My next couple of posts respond to criticisms of the Walt Disney Company around marketing. I tried to make my responses more general since I haven’t done Disney content for Sourcerer yet, but I felt they lost something when I took out the connection to the specific studio.
Except for a few points like the theme parks and charity involvement, all of this does apply to Filmation or any other animation house that does transmedia material or toy tie-ins.
Walt Disney was an animator. He had a dream for a theme park and made it happen. Having a dream and the commitment, ambition, and intelligence to see that dream made a reality are good things. There are now several more theme parks and the Walt Disney Company is a money making enterprise that intentionally creates media tie-ins to the theme parks.
There are good and bad aspects to that. I’m not blind to the problems created by the parks or some unintentional social problems that come from continuing to market decades-old movies to children. For now, I’ll just say there’s an obvious commercial aspect to any Disney movie or Disney related media.
That doesn’t mean the movies have no value. They’ve been part of our history and culture for almost 100 years. Disney Studios has done more for the advancement of Western animation than any other company. That’s valuable. The fact that Disney has a commercial side doesn’t change the artistic value and quality of the movies. (“Quality” is a subjective term, but I don’t know anyone who could reasonably argue that Disney Studios doesn’t have a reputation for pioneering animation. )
Filmmaking costs money. Feature-length cartoons take a huge commitment to produce well. They’re a gamble. In order to make a movie, you have to have enough money to cover the cost of the movie. That means you have to market the movie like crazy in order to get people to go see it and spend money while they’re there. You have to make a profit in order to keep making movies, and you have to convince your audience that all of your movies are worth seeing.
All of those things are also true for running a theme park (or multiple theme parks in this case.)
Disney Citizenship, Disney Voluntears, and the Disney Worldwide Outreach Program do a lot of good in the world, and since the 90s, Disney has made an effort to make more socially conscious films and attractions. Also since the 90s, Disney has been at the forefront in making its parks and attractions welcoming to individuals with disabilities. Those things also cost money.
I’ve blogged before about what a big deal it was (and continues to be) that so many Disney films have female protagonists. I’ve never seen a Disney movie that didn’t present opportunities for parents to talk to their kids about social issues. Not all of that is intentional, but it’s there.
So is Disney concerned with profit and marketing? Absolutely. I just don’t think that changes whether the movies are worth watching.
Here’s a clip from Cinderella 2, which I am probably among a total of five people who like.