Zhu: Dissolve Disney, find new artistic voices

Caroline Zhu, Staff Columnist

Two months after the release of Disney’s new streaming service Disney+, it seems more evident than ever that The Walt Disney Company is not what it used to be. As a studio, Disney seems to be relying more and more upon revitalizations of its classic tales, which have been released to mixed reviews. These reboots reflect the state of the company itself, as it continues to do what it always has, releasing animated and live action features in the Disney brand of magic and wonder, while it rapidly grows into the world’s largest media conglomerate. The Walt Disney Company now sits upon a dragon’s hoard of media outlets, which stifles real creativity, a value the company still touts as one of its central pillars.

In recent years, Disney has stayed in the headlines for its massive deals, acquiring companies like 20th Century Fox, ABC, Lucasfilm and myriad other media outlets. Disney also owns a majority stake in Hulu, a major streaming service. While streaming outlets like Netflix are notorious for giving money to anyone and everyone willing to create content for their platform, Disney is well known to have hard restrictions upon the content they generate, marketing this as an adherence to the brand that the company has built up over decades.

However, the company’s dominance in the media world creates a major barrier for other competitors, particularly small filmmakers. Studios like Disney stagnate artistic development in film; although Disney films are marketed for mass appeal, the real issue is that Disney can dictate what their audiences want. It is rare that public opinion truly dents the massive profits that Disney takes in for their new movies, and it is their films that set the standard and create a demand for more films of a certain type. For example, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has churned out several films that are often virtually indistinguishable from one another, like the “Avengers” movies. These are films that now dominate the public sphere, and that also often stifle the voices of smaller creatives.

Disney, as a corporation, with control of almost every major media outlet in and outside America today, has entirely too much control over what the average consumer sees. As such an enormous conglomerate, it is almost laughable that regulatory bodies like the Federal Trade Commission have continued to approve massive mergers, like their acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Without an easy opening into almost any market in media, from news to filmmaking and animation, Disney shuts out other creators. If they bring these artists into the fold, they often lose the opportunity for creative expression.

Many argue that Disney has grown in the past decades, becoming more progressive and reflecting and pushing social change. Consider their films like “Princess and the Frog,” featuring a black princess, or their new Pixar SparkShorts, often featuring the narratives of people of color. However, it seems that these are not attempts at inclusivity, but cash grabs in markets that are now large enough to pay attention to. 

Artists and creators are often at the forefront of social change and bring a greater variety of voices into the conversation, but companies like Disney want to do so on their own terms. Such a system prioritizes marketing over art and creativity by pursuing their corporate interests while carefully appeasing those who complain. 

I grew up with Disney classics and have the same nostalgia for it, as do most other people in my generation. However, I also enjoy smaller creators’ content, who often lose out on much needed revenue that consumers instead give to companies like Disney. Despite increased revenue, Disney fails to tell more stories that audiences can connect to, and instead falls back upon old storytelling methods that often do not push any boundaries, providing unsubstantial content to their audiences. This is not to discredit the hard work of Disney artists, but to note that it is unethical for a corporation to hold art hostage for the price of profit.

Creative stories do not come from corporate restrictions and profit margins, but from individual creators that only lose footing because of companies like Disney. To make space for newer voices, Disney must be dissolved and split apart, or it will continue to subscribe to the false cycle of generating audience demand just to fulfill it and to earn revenue. Support small creators and art with spirit.