Disney will go Polynesian with new Ahmet Zappa film


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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is one of the most successful franchises in the history of Disney. But when it comes to classic action-adventure, the company that Walt built isn’t stopping with Jack Sparrow.

The studio is developing an adventure film from a script by Ahmet Zappa -- yes, son of Frank -- that’s set against a Polynesian backdrop.


Sources close to the project said Zappa and writing partner Michael Wilson were inspired by Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room in writing the script. A Disney spokesperson, however, said the project is not an adaptation of the attraction and is merely an action-adventure that mixes in Polynesian mythology.

While not the first attraction one thinks of when one thinks of Disneyland, Enchanted Tiki Room does offer a colorful setting for a movie. The attraction, built in the early 1960s, has patrons entering a room filled with Disney musical ditties and animatronic macaws and other flora and fauna, a bit of Polynesia amid the hub-bub of the park. (It was one the first animatronic attractions, and one said to be close to Walt Disney’s heart.) There’s not much known mythology behind the Tiki Room -- but then again, there wasn’t much of one on ‘Pirates’ either.

Zappa, the musician and media personality who has a deal with Disney, is seeing some other movie projects heat up too: ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ writer Peter Hedges is set to make the Jennifer Garner fantasy ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green,’ based on Zappa’s script.

Even if Disney winds up keeping anything related to Enchanted Tiki Room out of its movie, there would still be the opportunity to cross-promote the film with the attraction, as well as launch other spinoff properties (the kind of cross-pollination the studio is increasingly intent on doing).

Disney is going in a cinematic direction with a number of attractions, with the fourth movie in the ‘Pirates’ series coming up next year and Guillermo del Toro taking another crack at developing the ‘Haunted Mansion’ attraction into a horror picture. Not to mention ‘Tron,’ the upcoming remake that has seen themed-attractions popping up across Disneyland this fall. When you have the rides, might as well make them into movies, and make the movies into pretty much everything else.

--Steven Zeitchik