Disney Suspends All Film Production, Closes Theme Parks, Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The Walt Disney Company has suspended production on all films, including The Little Mermaid remake, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, and Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley.

The Little Mermaid and Ridley Scott's The Last Duel Delayed
Photo: Disney and 20th Century Studios

The Walt Disney Company has opted to suspend production on all films, be they shooting across the Atlantic Ocean or simply in pre-production in California. The delay comes on the heels of international upheaval in the film industry during the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Among the biggest delays is director Rob Marshall’s highly anticipated remake of The Little Mermaid. The film, which was apparently nine days away from filming, stars Halle Bailey as one of Disney’s most popular princesses, the aquatic Ariel, as well as Melissa McCarthy as the dastardly Ursula the Sea Witch. The movie was set to begin shooting in England later this month and is still expected to shoot there, although with no public date in mind.

Another major casualty is the Disney/20th Century Studios film, The Last Duel, which saw director Ridley Scott returning to his period epic roots (well before Gladiator, Scott made the highly underrated The Duellists in 1977). The Last Duel, a true story about a 14th century duel between French knights, is an especially endangered casualty as the film was shooting for weeks in France and was scheduled to begin filming in Ireland before the film was put on indefinite hiatus. It is now unclear if Scott’s movie can meet its Christmas Day release date, which signaled its award-minded pedigree since the movie stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck, and Jodie Comer, and is working off a screenplay by Damon, Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener.

Another production at the mercy of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, the writer-director’s follow-up to his Oscar winning The Shape of Water. The movie is set up at Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) and is a passion project for del Toro. Based on a 1947 movie of the same name, the new version stars Bradley Cooper as a con man who teams up with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) to con people into giving them money. Del Toro has been filming for months.

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Additionally, Disney’s pre-production on Peter and Wendy (a new Peter Pan movie) has been paused, as has productions on Disney+ content like the new Home Alone movie and Shrunk (a sequel to Honey I Shrunk the Kids).

This step seems exceedingly prudent after Disney had to individually halt production on Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings following director Destin Daniel Cretton going into self-isolation in Australia based on the advice of his doctor.

In a press statement, Disney explained why it is exercising such caution.

“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our productions, after considering the current environment and the best interests of our cast and crew, we have made the decision to pause production on some of our live-action films for a short time. We will continue to assess the situation and restart as soon as feasible.”

– Disney spokesperson

This is the latest precaution Disney is making in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, which grows in the west. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 has turned into an official pandemic, and this afternoon President Donald Trump (finally) declared a national state of emergency in the United States.

It also is following Disney’s continued concessions to the state of the world right now. Last night the studio indefinitely delayed the releases of its slated March and April output, including Mulan, The New Mutants, and Antlers. The studio has yet to move Black Widow, but all eyes are currently on that film’s May 1 launch.

Additionally, Disney announced Thursday the closure of the original Disneyland as California declares a state of emergency. The company has now followed up on that by announcing Disney World in Orlando, Florida will be closed for two weeks, beginning on Sunday, March 15, as will Disneyland Paris. This will be the longest time Disney World has been closed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This also marks the closure of all worldwide Disney theme parks following the shuttering of Asian parks in the previous months.

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For the most reliable information and guidance on the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit the World Health Organization.