Disney (NYSE:DIS) is no stranger to creating blockbuster movie franchises.
The three Toy Story movies from Pixar, for instance, raked in a combined total of more than $1.9 billion worldwide, including more than $1.06 billion from Toy Story 3 alone.
Then there's Marvel Entertainment's Iron Man franchise, which has taken in a combined total of nearly $2.2 billion to date -- and that includes more than $980 million in worldwide ticket sales from Iron Man 3 since its theatrical release less than two weeks ago. Also from Marvel, there's The Avengers, which itself took in more than $1.5 billion worldwide and has a sequel in the works.
Of course, it seems a foregone conclusion that Marvel's products will continue to deliver, and Jedi fans are looking forward to the fruits of Disney's recent acquisition of Lucasfilm with the 2015 release of Star Wars: Episode VII.
Perhaps most impressive so far, however, is the performance of the four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which managed a combined box office gross of almost $3.73 billion.
The next big thing
With that in mind, Disney CEO Robert Iger also took the time during his company's latest earnings call to remind investors that Johnny Depp will star as Tonto in The Lone Ranger this July.
In case you're wondering, Depp's involvement is no coincidence; both Pirates director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer worked on The Lone Ranger, and Bruckheimer apparently first mentioned the role to Depp way back in 2008 while working on the set of one of the earlier Pirates films.
Believe it or not, I think The Lone Ranger has what it takes to become Disney's next huge franchise.
Before you go rolling your eyes, check out the trailer and tell me it doesn't look entertaining:
That's not to say The Lone Ranger will be able to outperform The Avengers or Pirates of the Caribbean, but if it can manage to achieve even a fraction of the success of Disney's earlier films, you can be fairly sure the House of Mouse won't hesitate to deem it worthy of multiple sequels.
In fact, it looks like Disney may already be expecting that success, considering the movie's budget was rumored to have run up to nearly $250 million, including the construction of several historically authentic trains and a five-mile circular railway built exclusively for the film in the middle of the desert.
Then again, Disney doesn't always succeed in its efforts; last year's John Carter only brought $283 million in worldwide ticket sales, failing to recoup its estimated $350 million budget for production and marketing.
In the end, one would hope the folks at Disney have learned some lessons from that debacle, but only time will tell which way The Lone Ranger rides.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.