OPINION: Walt Disney Co: The Evil Empire We All Know and Love


"Disney" by Aziem Hassan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Disney Corporation has shaped generations of children – but can they be trusted?

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The motions of Winnie the Pooh and Mowgli sync up perfectly because the studio reused drawings.

Top: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by John Lounsberry and Wolfgang Lietherman, 1977.)

Bottom : (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by Wolfgang Lietherman, 1967.)

First, a note of clarification. I am not trying to say you are a bad person for liking Disney. I am not saying you have poor taste because you like Disney. I think it’s important to separate the product from the consumer. We don’t have a choice but to buy from massive corporations. This article is about the effect monopolistic business practices have on popular culture, not trying to insult anyone’s taste in film.

What is Disney? Let’s start with a list of brands the company owns. There’s Marvel, various TV channels, Hulu, ESPN, VICE, ABC studios, Go Pro, record labels, a massive European Telecom company known as Sky, Lucasfilm, theme parks, a game developer, a software communications company, and a construction company. That list isn’t near complete. I think it’s important to note that when I refer to Disney, I am talking about a multinational conglomerate that controls more wealth than we can even imagine. They are a broadcast syndicate that controls much of daytime TV, and they have investments in pretty much everything.

A map of the corporate subsidiaries owned by Disney

Hallaman, Carly. “Every Company Disney Owns: A Map of Disney’s Worldwide Assets.” TitleMax, 20 Oct. 2020, www.titlemax.com/discovery-center/money-finance/companies-disney-owns-worldwide/.

Why is this a problem? While each of these Disney properties appears to be a separate corporate entity, they aren’t. This creates an illusion of choice. People will try to boycott a certain brand, but still buy all kinds of other products from the same company. This lets corporations avoid public backlash against them in the form of boycotts. Giving a single company absolute control over a given sector destroys the supposedly free market our economy is based on.

People think of Fox Sports and ESPN as competitors in a shared market. In reality all they are is a rebranding. They serve the same corporate overlords. This lets Disney obscure the fact that they are a monopoly. Monopolistic business practices destroy growth and innovation, because there is no incentive to improve or change the product when the consumer doesn’t have a choice.

By controlling every aspect of media production, from studio to red carpet, Disney is able to easily outcompete or buy new companies. If those first two strategies fail, they could destroy a company by refusing to let them access businesses they own. For instance, if a new film studio was highly critical of Disney, they could refuse to work on or distribute their films. Disney controls much of the infrastructure necessary to make movies. According to CNBC, they were involved in 40% of the box office returns from 2019.

Disney is also able to control the mainstream political narrative. They own ABC. This furthers the illusion of choice, and it gives Disney way too much control over what information is available. Traditional news companies still have a lot of authority to most people, so Disney gets to carefully craft political narratives by pushing or suppressing certain stories. If a story would make Disney’s other properties look bad, they could easily direct the people at ABC to not run the story. The stories run by such a major news syndicate will also affect what local news organizations report on. This allows Disney to control what information people believe.


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Top: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by John Lounsberry and Wolfgang Lietherman, 1977.)

Bottom : (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by Wolfgang Lietherman, 1967.)

By simply recycling popular culture Disney destroys creativity and originality in media. Animation and film are no longer mediums for artistic expression, but are instead emblems of corporate culture. This stifles creativity because it turns artistic ventures into profit seeking ones. Studios don’t pick movies that they think are good. They choose movies they think will make money. This makes them stick with closer bets, like reboots or rip-offs of established franchises. This is why most Disney classics are just sanitized versions of fairy tales. This is also why we have so many Fast and Furious movies. I’m not trying to judge or shame people who enjoy these films. It’s time to stop reusing the same characters and plots, and time for a breath of fresh air in mainstream media.

Image result for disney scenes reusedDisney uses the same choreography and character designs across films: this is stale and lazy movie production
Left: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973)

Right: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967)

Disney is undeniably a cultural icon. Their contributions to our collective childhood memories should still be cherished. At the same time, they have grown far too large as a corporate entity. We need to break up media companies like Disney to allow for innovation within popular culture. We need small studios who are willing to take risks and question the powers that be. We need originality, and monopolistic business practices destroy that. According to their own CEO, Michael Eisner, “We (Disney) have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”

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Left: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973)

Right: (Walt Disney Studios, dir. by David Hand et. al, 1937)