Disney gets weird


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EXCLUSIVE: Disney theme-park attractions couldn’t be hotter as Hollywood source material. ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is about to crank out its fourth installment. Jon Favreau is turning ‘Magic Kingdom’ into a family-friendly extravaganza. ‘Haunted Mansion’ will be an on-screen spookfest courtesy of Guillermo del Toro.

In fact, they’re so hot that even an attraction that was never built could become a movie.

The Museum of the Weird, an idea that Walt Disney liked back in the 1960s but that never got off the ground, looks to be headed for the development pipeline.


Disney is in discussions for a movie based on the museum with screenwriter Ahmet Zappa, according to a source close to the project. Zappa, son of Frank, is also developing a movie for Disney that may or may not be inspired by its Enchanted Tiki Room attraction. [Update, Wednesday 3:42 p.m.: A Disney spokesman said that no senior executives at the studio had discussed the project with Zappa.]

A half-century ago, well-known Disney theme park creators Rolly Crump and Claude Coats designed the Museum of the Weird with the idea of spotlighting a parade of ghostly organists, magic carts, talking chairs and other surreal exhibits. Walt Disney wanted to use the museum as an adjunct to the Haunted Mansion, complete with its own restaurant. But the museum was never built, though some of the more ambitious pieces were incorporated into the mansion itself.

Zappa’s idea is for the museum to be refashioned as a film — given the kinds of whimsical creations Crump and Coats planned, it’s hard not to think of ‘Night at the Museum’ or ‘The Mummy’ — with an attraction to follow. It’s still in very early development, though, so don’t expect it in multiplexes anytime soon.

Under its new leadership, Disney seems to be taking a two-pronged approach to movies. It’s getting into business with top-tier filmmakers (add David Fincher and Tim Burton to Del Toro and Favreau) even as it’s putting chips down on seemingly as many theme park attractions as possible and trying to merchandise more than ever. The net effect: a studio slate that’s a strange combination of stubbornly visionary and explicitly marketing-driven.

— Steven Zeitchik


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