Woke Disney is Risky Business

New York Stock Exchange Disney CEO Iger, USA - 27 Nov 2017

Entertainment behemoth Walt Disney Company, which as a business startup had a focus on child-oriented product, now has a CEO who has taken an anti-child stance on a significant societal issue.

In a Reuters interview that took place prior to the dedication of Disneyland’s newest land, “Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge,” Disney head Bob Iger was asked whether or not the company would continue to use the state of Georgia as a location for the filming of its projects.

The reason the question was posed to Iger is because Georgia recently passed a state law that bans abortion procedures after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (approximately six weeks of gestation). Iger was letting the world know which side Disney is on in the culture war that continues to surround abortion.

The CEO stated that it would be “very difficult” for Disney to continue to engage in its on-location production activities in Georgia if the new law were to take effect.

Georgia is a preferred locale for many of Hollywood’s film and television projects, due to a 20 percent base transferable tax credit. The Peach State brought in $2.7 billion in revenue from such projects in 2018.

“Well, I think if it becomes law, it’ll be very difficult to produce there,” Iger told Reuters. “I rather doubt we will. I think many people who work for us will not want to work there and we’ll have to heed their wishes in that regard.”

Iger continued, “I think it’s also likely to be challenged in the courts and that could delay it. …But if it becomes law, I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there.”

A sizable amount of The Mouse House’s production has been based in Georgia locales, including that of its blockbusters “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

A number of aptly termed “heartbeat bills” have already been passed, and/or are in the process of moving forward in states that include Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio, using legitimate legislative processes that express the will of the people and allow citizens to exercise their right of self-governance in each respective state.

By choosing to weigh in on one of society’s most controversial concerns, Iger may have inflicted harm on his company’s well-honed brand by slighting a significant segment of Disney’s customer base.

The company recently acquired 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets and is planning to launch its new Disney+ streaming service this year, which will reportedly be loaded with family friendly content. Disney also plans to capitalize on its collection of beloved characters from its “Star Wars,” Marvel, and Pixar catalogs.

Interestingly, at the same time Disney’s CEO is talking about pulling out of Georgia, the company he heads is operating a theme park and distributing movies in China, a country that is known for banning parts of the web, depriving people of their liberties, and engaging in human rights abuses.

Disney recently filmed a live-action adaptation of its 1998 animated film “Mulan” in China. Marvel, a Disney subsidiary, has actually been criticized for caving to censors in China by changing a character’s ethnicity from Tibetan to Celtic.

Iger recently discussed with the Saudi crown prince the prospect of having an amusement park in Saudi Arabia, a place where women are forced to endure second class status.

The comments of Iger followed those of Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who not only said that Netflix’s production would be exiting Georgia, but also indicated that the streaming company would support legal efforts to overturn the democratically passed heartbeat law.

Netflix filmed its hit series “Stranger Things” in Georgia as well as the upcoming sci-fi show “Raising Dion.”

Sarandos told Variety, “We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law… Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”

However, Netflix does not seem particularly concerned with women’s rights, or even human rights for that matter. The company pulled an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” which criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This was purportedly done so that it would be unable to be viewed by Saudis following a “take down request” from the Saudi Arabian government. Netflix additionally shot “Marco Polo” in Malaysia, a place in which Sharia law is imposed.

Shortly after Disney and Netflix weighed in on Georgia, other Hollywood companies saw fit to jump on the virtue-signaling bandwagon as well, including WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, AMC, CBS, Viacom, and Sony, indicating that each may also withdraw from using Georgia production sites.

The Georgia law also prompted a group of Hollywood celebrities to speak out, which included Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, and Alyssa Milano. Directors J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele, and Ron Howard for the moment are filming there but have plans to donate money to the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups opposing Georgia’s duly passed legislation.

Not all left-wingers are united on ways in which to handle the Georgia law, though. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is seeking to avoid a boycott over concerns that the citizens of Georgia could be hurt. And more than 3,300 women have signed a “We Work Here” Change.org petition, initiated by The Women of Film in Georgia, expressing opposition to any boycott of the state.

