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Disney’s 2015 Slate: ‘Star Wars,’ Marvel, Pixar Anchor 12 Movies

Walt Disney Studios will release 12 movies in 2015, including the first “Star Wars” installment since 2005.

The company’s slate, which it summed up in a preview Monday, doesn’t veer too far from the strategy the studio has been running with over the past several years.

For example, “Monkey Kingdom” will be the next creature feature from the Disneynature banner after “Bears” and “Chimpanzee,” while Niki Caro’s “McFarland” will mark the studio’s next lower-budgeted sports film after this year’s “Million Dollar Arm.”

In March, Cinderella will get the live-action treatment, the way Disney brought fantasy characters like Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland to the bigscreen. “Cinderella” is directed by Kenneth Branagh and features Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) in the lead.

Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” will be a live-action retelling of another literary classic — and Disney toon — when it bows in the fall.

Marvel Studios will kick off the summer with “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in May. The sequel will once again feature the team-up of superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, with some new additions. The first film earned $1.5 billion in 2012.

Ant-Man” will introduce another hero in an effort to launch a new franchise in July. Marvel will start releasing three movies in 2017.

In between, there’s Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” starring George Clooney as a jaded scientist who teams with a teen to discover a secret world.

The sole movie that Disney will release for DreamWorks Studios will be Steven Spielberg’s still-untitled spy thriller starring Tom Hanks. That’s after this year’s “Need for Speed” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”

Pixar will return, after sitting out all of 2014, with two films — both original titles not based on an existing franchise: “Inside Out,” from “Monsters, Inc.” and “Up” helmer Peter Docter; and “The Good Dinosaur.” After “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6,” Walt Disney Animation Studios will not have a film to release in 2015.

Disney ends the year on Dec. 18 with J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first of new “Star Wars” films through the Mouse House’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.

“The Force Awakens” is expected to bolster the studio’s offerings through sequels and spinoffs the way Marvel launched a series of superhero franchises for the company, which benefitted the rest of Disney’s divisions.

Also of note: Lucasfilm’s animated “Strange Magic” starts off the year in January. The toon, directed by sound designer and re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom from a story by George Lucas, revolves around goblins and fairies that meet for the first time. The film already had been in production when Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.

Walt Disney Studios generated around $3.4 billion at the worldwide box office ($1.37 billion domestic) in 2014 through the release of 13 movies. Its top earner was Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” at $772.9 million, followed by “Maleficent,” with $758 million, and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” another hit for Marvel, at $713.3 million.

Overall, the studio posted its second highest year on record domestically, internationally and globally, earning $1.58 billion domestically and $2.77 billion overseas (for a total cume of $4.35 billion) from 17 films, giving it No. 2 market share behind Twentieth Century Fox.

The figures mark the second year in a row and the second time in its history that Disney has surpassed $4 billion globally, following 2013’s record gross of $4.7 billion. Domestically, this is the third consecutive and fourth year overall that Disney has surpassed $1.5 billion. Internationally, Disney surpassed $2 billion in record time — by Aug. 4 — and for the fifth consecutive year.

Three of the studio’s new releases — “Guardians,” “Maleficent” and “The Winter Soldier” — surpassed $700 million globally for the second year in a row.

The full slate of Walt Disney Studios releases in 2015:

Jan. 23 – Strange Magic (Lucasfilm)
Feb. 20 – McFarland, USA (Disney)
March 13 – Cinderella (Disney)
April 17 – Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature)
May 1 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel)
May 22 – Tomorrowland (Disney)
June 19 – Inside Out (Pixar)
July 17 – Ant–Man (Marvel)
Oct 9 – The Jungle Book (Disney)
Oct. 16 – The Untitled Steven Spielberg Cold War Spy Thriller (DreamWorks)
Nov. 25 – The Good Dinosaur (Pixar)
Dec. 18 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm)

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