Super Tom is majestic in Saving Mr Banks, but Emma is ferocious!

The odd couple: Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney while Emma Thompson plays Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in Disney's Saving Mr Banks
The 1964 hit musical Mary Poppins was the last major project of Walt Disney’s illustrious film-making career before he died in 1966, and Saving Mr Banks explains why it was also the most headache-inducing, and indeed why he was lucky to live to see it.

Disney’s daughters were smitten by the original Mary Poppins book, and he promised them he would bring the story to the big screen. However, he hadn’t reckoned on the fierce resistance of the magical nanny’s creator, P. L. Travers.

She felt appalled at the idea of Disney sentimentalising — or worse, animating — her tales of Edwardian London, and resisted his overtures for years, until finally, grudgingly, and purely because she needed the money, she consented.

But even then she was supremely unaccommodating, despite his obvious enthusiasm for her work. Here was an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, and there is a rather neat symmetry in the way this story, too, is sentimentalised in John Lee Hancock’s beguiling film. 

Significantly, just like Mary Poppins, Saving Mr Banks was made for the Disney Corporation. So who else to play Disney to Emma Thompson’s Travers but Hollywood’s twinkliest star Tom Hanks? And how else to play him but as winningly affable and avuncular?  

In reality, the man who liked to be known as ‘Uncle Walt’ was as stubborn and irascible as Travers, and after some bad-tempered encounters in Los Angeles, he left his two brilliant songwriters, the Sherman brothers, to deal with her. She had promised to co-operate in return for full creative input, but her idea of co-operation didn’t tally with Disney’s.

Cleverly, at the end of the final credits, Hancock plays some of the original tape recordings from the first, painful story meeting, marrying fact with semi-fiction.

For the truth is that as soon as that meeting was over, Disney told the Shermans he was off to his house in Palm Springs and would be back when she’d gone.
    She, in turn, hated the finished movie. She is said to have stormed up to Disney at the premiere insisting the animation sequence would have to go. ‘Pamela, that ship has sailed,’ he replied brusquely, and turned tail.

    Here, all that unresolved animosity is sweetened with more than a spoonful of sugar — the contents of an entire Tate & Lyle factory, more like.

    Yes, Thompson plays Travers as an icy grande dame, at first as imperious and condescending as that other Mrs T in her pomp. But as with all fictional or fictionalised grandes dames from Lady Bracknell to the Dowager Countess of Grantham, snobbery is a great source of comedy.

    Screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith take full advantage, and so does Thompson, wincing beautifully when Dick Van Dyke, slated to play Bert the chimney sweep, is described as ‘one of the greats’.

    ‘Olivier is one of the greats,’ counters Travers, ‘Burton, Guinness . . .’ Slowly, however, she warms to Disney’s ideas and folksy charm. And it is this warming process that supplies the film’s most moving passages.

    There is a lovely, tear-jerking scene in the rehearsal room in which Travers, having resisted the idea of any music at all, is swept up by the sheer joy of Let’s Go Fly A Kite (although not without pointing out that it should, grammatically, be Let’s Go And Fly A Kite).

    Insight: Saving Mr Banks shows why turning Mary Poppins into a film was one of Walt Disney's most headache-inducing projects
    Despite further and seemingly intractable artistic differences, largely caused by dancing cartoon penguins, Disney finally wins her signature by explaining that he felt as proprietorial about Mickey Mouse as she feels about Mary Poppins.

    He also proves as canny a psychologist as he is an impresario, gently suggesting that he has been enduringly influenced by a complex father just as she has. Recognising some kind of kinship, she duly signs over the rights. There is no sense that she might go through the rest of her long life bitterly regretting having done so, although that is what really happened.
    No matter. Saving Mr Banks might not be entirely accurate, but it is wholly engaging. 

    Thompson is marvellous, as is Hanks, and the lesser roles are beautifully cast, too. B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are splendid as the Shermans, and Bradley Whitford nicely nonplussed as the Mary Poppins screenwriter Don DaGradi.

    And although the cheerful Disney driver assigned to Travers is there mainly as a device, her froideur gradually melting on the back seat of his limo, the excellent Paul Giamatti makes him sweetly believable.

    The riskiest element of the film is the use of repeated flashbacks to Travers’s rural Australian childhood to explain how her stories originated, but Hancock handles this deftly.

