Two Disney-backed projects that were on the lookout for a director throughout 2011 have now found people to sit in the captain's chair and serve as helmer: the (intended) Angelina Jolie-starring vehicle Maleficent and a project previously known as The Hill - which is not officially based on the company's Matterhorn theme park ride, as was previously thought to be the case.
Maleficent is a new take on Sleeping Beauty that tells the classic fairy tale from the eponymous villainess' perspective (ie. what Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz). Disney's currently-untitled mountain climbing mystery-adventure set in the Alps is... well, kind of self-explanatory.
Deadline is reporting that Robert Stromberg is set to make his feature-length directorial debut with Maleficent, working from a screenplay penned by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland). Stromberg, as it were, is a longtime digital/painted matte artist who also began working as a visual effects supervisor back in the late 1990s. He has recently become a full-blown production designer, winning back-to-back Oscars for his work on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland - and, in 2011, also did work on director Sam Raimi's upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful (for Disney).
Variety, meanwhile, has learned that Brian Beletic is onboard to make the Mouse House's Matterhorn movie his feature-length directorial debut, based on a script by Jason Dean Hall (the in-development futuristic Robin Hood flick). Beletic is a commercial director who has helmed ads for companies ranging from Nike to Dodge and IKEA, as well as music videos for artists such as the Basement Jaxx ("Red Alert") and Cee-Lo Green ("Closet Freak").
That's all to say: both Stromberg and Beletic know how to deliver great-looking cinema, but are untested, as far as their skills as feature-length storytellers go.
Both of these Disney projects have their respective strengths and weaknesses, at first glance. Maleficent, for example, has to attempt and make a classic fairy tale seem fresh to the modern moviegoing masses; still, it's being scripted by a pretty decent writer, whose work was good enough to attract the attention of filmmakers such as Tim Burton and David O. Russell in the past. If nothing else, Stromberg's involvement assures that it'll boast some nice eye candy (and not just in the form of Jolie, mind you).
Disney's Matterhorn flick, by comparison, is a truly original project that will be supervised by both Beletic and the creators of the 3D snowboarding title "Art of Flight" (the latter are serving as production consultants). This one has more of a hit-or-miss potential, since neither screenwriter Hall nor director Beletic have any feature-length narrative titles on their resumes - but, then again, they don't have anything to discredit them, either.
We will continue to keep you updated on the status of both Maleficent and Disney's Matterhorn-based project as the stories develop.
Source: Deadline, Variety