Disney plays the dating game

CGI toon 'Robinsons' pushed back to next March

Disney has staked dates for its major releases through the end of 2007, including laying claim to Memorial Day next year for the third “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

But studio has blinked on its major holiday release, CGI toon “Meet the Robinsons,” pushing it back to next March.

Weinstein Co. has also delayed its big holiday release, pushing back “Superhero!” from Dec. 8 to Feb. 9, 2007. Indie recently greenlit the spoof on a fast track, with hopes of hitting theaters by December, but has quickly changed its mind.

Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said a benefit of delaying “Robinsons” to March 30, 2007, will be to allow time for more screens to be converted to digital. Mouse House is using the technology to play “Robinsons” in 3-D, which it hopes will draw more auds and justify higher ticket prices. “Chicken Little” had success on a handful of digital 3-D screens in November.

Shift also comes as Pixar toppers Ed Catmull and John Lasseter have recently started to review Disney’s animation slate in anticipation of taking over Mouse House’s toon unit once the Pixar acquisition is complete.

There currently aren’t any toons set for release in December. Closest one is DreamWorks Animation’s “Flushed Away,” which bows Nov. 3.

However, “Meet the Robinsons” has animated competition on its new date: Warner Bros. has dated “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which it just picked up for distribution, the same day.

By dating “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” on Memorial Day next year, Mouse House pushed off the frame’s previous occupant, Fox’s Ben Stiller comedy “Used Guys.” It will now bow June 15.

Disney is also aggressively dating its other big toon for 2007, Pixar-produced “Ratatouille.” Pic has been set for June 29, where it will face off against Universal comedy “Evan Almighty.” Five days later, on July 4, Par is planning to bow “Transformers.”

Next “Narnia” pic will aim for success in the same holiday frame as the first. Mouse House has set “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” for Dec. 14, 2007.

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