Disney Needs To Learn Some Harsh Lessons From The Success of ‘Barbie’

Disney needs to learn from the success of 'Barbie'
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

They say that failure is the best teacher. It’s hard to say who “they” is, but if “they” are correct, the Walt Disney Company should be learning some valuable lessons. Over the past two years, Disney has seen many of its movies fail, while its competitors Universal Studios and Warner Bros have had billion-dollar hits in Barbie (2023)Ā andĀ The Super Mario Bros Movies (2023).Ā Genres that Disney once dominated have now gone to their competitors.

Barbie, Haunted Mansion, and Openheimer

Barbie, Haunted Mansion, and Oppenheimer. Credit: Warner Bros, Disney, and Universal

Related: ‘Barbie’ Stole Disney’s Marketing Strategies and Created a Frenzy

Disney has returned to the familiar with sequels, live-action remakes, and reboots of old intellectual property, which has cost them dearly. In 2022, Disney lost nearly $1 billion with flops like Stange World (2022)Ā andĀ Lightyear (2022).Ā And this year isn’t off to a much better start with box office bombs and money losers likeĀ Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), The Little Mermaid (2023), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), and The Haunted Mansion (2023).

Disney had one bright spot with Pixar’s Elemental (2023). Despite having one of the worst opening weekends in Pixar history,Ā ElementalĀ has grossed more than $400 million at the box office.

strange world and lightyear

Credit: Disney

So what costly lessons should the Walt Disney Company take away from all this? Audiences want something fresh and something new, and marketing matters.

UCLA lecturer and film producer Tom Nunan told Newsweek:

Disney has mistakenly lent into an over-reliance on the familiar. When we see BarbieĀ from Warner Bros Studio andĀ Oppenheimer from Universal performing so well, the message seems clear: ‘Make original, bracingly fresh films and the audience will show up.’Ā  By most measures, the bets they took were considered reliable ones and anyone in their position would’ve likely done the same. Disney’s efforts have been substantial, upscale, and professionalā€”just uninspiring and not as groundbreaking as what’s called for these days.

Margot Robbie’s Barbie and Ryan Gosling’s Ken were everywhere before the film’s premiere. Before anyone ever saw the movie, the marketing made everyone happy. There was the familiar with the doll, but the Barbie film was something new and fresh.


Credit: Warner Bros.

Even Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer latched onto Greta Gerwig’s Ā Barbie movie’s buzz by marketing the Barenheimer craze. It has worked out wonderfully for both films.

Disney CEO Bob Iger hasn’t seemed to learn this lesson, as he has already announced another round of live-action remakes of popular Disney movies. So perhaps Disney’s Wish can save the company. Otherwise, it’s more of the same coming soon to a theater near you.

We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.


About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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