Disney’s Empire Strikes Back


Eliana Feinstein, Editor-in-Chief

Luke and Leia, Iron Man and Captain America, Woody and Buzz, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

From a galaxy far, far away to superheroes, talking toys to princesses, Disney captures hearts around the world time and time again. The Walt Disney Company and its many subsidiaries — including LucasFilm, Marvel Entertainment and Pixar — are household names that enthrall millions of fans. To many of us, Disney’s wide range of exceptional content consistently exceeds our expectations and surpasses that of every other media company. For this reason, when we happily and willingly throw our cash at anything labeled “Disney,” we know it’s money well spent.

In today’s capitalist society, Disney thrives as a mass media conglomerate with one goal: maximizing profit. The company is the “Supersize Me” of the entertainment industry, acquiring multi-billion-dollar companies from ESPN and Hulu to Fox and ABC. Now with the arrival of Disney+ — the company’s new streaming service of all things Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more for $6.99 a month — the public can no longer remain oblivious to the expanse of Disney’s empire. While some frustrated people complain that the company prioritizes its profit-making goals, taking advantage of its built-in fan base in order to catapult itself to further commercial success, my question is: Should we even care? We benefit from the content Disney releases too — just not financially.

To some, the convenience of having so many favorite movies and shows accessible on a single streaming service demonstrates that, as a society, we cater to the dull indolence and instant gratification of consumer culture. However, that same human inclination toward “Easy Street” is counteracted by the lively, fervent enthusiasm demonstrated by die-hard fans of Disney and its many subsidiaries. Disney+ likely serves more bright-eyed, eager fans than it does couch potatoes with credit cards, and as far as I’m concerned, the company can have its money — as long as it continues to provide the marvelous content and innovative experiences that kickstarted its success in the first place.

Disney and its fans have a symbiotic relationship. Pali alum and former substitute teacher Joshua Mills calls Disney+ “a win for [Disney] because they’re going to get a lot of subscribers [and] a win for their fans, because we can watch all of this [content] whenever we want.” Josh’s sister, Jeanette Mills, is a fellow Pali graduate who works for Disney, and she said she doesn’t mind that the company reaps a tremendous profit from its new streaming service, arguing that “they’re making a ton of money, but it’s also helping us have a really enjoyable and easy time [accessing content].”

How this relationship benefits the Walt Disney Company is easily expressed on paper, especially one with a bottom line. The media conglomerate is worth an estimated $270 billion and owns the rights to eight of the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time. With Pixar in 2006, Marvel Entertainment in 2009, LucasFilm in 2012 and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (and, subsequently, Twentieth Century Fox and National Geographic) in 2019, it seems as if Disney is constantly expanding its film and television reservoir. Disney+ shines a spotlight on this mass accumulation of content, yet the exciting — and seemingly endless — opportunities the service offers far overshadow this potentially overwhelming load.

Self-proclaimed Star Wars enthusiast and AP World History teacher Steven Burr has already bought into the allure of Disney+ and all that it offers; he watched the first episode of “The Mandalorian,” an original Star Wars series found exclusively on Disney+, almost immediately after its release. Also recognizing Disney’s business ventures as win-win situations, Burr calls the company’s profitable acquisition of LucasFilm “the steal of the century” that continues to provide him with Star Wars content despite George Lucas retiring from making blockbuster films.

Clearly, the Walt Disney Company chose to revive Star Wars for the same reason it acquired Marvel: the beloved franchises almost guarantee profit. In the midst of superfans jumping at the chance for more content, Disney capitalizes on their eagerness and sets itself up for even greater success in the future. As long as it supplies us with unparalleled forms of entertainment, the company will continue to secure this bright future for itself.

Disney inspires a sense of home, family and pure joy like no other entertainment provider. Some people may hear the word “Disney” and mistakenly visualize a greedy mass media conglomerate, but millions of people across the globe see beyond that image.

When asked what Disney reminds him of, Josh Mills immediately answered “family.” Agreeing with her brother, Jeanette Mills added “wholesome” as her second thought, and their mother, Pali Spanish teacher Ruth Mills, responded “joy” and “happiness” without hesitation. Her son adds, “If you talk to anyone in our society, I think you’ll find something Disney that they love or…some positive Disney memory.” Disney gives us all of these invaluable gifts, along with true entertainment, which we need more of in today’s world. So, for just $6.99 a month, I will happily oblige.

Laughing, Ruth Mills said it best: “I’m their audience. I swallow it all, hook, line and sinker.”