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Touchstone Pictures
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Touchstone Pictures is an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, created and owned by The Walt Disney Company. Feature films released under the Touchstone label are produced and financed by The Walt Disney Studios, and tend to feature more mature themes targeted towards adult audiences than typical Disney releases.[1][2] As such, Touchstone is merely a brand of the studio, and does not exist as a distinct business operation.[3]

Established on February 15, 1984,[4] by then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as Touchstone Films, Touchstone operates as an active film production division of Walt Disney Studios since the 1980s, releasing a majority of the studio's PG-13 and R-rated films. In 2009, Disney entered into a five-year, thirty picture distribution deal with DreamWorks Pictures by which DreamWorks' productions would be released through the Touchstone banner; the label has been distributing DreamWorks films since 2011.[5][6]


Due to increased public assumption that Disney films were aimed at children and families, films produced by the Walt Disney Productions began to falter at the box office as a result.[4] This began in 1975 with the release of Escape to Witch Mountain and its 1978 sequel. In late 1979, Walt Disney Productions released The Black Hole, a science-fiction movie that was the studio's first production to receive a PG rating (the company, however, had already distributed via Buena Vista Distribution its first PG-rated film, Take Down almost a year before the release of The Black Hole).[7]

Over the next few years, Disney experimented with more PG-rated fare, such as the horror-mystery The Watcher in the Woods, the spy-themed comedy Condorman[citation needed] and the Paramount Pictures co-produced fantasy epic Dragonslayer. With Disney's 1982 slate of PG-rated films, which included the thriller drama Night Crossing and the science-fiction film Tron, the company lost over $27 million. Tron was considered a potential Star Wars-level success film by the film division.

In late 1982, Disney vice president of production Tom Wilhite announced that they would produce and release more mature films under a new brand. Wilhite elaborated to The New York Times: ''We won't get into horror or exploitive sex, but using a non-Disney name will allow us wider latitude in the maturity of the subject matter and the edge we can add to the humor.'' One of the first films expected to be released under this new brand included Trenchcoat, a comedy caper starring Margot Kidder and Robert Hays;[8] by the time the film opened on March 11, 1983, no production company credit was included in the released prints.

A loss of $33 million was registered by the film division in 1983 with the majority resulting from such films as the horror-fantasy adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, the horror-comedy The Devil and Max Devlin starring Elliott Gould and Bill Cosby, the dramas Tex and Never Cry Wolf, the latter being a PG release that featured male nudity, and the dark fantasy film Return to Oz did well as the studio downplayed the film's association with the Disney brand.[4]


Touchstone Films[]

Touchstone Films was started by then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller on February 15, 1984, as a label for their PG films with an expected three to four movies released under the label. Touchstone's first film was Splash, a huge hit for grossing $68 million at the domestic box office was released that year.[4][9][10] Incoming Disney CEO Michael Eisner and film chief Jeffrey Katzenberg considered renaming the label to Hollywood Pictures, but chose instead to create a separate division with that name.[11] Afterwards, both Eisner and Katzenberg chose to rename the distribution arm to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, using the Buena Vista name for the home video unit.

In 1986, Down and Out in Beverly Hills was another early success for Touchstone and was Disney's first R-rated film, followed in 1987 by Disney's first PG-13 rated film, Adventures in Babysitting. Disney increased the momentum with additional PG-13 and R-rated films with Ruthless People (1986), Outrageous Fortune (1987), Tin Men (1987), and other top movies.[9] In April 1985, movies by Touchstone Films were licensed to Showtime/The Movie Channel for five years starting in 1986.[12]

Touchstone Pictures[]

Touchstone Films was renamed Touchstone Pictures after the film Ruthless People in 1986.[citation needed] With the Touchstone movies, Disney moved to the top of box office receipts beating out all the other major film studios by 1988.[9] In April 1988, Touchstone became a unit of Walt Disney Pictures with newly appointed president Ricardo Mestres.[13]

On October 23, 1990, The Walt Disney Company formed Touchwood Pacific Partners I to supplant the Silver Screen Partners partnership series as their movie studios' primary funding source.[14]

With several production companies getting out of film production or closing shop by December 1988, the Walt Disney Studios announced the formation of the Hollywood Pictures division, which would only share marketing and distribution with Touchstone, to fill the void. Mestres was appointed president of Hollywood.[11] In July 1992, Touchstone agreed to an exclusive, first-look production and distribution agreement with Merchant Ivory Productions to last three years.[15] With the shuttering of the original Miramax in 2001, Touchstone ended up gaining the Miramax library for home video releases, and also ended up dividing releases that would've gone to Miramax or its sister imprint Dimension Films between it, Hollywood Pictures, and rival studios.

