Touchstone Pictures

From the Audiovisual Identity Database, the motion graphics museum



Background

Touchstone Pictures (formerly Touchstone Films) was established by Walt Disney Productions on February 15, 1984 to produce and distribute more adult-oriented films. The company was merely a brand and didn't operate as a separate company. The company became a dominant force between its establishment in the 1980s to the early 2000s, making several successful films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Three Men and a Baby, Adventures in Babysitting, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Color of Money, Con Air, Unbreakable, Signs, and many more films. However, the company began a slow decline in 2003 with the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as the first PG-13 film released under the mainline Walt Disney Pictures banner. The label became relegated to R-rated and PG and PG-13 fare that didn't fit the mainline banner as a result.

Two huge blows were dealt to the company in 2009: first, the then-new Disney chairman Rich Ross trimmed the number of films Disney released in a year to eight. This business plan resulted in planned sequels for Touchstone hits being cancelled, and many more flops to come for Disney in general (he left after the failures of John Carter and Mars Needs Moms); the last Touchstone film released solo, without distributing for others, was You Again. Meanwhile, Disney eventually stopped producing adult-oriented but family-friendly films after Old Dogs flopped with critics (though it did reasonably well at the box office). After all this, Touchstone began merely distributing films for Lucasfilm, Miramax, and DreamWorks Pictures (except the EMEA region and India), as well as foreign films and titles Disney didn't see value in. It didn't help either that Disney was beginning to release their Marvel and Star Wars films under the respective Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm brands. The final blow came with the critical and commercial failure of Strange Magic, with them only distributing Bridge of Spies and The Light Between Oceans since then, the latter ultimately being the company's final film.

Disney retired the label on September 2, 2016[1] after the expiration of their DreamWorks deal in August 2016 (since they went back to Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures for distribution) and their eventual acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Its slate has since been taken over by Walt Disney Pictures (for most Disney-style films), 20th Century Studios (for non-Disney style films and several mid-budget adult films), and Searchlight Pictures (for low-budget, independent and third-party films), while several other Disney divisions have produced or are developing television series and films based on previous Touchstone properties for Disney+ and Hulu. However, the 2018 film Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel and spin-off to Gnomeo & Juliet, was released by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer instead of Disney. Although the 2019 film Glass was rumored to be released by Touchstone outside of the United States, it was instead released under the revived Buena Vista International label. Today, Touchstone is in a similar place as Disney's other former mature label, Hollywood Pictures, existing solely as an in-name-only unit to hold the copyright of their films.



1st Logo (March 9, 1984)

Visuals: On a black/salmon gradient background is a blue ball with a yellow streak cut into it diagonally. Underneath it is the text:

T O U C H S T O N E
F I L M S

Trivia:

  • The logo was designed by Jerry Kuyper of Landor Associates.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the yellow streak isn't a thunderbolt. In ancient Rome and Greece, people needed a way to test the quality of precious metals, like gold. So as a result, jewelers would rub precious metals against a block of rough stone, called a touchstone. This would leave a fine trace of the metal's alloy on the stone's surface. By visually examining the quality of that sample, a trained eye could judge its purity. Putting this in mind, the blue ball represents the physical touchstone while the "streak" or "lightning bolt" represents the gold tracing left on the stone's surface. This video is evidence/the source.

Variant: An open matte version of this logo exists on full-screen versions.

Technique: A still, hand-painted image.

Audio: None.

Availability: Only seen on Splash.

  • Retained on TV airings and VHS and DVD prints of said film as well as on Disney+, but some late-1980s to mid-1990s issues plaster it with the early version of the 3rd logo.
  • Pre-theatrical prints and test screenings of the film have the first Walt Disney Pictures logo instead.

2nd Logo (September 28, 1984-March 22, 1985)

Visuals: The logo starts on a blue background, which then shrinks into a ball on a black background that zooms out into the upper center portion of the screen. After it takes a small dip, it heads toward the background where it flashes and turns into the ball from the 1st logo. The streak shines as the background lightens up with salmon concentric circles, which get dimmer the farther out they go. The text from before then fades in below.

Variant: On fullscreen versions of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, as that film was shot in 2.35:1, the logo is squeezed vertically to fit the standard TV aspect ratio; as a result, the circle is a vertical oval.

Technique: Traditional animation by the animation division of Walt Disney Productions, now Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Audio: A "wind-blowing" sound followed by a "chime" during the flash part of the animation. Composed by Jaime Robbie Robertson.

Audio Variant: In other cases, the logo is silent.

Availability:

  • Only known to appear on two films: Country and Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend.
  • It is also intact on their respective DVD and Blu-ray releases.

3rd Logo (August 9, 1985-October 17, 2003)

Visuals: On a black background, a blue oblong moves from the right side of the screen to the left. As it shrinks to the left of the screen, the stacked text "TOUCHSTONE PICTURES" slides next to it. After the oblong morphs into a blue ball, the text shines from right to left before hitting the ball, which flashes and glows orange, gaining the streak from the last two logos on it.

