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Disney's Troubled Past: Examining a Pattern of Discrimination in Marketing

Discrimination at Disney has always been an issue, a fact that becomes evident when one delves into their troubled past. But are things better now? One might be tempted to believe so, especially when Disney proudly touts, "We even have a Black superhero!!" However, I hope you read that statement as sarcastically as I wrote it. The reason for my skepticism is that I've started noticing a troubling trend emerging from the house of the mouse. Disney seems to be practicing a new form of discrimination—lack of marketing.

Let's take a closer look at "Strange World." This Disney movie was released on November 23, just twelve days after "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." It almost feels as if Disney intentionally sent it out to die in the shadow of such a highly anticipated film. "Strange World" boasts an impressive cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, and Jaboukie Young-White. Notably, Jaboukie Young-White's character, Ethan Clade, is a Black gay adventurer exploring uncharted territory. This character alone piques curiosity, making one wonder why Disney didn't give this movie the marketing push it deserved. When compared to the extensive promotions received by movies like "Onward" or "Lightyear," the contrast becomes glaring.

Could it be that Disney's new strategy is to create movies with progressive characters and themes but not provide them with the traditional marketing push, as they do with their more "traditional" (read: Caucasian) counterparts?

Now, let's examine "Encanto." This film was crafted by the same talented writers and directors who brought us beloved Disney hits like "Zootopia," "Tangled," and "Moana." Additionally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed the music for "Moana," worked on the music for "Encanto." So, how did Disney set this film up for potential failure? The answer lies in a lackluster marketing campaign. The trailer didn't offer much, especially in terms of showcasing the music, and Disney released it on November 23rd, just weeks after the release of Marvel's "Eternals" and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." With Disney already dominating the market with these blockbusters, "Encanto" struggled to gain traction in the US, failing to breach the 100 million mark. However, international sales reached 134 million, and once it made its way to Disney Plus, the film thrived, especially for its enchanting music.

Here's yet another example of a minority-led film seemingly sent out to meet its doom: "Turning Red." This exceptional coming-of-age film boasts hilarious characters reminiscent of the early 2000s. Disney released it on March 1st of this year, avoiding the February box office void. Disney showed little interest in giving it a theatrical release, opting to release it only in countries where Disney Plus isn't available. Despite this limited release strategy, "Turning Red" made 20 million, which Kareem Daniel, President of Disney Media and Distribution, considers a success. When asked about his decision to bypass theaters, he cited, "due to the delay in the recovery of family films in theaters caused by the ongoing pandemic." While this explanation may sound plausible, it raises questions when considering that Marvel had successfully released "Spiderman: No Way Home" in theaters in December 2021.

Recently, Kareem Daniels left the company amidst the return of Bob Iger. The departure of a key figure may lead to changes, but whether they will improve the situation remains uncertain. What we see is a recurring pattern where companies take one step forward and two steps back in their efforts to address discrimination. As an observer, I can't help but keep a close eye on the house of mice. Perhaps this pattern is just a figment of my imagination, but it's essential to recognize these trends to ensure that progress is made and that all forms of discrimination are actively addressed. 

It's a bad pattern Disney

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