Should Disney sell the Touchstone Label

In the early 1980′s the Walt Disney Studios found it could make money with PG movies like Never Cry Wolf, Condorman, and Tron. The only problem was the heat they were taking for tarnishing the ‘Disney’ name with the more adult fare. So in 1984 Disney released Splash under the Touchstone Label. The problem is the controversy never really went away, since technically Touchstone remained a part of Disney.

Late in Eisner’s regime, and accelerating since Bob Iger took over, the company has moved away from using the Touchstone label at all deciding to just bite the bullet and lump almost all the movies under the ‘Disney’ brand. The only thing that saved Touchstone from the dustbin of history was Disney’s partnership with Dreamworks to distribute their films.

The New York Post is reporting that Touchstone is once again on the chopping block, this time owing up to cost cutting inside Disney’s studio divisions. With the PG-13 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, the horse is likely out of the barn as far as keeping the Disney brand to just kid friendly releases. Like it or not, the company is hell bent on uniting nearly everything behind the new single word brand of ‘Disney.’

So Disney fans, now’s your chance to chime in. Should Disney ditch Touchstone once and for all? Keep it just for its historic value? How about ‘R’ rated films under the ‘Disney’ brand. Would you pick up virtual arms then?

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14 Responses to Should Disney sell the Touchstone Label

  1. Brian Fleming says:

    I thought that TOUCHSTONE was now just essentially Dreamworks projects. And really, how many people, besides us Disney geeks/nerds, know that Touchstone is Disney.

    Yes, they should keep it. Yes, they should do something with it besides Dreamworks. Problem? There is just so much room/slots to place movies. They have to do Marvel, Pixar, WDAS, Bruckheimer, Dreamworks, and who knows what else. Is there room for Touchstone. I wish.

    There have been some great Touchstone over the years, so awful too, but that is every studio. I hope they keep it and do something with it.

  2. Austin says:

    i think DIsney needs to put things all under on brand but the history behind Touchstone is to great now to just throw it by the wayside now…at least right now, wait until after the Dreamworks deal is up then when it is time to renew the deal retire the Touchstone label then put everything under the Disney name

  3. ShadZ says:

    If Disney currently has no plans to make any R (or hard PG-13) movies, then go ahead and shut down the Touchstone division. But don’t sell off the Touchstone brand name! They will want it again someday.

  4. wedway says:

    I am very against the marketing approach that Disney has been taking in recent years. There are some divisions of the company that I think are better off without the Disney label. Take Disney’s film distribution arm as an example. It was founded as “Buena Vista Distribution” for a reason, the company wanted to be associated with the entertainment they provide rather than the cooperate aspects. Now even that branch of the company possesses the Disney name. Once again, this is a sign that the brand unity currently being employed at the company is making the Disney brand less entertainment-oriented and more corporate-oriented.

    As for Disney releasing an R-rated movie, I don’t think that should ever happen in the first place. It’s not like there’s a demand for and/or lack of R-rated movies, there are plenty of other companies taking that approach already. But there is, however, a steadily decreasing availability of quality family entertainment. That’s what Disney’s for, that’s their agenda. For another company to be breaking into the R-rated genre at this time, especially Disney because it completely contradicts the company’s image, would be petty, ridiculous, and a waste of resources. As to whether Disney would/should release an R-rated movie under the Disney brand, I just pray that the circumstances never arise in which that decision would have to be made. But if it does come up, I hope that Disney is smart enough not to do so. There are too many family-oriented divisions of the company under the Disney brand that would suffer for a move like that. The Disney brand still maintains a family-friendly reputation (although to a lesser extent than what they used to) which an R-rated movie would destroy in one blow. Consumers should be able to see a Disney product and be reassured that it is something that the whole family can enjoy, but an R-rated movie would taint that.

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  6. Ed South says:

    Walt Disney Pictures (or even just “Disney”) is the only studio name with some meaning behind it. As much as they’ve strayed away from the traditional Disney image lately, the name still stands for quality family entertainment. Releasing something like The Help as a Disney Picture can not be an overall good move for The Disney Brand.

