Latest Hollywood Triumph Undermines Critique of Disney’s “Woke” Failures

Disney movie failures
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures, Lucasfilm

Anyone who has kept up with the Walt Disney Company knows that it hasn’t exactly had the greatest year on record for box office successes. The company has a growing list of expensive blockbuster films that have underperformed in terms of profit. Many critics have cited Disney’s “woke” policies as the reason for these consistent financial disappointments. The “go woke, go broke” narrative has been fueled by this expanding roster of Disney movie failures, but it now has to explain a recent Hollywood triumph.

Little Mermaid Disney Plus

Credit: Disney

A List of Disney Movie Failures

The concept of Disney losing profits due to catering to a progressive social agenda really took off with the release of Pixar’s Lightyear movie last year. Analysts believe the film lost around $106 million over the course of its run. Critics have latched onto the movie having a prominent female character married to another woman as a reason for the failure. Since then, several blockbuster releases have continued supporting the idea that Disney was losing money by focusing on diversity and inclusion. Strange World was released late last year, featured a gay character, and is considered one of Disney’s biggest flops to date.

Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid remake received pushback for casting actress Halle Bailey as Ariel. The film went on to gross $564 million under a budget of $265 million. While this is a moderate success, it is notably lower than most other major live-action remakes released by Disney over the years, especially one involving an iconic princess.

Pixar’s Elemental also suffered, failing to have a good opening weekend and trudging along slowly. Reports flooded social media that the film included Disney’s first nonbinary character. Critics used this “blink, and you’ll miss it” inclusion to justify the film not lighting up the box office.

Lake Ripple, Ember, Wade Ripple from "Elemental"

Credit: Disney/Pixar

Nail in the Coffin

Next came Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny movie. This was the biggest addition to the narrative, as the longstanding and beloved franchise failed to bring in a large audience. It floundered at around $476 million, with a budget extending past $200 million. Meanwhile, Angel Studios’ Sound of Freedom movie was released on the same weekend and became a huge success. Some Disney critics tried to dissuade audiences from seeing Indiana Jones 5 in favor of Sound of Freedom due to the latest outing featuring a female character who beats up Harrison Ford’s iconic character.

Disney also lost a ton of money with Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Secret Invasion Disney+ series. With the Haunted Mansion reboot not doing anything special recently, all signs pointed to a validation of the “go woke, go broke” narrative. That is, until another company faced the same criticism and defied the odds.


Credit: Warner Bros.

Barbie Succeeds Where Disney Failed

Warner Bros. Pictures and Mattel released the Barbie movie to thunderous accusations of a “woke” agenda challenging the patriarchy. Prominent political podcast host Ben Shapiro openly challenged the film, releasing a long critique of its many shortcomings. He called for a boycott of the movie and even lit Barbie dolls on fire to prove a point. Social media erupted in a debate on the title, with some wanting to see a story similar to the recent Disney movie failures.

That was over 17 days ago. Since then, Barbie has gone on to break $1 billion at the box office. The film has stayed on top since its release, with much praise for tackling these issues so well. Now that it has hit this milestone, some people on social media are starting to wonder what happened to the “go broke, go woke” crowd. A popular thread on the r/saltierthankrayt subreddit has shown off viral tweets of people backtracking from calling the film “woke.”

Breaking: Barbie no longer woke after earning over a billion dollars
byu/ajay1115 insaltierthankrayt

Oversaturating the Market and Pandering

The concept of financial loss due to promoting a progressive social agenda can’t be entirely disproven by Barbie‘s success, but it does call into question whether that is the real wrench in Disney’s system. Some people on the other side of the fence actually agree that Disney is failing with its inclusion tactics. They argue that the company’s efforts are superficial at best and largely pandering. Films like Barbie have proven these concepts can be openly displayed if the message is meaningful and well-constructed.

Disney has also self-admittedly oversaturated its audience. Between Disney+ series, live-action remakes, and sequels, people are starting to feel bored of seeing the same stuff repeatedly. In turn, going to the movie theater takes a lot more justification. Barbie is a fresh idea based on a familiar IP, which has shown to be a path to success. With this in mind, Disney’s shortcomings might extend beyond a “woke” agenda.

The market has forever changed in recent years. Disney cannot rely on its past alone to pave the way for its future. The company has a lot of soul-searching to do. However, looking at every angle when declaring the reason for its failures is important. If Barbie can break records in this changing landscape, then “woke” might not be the crucial ingredient for a box office disaster.

About Michael Stoyanoff

Michael is a Disney fan with an entertainment background and passion for writing. Living in Orlando, he has been around the theme parks for over a decade. In his free time he enjoys running, playing video games, and traveling the world. He also loves hanging out with his dog, Mr. Pippers the Pug.

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