Last week, The Walt Disney Company had a completely magic-less time at its latest earnings call. After unprecedented losses on Disney+, which was enough to offset literally record-breaking Theme Park revenue, the Mouse House’s stock experienced a massive sell-off which drove the stock to only the latest 52-week low its hit in 2022. Shortly thereafter, Bob Chapek announced a “selective hiring freeze,” and shortly after that, an ominous statement from CFO Christine McCarthy suggested layoffs were on the way.
It seemed, like clockwork, the “go woke, go broke” chants started ringing across the vast digital plains upon which the basically-vilified CEO wants to build a metaverse. But the fact of the matter is that Disney’s politics have nothing to do with what is happening right now! Or, at the very least, they don’t have to be.
Disney can be as diverse and inclusive as they want to be and succeed at it–so long as the quality of whatever they are putting out is still up to par. But that’s the problem. It is Disney’s level of quality that is tanking, and with it, customer satisfaction and investor confidence.
It was not just the fact that Disney World Cast Members stopped automatically referring to female Guests as “princesses.” It is the fact that it was added to a number of previously complimentary experiences that have been eliminated while the overall price increased despite it.
It was not the fact that Disney decided to cast a black, bald actress to play an iconic Disney character who was originally white with long, thick blonde hair. It was the fact that Disney’s “live-action” remake of Pinocchio generally sucked and had an altered ending that completely discredited the whole point of the story.
While no one has officially gone on record to say it, I can’t help but see this ignorant and gross arrogance from Disney’s leadership that has not been seen in a long time. This arrogance that the Disney name is enough and that millennial nostalgia is worth its weight in gold. The “wokeness” just became an additional bet of a misguided parlay regarding Disney’s audience. And Chapek placed this bet while spending billions of dollars on IP acquisitions, overpriced Star Wars series, and some technological dream ship he has in his mind and expecting the bet to continue to pay off his billion-dollar metaverse ambitions.
Sure, there is a significant portion of the Disney fanbase that will continue to pay whatever it costs to visit a Disney Park. Yes, there are Disney+ subscribers that adore every piece of new content the creators are dropping on there, from watching Obi-Wan Kenobi cross blades with Darth Vader to seeing She-Hulk twerk in her office. But that is a very niche, vocal cut of the audience, and Disney is too big to rely on the niche. Even if they are trying to manipulate the state of their audience, now is not the time to do it!
In the meantime, Disney fans are told to pay more for lower quality and to be happy that they are getting what they get, and the only reason Disney was able to record Park profits, I argue, is because Chapek using the Theme Park Reservation System to prioritize the binge-spending Guests who don’t go enough to know what they are getting is lower quality than pre-Covid.
Hulu should not be a thing anymore. It should have merged with Disney+ yesterday. The Disneyland Resort is about to start celebrating the Company’s centennial with a literally decaying Tomorrowland that still has the PeopleMover track set up like ruins. Oh, and TRON is still not done at Disney World (but at least it wasn’t one of the several projects that got canceled).
Go ahead. Give us another black princess. Give us a fat princess. Give us half-a-dozen gay princes. That is not the problem! The problem is that those new members of the Disney Court are not being presented at the same quality as those from Disney’s Golden Age or Disney Renaissance. We are expected to be blindly loyal and equity-focused to financially support whatever tripe the corporation we “owe so much of our childhood to” puts in front of us. Woke can work if the story is actually good!
But nothing–no equitable agenda nor legacy branding–can compensate and supersede the value of a quality experience and quality story. And with the greater potential of a story, the greater the criticism is warranted for its unfulfilling–or, really, half-baked–straight-to-streaming execution just for the sake of meritocratic storytelling.
This creatively lazy “too big to fail” mentality, short-term thinking regarding Parks, and pseudo-long-term thinking about Disney+ and the metaverse and advertising opportunities are what is driving the company into the ground.
Readers, I am not saying this because I love to be negative, and I suddenly hate Disney. I am an incredibly concerned Disney Fanatic and stockholder who still loves the House that Walt built and has to standby and watch as this current leadership cuts corners on Parks and Movies while siphoning as much money off of the complacent yet Disney-hungry masses to pay for a literally multi-billion-dollar Direct-to-Consumer egg they laid.
Streaming may have been the answer during the pandemic. But those days are over. A metaverse of some kind may very well be on the horizon. But Disney Magic already exists in the real world. Time to get back to the theaters and into the Parks for an experience exclusive to the Disney Standard. Because it is becoming clear that whatever this new cheapened Disney is that Chapek, McCarthy, and all of the other board members are trying to sell everybody, we’re not buying it.
We at Disney Fanatic will continue to update our readers on Disney-related news and stories as more developments come to light.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.