Disney’s Biggest Rival Will Now Start Focusing on Millennials

in Disney, Movies & TV

Live-action 'Little Mermaid' shot

Credit: Disney

Someone else is aiming for a tried and true strategy.

Josh Gad (left) and Luke Evans (right) in Beauty and the Beast
Credit: Disney

Related: “It’s Not About Disney Anymore,” Claims Nickelodeon CEO

For many years, Disney films have built a particularly illustrious legacy, captivating audiences across generations. The Walt Disney Company’s steadfast commitment to creativity, innovation, and heartfelt storytelling has firmly woven their movies into the fabric of popular culture, ensuring their timeless appeal for years to come. Since the groundbreaking release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Disney has consistently produced a remarkable series of beloved classics, such as The Lion King (1994), Beauty and the Beast (1992), Frozen (2013), and even brought their theme park rides to life, like in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-present) — among many others. These films have not only entertained multiple generations but also pushed the boundaries of animation and narrative techniques. Disney’s unwavering dedication to excellence and their ability to craft enchanting worlds have earned them an immense and devoted global following.

Kevin Feige with the Avengers: Endgame Poster
Credit: Inside the Magic

Over the span of more than a century, Disney’s influence has expanded tremendously, giving rise to its exclusive streaming platform, Disney+ (Disney Plus). Disney has built an all-encompassing world of entertainment that naturally accommodates all the franchises it has acquired, from Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story series to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars saga(s) and even James Cameron’s highly successful Avatar franchise.

But perhaps their reign is as one of the main arbiters of popular culture is finally coming to an end.

Collage; Frozen 3 on the left and Toy Story 5 on the right
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: Disney No Longer Industry Leaders? Surprising Rivals Could Topple Animation Giants

With The Walt Disney Company’s golden goose, Marvel Studios and its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) finally slowing down and pulling lackluster box office numbers compared to its industry dominance just a few years ago, the state of the film industry is shifting. The second Disney Renaissance, also known as the Disney Revival era, appears to be on its way out, making space for the rise of movies from other studios.

The Lion King (1994) Simba and Rafiki
Credit: Disney

It is evident that one of Disney’s biggest rivals, Paramount Pictures, as the parent company of rival contenders like Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Studios, now has the chance to embark on particularly ambitious ventures. The success of 2023’s summer movie hits like Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer indicate a shift in audience interest away from sprawling cinematic universes like the MCU, or established franchises like Indiana Jones. As new players with genuine innovations emerge, it seems audiences can expect a potential shift in power and media dominance, posing as formidable competition to challenge Disney’s longstanding reign in the market.

However, instead of pursuing truly different and original, it appears that the company best poised to topple Disney are themselves ready to lean heavily on an established “Disney” method.

What is Disney’s biggest money maker?

Credit: Nickelodeon

Well, the key word here is, and has always been, “nostalgia”. But Paramount are claiming to go about things in a slightly different way.

In a recent Variety interview, Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins admits that he is intending to give the company a full-blown “makeover”. Citing the new, animated “anarchic” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) movie that takes direct inspiration from multi-award-winning films like Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and recent sequel Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse — the name of the game now seems to be “millennials”.

Animated Ariel next to live-action Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
Credit: Disney

Just like Disney’s metric ton of Disney remakes that range from Cinderella (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2017) The Lion King (2019), to the recent Peter Pan & Wendy (2023), and The Little Mermaid (2023) that rely on audiences already familiar with the original source material, Robbins openly says that “expensive originals” are no longer what they’re interested in making. Referring to an animated original originally meant to debut in theaters and now pulled to release only under streaming service Paramount+ (Paramount Plus) called Under the Boardwalk, about “hermit crabs on the Jersey Shore”, Robbins clearly states:

We’re not going to release an expensive original animated movie and just pray people will come.

Instead, the studio’s forthcoming releases will revolve around well-known properties like Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Avatar: The Last Airbender — which Robbins believes will strike a chord with millennials who grew up watching these shows. He then makes a direct jibe at Disney and Pixar, saying that it’s “not about [them] anymore” — especially since their recent releases like Elemental (2023) and Lightyear (2022) have failed to take the box office by storm — by pure virtue of them being made by Disney and Pixar. Robbins believes that audiences are looking for change, in “animated movies that are irreverent and have a comedic point of view”.

Buzz Lightyear Poster on the left and Buzz Lightyear Movie Moment on the right; (Chris Evans) in 'Lightyear'
Credit: Inside the Magic

It seems like Paramount, and by extension Nickelodeon and DreamWorks, are heading full tilt towards content surrounding established franchises and currently owned intellectual properties — just like their biggest competitor has been making for nearly a decade, in the now-ubiquitous “Disney remake”. And it seems like only a matter of time before we have a live-action Rugrats or SpongeBob remake on our hands — or another irreverent 90s/2000s millennial favorite.

What do you think of Paramount copying Disney’s nostalgia-centric strategy and catering to millennials? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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