Some tears for Disney, now reeling from the coronavirus

May 4, 2020 marked the 40th anniversary of the mega movie hit series, the Star Wars franchise. 

In commemoration, the Walt Disney Company, which owns the rights to it, launched a limited-edition internet sale of related products.  The launch was so successful that, for probably the first-time in electronic history, buyers waited in an internet queue for an allotted 10-minute period to make purchases.  Many items had limited quantities per purchaser and quickly sold out. 

Concomitantly, business news items told the scary tale of the daily mega million-dollar losses that the Walt Disney Company was experiencing, and of its gloomy short-term future.  Well, no wonder.  Disney’s portfolio consists of movie productions studios: shut down; feature length movies shown in movie theaters: shut down; six mega amusement parks in Florida, California, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo,  and Shanghai: shut down; hotels and restaurants: shut down; private islands and shopping areas; shut down; and, themed cruise ships: shut down.

Sure, the closings were inevitable as countries and states, at varying times, mandated them. However, with an abundance of foresight and leadership, Disney closed ahead of the COVID-19 mandates, on or before March 3 for Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai; Paris, U.S. Disneyland, and U.S. Disneyworld closed shortly thereafter.  By so acting, Disney corporate leaders saved hundreds and more likely thousands of lives of both staff and visitors from suffering through and/or dying from the COVID-19 virus. No matter what your disagreements with some of their politics in other contexts, they did the right thing.

Interestingly, the genesis of the Disney behemoth wasn’t the Star Wars phenomenon, or even the iconic image known globally as Mickey Mouse.  Walt Disney got his start from a long-forgotten rabbit:  Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  In 1927, Disney Brothers Studio, as a then-arm of Universal Pictures, successfully debuted Oswald in an animated short. During contract negotiations in 1928, Walt Disney was faced with Universal’s stunning perfidy: Universal had hired almost all of Disney’s animators and retained all rights to Oswald.   Disney refused the lowered salary offered and left with his sole remaining loyalist, animator Ub Iwerks.  Together, they tweaked Oswald into a mouse first named Mortimer, ultimately renamed, and introduced as Mickey.  After a series of Mickey shorts, Disney turned to full length feature films.

Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was distributed in 1937, the first full length feature film in sound and color.  Disney’s huge success was followed with such hits as Pinocchio, the incredible Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp.  Can anyone of a certain age recall their youth without hearing those immortal words, “Once upon a time”? Almost sixty years later, Beauty and the Beast, distributed in 1991, was the first animated film to receive an Oscar nomination for best film.  Other recent hits have included The Narnia Chronicles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Frozen and Frozen II, and Aladdin.  Mega merchandising accompanied most of these hits, as products have been sold at Disney stores in malls and at the amusement parks.

To fund the construction of Disneyland in California, Disney created a megahit program on television with the introduction of the Mickey Mouse Club, in 1955.  Starring a handful of talented kids - that was the first television show made just for kids, it began with the catchy song: “Who’s the leader of the gang that’s made for you and me?  M-I-C-K-E-Y—M-O-U-S-E!...  The young kids were known as Mouseketeers who wore beanies – (a Disney icon later replaced by the ubiquitous Minnie/Mickie Mouse ears headbands.)  Annette Funicello may be the best known from the original series.  Over the decades the show stopped and started, launching the careers of such superstars as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera, and J.C. Chasez. 

During the past year, Disney added Disney+, a streaming service that already has over 50 million subscribers.  For $70.00 a year, many of Disney’s greatest hits can be seen by the entire occupants of one household.

Countless lives have been enhanced, careers made, weddings held, tears dried, troubles distracted, wishes and dreams made true, all through the Magic of Disney.  From the lyrics of Bibbidy-Bobbedy-Boo to those of Into the Unknown, and for all the lives they have enhanced and saved, may Karma keep the force with Disney.

Image credit: Pixabay public domain

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