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Disney drawing ‘Monsters Inc.’ sequel

Studio also sets release date for Pixar's 'Brave'

Disney is getting animated in 2012.

Studio has dated Pixar’s “Brave” for June 15, 2012 while also confirming a sequel to “Monsters Inc.,” which will be released on Nov. 16, 2012.

Mouse House chairman Rich Ross made the announcement Thursday afternoon on the studio lot.

“Monsters Inc.,” released in 2001, becomes only the third Disney-Pixar property to reach sequel status; the first was “Toy Story,” which is gearing up for its third installment this summer. The second, “Cars 2,” will unspool in 2011.

“Monsters” grossed over $525 million at the worldwide box office.

Pixar’s “Brave,” formerly known as “Bear and the Bow,” is the CGI animation company’s first-ever female-driven feature.

Starring Reese Witherspoon,”Brave” tells the story of an impulsive princess (Witherspoon) who aims to shed her royal ties and become the world’s first, great female archer.

Writer/director Brenda Chapman (“Cars”) is behind the project.

Ross isn’t known for being a man of few words. Yet outside of the occasional appearance at an awards show or premiere, Disney’s studio chairman has been one very silent figurehead since taking the job last fall.

It’s been a surprising departure from the exec Hollywood is used to: As the head of Disney Channel, Ross was one of the Mouse House’s most vocal cheerleaders.

He might be back. After spending months assembling his new regime, which culminated with this week’s hire of MT Carney as marketing chief, Ross met with the media for the first time Thursday to unveil his blueprint for the Mouse House moving forward.

It involves making 14-16 movie per year coming from Disney’s live action and animated divisions, Marvel and DreamWorks.

Carney’s role is in fact a new one for the studio when she joins in mid-May, with the exec handling marketing for all pics from theatrical on through their homevideo releases — “the whole life cycle of a movie,” Ross said.

“Our job No. 1 is to male great movies, get the word out that they’re coming out and deliver them to consumers the way they want it,” Ross said.

“I need to make movies that are profitable and that’s what I need to focus on,” Ross said from the Disney lot as he unveiled new footage from a muscular slate of tentpoles skedded for this year that include “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Tangled,” and “Tron: Legacy,” as well as “Secretariat,” with Diane Lane and John Malkovich, which he described as a movie that sends a signal of what Disney is and what Disney can be.”

The pic falls into a category that Ross describes as a “targeted tentpole,” one like the teen-skewwing dramedy “Prom,” that can be made at a lower pricetag and for a specific audience.

Ross said Disney would release “Gnomeo & Juliet,” the Elton John-produced animated musical produced by Miramax, in early 2011, through the Touchstone banner. Pic had been one of several that had been in mentioned to be in contention as Disney negotiates with bidders for Miramax. Miramax’s Jennifer Aniston comedy “The Switch” will also bow this August through Touchstone.

“Cars 2,” the fourth “Pirates,” the next “Muppet” movie (which will intro a new Muppet named Walter) and DreamWorks’ “Real Steel” also unspool in 2011.

Tim Burton’s stop-motion pic “Frankenweenie” and Andrew Stanton’s live-action epic “John Carter of Mars” also bow that year.

As for projects he pulled the plug on, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was just “too dark” in what was planned to go into production. It’s “still a project we’re considering.”

“This is about focus,” Ross reiterated of the studio’s plan moving forward. “We live in times where there’s less opportunities to bring in revenue. While pet projects are fun it’s important that everyone is focused. It’s important to be focused on opening the movies.

“What you see is a slate that will have a diversity of pictures,” he said. But while there’s an emphasis on the bottomline, “we’re in the movie business not the business business.”

Stuart Oldham contributed to this report.

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