The news of the Walt Disney Company facing steep challenges across its spectrum of offerings is a known commodity these days. Its movies have languished, the parks are seeing a softening in attendance, its streaming platform continues to hemorrhage money, and its stock has been on a steady decline as it has shed half its value over the past couple of years. CEO Bob Iger has been facing constant financial challenges ever since he took over the role once again, and he seems hesitant to make the needed changes to fix the problems.
Families have become turned off by its adherence to social activism and injecting its offerings with lecturing content. The Star Wars property has distanced hardcore fans and the Marvel franchises have not been the money-printing enterprises as seen in years past. Meanwhile, in spite of the streaming wars causing losses across the industry, Netflix decided some time back to dispatch a woke agenda and as a result it is reaping benefits as one of the few successes seen in the newer medium. Disney needs to learn this lesson.
The announcement came this week that the once revered entertainment powerhouse was hitting the pause button on its live-action remake of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. Slated to come out this coming March, the studio decided it was pushing back the release a full year, due allegedly to the ongoing actor’s strike. This sounds more like a convenient excuse, as what appears to be in the works is an entire recalibration of what has become a doomed project that typifies the self-generated problems at the studio.
From its inception “Snow White” was fraught with challenges. First, they crowed how Snow White would not actually be white, as they cast Latina actress Rachel Zegler in the role. Then controversy began when famed diminutive actor Peter Dinklage had criticisms of the studio casting actors with dwarfism to play – well – dwarves. The studio responded by saying they were going to make the septet a diverse collection of characters. (As Dinklage tried to advance the cause of dwarfism, in reality he killed off the chance of seven other similar actors getting work.)
Now considering that Snow White wasn’t, and the Seven Dwarves were not, the problems only unspooled from there. Zegler came out with comments about how retrograde and offensive the original storyline was, calling Prince Charming a “stalker” and other contemporary judgments on the century-old original film. She has become a PR disaster for a film in dire need of a positive spin. Then a set photo of the newly imagined dwarves was released, showing a ragtag collection of checkbox demographics dressed in cast-off Renaissance Faire costumes.
This image was so bad the studio first denied it was legitimate, then attempted to spin things by saying these were merely stand-ins for the performers and not the true cast. (This is dispelled by the appearance of actor Martin Klebba in the shot.) We can see how desperate the explanation of the actor’s strike being the cause of the delay has become once it is shown that the studio scrapped the actors outright and now the seven cohorts of the princess will be rendered as CGI characters.
This studio is just a woke mess.
It went politically correct with its founding property that built its entertainment empire, and now it is retooling the entire project and delaying it by a full year.
They blame it on the SAG-AFTRA strike, as it is being completely reworked. pic.twitter.com/z3a6RYYGDC
— Brad Slager: Flips On The Highbeams In Fog Of War (@MartiniShark) October 31, 2023
This is a lengthy solution to the problems faced by this production, one that has already been a costly venture. As of this summer, the expenses of the film were estimated to run over $200 million, before tax breaks from the British government, where the production was staged. But those filings were before the actor’s strike and before the public fallout regarding the various vagaries of this film. Since then we see the decision to render a portion of the cast in CGI, and these moves will undoubtedly require a fair amount of reshoots. Factoring this reality, and the cost of promoting the film, the outlay for Disney is easily going to be in the $300 million range, and probably higher.
All of this due to the need inside the studio to foist a progressive, woke agenda into the film, a formula proven to be ruinous in a number of productions seen over the past few years. “Lightyear”, “Strange World”, “She-Hulk”, and many other titles have been released and subsequently disparaged by the viewing public. Why the studio continues to cling to this ideal amid proven losses is made more perplexing when you look at the decisions and the success seen at Netflix.
Not too long ago the streamer was facing seemingly severe public backlash with the release of a new Dave Chapelle standup film. The trans community was enraged at this release, and the compliant media amplified the outrage. It grew into a protest at the Netflix headquarters with some of the LGBT𝜋 employees lashing out and making demands well beyond the scope of this show. It was then that the company came to a realization and the executives decided not to bend the knee. The results have been illuminating.
Chapelle’s show was warmly received, for starters, becoming a massive hit for the platform. Then company demonstrably was not going to cater to the cranks and then not long after most of the vocal employees demurred, with some even electing to leave the job. Soon after the company posted an employment notice that basically said they were accepting of all types, but also cautioning that free speech would be adhered to, and if you were prone to be offended then possibly the company was not a good fit.
It softened its approach concerning the arrangement with Prince Hank and Meghan Markle as well. While their docu-series was released and initially popular their immediate follow-up “Live To Lead” was roundly ignored. The outlet also canceled another show from Markle before production began. Other productions involving the Obamas have come out but Netflix has been rather muted in the promotions of such.
This new “un-woke” approach has brought success. Netflix recently posted quarterly reports that were glowing, with a better-than-expected rise in subscriptions, and the stock soared with double-digit increases on Wall Street. This is in defiance of the other streaming services bleeding out on a regular basis. Disney+ has been losing subscribers for consecutive quarters as the streaming service continues to be a massive financial drain. Others such as Comscast’s Peacock continues to lose billions, and Paramount+ is also facing big loses as it attempts to gain traction.
At some point you expect a dawning to come over Bob Iger. Instead of telling your audience what you think they need to hear it might actually be good business to give the people what they want.