Disney has really been gathering up a head of steam over the last few decades, and it seems like you see them EVERYWHERE! From television to the movie theaters (* not to mention a load of Direct-To-DVD sequels that seem to go on forever!), to stores on every street corner selling their wares, to theme parks, to just about anything else that anyone could consider if they are a total DISNEY nut!
I found myself thinking about this a great deal over the last 48 hours (* or it could just be the two pots of coffee that I have scoffed down since 11 pm last night! Whatever!). In any case, I found myself thinking more and more about this company and what it is doing to the entertainment industry at large today. Since the early 1970's, the company had not released an animated feature for over a decade except for one (* 1982's 'The Fox and the Hound', which did fairly well), and then all of a sudden, he we get The Little Mermaid in the late 80's, and all of a sudden, Disney is back on the map after several live-action failures that were lucky that they made their money back while they were still being viewed in theaters (* in my hometown, you saw them for a buck and a half when I was a kid!). Then, they get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars the year that it releases (* Beauty and the Beast, their first since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in the 30's. It loses, of course, before I digress). Then, we get blockbuster hits like Aladdin, The Lion King, and so forth, all of them at least getting Oscar nods in a category somewhere (* such as Best Animated Film or Best Song).
Then, here comes a small company called Pixar that's brand new to the animation market that makes a little, not-too-well-accepted-at-first film called Toy Story. The movie does blockbuster sales at the box office and then follows up with A Bug's Life (* which unfortunately dies at the box office simply because Dreamworks' Antz opens on the same weekend and beats it out by a very strong margin). So, Pixar starts to really gives Disney a lot to think about in the animation game. So, what do they do? They buy out the competition! Of course, this is the nature of business, but it still seems odd to me in some ways that they swooped them up and placed them under their name in such a short span of time. Then, with Disney's backing they go on to other blockbuster hits such as Monsters, Inc, The Incredibles, Cars, Cars 2, and so on. Yet, Disney starts producing their own materials around the same time (* ie Meet the Robinsons, Planes, Bolt,Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog, etc.), and Pixar is still dominating the market despite the fact that they have mereged with the age-old family favorite, it looks like Disney is the underappreciated student in the classroom that still tries to show that they're better and will do anything that it can to make sure that they are noticed. Pure and simple, they will create and produce anything and everything to make sure that they get noticed!
Case in point, now that Pixar is out of the way, they decide to buy the ABC network, one of the most popular family-oriented networks on the airwaves and the second most prestigious network of all time (* next to CBS currently, with their #1 top-rated and top-watched show NCIS), and merge that network with their company and then also take over ABC Family on cable as well. They televise such things as Live with Kelly and Michael, The View, Switched at Birth, How to Get Away With Murder, and so on. (* The whole thing when Micheal Eisner was CEO and funded Touchstone Pictures' questionable film, Blaze, still amazes me to this day). So, now we have a major network out of the way and on the payroll, along with their other subsidiaries, which is only going to boost their sales and income that much more.
Step Three: You buy the most popular comic-book franchise on the planet and place them under your company, as well. Avi Arad and Stan Lee, WHAT WERE YOU GUYS THINKING? Now, whenever we turn on our televisions, we get to see such shows as Avengers Assemble, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Ultimate Spider Man and Ultimate Spider Man: Web Warriors on Disney XD and Disney XD On Demand. Our most tried-and-true heroes have now been taken from the pure action format to stories with a strong moral core that almost would look preachy to the many comic-book fanatics and hardcore comic lore followers today. I will admit that it's good to see in some ways, but when every show that they produce tells kids to 'just say no to drugs', 'do your homework', and 'always look out for your bros' makes me want to flip the channel and watch an old Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode from the 90's. Sorry, Disney, but this was the first step in going a little too far as far as this contributor is concerned! At least they didn't destroy the big-screen adaptations!
