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Famed family-film maker Disney is headed back to its roots, with confirmation yesterday of cuts of 650 employees that will include a phase-out of its R-rated movies.

Oren Aviv, newly appointed president of production at Walt Disney Pictures, told the Hollywood Reporter that the company’s coming productions will be along the lines of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” “National Treasure” and “Miracle.”

“If it’s a great idea and it’s done with quality and care, then it qualifies to be a Disney movie,” he told the newspaper.

The studio, which founded its greatness on the classics for families and children, had branched out in the 1990s to grasp R-rated projects with its Touchstone and Miramax labels. Touchstone was created to deal with more mature themes, and is expected to remain but be significantly smaller, generating only two or three films a year. Miramax handles independent and art-house films and now operates separately from Disney.

Those actions, along with Disney’s endorsement of “Gay Days” at its theme parks, had prompted a series of conservative and Christian groups to announce boycotts of the company, as WorldNetDaily has reported.

The American Family Association launched its boycott of Disney in 1996 and relinquished it only after the resignation of former CEO Michael Eisner, under whose leadership Disney made many of those moves.

AFA founder Donald Wildmon said it was successful in bringing attention to those issues at that time, but lately the AFA has focused its campaigns against activist liberals on the judicial bench and attempts to codify same-sex marriages.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, also conducted an eight-year boycott against the Mouse over Disney’s support of homosexual-themed events and movie subjects.

After it was concluded, Rev. Richard Land, of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said while it may have done little financially to Disney, the boycott did show conservative and Christian parents Disney no longer deserved unbridled trust.

Disney never indicated that those boycotts had any impact on its bottom line.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance also listed boycotts of Disney by The Catholic League and the Assemblies of God. The Southern Baptists also had been joined in their effort by several other Christian denominations and groups as well as several Muslim and Jewish groups.

Now, Aviv told the Reporter, he will see to it that what the company brings to its audience is something the whole family can enjoy.

“That to us has always defined a Disney movie, and that definitely hasn’t changed,” he said.

Aviv’s predecessor, Nina Jacobson, recently had suggested the company move into the horror film genre, but Aviv said he would take some convincing.

The return-to-family-fare move comes as “Pirates” turned in a weekend sales total of $135.6 million and the computer-animated “Cars,” released by the Pixar unit, has been declared a hit.

The announcement also came the same day as Christian researcher George Barna and others announced plans for a new kind of multimedia organization, called Good News Holdings. Barna told the American Family Association’s AgapePress he sees it influencing young people through movies, books, television, magazines, cellular and other services – all with positive moral values.

He said his plans are for Good News to compete with secular media because of the superior quality of its products. Its first plans are to release “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” based on an Anne Rice novel.

Related stories:

Disney boycott suspended

Disney to announce sale of ABC Radio next week

Related columns:

‘Cars’: Family-friendly all the way

Through the Wardrobe: The Christian fantasy of C.S. Lewis

Absolutely thrilling!

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