Open Mouse House
While Disney has for a long time had a strong presence in Western society, their presence has been felt even more so recently with their acquisition of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. As well as the increased amount of financial success these purchases have and will help them to achieve, these acquisitions potentially have an ideological impact. Similarly, these purchases have also caused massive cultural changes in the film market, in terms of the franchise building opportunities that they represent.
First and foremost, Disney’s recent purchases mean that their profits have increased greatly, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the franchises which they bought help them to stretch their target audiences beyond family-based demographics.
While Disney have always been a family-friendly company, their recent purchases have helped to attract a wider audience, with older audiences being attracted to the new Star Wars film due to the feeling of nostalgia, and teen and adult audiences being targeted through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as shown by their constant age rating of 12 for these films, connoting the increasing non-reliance on their traditional audience of children.
Similarly, the franchises they have bought have greatly increased the market for associated merchandise or ancillary products. Previously, Disney’s main target audience for their merchandise was female children, due to the large amount of princess-based films they released. The reason for this, more so in recent years, is to, as Do Rozario explains “encourage children to personally identify with the character so that they will buy the associated products.” However, since Disney purchased Marvel and Lucasfilm, they have also been able to create merchandise aimed at male children and teens through a similar method of identification, with Superhero and Sci-Fi products being predominantly aimed at males.
When looking at how Disney’s recent purchases have affected modern culture, it has caused a notable change in the amount of Multiverse films being produced, with Newman supporting this point by stating that “serialized storytelling has become a mainstay of modern media,” of which Disney is set to play a big part in this growing trend.
This is because Marvel studios began the first and most notable Multiverse in the form of the MCU. This has also prompted other studios to initiate similar Multiverses, with DC planning a number of Multiverse films through until 2020. Disney’s purchases have also allowed them to gain a greater monopoly on the film industry, which has, in turn, allowed them to become one of the few film companies who can afford huge flops such as John Carter.
From an ideological standpoint, it is easy to see that Disney’s purchases have allowed them to put forth different ideologies than the past. For example, the MCU films, particularly the Captain America and Iron Man films, have allowed Disney to put forth more political ideologies, such as in Captain America: The Winter Soldier deals with political espionage, surveillance and conspiracy theories. This is relatively surprising considering Disney’s traditionally conservative ideological foundations.
The Superhero genre is strongly similar to the traditional fairy tale that Disney is also well-known for distributing to the world since their earliest feature length films. The Disney princess films such as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid are essentially tales about supernatural transformations and this is of course the basis of the superhero myth. This similarity is strongly depicted through genders, with the majority of the MCU involving male superheroes who often have to save a female love interest, which is not dissimilar to many classic fairy tales.
Matusitz and Palermo have stated that “Disney are the epitome of a globalising media conglomerate”, and the acquisitions of both Marvel and Lucasfilm by Disney have no doubt helped to both prove and strengthen this status. On the other hand, there is also much to be said about how these purchases have affected the messages that are put out to their global audience, and while much can be said about how their purchase of Marvel has changed them; it is yet to be seen about how their purchase of Lucasfilm and the resultant Star Wars and Indiana Jones films will add to this.