    We don’t learn how a Queensland country girl grew up to become such an ineffably superior Englishwoman, but we do learn that she was born Helen Goff, and that Travers was the first name of her loving and indulgent but thoroughly feckless father (Colin Farrell).

    Alcoholism killed him, but not before his wife’s sister (Rachel Griffiths) turned up to look after the children and, if possible, to rescue their father. Hence the film’s title.

    It is shrewd old Uncle Walt, naturally, who realises that Travers was driven by the ghosts of her past, and that Mary Poppins arrives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane not to save Jane and Michael, but Mr Banks.


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    Pixar Storyteller and Filmmaker Elaborates on Pixar's 22 Rules of Story


    After Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling in 2011, quite a few people have riffed off of those rules. In the case of Stephan Vladimir Bugaj, a Pixar employee of 12 years, he's decided to elaborate on them.  
    Bugaj has an ebook with an elaboration of each of the 22 rules of storytelling on his site... and it's free to download! (Bugaj is retaining copyright, so when you pass it along to friends, make sure you send along the whole thing.)  With permission from Bugaj, we're reprinting his explanation of Rule #3 below. Download Bugaj's guide to the 22 rules of storytelling here, and check out his personal website here
    Note: This free eBook is not a Pixar product, nor is it endorsed by the studio or its parent company.
    Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite. 
    I wholeheartedly agree that writers should write all the way to the end and then rewrite. In fact, I’d recommend doing that more than once. As the common aphorism “all writing is rewriting” points out, that’s the only way to really find your story. 
    But as for not seeing what the story is actually about (its theme) until you’re at the end of it — I take the opposite tack. I don’t think you should even start the story until you know what the end is, therefore what it’s about. 
    “What it’s about” will likely change during the course of writing a draft, but it’s too common to meander and write yourself into corners when trying to get to an unspecified ending. 
    So if you don’t know how your story ends when you start writing, be prepared to pay a lot extra to get there. 
    It’s like any journey you start without knowing where you’re going: it may be exhilarating and full of possibilities, the detours and pit-stops may be an adventure, and the end result may be fantastic — but it’s not efficient, and there’s a very real possibility you’ll get hopelessly lost and simply give up along the way. 
    Starting at the end when creating your outline (or treatment, or mental map) will make your life a lot easier. 
    And don’t worry that starting with a solid idea of where you’re going will stifle your creativity and take all the joy and inspiration out of the journey. It won’t. 
    For one thing, until you’ve actually written at least one draft everything is still just preliminary, theoretical. 
    While you’re writing towards an ending you’ve already come up with, you may suddenly find that the story is telling you to go elsewhere. 
    That can happen even when you know where you’re going because knowing where you’re going is not a barrier to inspiration, rather it makes room for more inspiration because there’s no need to be constantly “figuring it out” at every turn. So when this sort of inspiration strikes, stop and take the time to rework your ending, and the map to get there, before continuing. You can always go back to the old map if needed. 
    Even after you’ve done all that, you are likely to reach the (potentially shifting) ending only to discover that in getting there you’ve got a whole new or clearer idea of what the story is actually about, and therefore about how everything you just wrote should change. 
    That’s why people say all those things like: “writers write” and “all writing is rewriting” and “stories are never finished, they’re just abandoned” and “holy @#%! writing is difficult -- I thought you just typed-in every idea you have as you have them and then people love you and throw money at you”. 
    So, ultimately, what this advice is trying to tell us is don’t get bogged down in theoretical analysis of theme in lieu of actually writing the story. 
    This is an especially damning temptation for screenwriters because screenplays are very structured and formal, and there is a glut of gurus out there who peddle very mechanical, theory-based approaches to storytelling. 
    Those prescriptive methodologies can be great if you find one that actually works the same way your own mind works, but even so formal exercises about finding your theme (or character, beats, or anything else) will only ever take you so far. 
    After all the end product is the actual writing, not any of the notes, outlines or worksheets produced along the way. 
    Belaboring how each scene reflects theme and trying to perfect it is wasting time, especially in the first draft when you’ve not yet written through the piece at least once and thereby given yourself a firmer idea of what your story is actually all about. Once you’ve written at least one draft you can start to “perfect” all those beats, through-lines, and setup/payoff moments in rewrites. 
    Ultimately, storytelling is about feeling, and even once you find your theme and refine your story structure you still need to make your audience feel it. 
    So whatever methodology you may prefer for finding theme and structure, make sure that for each draft you also set all the formalities aside do a pass where you focus solely on emotion and entertainment.
    Stephan Vladimir Bugaj is a writer/filmmaker who most recently spent two years story codeveloping and co-writing the first drafts of an as-yet-unannounced Pixar animated feature, a family friendly action drama. This role was the result of mentoring with various Pixar heads of story and directors starting in 2004.
    His 12 years of experience at Pixar Animation Studios in various production roles have also given him extensive expertise in most aspects of feature production, from concept development through production.
    On the live action side, he currently has features in development with three European independent producers, and have written and directed several low/no-budget short films.
    Check out his website here.

