Scott Deutsch, a regional manager of hazardous materials at Norfolk Southern.

    Butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid with a strong, fruity odor that’s used to make plastics and paint. It’s possible to inhale it, ingest it or absorb it through the skin. It irritates the eyes, skin and lungs and may cause shortness of breath, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Repeated exposure can lead to lung damage.

    Vinyl chloride, which is used to make PVC pipes, can cause dizziness, sleepiness and headaches. It has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer in the liver, brain, lungs and blood.

    Although butyl acrylate easily mixes with water and will move quickly through the environment, it isn’t especially toxic to humans, said Richard Peltier, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    “Vinyl chloride, however, has a specific and important risk in that is contains a bunch of chlorine molecules, which can form some really awful combustion byproducts,” Peltier said. “These are often very toxic and often very persistent in the environment.”

    Portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed February 3 were still on fire the next day.

    A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern acknowledged but did not respond to CNN’s request for more information on how much of these chemicals spilled into the soil and water.

    The Ohio EPA says it’s not sure yet, either.

    “Initially, with most environmental spills, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of material that has been released into the air, water, and soil. The assessment phase that will occur after the emergency is over will help to determine that information,” James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA, wrote in an email to CNN.

    Lee said that after his agency has assessed the site, it will work on a remediation plan.

    Vinyl chloride is unstable and boils and evaporates at room temperature, giving it a very short lifespan in the environment, said Dana Barr, a professor of environmental health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

    “If you had a very small amount of vinyl chloride that was present in an area, it would evaporate within minutes to hours at the longest,” she said.

    “But the problem they’re facing here is that it’s not just a small amount, and so if they can’t contain what gets into the water or what gets into the soil, they may have this continuous off-gassing of vinyl chloride that has gotten into these areas,” Barr said.

    “I probably would be more concerned about the chemicals in the air over the course of the next month.”

    State officials said they would continue to monitor the site for exactly that reason. They are also continuing to try to dig and remove contaminated soil.

    “Right now, we have a system set up. As the data comes, it is distributed to a network of people to look at both on an immediate-phase – ‘Hey, is there anything really alarming to look at’ – and those smaller numbers that really matter to long-term health,” Kohler said at Wednesday’s briefing.

    He said the local health department would test residents’ wells to make sure their drinking water is safe. Officials are also offering to test the air in residents’ homes before they come back.

    Norfolk Southern is funding a phone line for residents to speak to a toxicologist with the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, an environmental consulting firm.

    No one is quite sure whether to trust the help, though, since it’s coming mostly from the company behind the spill. Some residents have already filed a class-action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern.

    “We’re definitely signing up for the air testing of the home before we get in there,” Ratner said.

    The first trains to pass since the accident started rolling through again midweek, Ratner said. The roar of the trains, a sound he used to tune out, is now jarring.

    Even the sounds of loud trucks are “off-putting,” he said.

    Don Cheadle, left, and Adam Driver star in

    Ratner said it was fun to be part of a disaster movie – a stylized, darkly comedic Netflix streamer starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle.

    In real life, the situation has been gutting.

    “Those are great actors, but it was hard to see it as a put-on,” Ratner said.

    He shares the sentiments of Lenny Glavan, a local tattoo artist, who wrote a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Tuesday to express the town’s anger and frustration over the accident.

    “You just ripped from us our small-town motto ‘A place you want to be,’ ” Glavan wrote.

    “It may not be beach-front property, it may not even have the highest paying jobs, or much else to offer, but in my experiences in life, the place I and most people want to be is when you need a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to pray with, or a place to call home East Palestine has always been that place to want to be,” he said in his note, which was publicly posted on Facebook.

    “With the events in which have occurred, the railroad that gave this small town life has now taken the life, the heartbeat, the unity and that security that families or individuals long for in this wild world away … possibly indefinitely.”

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