Disney is a brand that is all around us. No matter if we have a home in Orlando, Florida, or western Massachusetts, the company that all started with a mouse knows how to find its way to consumers either at home on their television, in movie theaters, or in stores all over the country. Disney is a company that has the best publicists in the industry working for it. For many years, if something harmed the wholesome image of the multibillion-dollar organization, it was a new story that came and went. Just think of the few box office duds that got bad reviews here and there that the studio produced, or even a tragic situation involving an alligator outside of Magic Kingdom in Florida. All of it came out and then vanished quickly.
As this piece is being written, we are only a few days into 2024, and Disney may not be out of the woods of their rocky few years of box office failure, political turmoil, and more recently, their iconic character becoming public domain. 2024 may indeed be a trying time for a company built on being known for creating a magical feeling among those who admire the brand.
It’s hard to sit here and critique the most magical place on earth. But recently, the two theme parks in America have become crammed with crowds that keep coming even in the slow season. Thus, the busy time of the year becomes even more strenuous if you happen to find yourself at either the California- or Florida-based parks. A Disney tourist blogger writes that just a few weeks ago, on December 28th, 2023, even at the end of the day, wait times for rides had still exceeded an hour to get on. These wait times seem to have tripled since early 2020.
It also seems to be more common than not to see videos of angry customers and even physical confrontations showing up online that take place at the parks. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when the crowds shift a bit and families decide to sit out a trip down to Orlando and do something else. Maybe that helps the company a bit in an odd way; if anything, it helps the mental health of Disney cast members.
Super Hero Fatigue
It’s been covered multiple times on this website and many others. There is a vibe out there in the zeitgeist that a lot of filmgoers want an experience that alters them a bit, not spoon-feeds them what they want to hear and see. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel over a decade ago created an amazing partnership that helped the MCU take shape. But as of now, there seems to be a sense that many superhero movie lovers have now aged out of that mold. Signs of cringeworthy moments within the world of Marvel’s productions date back to summer 2022 with She-Hulk, then spilled into early 2023 with the latest Ant-Man film.
There is going to be a lot of re-tooling going forward with the brand, and it isn’t going to take 12 months to do it. Or will it? The only Marvel film hitting screens this year is the debut of Deadpool in the MCU with Deadpool 3. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Everything is Political
It’s been known in the news for many years that Florida governor and current Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has been feuding with Disney in the press and on the campaign trail. The war of words has turned into legal threats. It’s hard to tell if DeSantis is looking to take down the message Disney presents to the contemporary world, or if he just wants them out of his state in general. Florida’s non-official message since 2020 is “Where the Woke Goes to Die.” Disney, a prominent entity in the economy of the state, is a very so-called “woke” company. They have openly stated that films produced by them in the 1950s will have a disclaimer on them, basically saying, Yeah, we get it, this may be deemed kind of racist. They promote inclusiveness in their films across the board these days.
But just like politics, here is where things can get tricky. Disney, a billion-dollar company, has now become one of the main targets of many people’s opinions as just another massive corporation pandering to their consumers with their celebration of things like Pride Month and casting people of color in their live-action remakes. All of this is a message of progress that has worked out in the eyes of lovers of the brand. But many others want to know if it’s genuine or if they’re just protecting every dollar they can make. Even if they win the political tussle with DeSantis, they may still get blood on their hands, which in return can still hurt their image a bit.
Mickey Mouse is Now Public Domain
Lastly, with the news that Mickey Mouse is now in the public domain and no longer in the under hold of copyright laws, people can now freely use the image of the mouse that started it all however they want to. And thus, a slew of memes on the internet that could be deemed inappropriate by any long-time Disney lover. What also happened was a trailer was released for Mickey Mouse’s Trap. A horror comedy that was shot last year is about a killer running around in a Mickey Mouse mask, picking off victims one by one. The film’s trailer strategically hit the internet when news of the public domain of Mickey was released. Will this hurt Disney? Most likely, not. But the overall positive message Mickey carried is going to now be tarnished a bit with things like horror films, internet memes, independent animation, and who knows what the adult film industry is working on right now.
In the end, Disney is a company that has weathered many storms. They almost lost it all throughout the 1980s and bounced back in the decades that followed. Like many billion-dollar companies, you have to make people made on your way up the ladder, and maybe some of that is coming back to them. Ask anyone who’s been fired by them; they can be mad about it, but in the end, it just wasn’t the right fit, and there’s nothing they can do about that because Disney just kind of keeps going.
They’re not a company; they’re a machine that perfectly times the moments to replace the parts in it that go bad. And they are a company with core values that isn’t really doing anything wrong. Well, there is that pay rate for theme park employees thing, but again, core values. So yes, there may be troubled waters ahead for them, but never count out a company that wants to bring out the child in all of us.