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The Case of the Corporate Mouse: Why You Should Care Who Owns the Media

The Case of the Corporate Mouse: Why You Should Care Who Owns the Media

My formative childhood and teenage years were shaped by Disney films, and I expect yours were too. From beloved animated movies like the Toy Story series and Tangled to the popular Marvel and Star Wars franchise, it’s rare to find anyone who isn’t at least familiar with any of these iconic Disney films.

The Walt Disney Company has entertained every child and child at heart since 1923. Because it is globally renowned, its influence through its various media outlets is unprecedented. In the shadow of this enduring multimedia conglomerate, let’s take a closer look at how media ownership affects the films Disney produces.

From zero to hero, just like that

There’s a reason why Disney is so deeply ingrained in popular media. Disney’s success primarily comes from the spiderweb of companies and assets that it has stakes in. It has fingers in several pies: from various entertainment and news networks to its theme parks located worldwide.

Disney Castle at Orlando, FL

It is without a doubt that Disney has a lot of power and influence in creating popular films and television shows. After all, the company has a history of swallowing its competition. In past years, Disney has been making waves with its horizontal acquisitions of various media companies. Look no further than its acquisitions of Pixar in 2006, Lucasfilm in 2012, and 21st Century Fox in 2019. Its content portfolio, meaning the intellectual properties Disney owns, also contributes greatly to the financial success of the company. This series of events eventually led to Disney owning around 28% of the entertainment market today.

Who is that girl I see?

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with liking Disney films. It’s hard not to like them. As consumers, we should know who owns the media we’re watching because whoever creates the media has a very big hand in how the media will look like.

When anyone describes Disney films, the two words that always come to mind are family-friendly. Because its media is mostly geared toward a younger audience, how they make their films and who stars in their films matter.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), Disney

Disney certainly took a long way around to getting representation into the spotlight. Compared to the hit-and-miss representation in the late 90s to early 2000s films such as Pocahontas (1995), Mulan (1998), and Princess and the Frog (2009), Disney has certainly improved how it handles representation in its films over the years to keep up with the demand for fair representation.

This is probably owing to the fact that Disney has made attempts to put in-charge more people of color in creating recent films. Marvel, for example, can only recently boast diversity in films such as Black Panther (2018) and its upcoming sequel as well as the series Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) and Ms. Marvel (2022). From its animation leg, the turn of the tide started with Big Hero 6 (2014) and Moana (2016). This is continued by the recent commercial successes of Turning Red (2022) and Encanto (2021). Both of the latter films are notably led and created by people of color. However, the question remains: is this enough and why did it take this long?

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Everything the light touches

You’re going to have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t know Disney. Disney dominates our screens, at home and at the cinemas. It’s no wonder its competition has a hard time capturing our attention when everywhere we look there is Disney-owned media. At the end of the day, we’re always going to watch Disney. It is readily available, provides high-quality content and we can watch it with the people in our house.

Media ownership matters because media affects and influences the public. Media can reinforce harmful stereotypes at the same time it can create bridges to understand different cultures and uplift stories from various communities. Disney, for better or for worse, has the power to do both.

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