Does Disney really believe that families enjoy LGBTQ+-affirmative lecturing in films?
Growing up, there was nothing more magical to me than the opening credits of a Disney movie — even if I’d seen the film a dozen times.
These days, however, Disney’s feature-length content is feeling less like a childhood dream and more like a noisy soap-box preacher.
It is not just cultural commentators pointing this out but Disney’s audiences, who have been voting against the company’s woke sermonising with their feet.
Between the Toy Story spinoff Lightyear and Disney’s latest offering Strange World, both released in 2022, and both promoting an LGBT agenda, the animation behemoth has lost almost a quarter of a billion dollars, according to entertainment news outlet Deadline Hollywood.
In fact, Strange World earned itself the title of the biggest box office flop of 2022, with production and marketing costs of US$320 million and total earnings of only $120 million, for a loss of around $200 million. Lightyear lost over $100 million and took out second place in the flop stakes.
Strange World tells the story of a family of explorers venturing through an uncharted land searching for a certain plant needed to save their society. Apparently necessary to this plot is one of the lead roles, 16-year-old Ethan, discussing his gay crush on a boy at school.
Lightyear depicts a real-life portrayal of the astronaut named Buzz who inspired the toy of Toy Story fame. Likewise, it was a story Disney was unable to tell without a lesbian kiss between two lead characters, in a scene that almost hit the cutting room floor until the state of Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill and needed a woke lecture.
Sydney Morning Herald writer Garry Maddox found Strange World’s box office performance something of a head-scratcher. “For a certified bomb, the initial reviews for Strange World were not too bad,” he mused, seemingly unaware that movie reviewers inhabit the same woke echo chamber as the film producers they critique
Maddox even suggested that Strange World featuring “the first out gay teenager in a Disney animated film” might be a family drawcard. Only in passing does the SMH journalist acknowledge Disney’s gay wokery as a potential put-off — and then, only for “red-state audiences”.
I know this is complex, Garry, but what if parents of all political stripes want to enjoy a day out with their kids without having to discuss birds, bees and Queer Theory with their preschoolers?
Certainly, there was more to Strange World’s failures than its preachiness. Quoting Deadline Hollywood, Maddox noted that “critics found the fantasy pic to be clunky and incomprehensible, and the animation retro and stale”. Lacklustre marketing was also identified as contributing to the film’s performance.
But these factors don’t explain Disney’s comparable letdown with Lightyear. The common denominator between the two is the injection of themes that movie-going families have little interest in.
It’s not as though animated movies are going out of fashion. Universal Pictures took in $940 million at the worldwide box office last year for Minions: Rise of Gru, and close to $700 million in just the opening weeks of The Super Mario Bros Movie.
Both films, incidentally, are notably woke-free, a fact that has critics wringing their hands.
“Go woke, go broke” may not hold true in every situation. But when it comes to children’s films at the box office, those four words appear to be a fixed law of the universe.
And a law Disney ignores at its own peril.
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate… More by Kurt Mahlburg.
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