    The Story Behind Saving Mr. Banks, Starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

    Stacy Conradt

    When Walt Disney’s daughters were young, they loved a little book about a magical (and slightly sadistic) nanny named Mary Poppins. He promised them that he would someday make a movie out of the series, and 20 years later, he delivered. But it was no easy task, which is what the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks is about.

    It took Disney—Walt himself, not a bunch of execs with money-stuffed briefcases—16 years of wheedling, convincing, and coaxing before author P.L. Travers would agree to let him make a movie. She believed that Disney would make Mary Poppins a twinkling, rosy-cheeked delight—and to an extent, she was right. Disney did give her script approval, but no doubt later regretted it, since script approval proved to be an extremely painful process. Every little word, every tiny detail, seemed to be a point of contention.
    After they finally came to terms on a script and the movie was filmed, Travers screened it and then asked Walt, “When do we start cutting it?” Disney shook his head and explained that she had script approval—not film editing rights—and refused to change a thing. Travers was furious.
    Since Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney production, of course, I’m guessing that the movie will end with P.L. Travers and Disney agreeing to disagree goodnaturedly. But nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the picture above of Ms. Travers smiling with Walt and Julie Andrews at the movie premiere, she was actually miserable. She cried when it was over, feeling her characters and ideas had been butchered.
    Mary Poppins, Travers said, was “already beloved for what she was—plain, vain and incorruptible—(and now) transmogrified into a soubrette. ... And how was it that Mary Poppins herself, the image of propriety, came to dance a can-can on the roof-top displaying all her underwear? A child wrote, after seeing the film, ‘I think Mary Poppins behaved in a very indecorous manner.’ Indecorous indeed!” Other things Travers hated:
    - The animated horse and pig.
    - “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
    - The idea that Mary Poppins would have a romance with anyone so commonplace as a chimneysweep.
    - Turning Mrs. Banks into a suffragette.
    - The idea that Mrs. Banks should be named Cynthia instead of Winifred (Cynthia was considered "unlucky, cold and sexless"). Though Travers did win that battle.
    - The Banks house. It was too grand.
    - The servants. Too common.
    - American words and phrases like “outing,” “freshen up,” and “on schedule.”
    - Dick Van Dyke.
    She swore that as long as she was alive, Disney would never defile her beloved Mary Poppins again. And she stuck to her guns, even in death: Travers' last will and testament stated specifically that if a stage musical was to be made, the Sherman Brothers could not be involved, only English-born writers could be used—no Americans—and absolutely no one from the original film production was to be involved.
    Based on her anger at Disney even more than 30 years after the release of the movie, I get the feeling that Saving Mr. Banks romanticizes the Walt Disney-P.L. Travers relationship a lot. I'm guessing that if Ms. Travers were still around, she would be as happy about this film as she was about Mary Poppins.
    That being said, you bet I’m going to shell out $9.25 to watch Tom Hanks do his best Walt Disney impression come December.
    Read the full text here: 
    --brought to you by mental_floss!

    ‘Frozen’ Is the Best Disney Film Since ‘The Lion King’

    By Kevin Fallon
    Frozen confirms that the House of Mouse is capable of melting hearts again.

    There's a special place in the heart reserved for wisecracking candlesticks, singing crustaceans, and lion cubs growing up to be mighty kings. It's a place where nostalgia is kept, where a warm feeling swells at the thought of things that we used to love, that used to be great.

    For the better part of this new century, Disney's animated features resided there.