You convince George Lucas to sell his first child and give him a bankload of money for it. Now, the last that I had heard, he had done it due to age and wanted to be able to spend some much-needed time with his family. All fine and good, but we're talking about one of the most recognized science fiction franchises of all time! While George may not have wanted to worry about it anymore, I am sure the fans are chomping at the bit! It's bad enough that we are going to have to wait for the new set of films for a few extra years, and I also find out from fellow contributors that I follow (* thanks to all of you forkeeping up on this!), that the plans on the new movies have changed and it's not going to be the same. This alone will be bad enough, as the prequels did good, but there are so many die-hards that stick to the original trilogy that it didn't do quite as wella s everyone had hoped. That was like my anticipation or the new Hobbit movies being so great that when I finally did see them, to me it fell short greatly compared to the original Lord of the Rings. So, now that we have Disney at the helm of the giant Imperial Star Destroyer , I am just waiting to see what can of worms they have cooked up. Knowing Disney, as to not offend 'the faint of heart', will more than likely turn the Millenium Falcon into a rubber duckie and Chewbacca will be at the helm with white fur and a receding hairline!
You take a childhood memory, and you make it RAP on preview commercials to make it accesible to today's kids. ABC missed the boat back when the first show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was created back in 1965 because they had deemed the show 'too controversial' due to its 'strong religious content'. So, CBS bought it instead and had Coke as a sponsor. No big deal, right? Now, Disney owns all exclusive rights to the beloved Peanuts gang for heaven knows how long and they can do what they want with it. This to me was the ulitmate slap in the face no one saw coming. But, as I said previously, it's the way of business.
You get your hands on a little green frog named Kermit and all of his friends and micro-manage the company because the daughter and son of their creator have almost dragged the company under by trying too many new and different ideas (*ie Kermit's Swamp Years, MirrorMask, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppet Wizard of Oz, ABC's short-lived series Muppets Tonight!) that just were not adding up. Jim Henson had always known risks, and he wasn't afraid to take them. Where he was different was that his risks at least paid off (* such as with the success of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth). But the son, unfortunately just could not seem to deliver on the father's vision. So, here comes Disney, basically says 'you suck and your father would be rolling over in his grave if he could see you now' attitude and throws the kids out and takes over. Now, while our favorite puppet friends are still trying to reach today's young audiences, Disney is still hard at the helm of their ship as well, making sure that they have more creative input on what they do rather than the people who have actually worked for Jim Henson Productions for years. Well, there's always the Christmas party with Lady Gaga, Lipton Tea, Bounty, Pizza Hut, and Target commercials, right?
So, as the reader can see, Disney has its hands in more pots than a crooked politician before election day. I think about a particular former Disney animator (* ahem, Don Bluth), who met with great success on his own with Don Bluth Productions up until his death. We're talking hits like American Tail, The Land Before Time, Rock-A-Doodle, Thumbelina, and even his diveregent science fiction animated action film, Titan AE. Being formerly a Disney alumni, he took his gift elsewhere and produced hit after hit after hit while he was alive.
So, to sum this all up, let's do a little recap, shall we?:
1) Disney owns nearly six major franchises under its belt, which could almost be mistaken as a monopoly on the market in a Bill Gates-style scenario as what we saw with Microsoft.
2) These corporate raids are reminiscent of any business deals today and are getting more and more common every day. Look at the case of WWE owner, Vince McMahon, who bought and sold WCW and ECW so many years ago from his children who were co-owners of both franchises. It makes me wonder if they might have asked him about his blueprint for that action and took some suggestions.
3) Disney is only buying because they are acting like the big bully on the block who goes into the toy store with a wad of cash and buys every expensive toy on the shelf without thought and abandon. With new animation studios coming into the fold that become major competition (* ie Laika Prodictions, Dreamworks, Sony Animation, Warner Bros, and so forth), it gives the impression that Disney is getting backed into a corner and now in order to solify at being the king of the hill, they have to go out and buy the biggest and the best. Can anyone say Ted Turner and Boomerang?
To close, I would like you to leave you with a parting thought. Say you're with your family and you want to get a great family movie for you all to enjoy. You go to the Family Film section of your local Wal-Mart, Target, or Sam's Club, and take a look at the offerings. As you look, you see a few that you may want to try, but you're skeptical, as for some reason, that Scooby Doo disk that you want to get for your kid has the Disney logo stamped on it. You look further, and just about everything has the same logo no matter what you actually decide on. It's like going into somewhere like Mc Donald's, and all you can get is the same old boring cheeseburger that they always offer, day in and day out.
Animation and family entertainment is by far, not an easy industry, and everyone is vying for that one spot that's left on the bus. Disney has already proven how far they are willing to go to get that spot. It makes me ask the question: Who is going to do it next?
That, and if I see another DVD on the shelf about a group of talking Golden Lab puppies out to try to save Christams or launch themselves into space again, I am sincerely going to HURL!