April Fools Week concludes today with the final Strange But True story. The Story of DISNEYLAND will return next Friday.
In the late 1980's, Hollywood was looking for big budget franchises. Despite the fact that Superman had fizzled out as a franchise after 1987's disastrous Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Hollywood still had faith in superheroes. This faith was rewarded in 1989 with the blockbuster success of Batman. That success made Disney excited about the prospects of its major film for 1990- Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy would feature bigger stars than Batman and benefit from a bigger promotional push since Disney now saw how big the rewards could be.
The film made a big splash, but it wasn't as big as Disney had hoped. The decision was made to not automatically greenlight a sequel but to keep the company's options open. After several years, the Tribune Company, which owned the Dick Tracy copyrights, sought to get them back from Disney. Warren Beatty, however, thought that he could perhaps get a new project going, so he acquired them from Disney.
Several years later, seeing no movement on a new project, Tribune decided to force Warren Beatty to either get a new film or television project off the ground or give them back their rights. Warren chose to fight back, therefore The Dick Tracy Special was born.
Despite no longer having any connection to The Walt Disney Company, the slapdash special was filmed on the Disney backlot.
Seemingly filmed by the dumpsters behind a sound stage, this project featured an interview with a geriatric Dick Tracy played by Warren Beatty, interviewer Leonard Maltin, and Austin Powers actress Mindy Sterling playing a production assistant who has an awkwardly long and dull conversation next to a dumpster.
The 30 minute production, which aired on Turner Movie Classics was also syndicated to any local station willing to air it. It practically screamed "contractural obligation" and seemed like a sad effort to retain the copyright that any court of law would see right through.
Except... It totally worked. The court ruled that this project was good enough to allow Warren Beatty to retain the film and television rights to Dick Tracy. With Disney totally uninterested in a Dick Tracy sequel, it's unclear what Mr. Beatty can actually do with the character. However, with his rights secured, the world (and the Tribune Company) are waiting to see what Warren Beatty will do with them.