Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Is Disney Playing it Too Safe?


What can be said about Disney that already hasn't been said before? They basically own the world, at least in the entertainment industry. They are owners to some of the most valuable franchises and IP's, along with super profitable networks, music labels, and even video games. Above all of that, they are known for their tireless efforts to make sure their name remains spotless in the face of adversity, and they go through great lengths in order to protect all of their licenses. As of right now it seems there's nothing stoping the mouse for a complete media take over. I, however, think they have one big enemy that will inevitably bring them down in the coming years: themselves.

I have begun to notice that Disney is playing things all too safe with what they're putting out. It can be boiled down into four notable factors: Star Wars, Marvel, Animated films, and television. There are striking elements in each of these areas that are spelling out the downfall of the company. Don't believe me? Don't think it'll happen? Well at least hear me out in each aspect and draw a conclusion for yourself.

First theres the behemoth that is Star Wars. I mean who doesn't love Star Wars? A visceral world full of creative and memorable characters, with a main story arch that can transcend all ages, genders, and remains timeless in the eyes of many. With the critical "failure" that was the prequels, Disney saw that they needed to do something that will make the fans rejoice. They probably spent millions and millions in R & D in order to produce the script that is the Force Awakens. And it shows, as Episode seven has been considered for the most part a resounding success! Can there be more diverse characters in the Star Wars universe? Check. Can the effects be less computer animated and more puppet style like in the original films? Check. Can most of the main cast come back to reprise their roles after all these years? Yessir. But if there is one flaw that many have with this film, is that it's almost a carbon copy story arch of A New Hope. While that's not a deal breaker right now (J.J. gets some slack for trying to establish a new universe), I guarantee if Episode 8 is anything like Empire Strikes Back there's going to be a problem with fans. Say what you will about the prequels, but they took risks. And though many consider those risks to be a failure, its an admirable effort, especially considering when you're dealing with something as precious as Star Wars. I don't know what to make of the spin off movies yet because there's never been anything like that in Star Wars before (yeah tv shows and expanded universe books, but nothing of this caliber). What's worrying is Disney's stance on the franchise. They want to make a movie every year until the cash cow isn't producing any more milk. Why would anyone be okay with this? Disney is practically admitting that they're going to run the franchise into the ground. Go out with your head held high. Wait another generation to make a trilogy at least so our pallets can be cleansed from this one. The best TV shows go out on their own terms, the good one's have their run and fizzle out after it's 7th season or so. It's sad that this is probably what's going to happen to young sweet Star Wars, but hey that's not for like another ten years! More BB-8 toothpaste plz. (Also Colin Tommorrowver... Trevormore....  Trevorrow! Yeah him. I don't trust him directing Episode 9. Homeboy's track record is Jurassic World (nooooo) and an independent movie with Aubrey Plaza and Nick from New Girl, so nothing can go wrong right!!!)

Next we got Marvel. Poor lass is just about a little past her apex of success. The Cinematic Universe was such a cool idea, and very very surprisingly well handled, as all of those single super hero movies built up to the Avengers! And then the Avengers happened and everyone was all like "Cool!" and it made money and Disney was probably feeling the same way. And then the euphoria of all these super heros sharing one screen wore off and people were like "Now what?" So Disney said "Now what? How about we do this again! and again! and we plan all of our movies out until 2020 regardless of whether or not we think each will perform well, and you're gonna be okay with that!" and then people were like "Cool....!" I think we're starting to see that hesitation from fans come to fruition with Marvel. The Avengers 2 has made around 150 million dollars less total gross than the first movie. Now whether or not it had to do with subpar reviews, or oversaturated fans, I think that's pretty telling that people didn't respond nearly as positively as the first. I mean the first one proved it was capable of being a good film. Then there was that whole Ant Man issue with Edgar Wright. Wright was originally set to write (HA) and direct the film but Marvel kept interfering with his screenplay because it was taking too many "creative liberties." If you're familiar with Wright's work, you would see that as a great thing! Joss Whedon, the director of the Avengers (who now is no longer returning to the franchise because he started to get a little to creative himself), even went so far as to say "It was the best Marvel screenplay I ever read." Frustrated with all of the interference, Wright abruptly left the film where it was handed off to world renowned director of the timeless classic Yes Man, Payton Reed. And the movie did... pretty not bad! It is the tenth (outs of 12) highest grossing film in the Marvel cinematic Universe (the Disney one so not Spider Man [yet] or X-Men) so thats nice! To be fair Ant Man isn't the most popular or most marketable hero ever, so I mean bless it's heart. But I think the precedent has been set, and we will start seeing the decline of Marvel movies up until the last scheduled film on Disney's gauntlet. I mean me personally, I haven't enjoyed a single one since the first Avenges, they're all the same and really are predictable (cuz they play it safe ! ! !) // but also all the non Disney Marvel films aren't my favorite either, comic book films are starting to become stale I think.

