Audiences and Shareholders Won’t Let Disney Improve

in Movies

Scrooge McDuck in a bathing suit in his vault of coins

Credit: Walt Disney Television

Nostalgia has proven to be a powerful weapon the Walt Disney Company wields regularly, but it cuts as clean and deep as a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it can be too much of a good thing.

MIckey and Minnie at EPCOT for Disney100
Credit: Disney

Disney is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and although it has provided the last century with magic for multiple generations. As much as the studio has done for animation as a medium and art form, Disney seems to be glued to the past and unable to honor Walt’s maxim of “keep moving forward.”

Related: Bob Iger Steps Up, “Won’t Tolerate” Lack of Disney Creativity

With a series of lackluster animated features bombing at the box office and a slew of lukewarm live-action remakes, Disney has genuinely been struggling with its identity in recent years. A flop here and there might not kill a studio, but the Walt Disney Company might be circling the bowl with some of its cinematic sins, so why keep making them?

The Walt Disney Company Fears Its Audience

Asha looks nervously at a dancing star in 'Wish,' the upcoming Disney movie.
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Much has been said about some of the studio’s recent releases and how they measure up in light of Disney’s 100th anniversary. Even Disney’s Wish (2023), which was supposed to be Disney’s comeback hit, failed to make its budget back during its opening weekend.

Related:Disney CEO Bob Iger Gives in to Pressure, Announces He Will Quit

Disney knows that its projects aren’t doing as well as they should, and the string of live-action remakes has had something of a social stigma for the longest time. If the public is well aware, the studio heads should be too. However, money still talks.

Ariel (Halle Bailey) resting on jellyfish and talking to Sebastian
Credit: Disney

In the simplest terms, it’s more financially practical for the studio to make a passable live-action remake of something fans already love than it is to try something new. Look at the numbers for Disney’s live-action remakes. Except for a certain few, they were billion-dollar hits that cost the studio a lot of money.

Related: Op-Ed: Dumber Audiences Force Disney Into Its “Flop Era”

Even the controversial remake of The Little Mermaid (2023) made its budget back by raking in $569.6 million at the global box office, something which cannot be said for the recent contributions from Disney Animation. While its most recent remake has earned it some financial gain, it’s not the fix the studio needs.

Nervous Mickey Mouse holding his hands over his mouth.
Credit: Disney

A recent report from Polygon shared that Disney isn’t doing itself any favors by playing it safe. If anything, the nostalgia factor is proving to be much more trouble than some might realize.

Related: After 18 Years, ‘Wish’ Becomes Walt Disney Animation’s First “Rotten” Movie

Inside the Magic has previously expressed that Disney has regressed into a nostalgic swamp, not just to capitalize on the fond memories of its fanbase but for fear of audience retaliation at deviating from the norm. It seems like we aren’t the only ones who noticed this either.

Walt Disney Studios logo
Credit: The Walt Disney Company

Polygon’s Petrana Radulovic went into incredible detail as to why Disney is missing the mark with some of its recent releases, shining a light on both nostalgia and the legacy of the Walt Disney Company as stumbling blocks. 

Related: Walt Disney World to Make Critical Changes in 2024

Radulovic addresses this exact factor when she writes,

“And because Disney fans have so many separate, individualized desires, it’s impossible for the company to focus on meeting every single one of them… Even though people cry out for the good old days, what they’re really missing is the feeling of discovering something new — that first viewing of a movie that will become a lasting favorite. Trying to check off all the items on a checklist that doesn’t even really describe what people want… that doesn’t make good movies. It barely makes tolerable ones.”

The writer goes on to mention that this fear of discovering something new has ultimately cost Disney more than just in terms of money. By trying to pander to the audience’s nostalgia factor, the studio has lost the sense of originality and artistry that Walt and his team worked so diligently to cultivate.

Characters celebrate 100 years of Disney
Credit: Disney

The article ends with the following statements,

“With 100 years of creative life under its belt, Walt Disney Studios has a lot to be proud of. But Mickey Mouse didn’t become a staple overnight. Before Mickey was an icon, before the Disney Princess brand was even a thing, before Disney owned a million other entertainment companies, Disney filmmakers were trying daring things, while making a lot of costly mistakes along the way. But each of those mistakes was an opportunity, a legacy of its own that helped usher in the great movies the studio is known for.”

“That’s not a message that executives and shareholders want to hear. But you don’t get to a hundred-year legacy by playing it safe. You need to have faith and trust in storytelling, in the creative minds behind the great movies, in the power of progress. And a little pixie dust doesn’t hurt, either.”

Once more, it all circles back to experimentation, the discovery of something new, and Disney’s lack of it. There’s nothing wrong with playing with what works for the company and the studio, but it has left Disney’s once magical flavor a bland and complacent mush.

Inside the Magic reached out to Radulovic for further commentary, and will update if a response is given.

Do you think Disney should be daring and experimental again, or stick with what works? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

 

 

 

 

 

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