Finding Disney (or, feeding the beast with two ears)

Did you know that Disney is the world’s second largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue, after Comcast? (Thank you, Wikipedia. For a site that’s 72% accurate, you’re okay with me.)

I remember a time when Disney was home to saccharine kid’s movies and animated classics. I remember a time when I used to watch the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night, replaying their catalogue of old movies in two parts, once a week. There weren’t that many Disney products around at the time, aside from a glut of lunchboxes, books and viewmasters (those 3D viewer thingies with the round picture wheels – remember them? Probably not). Disney was just a struggling movie company with some interesting theme parks.

In the 90’s Disney went a bit weird (falling stock market share prices can do that to you) and started making sequels to everything they owned. Suddenly there was a glut of direct-to-video sequels to their most popular animated movies. These were inevitably lame and seemed like cash grabs by a desperate company (if you look for them on DVD shelves now you probably won’t find them – Disney has much better movies to sell you now).

 

(“Sounds like you have a problem with Disney,” says Beta Max.

“I’m getting to that,” I say, waving him away.)

 

Disney’s studio arm took off in the later part of the noughties, after good deals with Pixar and a few good movies of their own (although it was mostly on Pixar’s coat tails). From there the entertainment conglomerate acquired numerous business arms ending with the wholesale purchase of Pixar (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, etc.), Marvel (Avengers, Iron Man, etc.) and Lucasfilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc).

So what does Disney own, now? Here’s a list:

  • Walt Disney Studios (making cute, fuzzy animated and live action movies, as well as adult movies – not porn! Like, normal movies for adults)
  • Disney Music Group (no doubt cute, fuzzy music)
  • Disney Theatrical Group (cute, fuzzy ice-capades and stage shows)
  • Disney-ABC Television Group (the television network)
  • Radio Disney (umm…cute and fuzzy radio?)
  • ESPN Inc. (the cable sports network. Not so cute and fuzzy.)
  • Disney Interactive (cute and fuzzy computer games)
  • Disney Consumer Products (all those cute, fuzzy toys, and other crap)
  • Disney India Ltd. (cute, fuzzy, Bollywood blockbusters, no doubt)
  • The Muppets Studio (those cute, fuzzy puppets)
  • Pixar Animation Studios (those cute, fuzzy, ground-breaking animated movies)
  • Marvel Entertainment (those cute, fuzzy superhero comics)
  • Marvel Studios (those cute, fuzzy superhero movies and animation)
  • UTV Software Communications (more computer and ICT stuff, possibly not cute and fuzzy)
  • Lucasfilm (those not so cute, but fuzzy, Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies beloved of my youth)
  • Maker Studios (a huge YouTube content maker, not really cute and fuzzy at all)

So why does this annoy me? Because three of my favourite franchises – Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar – are now owned by a giant mouse, known for creating crap sequels. (Yes, this rant is all about a big company potentially ravaging my youth.)

Now I’ve seen the latest movies from each of those three, and they are still pretty good. This is because Disney has left them alone to do their own thing. But how long until Disney gets their fingers into each and starts stirring (that’s a horrible image, I know). It’s not that I hate Disney, I just don’t believe that one company should own so many good properties. Especially one that’s been known in the past to do some pretty silly things with their properties, all in the name of profit.

Last year Disney cracked six billion dollars profit from its movie properties alone (that’s not counting merchandising), a feat only achieved once before by Universal. This year they look set to do even more (by way of comparison, the Disney company brought in $55.6 billion gross/$15.7 billion net profit overall, last year).

Disney is sometimes accused of influencing and moulding young children into future consumers of their products. There is a saying that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And you know what they say about big ears. Yes, that’s right – “my, what big ears you have”. So I guess Disney has the biggest ears of all. (That sounds like crazy talk, I know. It must be because I’m writing this late at night and I’m a bit gaga.)

I just want my favourite movie franchises to be good. And I fear we may be feeding a beast that will one day consume the entertainment world. Monopolies are not a good thing, despite what the board game tells you.

Beware the big ears (like Big Brother, but with like, big ears. Sorry, it’s late.)

 

(Beta Max enters the kitchen, yawning. “Are you still up? Go to sleep, man.”

“I’ve finished my rant,” I say. “My work is done. Now I can rest.”

“I hope it was worth it,” says Beta Max.

“Disney makes around $30,000 per minute. I make 3 cents per minute. No, it hasn’t been worth it at all.”

“Bummer,” says Beta Max. “Just can’t win with those odds.”

“Exactly, my friend. Exactly…”)

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