Variants:

  • For the first two years of this logo's use, "FILMS" was seen instead of "PICTURES". The "shining" of the letters is also difficult to see and the flash was bigger. This version appears on My Science Project, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Off Beat, Ruthless People, and The Color of Money.
  • The positioning of the logo varies. Earlier variants were in the middle; for the rest of the logo's run, it was on the bottom.
  • In its later years, the logo was enhanced with a motion blur effect added when the logo slides, and a slightly larger shine. This variant appears on movies like Unbreakable, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Veronica Guerin. However, some films still use the original version.
  • At the end of a French television broadcast of Six Days, Seven Nights on the Chérie 25 network, a shortened version was used (most likely as a result of time compression), which starts with the text shining and also cuts to the 2006 Buena Vista International Television logo before it fades out.
  • On the Australian VHS release of TEX, "DISTRIBUTED BY" appears below the logo.

Technique: 2D animation (sometimes 3D during the logo's later years), again done by the animation division of Walt Disney Productions.

Audio: A series of synthesized bells, ending in a "twang" when the streak appears, composed by John Debney (who also composed the 1985-2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo and the 2007-2014 ABC Studios logo).

Audio Variants:

  • On AMC's print of Shanghai Noon, the theme is low-pitched.
  • Other times, it starts off silent, and when the oblong morphs into the ball, the opening theme starts over the second half.
  • On some films, such as The Color of Money, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 3 Ninjas, and The Waterboy, the film's opening score deliberately syncs up with the logo's animation. This also sometimes applies to the closing score of a film, like Sister Act. In later years, the theme was rarely used, at a point that starting in the early 2000s, it was mainly mostly used on Spyglass Entertainment productions.
  • In other cases, it used the opening/closing theme of the movie or the logo is silent.

Availability:

  • It appears on many movies produced by the company during this time. It was first seen on My Science Project and was last seen on Shanghai Knights, but made one last surprise appearance on Veronica Guerin.
  • This logo wasn't seen at all on Gangs of New York, Jerky Boys: The Movie, and overseas theatrical prints of Face/Off, Air Force One, Starship Troopers, and Die Hard With a Vengeance (for the latter, co-producer Cinergi sold most international theatrical rights to Disney/Buena Vista).
    • However, all overseas TV, video, and streaming releases of the former three films start with the Buena Vista International logo, while Die Hard With a Vengeance (save for the European Touchstone Home Entertainment Blu-ray release which contains the Buena Vista International logo) only opens with Cinergi.
  • The Australian Special Edition DVD release of Face/Off also retains this logo at the start and end of the film.
  • It is unclear if either this logo or Buena Vista International appears on international prints of either End of Days or The Hurricane (both Beacon Pictures productions), though some European DVD releases contain the home video variant of this logo on the latter film.
  • This logo was also seen on pre-2006 prints of The Nightmare Before Christmas, though newer remastered prints have it plastered with the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo starting with the 3D re-release (though Touchstone is still listed at the end of the closing credits).
    • However, it can still be found on pre-2006 DVD and VHS releases of said film.
  • Surprisingly, it also appears at the start of the original UK VHS release of Pulp Fiction, before the Miramax Films logo.
  • A short version of this logo also appears at the end of international prints of The Rocketeer, in place of the Walt Disney Pictures logo as seen on the American release.

Legacy: One of the most well-known logos of the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to its music and animation.

4th Logo (August 2, 2002-September 2, 2016)

Visuals: On a black background, the streak from the previous logo flashes and zooms back onto a grey-blue 3D sphere. After that, the text "TOUCHSTONE PICTURES" zooms out, and a shadow is then lit up. The streak also lets out orange light flares that die down when the text settles in place.

Variants:

  • Sometimes, the logo is tinted blue.
  • Beginning in the late 2000s, the logo has a more orange tint.
  • On 4:3 prints of films, the logo is shown in open matte.

Technique: CGI by Picturemill.

Audio: The theme from the previous logo.

Audio Variants:

  • Usually, it's silent or has the film's opening theme.
  • On some films, such as Under the Tuscan Sun, the synth chord in the background and the final note are removed and a different synth note sustains itself.
  • Composer James Newton Howard wrote a theme for the logo to be specially used for Signs, played on a piano. Although it wound up unused, it was later featured in the respective film's expanded score album. It might have been created as a main theme for the logo in general, but this remains unknown. The possible theme can be heard here, and its alternate version can be heard here.

Availability:

  • Appears on all Touchstone releases starting with the debut of Signs in 2002, and ending with The Light Between Oceans in 2016.
  • Despite the logo appearing as early as 2002, the previous logo continued to be used until 2003, when this logo's use became more widespread, starting with Bringing Down the House, released on March 7.
  • It also appears at the start of DreamWorks films from I Am Number Four to The Light Between Oceans (on U.S. prints), and at the end of trailers for those films, as well as American prints of The Wind Rises.

Legacy: A well-liked CGI effort.

Copyright stamp

  • 1985-1986: Copyright © by Touchstone Films
  • 1986-2010: Copyright © by Touchstone Pictures

References

Hollywood Pictures
Touchstone Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
20th Century Studios
Searchlight Pictures
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