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  8. CAA1000 says:

    Disney will never do an R rated movie. Back in the early 80′s the conservative and religion based movements where bashing on Disney, known for cute classic animated features and always a family oriented company, with a “Rated G” based content. When movies like “The Black Hole,” “Tron” and “Midnight Madness” came out, Disney was straying away from the family based brand, going into a mainstream market, mostly known for general adult content, that would please the parents of under 10 year old kids. When the PG-13 rating came upon, Disney was trying to stay away from the new classification, as some content would suggest it was a cross the line for an R rated movie. Comes a small based label known as TouchTone Pictures and is obvious that not everybody was aware, it was Disney’s new disguise to please the conservatives. Flash forward to 1991 and Disney breaks away from the “PG” ban when releasing “Shipwrecked” and to top it all, “The Lion King” gets the dreadfully mark of PG in their own animated classic! The TouchTone brand is mostly used on TV shows for ABC TV like “Grey’s Anatomy”, but had they been used for Disney movies, beside the last feature film from TouchTone under Disney was “Tom And Huck” back in 1995. So, TouchTone is basically the same story as it was Miramax Films. What happened to the Miramax Label? Go figure!

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  10. Mark Watson says:

    Touchstone Television evolved into ABC Studios in 2007.

  11. TTY says:

    Good comment CAA1000, but a small correction: The Lion King is rated G.

  12. To me, selling Miramax was already a mistake. But sell or shut down Touchstone Pictures would be an horrible idea. The Walt Disney Company needs successfull and/or good movies for adults. Without Touchstone Pictures, the rise of Disney in the 80s and early 90s wouldn’t have been so strong. Films like “Armageddon” or “Dead Poet’s Society” bring money and talents to the Company.

    Just look at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, the only reason behind this crazy idea of killing Touchstone. Who produced these movies, had the idea of bringing in Johnny Depp and Hans Zimmer (whose soundtrack entered the public conscience) and made it PG-13? Yes, Jerry Bruckheimer. And you can bet everything you have: Without Touchstone, he wouldn’t have become part of the extended Disney family. Ever.

    Michael Eisner and Frank Wells tried to get talented people to the Disney Company, where they would make some Touchstone movies and then later something “Disney”. It worked for an loooong, loooong time.

    That Touchstone is’nt successfull is the fault of the released movies. Unappealing, mediocre, seldom up-to-date. It’s not, because they lack any brand name. Boy, Touchstone WAS a brand name! In the late 80s, early 90s, they coined the term “Touchstone Comedy” for movies like “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” or “Ruthless People”. And with more patience, they probably could have coined the term “Touchstone action” in the 90s, with Bruckheimer movies like “Armageddon” or “Con Air”.

    So, if Disney thinks, they need everything they own to have brand name recognition, simple make Touchstone a brand name. Again. Make stronger movies, sell good movies from the defunct Hollywood Pictures on Blu-ray (while slapping the Touchstone name on them) and everything will be allright.

  13. Unless a film is a quality family feature destined to become a classic, then I do not believe it should be distributed using the Disney name. The Disney brand should be reserved for only projects of the highest caliber. (If Walt wouldn’t have put his name on it, then it shouldn’t have his name on it.) There is no reason for Disney to sell off the Touchstone brand. It has served its purpose well for almost four decades now, they should allow it to continue doing so.

  14. Oh, and about the whole “should Disney make R rated movies?” thing:

    To me, it’s the same thing like PG-13 under the Disney brand. It would really depend on the content. I love that Disney labled the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies as Disney. They really fit the Disney mold. Same goes for “Prince of Persia”. But I would be rather annoyed, if they ever decide to move films like “Armageddon” or “Pearl Harbor” to the Disney name, even if they have the same rating as “Pirates”. Most Touchstone movies just have an different feeling, another tone.

    If someday something like “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” gets an R rating and it still “feels” like an Disney movie, then … well … just go with it. But these really should be exceptions of the rule.

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