EXCLUSIVE: Disney Original Documentary and Disney+ have won the rights to a big feature documentary package, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances And the Years That Made His Legend. No one would comment, but we hear the docu, from Academy Award-nominee R.J. Cutler as well as filmmaker (and longtime Elton John partner) David Furnish, sold for about $30 million.
Designed to serve as the official feature on Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is comprised of unseen concert footage of him over the past 50 years, hand-written journals and present-day footage of him and his family. The plan for the project is to get a festival run and limited theatrical release and be made available exclusively on Disney+.
At the heart of the documentary is Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” as the film will capture Elton John’s final months on the road, culminating in his November performance at Dodger Stadium in his final North American show. We hear the package includes the rights to livestream that final concert, which is shaping up to be one of the greatest send-offs in rock-and-roll history.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road will also look back at the unprecedented first five years of John’s career when, between 1970 and 1975, he released 10 hit albums, seven of which went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and became a global phenomenon.
“There are no superlatives left to describe Elton John and his impact on music and culture — he’s simply unrivaled,” said Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “Like a good Disney story, Elton’s music has both universal appeal and the ability to connect with audiences on a deeply personal level. He has been part of the Disney family since 1994 when he helped make The Lion King an instant classic, and we could not be more excited to collaborate with him on this new documentary.”
With exclusive new interviews and performance clips from Madison Square Garden, London and other performance venues, the film will be the definitive portrait of one of the world’s most successful musical artists of all time, who has inspired multiple generations of audiences and musicians. In addition to directing, R.J. Cutler will also produce the film under his, This Machine Filmworks, a Sony Pictures TV company, as will Furnish, who will produce under his and Elton John’s formed Rocket Entertainment. Trevor Smith will also serve as producer. Joining as executive producers are John Battsek, Jane Cha Cutler and Elise Pearlstein.
“Working with R.J. Cutler and David Furnish on what will undoubtedly become the definitional film about the iconic Elton John is a great honor,” said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television. “Their incredible vision and intimate access to exclusive, never-before-seen anecdotes and footage will provide the deepest, most captivating insight yet into one of the world’s most beloved and prolific artists.”
For Cutler, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road follows another high-profile music documentary, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, which also sold in a big deal — believed to be around $25M – to Apple TV+
“What a thrill and an honor it is that David Furnish and I get to create this intimate and unique look at one of the world’s most celebrated artists,” Cutler said. “As it has for so many others, Elton John’s music has had deep meaning for me for decades, and this opportunity is nothing short of a career highlight and privilege.”
Said Furnish, “Elton and I could not think of a better collaborator than R.J. Cutler for a film that represents more than just Elton’s career — it’s his life. From the Troubadour to Dodger Stadium, we knew that R.J. would help guide Elton’s story and its many layers in a way that feels authentic and evocative. We’re ecstatic to be working together.”
Cutler is the director, producer and writer of four-time Emmy-nominated and Oscar-shortlisted feature documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry. His additional feature documentary credits include Critics’ Choice Award-nominated Belushi, Oscar-nominated The War Room, Emmy-nominated A Perfect Candidate, the Sundance Award-winning The September Issue, the Peabody Award-winning and Oscar-shortlisted Listen to Me Marlon, the Grierson Award-winning Thin and The World According to Dick Cheney.
Submarine’s Josh Braun negotiated the deal with Disney. Danny Passman of Gang, Tyre, Ramen, Brown & Passman repped Rocket Pictures. Marisa Fermin and Sarah Santos repped This Machine Filmworks. Jeanne Newman of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman repped Cutler.
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