Experts weigh in on repercussions of Disney’s growing footprint in Hollywood
Disney‘s lucrative film acquisitions — including Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox, Pixar and Lucasfilm — as well as its upcoming streaming service, mean more projects will be under one roof, but that could also mean a lot more of the same for movie-goers.
“Is it ever good for one entity to have that much control?” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst for the media analytics company Comscore. “That’s a bit of an open question at this point.”
- Avengers: Endgame,
- The Lion King,
- Captain Marvel,
- Toy Story 4,
The best chance that smaller Hollywood studios have to remain successful at this point, it seems, is to stay out of Disney‘s way. The company is reserving key opening dates well into 2022 with highly anticipated films like Black Panther 2 and the next Star Wars.
Spider-Man spat, #BoycottMulan
But as Disney acquires more legs, there’s also more responsibility and more controversy.
Fans are not hiding their disappointment about the possible banishment of Spider-Man from the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Disney couldn’t come to an agreement with Sony, which owns the film rights to the beloved character. The spat, reportedly over financial arrangements, has been made unusually public and leaves the superhero’s future up in the air.
“I feel like Disney has another year to think about this, because they still have another movie with him,” said Michael Mendoza, a superfan attending Disney‘s annual expo in Anaheim, Calif. Friday. “So they’re just waiting it out. Disney is being a little greedy.”
Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei voiced her controversial stance to more than 65 million followers on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. The United Nations has denounced authorities’ response to the demonstrations.
Liu received support from thousands within China, but condemnation from people in Hong Kong and around the world, with #BoycottMulan sweeping Twitter and Instagram when the news surfaced. China‘s state-run media has tried to counter the movement by praising the film — which isn’t set to be released until March of 2020 — and backing a #SupportMulan campaign.
Liu didn’t attend this weekend’s D23 expo to promote the film.
Disney Plus details revealed
“This isn’t my first Con [fan convention] so I’m used to having to wait in lines,” said Gillian Kane with a laugh, coming prepared with books and media to stream on her phone.
Others told CBC News they’d booked a hotel room a year in advance to attend the event.
At the showcase, Marvel Studios revealed multiple upcoming series in production with popular characters:
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,
- Moon Knight,
- and Ms. Marvel.
Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani teen named Kamala Khan, is the studio’s first live-action Muslim hero.
Disney also owns the rights to Star Wars and already announced the first ever live-action Star Wars series for Disney Plus, The Mandolorian, set a few years after the events in Return of the Jedi and written by Jon Favreau (known for the live-action versions of The Lion King and The Jungle Book). Actor Ewan McGregor also announced he will be reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi for an upcoming series to begin production next year.
The company recently acquired Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox (after merging with its parent company 21st Century Fox) which helps beef up Disney Plus’s catalogue and could make it a more competitive player against Netflix and other streaming services when it launches in the U.S. and Canada Nov. 12.
The purchase gives the new platform access to decades of hits, including Moulin Rouge!, Gone Girl, The Revenant and classics such as The Sound of Music and Die Hard. But there’s the question of how many more original projects will come out under the Fox banner.
Fewer originals, more franchises
Fox has a long list of successful original films under its belt including this year’s best picture Academy Award nominee Bohemian Rhapsody. But Buzzfeed News senior entertainment reporter Adam B. Vary says Disney‘s ownership means the focus will likely shift away from that type of content (which can have unpredictable box office results — think Kumail Nanjiani’s recent Stuber) and over to sure-bet action films, such as Avatar 2 and the Planet of the Apes franchise.
“I don’t think you should be looking to Disney as a place where original stories are going to get told,” said Vary. “It’s all about established intellectual property and franchises and brands that you already know … which isn’t to say those movies are going to necessarily be bad, but they certainly are not original. And that is a real loss.”
With Disney owning such a large part of the box office share, it could make it harder for smaller films to find a home in theatres. Unless, that is, they can find a way to do what Disney‘s family-friendly branding can’t.
“Neither of which are movies that Disney really could make right now,” said Vary. “I think you’re going to see a lot more of studios trying to come up with movie titles and franchises that could not ever be released by Disney as a way of trying to compete.”