    With a string of brilliant animated musicals in the late '80s and '90s—The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King—the House of Mouse reigned, with hit after hit of family-friendly cartoons that dominated the box office, dazzled critics, and warmed cold hearts with signature Disney magic and catchy tunes. The Magic Kingdom was overthrown in the new millennium, with Pixar delivering its own brand of reliably wholesome and reliably brilliant films—Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, Wall-E—while Disney struggled to adapt its magic to a new tech-savvy age.

    Not anymore.

    Frozen, which hits theaters Wednesday, is the best Disney film since The Lion King, and a powerful reminder of how astonishing the company's magic can really be. This is also, as it happens, the third consecutive year that Disney's big animated release is better than Pixar's. The knee-jerk reaction to such a thing would be to call Disney the new Pixar. But the more accurate coronation is that Disney is the new Disney.
    Frozen pulls off its animated abracadabra by conjuring up the elements that made Disney's modern classics just that. It's about two sister princesses—this is Disney, did you really expect anything else?—in the Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle whose relationship is tested when their parents die in a tragic accident—again, this is Disney, did you really expect anything else? Mostly, though, it's about the transformative powers of true love, of both the sisterly and romantic kind. This is Disney, and we don't want to expect anything else.

    Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell as an adult) and Elsa (Idina Menzel as an adult) are inseparable as little girls. They adore spending time with each other, especially when Elsa uses her secret power to make it snow inside the castle. As must be learned, great power comes with great responsibility. Elsa's lesson comes when she nearly kills Anna while casting a chilly spell. Anna is fine—a wise (and adorable) old troll erases her memory of the incident. But in Elsa's eyes, great responsibility means Rapunzel-ing herself in her castle bedroom, where her powers can't hurt anyone else.

    But she does hurt Anna, every day, as her heart breaks at the transformation of her fun-loving best friend into a mysterious recluse. The dissolution of their relationship plays out in the achingly poignant duet "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" sung by the girls from opposite sides of locked doors as the years pass and they grow into lonely adults. (This is where we see their parents die.) The sequence evokes the masterful montage from the beginning of Pixar's Up, but made perhaps even more wrenching by the essentially Disney element of song.

    When Elsa comes of age, a ball is held to celebrate her becoming queen, the first time the people of Arendelle are allowed within the castle's walls since the death of her parents. Anna, spunky and cute with a tiara on her head and heart on her sleeve, delights in the company of others, including a prince she believes is her true love, and needles Elsa to allow it to happen more often, unable to understand why she won't. Frustrated at not being able to give Anna the happiness she wants, Elsa loses control of her powers, accidentally turning the entire kingdom into a frozen wasteland and outing herself as a magical freak.

    She exiles herself to the mountains, and Anna chases after her, desperate to have her sister—and a warm kingdom—back.

    From the fall of the first snowflake, Frozen is gorgeously animated, turning a dramatic Nordic landscape into a wintry animated wonderland. It's icing on the, well, ice that the film's story is as emotionally cascading as the setting.

    With Anna, you have a female protagonist who is exceptionally female-positive. She's a princess, but she's a clumsy tomboy. She's beautiful, but she's headstrong. She's obsessed with falling in love—her meet-cute with Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) is as precious as their silly-and-lovely duet "Love Is an Open Door"—but learns that love isn't something that can be whipped out of thin air, like Elsa's snowflake, and that stories don’t always end with Happily Ever After, even if you are a princess. She's a multi-faceted, rich lead character, owed both to writer Jennifer Lee's scripting and Kristen Bell's perfectly precocious, zippy voice performance.

    With Elsa, you get an adversary with much more nuance than anyone would expect. Though she's the one who buried her kingdom in snow and the one responsible for Anna's life-long loneliness, she's never the antagonist. It's fitting that Menzel voices the character, as the "how she got this way" insight given to Elsa is as empathetic and heartbreaking as the backstory in Wicked—Menzel starred as the Wicked Witch of the West, another not-quite-a-villain, in the Broadway production. Frozen's most rousing song, "Let It Go," is actually Elsa's, not Anna's, an empowerment ballad about Elsa deciding she's no longer going to be afraid of her powers. Menzel belts it out like an vocal blizzard.

    Most animated films have you rooting for the guy and the girl to get together. By adding unexpected dimension to Elsa, this one has you more invested in the reunion of these sisters.