Then there's the animated films. These ones are a tougher sell on my end. This is where a lot of people are like "shut up Nick, they're kids films, don't be all critic and analyze them so hard you sad piece of sand paper." Which has always puzzled me because we (I mean not "we" but still) nominate movies like Toy Story 3 for best picture, and yet we're supposed to treat it like it's just for kids? Like one of my favorite channel on youtube YMS (https://www.youtube.com/user/YourMovieSucksDOTorg) always says, if we're gonna elevate this (animated) movie and hold it to a higher standard then it deserves to be analyzed and critiqued as such. If you want it to be treated as just a kids film don't go around acting like the movie is on par with Lawrence of Arabia. Anyways, some of you may or may not know, but after the Princess and the Frog, Disney announced it would be ceasing to make 2D animated films in favor of 3D ones. I'm kind of a purist so I truly think it's a shame to begin with, but regardless, why completely stop making them? Why limit your creativity to one medium when you have multiple ones? I'm no animating expert so I assume it has a lot to do with the money-to-effort ratio but I know there are people passionate enough out there to make it happen every once in a while. That was their first mistake. Then Frozen happened. We have yet to see the end of it. It's the most marketable animated film Disney's made since the Lion King and that three-sweep of princesses (Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine). They're already making Frozen 2, and pushing out many animated Frozen shorts with hardly any effort trying to recapture the magic or the original film. I don't remember the last time a Disney (not Pixar) animated sequel did well critically. I bet 5 dollars and a ham sandwich it's going to overly rely on the charm of the first film, instead of trying to create some new and genuine charm on its own. But hey, crazier things have happened. Do I even touch Pixar? I mean it's like the holiest movie studio, ever, speaking ill on them is a big no no for many. I don't know lately their work has been less than stellar. It's starting to become more and more obvious they have a very skeletal structure for most of their films: character established in their world, meets conflict, is thrust out of their comfort zone into unknowns of their world against their will, have a sidekick(s) and meet new characters as they try to get from point A to B and have an introspective moment on their self towards the end of the film that helps them get to their final destination. I mean tell me that doesn't describe half of their movies (I still love you Up). Now it's their creativity of the worlds they create that is something to be commended, and for the most part can cover up this formula. But after seeing Inside Out it's starting to become a little inexcusable. Whether it's Disney calling the shots, or writers block, they're gonna have to take a risk sooner or later or else their status as a studio will start to decline. Zootopia looks good though, I have hope for that one (ALTHOUGH, the movie did experience a drastic rewrite after a significant portion of the film was made so we'll see).

Finally theres television. This one is my most abstract sell as I don't know how much of their thumb Disney sticks into the channels they own, but I'll do my best to make a case. First off there's Disney Channel. I mean every female star from shows I grew up with as a kid (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Levato) are still relevant today. How come there hasn't been another heavy hitter star since? I looked up shows that have been on Disney Channel since I stopped watching years ago and I was so surprised to see how many I had just straight up never heard of (because I'm totally the litmus test for relevancy when it comes to kids shows /s). I don't recognize any of the stars (Be llela Throne) and I feel like there would have been some craze that everyone had heard about by now (like the Jonas Brothers). Their XD channel is doing well with shows like Star Wars: Rebels and Gravity Falls, but they're unusual for Disney because they take risks (hmmm) and are more mature than you would think. Then there's ABC. It seems like all of their shows are either a Shonda Rhymes related or a show about a niche or culture centered around a family (the Goldbergs, Blackish, F.O.B., Modern Family, etc.). They sell and their clean but I don't know. Something about it is lifeless. I could say that about most network TV, and I will, so maybe it's more of a byproduct of circumstance if anything. And finally there's good ol reliable and totally not agenda driven ESPN. This is a whole different beast as it has less to do about movies and creativity and more to do about Journalistic integrity and the world or sports. All I have to say is they only talk about Stef Curry, Lebron, Cam Newton, Johnny Football, and other polarizing sports figures, instead of having a thorough distribution of sports news for all fans. Not to mention they actively try and subdue any controversy to their own down fall (See what happened to Bill Simmons). The numbers can speak better than me though, they're down 7 million subscribers in the last two years, and 56% of people said they would drop the channel if it meant they would save money on their cable bill. There are plenty of other channels Disney owns, but these are the big ones to address.

Congratulations! You made it to the last paragraph! Sorry I don't mean to patronize you, but I appreciate it if you took the time to read and actually hear out what I had to say. It's certainly not the most popular opinion, and it's definitely not the most glamorous either. A company that started off as a humble animation studio, grew and grew into one of the most recognizable and protected companies in the world. Their growth is more than impressive, and I do believe they have grown in all the right ways up until this point. I think they're so scared of losing what they have, especially in a world where you can express opinions more freely and through social media. They don't want to ruin a good thing, I get it. And if it ain't broke don't fix it. But we can't keep getting fed the same meal year after year and still expect it to taste as good as when we first had it. I think it would do Disney some good to take an outlandish risk, slow production on Marvel and/or Star Wars, bring back 2D animation, fund a show with a similar tone to a Breaking Bad. I think they're big enough right now to test the market, make mistakes, and learn from them. In order for their company to keep up this massive growth that's really what they're going to have to do. It can be done, it remains to be seen if changes will be made. Call to action yadda yadda yadda. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of the points I make!