Superheroes Save Hollywood’s 2018 Box Office

marvel-movies

After a great deal of handwringing, Hollywood is breathing a sigh of relief.

The 2018 box office showed growth, and the movie business owes its positive performance to an aggregate of superhero films.

After hyper-anxiety over the possibility that streaming entertainment was going to kill the movie theater business, Hollywood ended up raking in a record $11.9 billion in revenue last year.

The 2018 domestic box office was up 7 percent over 2017 as well as being up 4 percent when compared to 2016. The audience has grown, and although the actual number of tickets sold remains below the high mark that was set in 2002, attendance for 2018 was higher than the previous year by 4 percent.

With more than 26 percent of all domestic box-office revenue in 2018, Disney commands an unprecedented portion of the market share. CEO Bob Iger’s strategy of buying franchises and rights to superhero characters paid off enormously, and the company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

Disney’s share of the market is likely to increase in 2019, with the planned release of another “Star Wars” film and the fourth and supposedly final “Avengers” movie, as well as two animated features and three live-action versions of classic Disney tales.

Based on the 2018 box-office performance, filmgoers can expect movie studios to continue to deliver two predictable types of entertainment product in 2019: 1) additional sequels; and 2) more cinema that features costumed crusaders with super-human powers.

Of the top five box-office films of the year, four were superhero films, and amazingly the ten highest-grossing films of 2018 were either superhero movies, sequels, or both.

The top film of 2018 was the superhero offering “Black Panther,” which earned over $700 million domestically making it the third highest-grossing movie in the history of cinema. Following close behind was another superhero flick, “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The biggest take from last year’s ticket revenue arrived courtesy of the superhero genre, with four out of the top five films bringing in more than $2.3 billion. The “Spider-Man” spin-off “Venom” and “Ant-Man and The Wasp” hauled in another combined $429 million. The newly released “Aquaman” and “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” added an additional combined $300 million to last year’s superhero gross.

The enduring success of comic book characters that come to life begs the question: What is it about these superhero movies that draws people to the multiplex?

Family films pay the bills for Hollywood, and since parents are on an eternal quest for places to take their little ones, superhero films provide a relatively wholesome type of fare that adults and appropriately-aged children are able to enjoy together.

That the superhero phenomenon has become so deeply ingrained into the fabric of our culture suggests something more significant is occurring within the public consciousness. People instinctively long for stories in which moral tensions in plot lines are ultimately resolved in a fundamentally fair manner. Similar to the mythological gods of antiquity, superheroes possess powers and abilities that can rectify unjust situations. Superheroes also travel through storylines in which forces of good and evil have clearly marked boundaries and good generally triumphs over evil. In this fanciful realm, the universe is ordered and stability secured.

The successful releases in the superhero category typically feature characters with extraordinary powers, who, as they go about saving the world, must deal with ordinary relatable problems. When superhero characters possess an aura of authenticity, the stories surrounding them communicate a sense of hope that problems can be solved and obstacles overcome.

A study that took place in Kyoto, Japan, published in January 2017, explored attitudes of very young children toward heroic characters.

Six-month-old infants were presented with animations that depicted a character bumping into another character while a third onlooker watched from a distance. The onlooker intervened in one version and in a second version ran away.

When the infants were given the opportunity to select a real life replica of the intervening character or non-intervening character, the young subjects were more likely to choose the intervening character as opposed to the one who ran away.

The findings of the research indicate that pre-verbal six-month-old infants are able to recognize heroism, suggesting that the ability to identify a hero is an innate one.

This innate human attraction to heroism has been capitalized upon by the motion picture industry and explains, in part, the omnipresence of superhero characters in movies. Hollywood executives will soon debut even more superhero films. Scheduled for release in 2019 are Disney’s “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” and Fox’s X-Men sequel, “Dark Phoenix.”