Reports indicate that Disney has called a halt to all production on its upcoming adaptation of Lone Ranger.
The film had just barely gotten started, but was further along than some of Disney’s other current projects.
Director Gore Verbinski had already finalized the shooting script and signed on his lead actors, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp - both of which will now have to be paid whether the project goes further or not. Judging from the rapid back-off, the film may spend quite some time in development hell before being picked back up again.
It’s likely that Disney simply decided that they have too many risky films currently in production from John Carter, which is in its final stages of post-production to their new Cinderella adaptation, which does not even have a director yet (though there are rumors today that Mark Romanek might be the man for the job).
They also have The Order of the Seven - their new Snow White adaptation - on the way, and Sam Raimi is working on Oz: The Great and Powerful - one of two new Oz adaptations which is currently filming.
Why stop the Lone Ranger’s journey to the screen?
Perhaps they are looking at the box-office returns for Cowboys & Aliens, a recent AAA western title, which didn't exactly live up to expectations - earning significantly less than it deserved.
I’m not sure Cowboys & Aliens is a particularly appropriate film to gauge the potential success of Lone Rangwer.
However, Disney may well have gone ahead and made that comparison, simply because the films are westerns. Still, they frankly have an entirely different audience.
While most members of the audience went into Cowboys & Aliens not realizing that it even was going to be presented so much like a traditional western film, Lone Ranger is obvious in its genre placement, and has a built-in fan-base that Cowboys & Aliens simply couldn’t.
Either way, this means that Lone Ranger will surely miss its 2012 release date, and might never be seen at all.