As heartening as it was to see a corporation that owns everything from Mickey Mouse to the broadcast rights for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship to Princess Leia's hair surrender in the face of opposition from members of my own profession, I can't help but feel disappointed in how quickly the media's recent Disney boycott ended. I wish it had gone on indefinitely.
Earlier this week, the company announced that, in response to the Los Angeles Times' unflattering stories about business dealings between Disneyland and the city of Anaheim, critics from the paper would be barred from attending advanced screenings of its films. The response was immediate and uniform: Fellow critics from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The A.V. Club, Flavorwire, and other outlets said that, in a show of solidarity, they would refuse to cover Disney properties — not only the latest animated features like Thor and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but also the upcoming live-action The Lion King remake and dozens of other films.
Upon hearing this, Disney quickly reversed course, agreeing all of a day later to re-admit the Los Angeles Times' critics to preview screenings, Q&A sessions, junkets, and all the other business that goes into promoting their various franchises. For the other critics involved, the boycott was over before they had to so much as contemplate the inconvenience of having to wait to see the latest Avengers movie with ordinary film-goers, or the existential despair induced by not writing up minor details related to the new Han Solo spin-off.
But really, what would any of us miss out on if the 600th bland, undifferentiated comic-book movie came and went without our noticing?
In an article headlined "The Last Jedi teaser delivers the thrilling Luke Skywalker shot we were looking for," a Washington Post writer opines that "it is the most thrilling image to pop up in a Star Wars trailer since Disney gained the deed to George Lucas' galaxy." Is it, though? I watched that teaser three times, and all I saw was a bearded Social Security-eligible gentleman in a tan bathrobe. The breathless enthusiasm for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel that we expect from critics — who are often only too happy to oblige — is a problem.
Does anybody need another live-action version of The Jungle Book? What about The Lion King, a film featuring, as any father of a 2-year-old will tell you, no human characters and a lot of annoying talking animals? How is that even going to work? Wouldn't it be better to pretend that these things don't exist? They're going to make more money in a weekend than most of us will ever have in our lifetimes regardless of what we write or don't write.
Beyond the exhaustion of creativity and grotesque lack of craftsmanship in Disney films, there are also the questions raised by the original Times reporting that led to the boycott in the first place. On a scale of worker-owned fair trade wool cooperative in Vermont to Rockefeller at the height of Standard Oil's monopoly, Disney is somewhere near the latter end of the corporate wokeness spectrum. It treats its employees at its numerous resorts appallingly and has no qualms about dumping hazardous materials and old gas tanks when it abandons projects; investigations have shown it engages in some very questionable practices when hiring workers for its merchandise factories.
It is also thanks to the Mouse's relentless lobbying that, until 2014, many of the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a man born before Lincoln's inauguration, remained under copyright protection. If these standards had held sway in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare would have had to wait until 1670 to think about doing Romeo and Juliet, assuming that William Painter, the writer he borrowed from, had not himself been sued by the estate of Luigi da Porto (1485–1529), the author of the Italian romance Giulietta e Romeo.
Then there is the question of Disney's relationship with China. If "censorship" of the arts is so odious among Hollywood liberals that it was worth not clapping for 90-year-old Elia Kazan, who once willingly testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, why are people like Ed Harris glad to appear in films that are written, produced, edited, and marketed according to the whims of the Chinese Communist Party? Isn't the point to be pro-communist across the board?
I don't want to give the impression that Disney has never done anything good. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi, the Southern-fried Robin Hood with Roger Miller, The Great Mouse Detective — these are some of the most charming motion pictures ever made for children. Nor is it Disney's fault that Star Wars has been ruined by CGI and bad writing, or that comic books are lame and the films adapted from them unwatchable blurs that will entertain mindless fanboys and bored suburbanites but confuse anyone whose taste in action movies was formed by such highbrow fare as Lethal Weapon and Ronin. But the insane hubris and greed of a company that recently withdrew its films from the Netflix catalogue and announced its plans for three separate streaming services — one for classic Disney franchises, one for Marvel, and one for Star Wars — needs to be resisted.
I know it's going to be difficult, but please just try to contain your enthusiasm going forward for such enticing future projects as Avengers 4 and Untitled Marvel Movie 1, coming to a theater near you in 2019 and 2020, respectively. At the very least hold out for Untitled Marvel Movie 2 and Untitled Marvel Movie 3.