Following the success of the Disney-branded PG-13-rated Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, and other films that in the 1980s and 1990s would have been released as Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures films, Disney weighed distribution of films more toward Disney-branded films and away from Touchstone Pictures, though not entirely disbanding them as it continued to use the Touchstone label for R and most PG-13 rated fare.[3] In 2006, Disney announced that Touchstone would start taking more projects from Hollywood Pictures, but that there would be a switch in focus and favor of Walt Disney Pictures titles due to an increase in film industry costs. Disney indicated scaling back on using multiple brands in 2007 with the renaming of Touchstone Television to ABC Television Studio in February and the closure of Hollywood Pictures in April.[citation needed] On January 14, 2010, Sean Bailey was appointed the president of live-action production at Walt Disney Studios, overseeing all films produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone.[16] Disney also moved to pare down Touchstone, because its inheritance of Miramax-destined projects and releasing other "spiritually Miramax" titles had led to a relative glut of Touchstone releases over the years, sometimes 20 or more titles a year, leading to reports of the Miramax legacy acting like an anchor on Touchstone. That year, Bailey announced plans to scale back Touchstone's release schedule to be more selective, make fewer acquisitions, and also made plans to sell the Miramax name and 300 development projects to free Touchstone from those potential burdens; the last was accomplished in December of that year.

Distribution label[]

Besides its continued involvement in releasing mature projects, Disney slotted Touchstone in 2009 to serve as a distribution label for DreamWorks Studios' films.[6][17][18] Disney financed DreamWorks productions with $90 million more available under its agreement if DreamWorks could not get additional equity funding. In addition to DreamWorks' films, Touchstone also released non Disney-branded animated films such as Gnomeo & Juliet, The Wind Rises and Strange Magic.[19] On the live action side, besides the DreamWorks deal, Touchstone also did international distribution for The Fighter in 2010, and fully released The Artist in 2011, The Butler and August: Osage County in 2013, and On the Other Side of the Tracks and Big Eyes in 2014.

By the end of 2016, Disney had distributed 20 of DreamWorks' original 30-picture agreement, with 19 through Touchstone.[20][21] The DreamWorks deal was briefly put on hold after the release of The Light Between Oceans with DreamWorks entering a distribution deal with Universal Pictures. Disney currently retains the film rights to these DreamWorks films and those yet to be released as part of the deal in perpetuity as compensation for the studio's outstanding loan.[22] In 2018 Disney released Who Cancelled Roger Rabbit under the Touchstone Pictures label being the first non DreamWorks film (besides the three exceptions listed above) under Touchstone since 2014. The DreamWorks deal continued in 2019 with the release of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, and Touchstone co-released Richard Jewell with 20th Century Fox (itself now a subsidiary of Disney) in December of that year.

Film library[]

Main article: List of Touchstone Pictures films

Some well-known Touchstone Pictures releases include Beaches, Turner & Hooch, Splash, The Waterboy, The Color of Money, Good Morning, Vietnam, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dead Poets Society, Pretty Woman, Sister Act, Ed Wood, Dick Tracy, The Insider, The Royal Tenenbaums, Sweet Home Alabama, Monster, The Libertine, Apocalypto, The Hoax, Becoming Jane, Gone Baby Gone, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Doubt, City of Men, Smart People, The Help, War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. Its highest-grossing film release is Armageddon. Although animated films produced by Walt Disney Studios are primarily released by Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone's animated releases include the original theatrical release of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Wind Rises, Strange Magic and Who Cancelled Roger Rabbit. Seven Touchstone films have received Oscar nominations for Best Picture; Dead Poets Society, The Insider, Monster, The Help, War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies.

Through Touchstone, Disney's first R-rated film, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, came on January 31, 1986, and was a large box-office success. Ruthless People followed on June 27, 1986, and was also very successful. Both of these pictures starred Bette Midler, who had signed a six-picture deal with Disney and became a major film star again with these hits as well as Beaches and Outrageous Fortune.

One of the key producers behind Touchstone films was Jerry Bruckheimer, who has had an ongoing production deal with Disney since 1993.[23] His Touchstone titles include The Ref, Con Air, Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Coyote Ugly. In addition, Bruckheimer has also produced several other films released under the Disney and Hollywood labels.

Besides all of this, Touchstone had also secured itself by helping to fill a void left behind by the shuttering of the original Miramax in 2001, as Touchstone (alongside Hollywood Pictures and certain other distributors like New Line Cinema) ended up distributing many properties that would have originally been Miramax's domain. When Disney sold the Miramax name in 2010 and helped set up its modern incarnation, they allowed the new owners to make securitizations and new films based not only on the full Miramax library (while Disney still maintained and owned those titles) but "spiritually Miramax" titles released by Touchstone and some such films released by Hollywood Pictures.