    There's a flurry of other things to cherish about Frozen. Josh Gad turns talking snowman Olaf into a comedic sidekick that ranks alongside the Genie and Lumiere in Disney’s rich history of scene-stealers. Jonathan Groff turns a hapless mountaineer who talks to his pet reindeer into a swashbuckling Prince Charming. And while the ending might be written on the wall from the get go—again, this is a Disney movie!—the journey there careens in unexpected and satisfying ways. The original music is from husband-and-wife team Robert and Kristin Anderson-Lopez. Robert is the Tony-winning genius behind the music of The Book of Mormon, which explains the sly wit (Olaf's denial fantasy "In Summer" is particularly inspired) and appealing Broadway bombast of the songs.

    All of this works together to make Frozen the most Disney-feeling film in over a decade, the crescendo of what's been an exciting build over the past few years. The Princess and the Frog was a welcome return to classic animation from the studio, but stayed perhaps too closely to its mission of reviving classic animation. While magical, it never felt special. Tangled confirmed that Disney Animation could compete with Pixar, but the plot was a bit knotty and the songs completely unmemorable. Last year's Wreck-It Ralph was a brilliantly conceived take on blurred lines between "good guys" and "bad guys" and executed with ample intelligence and sass, but it didn't feel Disney the way that Frozen does.

    Disney getting its mojo back would be something to celebrate at any point; mojo by its definition is a great thing, and Disney's was particularly groovy. But it's especially welcome at a point when Pixar seems to be losing its own. For years, Pixar was this quirky little oasis of family film, where heart and humor were equally important and stories that should never work on film were turned into the best films. But following the stunning Toy Story 3 in 2010, the studio's been on an off streak, with the lazy Cars 2, the imperfect Brave, and the uninspired Monsters University.

    It's as if the studios have reversed roles, with Pixar mired in sequelitis and write-by-number scripts while Disney gambles on out-of-the box story ideas (Wreck-It Ralph) and nostalgia (Frozen). There's no vindication in this, of course. The sooner Pixar gets back to making great movies again, the better. But if Pixar's going to slump, it's comforting that Disney is back to its old tricks.

    The wise words in Frozen are that "Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart." Frozen proves that Disney we loved is, indeed, back…and back to melting hearts.

    Kevin Fallon The Dailey Beast

    ‘Thor’ franchise at the forefront

    ‘Thor 2 — The Dark World’ earns worldwide total of $482,406,753 

    * Surpasses predecessor within 19 days of release

    By Saira Agha

    Thor has got the power! The sequel to 2011’s comic hero blockbuster ‘Thor’ “concludes”, or hardly does, leaving the audience with an obvious guess ‘Thor 3’ is in pre production. Alan Taylor-directed film, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Rene Russo among others, 

    released on November 8 in the US and has just the Pakistani screens.

    Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ‘Thor 2 – The Dark World’ is the eighth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Making a worldwide box office record at $482,406,753, the franchise is an international hit, striking a chord with audiences of all ages.

    Opening to a packed audience on its inception launch at Super Cinema, Royal Palm Golf & Country Club, Lahore on Wednesday; an event, which was organised by UFone Uth Pack in collaboration with Summit Entertainment, with the event management and PR handled by Verve Events; the super hero sequel proves to be a hit already. “I’m very excited to be a part of all these Hollywood blockbusters. Verve has always thrived to bring in some form or the other, the experience of the movie to the guests. And with this specific one, we brought Thor’s hammer to life for people to pose with”, Verve Event Management Creative Director Imtisal Zafar said while talking to Daily Times at the event. The sci-fi movie experience was indeed brought to life with a depiction of the super hero’s prized weapon – the hammer. People were seen posing with it and having their photographs taken at the very fun event.

    ‘Thor 2 – The Dark World’ has a plot, which is engaging, graphics, which are perfectly suited for a 3D experience, a script that is powerful, sometimes hilarious with its humour quotient and sometimes daunting with its complementing dark theme, a cast that repeats the roles it essayed with the prequel, a climax, which is a treat to watch and lastly the ending that is very chilling indeed.

