The number of universally beloved stars shrinks every year.
Betty White? RIP. Dolly Parton? Good luck finding a Dolly critic. Mel Brooks? He’s 96 and still going strong, but no one lives forever.
It’s even worse for entertainment brands. Most are viewed either with disdain or disinterest. Paramount? Eh, I like that mountain logo. Netflix? Didn’t they run a film sexualizing children (“Cuties”)?
Disney is different. Or – was – to be more accurate.
Walt Disney’s fun factory had America’s heart in its back pocket. Generations grew up on Disney fare, from beloved films like “Pinocchio” (1940) and “The Lady and the Tramp” (1955), to newer sensations like “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and “The Lion King” (1994).
Disney’s cultural reach spanned films and TV shows to major theme parks on both sides of the country. Families scraped up their savings to see wannabe actors dress up as Goofy, Minnie Mouse, and the gang. They endured exorbitant prices, long lines, and scorching heat to experience that Disney magic firsthand, hoping to forge lifelong memories along the way.
The Wonderful World of Disney? It was more than a tagline. It meant something special to Americans, and that stayed true even as the mega studio lost its mojo in the 1980s, courtesy of flops like “The Black Hole” (1979), “The Great Mouse Detective” (1986), and “The Black Cauldron” (1985).
The songs. The movies. The theme parks. The iconic characters we wore on T-shirts, backpacks, and winter jackets. Disney enjoyed the kind of bulletproof brand that other corporations would kill to emulate. The Mouse House nurtured it for decades, long after Walt Disney left this mortal coil in 1966.
Even more vital?
Disney represented a safe harbor from an increasingly coarse culture. Sick of R-rated movies, sexually explicit TV shows, and raunchy humor? Disney had your back.
Then Disney Nation went woke.
How? It abandoned its prime directive — delivering family-friendly fare to a receptive nation — in favor of cultural messaging.
What happened next? The company began hemorrhaging money, subscribers, and acolytes. And there’s little evidence its economic fortunes will rebound or long-time fans will rush back into its corporate arms.
Disney films now push diversity across the board. Recent flops like “Lightyear” (2022) and “Strange World” (2022) cared more about progressive nods than entertaining moviegoers.
And the paltry box office results spoke for themselves.
Behind the scenes, Disney workers faced indoctrination seminars on DEI and other culturally toxic ideologies. A 2021 report revealed that the company’s “diversity and inclusion” seminars have employees fill out “white privilege” checklists.
A Disney creator boasted about her “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” and how receptive the brass was to her maneuvering.
Radical racial theories now pop up in shows like “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” seen on Disney+. An episode tied to the newly announced Juneteenth holiday finds the kiddie show demanding reparations in an extended lecture-style sequence.
The new, not-so-improved company seems embarrassed by its own past, a sentiment that isn’t shared by generations of Americans. The studio’s live-action “Little Mermaid” remake erased “problematic” lyrics from the 1989 source material, for example.
Disney+ put warning labels on classic films like “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo” while pushing radical gender theories in its newly made content. Would Walt ever dream of animating a trans character buying sanitary napkins in a Disney production?
The film’s big-budget adventures, like “Jungle Cruise,” awkwardly insert gay themes into their stories even if they play out as anachronistic to the story in play.
Next up? A Disney+ original dubbed “Pauline” about a pregnant teen’s affection for the baby daddy — AKA the Devil.
It’s a far cry from “Old Yeller,” no?
Disney’s public war on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made everything worse. The GOP presidential hopeful locked horns with Disney on multiple fronts, including the erroneously named “Don’t Say Gay” bill in the Sunshine State.
Why an entertainment company would need to choose sides on a political matter defies belief, but Team Disney did just that. And that fight will rage on for the foreseeable future.
If DeSantis emerges as the GOP’s political candidate for the White House, those battles will chase even more Republicans away from Disney fare. And that could be permanent.
Even Disney park attendees endure the company’s progressive, aggressive makeover. A concerned mom went viral for sharing a video of a mustachioed Disney employee greeting children, in women’s clothing, at a Disneyland boutique.
The beauty of the Disney brand mattered even more in the 21st century. American culture is divided into many smaller niche audiences, served up by the web, social media, and a broad pop culture landscape.
Disney didn’t carve up the culture into smaller, digestible markets.
It reached out to everyone – liberals and conservatives, Heartland denizens, and the coastal dwellers. It wasn’t right, left, or center. It was Disney. And that spoke volumes. It gobbled up populist franchises like “Star Wars” and the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” properties that entertained large swathes of America.
We needed Disney in our increasingly tribal times. Then Disney made those mega-franchises go woke, too, and the box office numbers fell.
Today, evoking the Disney brand means rolling up your sleeves and choosing sides in the culture wars for many Americans. That’s the opposite of what Disney has meant for many, many years.
That image, that brand is gone, and it’s not coming back in this generation. And Disney has only itself to blame.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.