Yup that sequel up to Steamboat Willie was the beginning of the end for Disney.
I know what you are saying and kind of agree with it…I think what they (the studios) are missing is that there are Stories that create characters we care about (Snow White, Cinderella, Dumbo, etc) and there are characters that tell great stories (Mickey, Donald, etc).
Stories that create characters usually are stuck in that world. It is hard move Cinderella out of her story universe and make it work. I mean really would you believe a secret agent Cinderella? Or a time traveling Snow White?
Characters that we view as actors that can fill roles in different stories also have limitations. When Mickey Mouse fills the role of a Musketeer it is a fun story because we know Mickey beyond the roll. Small parts of his larger persona fill out the story. The Same for Donald Duck in A Christmas Carol.
For the past couple decades they have tried to wring out new character from successful (and semi-seccessful) movies. It is tough to create a Mickey Mouse and it is hard to tell a great new story like Monster Inc or Toy Story. It is easier to try and leverage something that works into the other and it usually failed (see Stitch…the next Mickey Mouse).
I could never see Mike and Sully doing a version of the Three Musketeer or A Christmas Carol with the cast of Toy Story. So instead they stick in their story universe in awakened stretches of the universe. Toy Story has been the best use of expanding the storyline of that universe.
One thing that I agree whole heartedly with Iger on is his peering down the number of movies Disney releases each year. They have such a rich bank of content that they can rely on but for some reason don’t leverage it (and when they do they apologies).
I personally like John Carter. I didn’t think it was great but it was good. My disappointment was how they left so much on the table. They should have spent more time building out the characters. The John Carter story universe is so rich…you have the futures on Mars and the past on Earth. They could have really done something bold.
I am still waiting for Tomorrowland and Jungle Cruise movies…