    In the sequel, Thor’s ladylove, scientist Dr Jane Foster finds herself embroiled in Thor’s kingdom in Asgard. But before that, Foster’s intern, Darcy Lewis, now with her own intern, Ian, takes Jane to an abandoned factory where objects have begun to disobey the laws of physics and disappear into thin air. Separating from the group, Jane is teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether. The Asgardians learn that the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, is imminent; as the event approaches, portals linking the worlds appear at random. Heimdall alerts Thor of Jane’s recent disappearance, leading Thor to search for her. When she inadvertently releases an unearthly force, he takes her to Asgard. There, Asgardian healers say they do not know how to treat her. Odin, recognising the Aether, warns Jane’s infection will kill her given enough time, and that the Aether’s return heralds a catastrophic prophecy. Malekith, awakened by the Aether’s release, turns Algrim into a Kursed and attacks Asgard. During the battle, Malekith and Algrim search for Jane, knowing she contains the Aether. A war begins of quest, greed and power and ultimately results in a climax too gripping, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seats.

    For those of you who loved the prequel, ‘Thor 2 – The Dark World’ would in no way disappoint you. I personally found it more enthralling than the previous. Even those who were not much of ‘Thor’ fans, the sequel will change your minds most definitely.

    The cast does its best with Tom Hiddleston shining out for many. He has my vote as the best undercover villain essayed this year. Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Hopkins are at their talent best. However, Natalie Portman fails to keep up with to Oscar-repute, often being unengaged and out of character along with being very unconvincing as the lovestruck scientist AKA damsel in distress. Brian Tyler with music is hands on genius.

    The film, which is now doing its rounds all over Pakistan too, had its Islamabad premiere on November 20, by the very enterprising Babar Sheikh of Tiger Entertainment, also attended by the who’s who of the entertainment industry.

    NBC’s Leno, Fallon Off to Best Ratings Starts in Five Years

    'Tonight Show' is beating CBS' 'Late Show' by 51% in 18-49 demo this fall; Kimmel boosts ABC

    NBC continues to be the most popular latenight choice of Americans, withJay Leno, who’s set to exit “The Tonight Show” in just a couple of months, and Jimmy Fallon, the man who will replace him, both off to their best ratings starts in five years.
    The Peacock latenight hosts have opened up considerable distance on their CBS competition and also had no problem topping ABC’s revamped lineup, which has had “Jimmy Kimmel Live” leading into “Nightline” since January.
    Leno saw a boost in his final months the first time he was ready to ankle “Tonight” in 2009, but it must be encouraging for NBC to see his replacement come on so strong this fall. In fact, Fallon is now outdrawing David Letterman’s CBS show in young adults even though the latter starts an hour earlier.
    Looking at the numbers for the first eight weeks of the television season (Sept. 23-Nov. 17), “Tonight” is the clear leader in the three-network weeknight battle at 11:35. Its average adults 18-49 audience of 1.11 million — a three-year high — is up 12% from last year at this time and comfortably ahead of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (919,000, up 37% from his year-ago average when it started 25 minutes later); ABC’s lineup is seeing slight overall gains from last year in 18-49, even though “Nightline” remains down sharply in its new, later time.
    CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” continues to struggle, with its 18-49 audience (736,000) down 20% from last year. As a result, the “Tonight Show” advantage over “Late Show” has swelled to 51% after standing at just 7% at this time a year ago.
    In total viewers, “Tonight Show” is leading with 3.69 million — up 9% from last year and its best start to a season since the fall of 2008 — and is followed by “Late Show” (2.94 million, down 5%) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (2.60 million, up 36% from last year). Letterman is up 3% from last year in adults 50-plus, underscoring the fact that his audience is aging.
    “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” is averaging 1.93 million viewers at 12:35 a.m., up 19% from last year for a five-year high and ahead of ABC’s “Nightline” (1.66 million, down 57% from last year when it aired earlier) and CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (1.47 million, down 4%).
    In 18-49, “Fallon” is up 24% (799,000 vs. 646,000), opening up a wider advantage over “Late Late Show” (480,000, down 16%).
    Fallon has exhibited broad growth this fall, with gains of 20% or more in most categories and his biggest spike coming among men 35-49 (up 32%). His “Late Night” median age of 52.3 also figures to position him well opposite Kimmel (53.9 median age) and Letterman (59.1) when the three face off starting Feb. 24.
    At 1:35 a.m., NBC is also doing well with “Last Call with Carson Daly,” which is up 21% in 18-49 viewers (443,000 vs. 366,000) and up 13% in total viewers (989,000 vs. 874,000).