A Disney Escape

By CORA BURRIDGE | November 13, 2019

Statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in California.

Cover photo by Travis Gergen / Unsplash

A month and a half ago, Disney launched a trial run of their new streaming service, Disney Plus, in the Netherlands- much to the joy of children and adult Disney nerds like myself, who crave animated musicals to escape the neverending Brexit saga. The company plans to go live with the new website in mid-November, in the hope of challenging the monopoly held by the streaming giant and ever so useful procrastination tool, Netflix. With assets such as Disney classics, Marvel and Star Wars, Disney Plus will be a serious competitor.

This streaming service is part of the ever growing expansion of Disney and the innumerable media companies it owns; including Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC and Pixar. On the one hand, it cannot be denied that Disney produces well loved and extremely entertaining media and theme parks. I for one, find that there is nothing quite like a rousing chorus of ‘I’ll Make a Man out of You’ to get you through life’s toughest ordeals. The Marvel and Star Wars films generate billions at the box office and it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been exposed to their influence and the god-like-figure that is Chris Hemsworth playing Thor. Children are brought up watching these films, being taken to the Disney theme parks and given Disney toys at Christmas. Adult nostalgia for the films of their youth have led to the revival of Star Wars and an endemic of forgettable live action Disney films, the latest being The Lion King. It cannot be denied that we crave the enjoyment of watching these comfortable kind of films, and in our current political climate, it is no wonder we are in need of some escapism. 

Yet, should we be concerned about this monopoly held by Disney and the films that we are watching as a result? Martin Scorsese recently stated that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was not real cinema and British socialist director, Ken Loach, has commented on the decline of gritty, realist dramas. It cannot be denied, that Disney is not known for its hard hitting social commentary, though I will be the first to argue that The Little Mermaid, in which Ariel loses her voice for legs, is a clear critique of feminine beauty standards in a patriarchal society. However, maybe we are being caught up in the comforting embrace of Disney’s film and media empire, being more than happy to escape from the real world and not confront its issues. Film is a powerful social vehicle and in our current climate, it is more important than ever to not just experience but evaluate. 

To put this in a Black Mirror context, should we be encouraging such a media monopoly, potentially resulting in a society which all watches the same escapist film and tv, begging us not to question the status quo? (Charlie Brooker please mention my name in the credits when you write the episode). Disney does of course have its place, but we should not let other more challenging films die for the sake of escapism and comfort. And with that, I’m off to rewatch the masterpiece that is Robin Williams in Aladdin for the tenth time. 

Cora Burridge is a masters student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

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