Touchstone Pictures is an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Previously, Touchstone operated as an active film production banner of Walt Disney Studios, owned by The Walt Disney Company. Established on February 15, 1984 by then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as Touchstone Films, similar to the defunct label Hollywood Pictures, it typically releases films targeted to adult audiences with more mature themes and darker tones than those released under the Disney name. Touchstone Pictures merely serves as a brand and not a distinct business operation, and does not exist as a separate company.
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. Touchstone then distributed DreamWorks' films from 2011 to 2016.
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. In late 1979, 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).
Over the next few years, Disney experimented with more PG-rated fare, such as the 1981 film Condorman. With Disney's 1982 slate of PG-rated films—including the horror-mystery The Watcher in the Woods, 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. A loss of $33 million was registered by the film division in 1983 with the majority resulting from Something Wicked This Way Comes, a horror-fantasy adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel. Never Cry Wolf, a 1983 PG release that featured male nudity did well as the studio downplayed the film's association with the Disney brand.
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. Incoming Disney CEO Michael Eisner and film chief Jeffrey Katzenberg considered renaming the label to Hollywood Pictures.
In 1986, Down and Out in Beverly Hills was another early success for Touchstone and was Disney's first R-rated film. Allowing the momentum to increase with additional films with Ruthless People (1986), Outrageous Fortune (1987), Tin Men (1987), and other top movies. In April 1985, Touchstone Films were licensed to Showtime/The Movie Channel for five years starting in 1986.
Touchstone Films was renamed Touchstone Pictures after the film Ruthless People in 1986. With the Touchstone movies, Disney moved to the top of box office receipts beating out all the other major film studios by 1988. In April 1988, Touchstone became a unit of Walt Disney Pictures with newly appointed president Ricardo Mestres.
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. In July 1992, Touchstone agreed to an exclusive, first-look production and distribution agreement with Merchant Ivory Productions to last three years.
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 continues to use the Touchstone label for R and most PG-13 rated fare. In 2006, Disney limited Touchstone's output to two or three films in 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 outright elimination of the Buena Vista brand in April. Two Touchstone co-productions flopped at the box office minimized by its co-producers financial contributions to the movies.
Disney revived Touchstone in 2009 to serve as a distribution label for DreamWorks Studios' films. DreamWorks was expected to allow Disney to release additional family fare that could be used at its parks and on its channels, but at best DreamWorks films have been a modest success.[according to whom?] Disney has been financing DreamWorks productions with $90 million more available under its agreement if DreamWorks cannot get additional equity funding. In 2012, Disney reportedly was in early stages in considering Touchstone's fate, including a possible sale.
Following Disney's decision not to renew their long-standing deal with Jerry Bruckheimer Films in 2013, producer Jerry Bruckheimer revealed that he insisted on revitalizing the Touchstone label for production. Disney was uninterested, with studio chairman Alan Horn admitting that Touchstone's output had been reduced to distributing DreamWorks' films as those films are in the label's wheelhouse. In addition to DreamWorks' films, Touchstone has also released non Disney-branded animated films such as Gnomeo & Juliet, The Wind Rises and Strange Magic.
By the end of the DreamWorks deal, Disney had distributed fourteen of DreamWorks' original 30-picture agreement, with thirteen through Touchstone. The deal ended in August 2016, with The Light Between Oceans being the last film released under the agreement. Universal Pictures then replaced Disney as DreamWorks' distributor. Disney will retain the distribution rights for these DreamWorks films in perpetuity as compensation for the studio's outstanding loan.
Some well-known Touchstone Pictures releases include Beaches, Splash, The Color of Money, Ernest Goes to Camp, Adventures in Babysitting, Good Morning, Vietnam, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dead Poets Society, Pretty Woman, Dick Tracy, What About Bob?, Sister Act, When a Man Loves a Woman, Ed Wood, Rushmore, The Insider, Unbreakable, The Royal Tenenbaums, Signs, Sweet Home Alabama, The Prestige, The Proposal, The Help, War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. Its highest-grossing film release is Armageddon. Although animated films 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, and Strange Magic. Six Touchstone films have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture; Dead Poets Society, The Insider, The Help, War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies.
Through Touchstone, Disney's first R-rated film, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, came in January 31, 1986 and was a large box-office success. Ruthless People followed in 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 has been producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who had a production deal with Disney from 1993 to 2014. His Touchstone titles include The Ref, Con Air, Enemy of the State, Gone in 60 Seconds, Coyote Ugly, Pearl Harbor, Bad Company, Veronica Guerin, King Arthur and Déjà Vu. In addition, Bruckheimer has also produced several other films released under the Disney and Hollywood labels.
Releases from Touchstone Pictures are distributed theatrically by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and through home media platforms via Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (branded as "Touchstone Home Entertainment"). Touchstone is also a distribution label for Disney.
Disney's former non-Disney branded television division Touchstone Television Productions, LLC (formerly known as Touchstone Films Television Division, Touchstone Films Television, Touchstone Pictures Television and Touchstone Pictures and Television [itself an alternate version of the Walt Disney Television names] and later Touchstone Television) is known for being the production company of the series The Golden Girls, Blossom, Home Improvement, Boy Meets World (all four began before Disney's ABC acquisition), My Wife and Kids, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, Miracles and Monk.
On February 8, 2007 at the Disney Investor Conference, then-Disney–ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney, announced that they would rebrand Touchstone Television to ABC Television Studio in order to tie its successful productions more closely with the ABC brand. The announcement was made as part of a company-wide strategy to focus on three core brands, Disney, ABC and ESPN. In May 2007, the television production company yet again changed its name, this time to ABC Studios.
By the end of 2007, Disney's video game subsidiary Buena Vista Games began to produce material under its own Touchstone imprint. As is the case with its motion picture and television counterparts, Touchstone Games merely acts as a label/imprint of Disney Interactive and not its own entity. The first such release was the Turok video game in 2008.
Film projects in various stages of production include: “The BFG,” and “The Light Between Oceans,” scheduled for release by Disney in 2016.