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Quite Contrary: Why you're wrong about Disney

There’s nothing good about Disney.

Maybe I should be more clear: There’s nothing inherently good about Disney.

I think a lot of people think Disney is out to make the world a magical and happy place. It isn’t. The suits at Disney never cared whether we had a happy childhood. They care about making money. And some of them, I assume, are good people.

Don’t get me wrong, they’ve made a lot of good movies in the process. But, as a whole, it’s just a corporation. And I just feel icky about thousands of people loving a corporation they way people seem to love Disney.

People don’t adorn their homes with Time-Warner memorabilia. People don’t take annual trips to Sony World. No one has a Viacom-themed wedding.

Granted, Disney knows what it’s doing. They have this down to a science: keep the kids in a state of whimsy, have just enough plot to keep the adults entertained while also playing to their sense of nostalgia. Profit.

But that’s why I find it so uninteresting when someone continues to act like there’s something really special about Disney, even into adolescence and adulthood. Of course you liked The Lion King as a kid. We all liked The Lion King as kids. I especially liked the part where there were lions. Lions are cool. Let’s talk about something else now.

And quite frankly, Disney movies are all pretty much the same, which is a shame, because they draw from a rich tapestry of folktales and fables ranging across a wide variety of cultures and time periods. Robin Hood is an English folk figure dating back to the 14th Century. Mulan is a legendary Chinese warrior dating back to the sixth. In that time, those characters gained a lot of cultural significance, with each generation adding a new layer of complexity and nuance to the — "Oh hey, Eddie Murphy is a sassy talking dragon!"

And don’t even get me started on Once Upon A Time, a Disney-produced primetime TV show which takes “fairy tale” characters and puts them in the real world. But they aren’t really fairy tale characters, they’re the Disney-fied versions of those characters. The show exists because nostalgia is marketable.

I know. I get it. Disney is a cultural touchstone. In its early days, it was revolutionary. Today, it’s at least consistent. It evokes a sense of nostalgia we all share, because none of us could escape its reach. Disney belongs to all of us.

Except it doesn’t.

In 1976 and 1998, Disney successfully lobbied Congress to extend copyright laws in order to continue profiting from characters like Mickey Mouse, which Walt Disney invented more than half a century earlier. This from a company based almost entirely on adapting public domain characters into cartoons. I’m not saying they’re wrong for it. I’m just saying they care a lot about what’s theirs, and they’re very litigious about it.

If you have fond memories of watching Disney movies as a kid, that’s fine. That’s a good thing. But you don’t owe Disney for those fond memories. They weren’t doing it for you. You created those fond memories. They pulled in the dough.

All I’m saying is, if any corporation tries to convince you they “can show you the world — shining, shimmering, splendid,” be careful. They might not be a prince. They might be a thief.

William T. Perkins is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. How do you feel about Disney? Let William know by emailing him at

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