Disney Continues Censorship Practices Despite Congress Concern

in Disney Parks, Shanghai Disneyland

Disney CEO Bob Iger posing behind a model of Shanghai Disney Resort with fire coming out of both hands showing that he fired employees

Credit: D23

Shanghai Disneyland brings in around 8.5 million visitors annually, and Asia has a high demand for streaming services. As a result of international tensions, a member of Congress met with CEO Bob Iger to discuss Disney censorship in China. It yielded disappointing results.

Fast Fact: The People’s Republic of China is ideologically a communist Marxist-Leninist structure.

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale at shanghai disneyland
Credit: Disney

Disney Censorship in China, Firings in Beijing

The Disneyland park in Shanghai is only part of the Chinese presence of Disney. It is also responsible for a significant amount of the streaming silo’s demand. Back in March, Disney laid off “more than 300 streaming-focused employees in China,” per Wall Street Journal reports.

Related: Disneyland, Communist Museum Working on High Tech Project

At the time, the official position was a money-saving move (though it resulted in massive technical malfunctions). However, recent reports surrounding the Disney park in China and its communist ties suggest otherwise.

Fast Fact: Disneyland Shanghai has the largest castle in all of the Walt Disney theme park lands. 

These reports from the LA Times and other sources are causing the issues of censorship to resurface for the Walt Disney Company. After a recent meeting with a member of Congress, the entertainment company “did little to assuage” the worries of the United States Congress.

China Pavilion in EPCOT's World Showcase
Credit: Brittany DiCologero

Walt Disney Company Chinese-American Relations

According to an LA Times report, the issue of censorship resurfaced. It includes regions like Hong Kong, areas of the Middle East, and China. The presence of Disney theme parks in each of these areas means the company has an impression on Chinese society. Yet, Walt Disney Co. has a long history of censoring movies to appease the demands of international standards.

Related: Former Cast Member Reveals How Disney Is Censoring Negative Coverage

Representative Mike Gallagher met with Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Tim Cook from Apple to discuss censorship in China from Walt Disney World. Per the congressmen, after the meeting, “My concern about censorship remains as strong, if not stronger than ever.”

Fast Fact: The People’s Republic of China was founded by the Chinese Communist Party following the war ending in 1949.

Simpsons episode satire on forced labor camps in China as censorship makes Simpsons episodes disappear
Credit: Disney

Goals of Transparency from Walt Disney World’s International Park Presence

The presence of Disney+ in China, featuring brand-associated programming like Toy Story, Star Wars, Peter Pan, and The Lion King, integrates Disney into the culture in China. The park’s presence in Shanghai and Hong Kong makes it even more likely to impact the population.

Related: Disney Accused of Censoring Old Content, Rewriting Cinematic History

Gallagher is aiming for better transparency from production studios. There are some examples, like The Little Mermaid, that many know well from the controversy of changing skin tone to meet international demand. There are also lesser-known examples, such as Gravity Falls and the erasure of Grunkle Stan’s fez in 13 episodes.

Fast Fact: Gravity Falls is actually inspired by a town called Boring, per creator Alex Hirsch.

On the left is the Chinese poster for 'The Little Mermaid,' which features a smaller Ariel whose skin appears blue in the light. On the right is the American poster, which features Ariel more prominently and does not obscure her Black skin. The Chinese theatrical poster vs. the American poster. Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Credit: Disney

How Censorship Can Cause Harm

According to the LA Times, studios have experienced ample criticism for practices like eliminating Japanese and Taiwanese flags via CGI for an international trailer for the film Top Gun: Maverick.

Fast Fact: The military was involved in the production of the film Top Gun: Maverick.

Separately, Abominable, a Universal-DreamWorks picture was completely removed for showing a map of the disputed South China Sea. Yet real replies from actors seem to promote this type of censorship.

Related: International Censorship in Disney Theme Parks Runs Rampant

John Cena pledged his respect to China in 2019 during the F9 film promotion. Mulan caused pro-democracy protests and a boycott of the movie, supporting Hong Kong police. Add to that the filming in Xinjiang (near the indoctrination camps Uyghur Muslims are forced into) made the entire film a human rights dispute.

Singer Coco Lee
Credit: Warner Music China

Disney Continues Censorship Practices

Despite the efforts of Congress, companies like Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, and other entertainers aren’t bound by law to stop their practices. The concept is that Walt Disney Co. improves its global position using localization strategies that follow a “when in Rome” attitude.

Fast Fact: The Muppet Christmas Carol on Disney+ censors out the smoking scene in efforts to remove tobacco imagery, pursuant to American censorship law.

Yet Congressman Gallagher says that the content remains a problem. Acknowledging that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) isn’t vilified in any large-scale American movie, he notes that there is a major issue relating to censorship.

Censorship at Disney theme parks and in television as Buzz and Andy watch the castle
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Restricts New Streaming Content Amid Censorship Worries

Per the congressmen, the goal isn’t to dictate movie types. However, historically, the House Armed Services Committee considered denying studios access to Department of Defense resources for movies that “agree to Chinese censorship.” Gallagher says that “seems fair” to him.

If this wasn’t censored (you can tell because you’ve read this far), leave a mark below!

View Comment (1)