After the impressive box office of the Elton John produced “Gnomeo and Juliet” over the past few weeks, it’s hard to find anyone in Hollywood who doesn’t believe the animated hit couldn’t have made more money if it was released under the Disney banner. Instead, “Gnomeo” was released under the studio’s now seldom used Touchtone Pictures label. In 18 days the 3-D animated film has already grossed $74 million domestically and $101.6 million worldwide. Considering the family friendly nature of the Disney brand, most industry executives would have expected an even larger bounty if the film had been a “Disney” picture.
A passion project of John’s for eleven years and produced by his husband David Furnish, the film was initially given the greenlight by former studio head Dick Cook under Disney owned Miramax. Eventually, “Gnomeo” was one of two titles not to be included in the Miramax sale to Filmyard Holdings at the end of last year. Even though Disney kept the picture, it’s believed the studio would not release the project as a “Disney” film because it was animated at an outside studio, Starz Animation based in Toronto.
Speaking on CTV’s “The Marilyn Denis Show” on Tuesday, John made a number of comments on the project and his unhappiness with Disney’s involvement. John was on the show to talk about the opening of the Toronto production of his musical “Billy Elliott,” but the host thought she was bringing up another positive subject considering “Gnomeo’s” success. That was only partially true.
John commented, “It only took us eleven years to make it. It was through Disney which is a bit unfortunate, but that was the way it was. We managed to get it made and it’s been a huge hit in America, number one in Canada. Disney sold it. Actually, they didn’t believe in it in Canada. They sold the rights, which shows you how dumb they are.”
John also said, “I’m really, really happy. It’s something we believed in. It’s a really enchanting movie [based on] ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but with garden gnomes. And it’s been a no. 1 movie France, England, Australia, here and in America.”
Regarding the production of the film, John noted, “It was done in Canada. It was done at Starz Animation for a third of the budget that most movies are made for like that and they did an incredible job. Starz is an incredible place. It’s a Canadian movie.”
Denis replied, “You might win an Oscar next year.”
John quickly shot back, “Not if Disney has anything to do with it.”
The music icon also talked about his job as executive producer which was essentially to use his clout to project the film.
“There were so many crunch times with ‘Gnomeo and Juliet.’ The film was nearly stopped four or five times,” John said. “And my job is to ring up the head of the studio and say — they’ll take my call before they will take David’s — ‘This is Elton on the phone,’ I’m calling the CEO and I say, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And that’s my job as executive producer.’ That’s how I can help.”
Strangely, after watching the footage of John’s interview with Denis, a number of quotes attributed by The Hollywood Reporter, who initially broke this story, do not appear to have been said on camera.
The Reporter claims John said, “Gnomeo and Juliet took us eleven years to make. We defied all the odds and all of the people at Disney who said, “this wouldn”t be a hit. And it”s the biggest hit, but it could have been a bigger hit if Disney got behind it more.”
As well as, “We fought resistance from the (Disney) studio for so long, and to be honest with you, the film has taken $75 million in America, and we haven”t had a message of congratulations from anyone within the studio,”
The online version of the entire show, which can be found here, also focused on John’s career, his new son and the history of “Billy Elliott” as a musical. However, John does not say the quotes attributed to him by the trade magazine. This is something of a mystery. Did the Reporter’s Canadian based reporter misquote John? Or, did CTV remove those statements at John’s behalf?
In either case, it’s crystal clear John is not happy on some level with the Walt Disney Company and that has to be a concern for CEO Bob Iger and relatively new studio chairman Rich Ross. John is the Oscar winning song writer of “The Lion King” which is one of the studio’s greatest assets not to mention its biggest Broadway and Tony Award-winning live show to date.
Might be time to make the pop icon feel the love tonight gentlemen.