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Ideology first, entertainment second: Disney’s Woke Priorities

Francisco Sá                                                                                    
Market Monday December 4th 2023



When you hear the name “Disney”, cartoons and children’s movies probably pop into your head, right? But nowadays, it feels like Disney’s putting more energy into politics than entertaining viewers, and the result? Less audience, less revenue.

Disney is a perfect example of the “Go Woke, Go Broke!” movement. In recent years, the company has made numerous steps towards becoming more inclusive, even if it means changing iconic elements from our favorite old movies. For example, in January 2022, Disney gave Minnie Mouse a total makeover, ditching her classic red dress for a “progressive” blue pantsuit. And wait, there’s more – no more “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen” greetings from Disney staff since March 2022, to avoid “misgender”. The company even kicked the classic seven dwarves out of “Snow White” in January 2022 to avoid “stereotypes” after some criticism from Peter Dinklage, who has a form of dwarfism. But hold on, it doesn’t stop there. Disney thought “The Lion King” from ’94 had racist undertones, blaming it on the overwhelmingly white voice cast. So, the company decided to feature a much more prominent black cast in the new version that came out in 2019.

After these changes, conservative families started boycotting Walt Disney, following the “Go Woke, Go Broke!” movement. They claim that children’s movies should focus on entertainment instead of politics and liberal propaganda. Recent movies, such as “Lightyear” and “Strange World”, with budgets of $200 and $180 million, respectively, flopped. Both stirred up controversy over explicit LGBT content in movies intended for children and families. In addition, analysts estimate that the company lost $900 million on the last eight studio releases this year. Even the company’s streaming service, Disney+, which is one of Disney’s key growth drivers, isn’t going as intended, losing subscribers and millions of dollars every quarter. Last quarter, the company reported losses of $512 million related to its streaming operation.

As Disney wades into culture wars, losing viewers and money, investors lose confidence in Disney’s decisions and prospects. The stock plummeted more than 50% in two years, wiping out $150 billion in market cap, while the S&P 500 rose 16% in the same period. The company has even been sued from some investors who claim the company is not transparent about the impact their priorities have had on the company’s finances. So, why doesn’t the CEO change the strategy since it’s not working?

And get this, Disney publicly opposed a bill from Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis that prohibited schools from teaching sexual orientation or gender identity to young students. It is worth asking what interest a company that produces children’s movies has in LGBT propaganda in schools. The company has also recently stopped advertising on X after Elon Musk’s comment seen as antisemitic. Although data shows anti-semitism was measured to be higher on TikTok and Instagram, Disney still advertises on these platforms. Upon this, Elon called out Disney’s CEO Bob Iger during an interview, accusing Disney and other companies of blackmailing X with money. Within just hours of Musk’s interview, thousands of users posted screenshots cancelling Disney+ subscriptions.

Considering these priorities and how they played out, one should wonder: When will the company start prioritizing entertainment over political issues as it once did and regain investors’ confidence?

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