Touchstone Pictures

Touchstone Pictures
Division label
Industry Film
Founded February 15, 1984 (February 15, 1984)
Founder Ron Miller
Headquarters Burbank, California, United States
Services Motion pictures, distribution
Parent The Walt Disney Studios
(The Walt Disney Company)

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[1] by then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as Touchstone Films, it typically releases films targeted to adult audiences with more mature themes and darker tones than those released under the flagship Walt Disney Pictures and Disneynature label.[2][3]

Touchstone Pictures merely serves as a brand, not a distinct business operation, and does not exist as a separate company.[4]

In 2009, Disney entered into a 5-year, 30-picture distribution deal with DreamWorks Pictures by which DreamWorks' productions would be released through the Touchstone banner.[5][6] 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.[1] 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).[7]

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.[1]


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 3 to 4 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.[1][8][9] Incoming Disney CEO Michael Eisner and film chief Jeffrey Katzenberg considered renaming the label to Hollywood Pictures.[10]

Following in 1986, Down and Out in Beverly Hills was another early success for Touchstone and is noted as 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.[8] In April 1985, Touchstone Films were licensed to Showtime/The Movie Channel for five years starting in 1986.[11]

Touchstone Pictures

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.[8] In April 1988, Touchstone became a unit of Walt Disney Pictures with newly appointed president Ricardo Mestres.[12]

On October 23, 1990, The Walt Disney Company formed Touchwood Pacific Partners I to supplant the Silver Screen Partnership series as their movie studios' primary funding source.[13]

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.[10]


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 '90s would have been assigned to the Touchstone (or Hollywood Pictures and Miramax) films label, Disney has decided to weigh distribution of films more toward Disney-branded films and away from Touchstone Pictures, though not entirely disbanding them as it is continues to regularly employ the Touchstone label for R and most PG-13 rated fare.[4] In 2006, Disney limited Touchstone's output to 2 or 3 films in favor of Walt Disney Pictures titles due to an increase in film industry costs.[14] Disney indicated scaling back on using multiple brands in 2007 with the renaming Touchstone Television to ABC Television Studio in February and the outright elimination of the Buena Vista brand in April.[15] Two Touchstone co-productions flopped at the box office minimized by its co-producers financial contributions to the movies.[14]

Disney revived Touchstone in 2009 to serve as a distribution label for DreamWorks Studios' films.[6][16] 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. Disney has been financing DreamWorks productions with an $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.[17]

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.[18] In addition to DreamWorks' films, Touchstone has also released non Disney-branded animated films such as Gnomeo & Juliet, The Wind Rises and Strange Magic.[19]

By the end of the DreamWorks deal, Disney had distributed fourteen of DreamWorks' original 30-picture agreement, with thirteen through Touchstone.[20][21] 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.[22][23] Disney will retain the distribution rights for these DreamWorks films in perpetuity as compensation for the studio's outstanding loan.[24] As of September 2016, the label's fate is now uncertain and remains inactive.[25]


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.[26]

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.[27][28] 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.

Highest-grossing films

Highest-grossing films in North America[29]
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 2003 $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 article: ABC Studios

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.[30] In May 2007, the television production company yet again changed its name, this time to ABC Studios.

Touchstone Games

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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Harmetz, Aljean (February 16, 1984). "Touchstone Label to Replace Disney Name on Some Films". New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  2. McClintock, Pamela (September 24, 2015). "Will Steven Spielberg Drop the DreamWorks Name?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  3. Deitchman, Beth (March 7, 2014). "It's Been 30 Years Since Touchstone Pictures' Splash-y Debut". Disney D23. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  4. 1 2 Letter signed by Thomas O. Staggs (Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, The Walt Disney Company) to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, March 1, 2007. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
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  6. 1 2 Variety: Disney signs deal with DreamWorks; Company will handle distribution for films, Variety, February 9, 2009
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  9. 1984 Yearly Chart for Domestic Grosses at, Retrieved on May 25, 2007.
  10. 1 2 Harmetz, Aljean (December 2, 1988). "COMPANY NEWS; Disney Expansion Set; Film Output to Double". New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  11. "Two Studios Announce Exclusive Cable Deals". New York Times. April 25, 1986. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  12. "People: Los Angeles County". Los Angeles Times. April 13, 1988. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  13. "Disney, Japan Investors Join in Partnership : Movies: Group will become main source of finance for all live-action films at the company's three studios.". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. October 23, 1990. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  14. 1 2 Brooks, Barnes; Michael Cieply. "Disney and DreamWorks form partnership". The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  15. Fixmer, Fixmer (April 25, 2007). "Disney to Drop Buena Vista Brand Name, People Say (Update1)". Archived from the original on September 18, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  16. Barnes, Brooks; Michael Cieply (February 9, 2009). "DreamWorks and Disney Agree to a Distribution Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  17. Atkinson, Claire (January 7, 2012). "Disney mulls future of sluggish Touchstone". New York Post. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  18. Masters, Kim (September 19, 2013). "Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer to Split in 2014". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  19. Butler, Karen (November 11, 2014). "Lucasfilm's animated 'Strange Magic' set for Jan. 23 release". UPI. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  20. Pamela McClintock; Gregg Kilday (December 16, 2015). "Steven Spielberg, Jeff Skoll Team to Form Amblin Partners, Strike Distribution Deal With Universal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  21. "DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One Form Amblin Partners, a New Film, Television and Digital Content Creation Company" (Press release). Business Wire. Universal City, California. December 16, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. Film projects in various stages of production include: “The BFG,” and “The Light Between Oceans,” scheduled for release by Disney in 2016.
  22. Masters, Kim (September 2, 2015). "Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks to Split From Disney, in Talks With Universal (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  23. McNary, Dave (September 2, 2015). "Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks to Leave Disney, Possibly for Universal". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  24. Rainey, James (December 30, 2015). "Steven Spielberg Puts His Own Big Bucks Into the New Amblin Partners (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  25. Lieberman, David (2016-09-21). "Bob Iger: Disney Has Cracked The Code For Keeping Moviemaking Profitable". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  26. Tribou, Richard (January 16, 2014). "Not-so-golden year for Disney's chances at the Oscars". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  27. Miller, Daniel (September 19, 2013). "Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer to end longtime partnership". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  28. Lev, Michael (January 18, 1991, Friday), 2 Top Movie Producers Sign Disney Accord, The New York Times Financial Desk. Late Edition – Final, Section D, Page 3, Column 1, 286 words
  29. "Box Office by Studio – Disney All Time". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  30. The Walt Disney Company News Release, "Disney-ABC Television Group Renames Television Studio". Retrieved on May 25, 2007

Further reading

External links

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