Releases from Touchstone Pictures are distributed theatrically by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and through home media platforms by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (branded as "Touchstone Home Entertainment").[24]

Highest-grossing films[]

Highest-grossing films in North America[25]
Rank Title Year Box office gross
1 Signs 2002 $227,966,634
2 Armageddon 1998 $201,578,182
3 Pearl Harbor 2001 $198,542,554
4 Lincoln 2012 $182,207,973
5 Pretty Woman 1990 $178,406,268
6 The Help 2011 $169,708,112
7 Wild Hogs 2007 $168,273,550
8 Three Men and a Baby 1987 $167,780,960
9 The Proposal 2009 $163,958,031
10 The Waterboy 1998 $161,491,646
11 Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988 $156,452,370
12 Sister Act 1992 $139,605,150
13 Ransom 1996 $136,492,681
14 Bringing Down the House 2003 $132,716,677
15 Sweet Home Alabama 2002 $127,223,418
16 Good Morning, Vietnam 1987 $123,922,370
17 The Village 2004 $114,197,520
18 Enemy of the State 1998 $111,549,836
19 Phenomenon 1996 $104,636,382
20 Dick Tracy 1990 $103,738,726
21 Gone in 60 Seconds 2000 $101,648,571
22 Con Air 1997 $101,117,573
23 Gnomeo & Juliet 2011 $99,967,670
24 Dead Poets Society 1989 $95,860,116
25 Unbreakable 2000 $95,011,339
Highest-grossing films worldwide
Rank Title Year Box office gross
1 Armageddon 1998 $553,709,788
2 Pretty Woman 1990 $463,406,268
3 Pearl Harbor 2001 $449,220,945
4 Signs 2002 $408,247,917
5 Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988 $329,803,958
6 The Proposal 2009 $317,375,031
7 Ransom 1996 $309,492,681
8 Real Steel 2011 $299,268,508
9 Lincoln 2012 $275,293,450
10 The Village 2004 $256,697,520
11 Wild Hogs 2007 $253,625,427
12 Enemy of the State 1998 $250,649,836
13 Unbreakable 2000 $248,118,121
14 Gone in 60 Seconds 2000 $237,202,299
15 Dead Poets Society 1989 $235,860,116
16 Sister Act 1992 $231,605,150
17 Con Air 1997 $224,012,234
18 Flightplan 2005 $223,387,299
19 The Help 2011 $216,639,112
20 King Arthur 2004 $203,567,857
21 Need for Speed 2014 $203,277,636
22 Gnomeo & Juliet 2011 $193,967,670
23 The Waterboy 1998 $185,991,646
24 Sweet Home Alabama 2002 $180,622,424
25 War Horse 2011 $177,584,879

Related units[]

Touchstone Television[]

Main articles: ABC Studios and Touchstone Television

Touchstone Television served as Touchstone Pictures' counterpart label for television programming, producing television series including The Golden Girls, Blossom, Home Improvement, My Wife and Kids, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, Criminal Minds, and Monk. In 2007, the company was renamed ABC Studios, as part of a move by Disney to re-align its studios around core brands such as ABC.

On August 10, 2013, Disney announced that it would revive the Touchstone Television brand as part of a deal to produce content for the premium network FX[citation needed](which is now owned by Disney), the first show released under the revived banner was the English dub of the popular anime series Attack on Titan. Since then the banner has been used to produce the FX original series School Days, Global Frequency a loose adaptation of Wildstorm/DC miniseries of the same name, and the documentary series Tarnished Legacies. Outside of FX, Touchstone Television has had involvement in the English dubs of My Hero Academia and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hangout on FOX, a revival of the classic ABC series NYPD Blue, and the upcoming Showtime series Back to Basics.

Touchstone Games[]

Main article: Touchstone Games

In 1999, Disney's video game subsidiary Disney Interactive announced plans to produce and distribute video games under its own Touchstone imprint.[citation needed] As is the case with its motion picture and television counterparts, Touchstone Games merely acts as a label/imprint of Disney Interactive and not as its own entity. The first video game released under Touchstone Games was TimeSplitters released in 2000 as a launch title for the PlayStation 2. Since then Touchstone Games has gone on to publish many games including the Mercenaries series, Jade Empire, The Vega Brothers, the Redline series, the Mass Effect trilogy, The Saboteur, Descendants and many more.


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  15. Fox, David J. (July 27, 1992). "An Unlikely Trio: Merchant, Ivory and Disney : Movies: The 'Howards End' team agrees to a three-year deal that will give their artful fare wider distribution. The studio will also release 'Sarafina!'"[]. Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035[]. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
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Further reading[]

External links[]

Categories: Touchstone Pictures | 1984 establishments in California | American companies established in 1984 | Disney production studios | Film production companies of the United States | Entertainment companies based in California | Companies based in Burbank, California | Mass media companies established in 1984 | The Walt Disney Studios

This page was last edited on 2 April 2022, at 20:19 (UTC).

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