Disney+ is in pre-production/production on Turner & Hooch, a series reboot of the Touchstone movie, from 20th Century Fox TV, The Mighty Ducks, a sequel series to the Disney movie, and David E. Kelley’s Big Shot starring John Stamos, both from ABC TV Studios. They are a result of a new, streamlined development process at Disney Television Studios, which gives greater autonomy to the mega TV studio, I hear. They would be the first series on Disney+ to come from Disney TV Studios, overseen by Dana Walden and run by Craig Hunegs.
The changes were gradual and implemented over a number of months. The Disney TV Studios labels, 20th TV, overseen by Carolyn Cassidy, Fox 21, led by Bert Salke; and ABC Studios, run by Johnnie Davis; no longer have creators go in and pitch shows to Disney+’s creative team, run by Agnes Chu, I hear. Series are instead developed internally at the studios specifically for Disney+. 20th TV, Fox 21 and ABC Studios are all said to have designated portions of their slates for Disney+ development, carefully curating them with projects appropriate for the service.
While Disney executives have been fluid about the spectrum of content on Disney+, I hear the internal designation of Disney’s streaming platforms is that Disney+ is for pure family play, Hulu is for adult entertainment content and ESPN+ for sports.
The High Fidelity reboot, starring Zoë Kravitz and produced by ABC Studios’ ABC Signature, had been pitched and ordered by Disney+ before the Disney-Fox merger closed. After the merger was completed and Disney TV Studios was formed, I hear the Disney TV Studios leadership quickly identified that the project was not a good fit for Disney+ and more appropriate for Hulu in older to explore darker theres. The series made the move from Disney+ to Hulu in April 2019. The Love, Simon offshoot Love, Victor also was originally pitched and sold to Disney+ before the close of the Disney-Fox merger. That series too eventually relocated to Hulu.
Under the tweaked development model, which emerged over time as a way to make the process more efficient, I hear projects are being taken to Disney+ by the divisions of Disney TV Studios when fully formed and packaged internally. Once Disney+ buys a project from a sister studio, the series is being developed at the studio, with only the studio’s executives hearing outlines and giving story notes.
The Disney+ content executives, led by Chu and Sarah Shepard, are being kept in the loop, and they continue to read scripts, I hear. Their communication is with their studio counterparts, and their main role is to weigh in whether the projects remain on track in being on-brand for Disney+. Once the development process is completed, and Disney+ and the respective studio agree on a budget, the series goes forward.
The changes are designed to improve and expedite the development process after several high profile early series projects from ABC Studios died on the vine at Disney+, including Book of Enchantment, which the streamer developed for more than a year, spending more than $4 million before pulling the plug las summer just as the show was gearing up for production.
Disney TV Studios is one of six suppliers to Disney+ — the largest in size on the TV side — responsible for about 1/6 of the platform’s slate. With the tweaked dynamic Disney+’s relationship with Disney TV Studios is moving closer to the way two other Disney+ suppliers, Marvel and Lucasfilm, have operated from the start, giving the TV studio more leeway in crafting series to run on the streaming service most closely associated with the Disney brand.
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