Once upon a time, the Walt Disney Company was a beacon of imagination, creativity and marketability. They took some of the most terrifying stories ever written, often credited to the Brothers Grimm, and gave the princess the fairy tale ending she didn’t get in those original stories. This was the surefire way to success that the company built itself upon and would continue to do for decades to come, winning the hearts of millions of fans around the world.
Most recently though, something has changed at Disney and I can’t help but feel angry and let down by the company, which holds a large monopoly over the box office in Hollywood thanks to it’s $4.26 billion acquisition of Marvel, the $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm and the megamerger of the Mousehouse and 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. Disney has been dominating the box office because of this, with CNBC projecting the company could earn $9 billion before The Lion King was even released. That remake would go on to be the fourth film to earn a billion bucks at the box office for Disney, notes CNN, with the Disney live-action remakes earning the company $7 billion since 2010. Toy Story 4 would go on to become the fifth film in 2019 to earn a billion dollars for Disney.
So things are going pretty well for Disney in the grand scheme of things, despite losing $170 million from Dark Phoenix’s dismal performance earlier this year. A report online states that Disney may have intentionally sunk the feature, as they fired the Dark Phoenix marketing team after the merger, cutting around $50 million in marketing fees. They likely felt the movie was destined to fail and didn’t want to lose more money on it, but is this a sign of things to come? Will Disney start abandoning movies they didn’t directly produce in order to save more money? As if things weren’t bad enough, it seems that Disney isn’t impressed with The New Mutants, the hysterically delayed movie that wowed fans with its edgy trailer back in 2017. There have been issues about the tone and rating of the film not sitting well with the Mousehouse. But it was that event that seems to have caused a chain reaction on a company that may have already begun venturing down a new path. That path, however, is one lined with the promised of success and profit-at the expense of originality and chances.
After that shareholders call, Bob Iger, CEO at Disney, revealed that the company will be restrategizing how they’re going forward with the Fox properties they inherited. Unless the film was already well into production or about to be released, those projects have all been cancelled in favour of brand recognition. Disney/Fox will now be doubling down on Planet of the Apes, Avatar and bringing the X-Men and Fantastic Four to the MCU-so expect yet another X-Men reboot in the coming years. In case you missed it, Fox and James Cameron are shooting four Avatar sequels at the same time and personally, I do not think the film warrants it. Iger, on the other hand, gave a “public hanging” one producer stated due to the less than stellar results Fox turned in last quarter.
Even more bizarrely was the recent comments a Disney exec made concerning Taika Watiti’s upcoming satirical film, Jojo Rabbit, was just not brand enough for Disney, fearing it would alienate its audiences. The film, directed and starring Watiti, is about a young boy who’s imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. After seeing a cut of the film, a Variety reported commented this:
“Halfway through one recent viewing one executive grew audibly uncomfortable, worrying aloud that the material would alienate Disney fans.”
Seeing as how Waititi is a big earner for Disney now through his megahit Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder under their Marvel banner, they’re worried that being associated with a film with Nazis in it-even if it’s done in satire-will hurt their image. It’s literally the Aquaman/Pablo Escobar argument from the third season of Entourage.
It’s this kind of attitude that has me worried about the future of this company. Disney, for the longest time, was a company known for its children films and how timeless many of its classics are. They’ve entered into more action blockbuster films, taking on the PG-13 rating with their adaptation of Pirates of the Carribean, but everything was always fun and accessible. Now, they are the custodians of a secondary studio, one that is known for producing R-Rated and award-winning material. Disney seems to be more concerned with axeing creativity and experimentation at this point in time in favour of earning more money.
To be fair, not all of Disney’s own material is remakes or sequels in the future. We can expect the delayed Artemis Fowl in 2020, along with the Bryan Cranston led film The One and Only Ivan and Pixar’s Onwards. But we can also expect a lot of sequels and remakes, let’s be real. Maleficent 2 and Frozen 2 are hitting the big screen this year and Lady and the Tramp will launch on Disney+, where we’ll eventually find the Monsters Inc TV show. Next year has Mulan and a Cruella DeVille movie and there’s already talks of a sequel to Aladdin. So while Disney does have some original content coming out, a good chunk of it is material we’re familiar with; stuff the company knows we’ll pay for. With Disney+ launching in November at the cheap price of 6.99 a month in the US, they’re likely hoping for lots of consumers to be paying for what they’re offering. But will people continue to pay for things they’ve already seen?
I hope that Disney allows Fox to continue to create new material and allow for more R-Rated content to be developed. Fans won’t be alienated or upset about a director or an actor going from family-friendly to mature. An actor and director’s job is to bring a story to life but confining that story to a certain image is a form of censorship and that worries me. Disney used to be a beacon of imagination, creativity and wonder. Now, they’re a castle of familiarity that feels like its sights are solely set on making huge bank, as opposed to pushing boundaries and trying something new. They want to be safe. So far, safe seems to be paying and until it doesn’t, I don’t expect much to change. But in order to grow, they’ll need to start developing new franchises and take new chances-especially when it comes to their Fox properties and they can’t run Fox the same way they run Disney, at least when it comes to material that isn’t’ designed to be a franchise. I want more movies like the upcoming Ford vs Ferrari, and don’t want Disney to stop making movies like that because they’re worried about their profit margin or if their director is making an R-Rated movie.
But what about you? Are you worried about Disney’s recent business choices or are you happy with the direction the company is going? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out our contributor’s thoughts on DOOM‘s 2016 reboot and our interview with our Artist of the Month, Mizuri!