RYANTERTAINMENT

The 6 Legions of Disney’s Media Empire (AKA The Evil Empire?)

You perhaps already know that Disney completed merging Fox this year, which has made Disney even bigger.

As someone like me who wished to see the rights of X-men and Fantastic Four being returned to Marvel and the MCU completed would think it is great news; however, according to what Disney has done so far (dismissed Fox 2000 Pictures, intended to change Fox’s movie plans to PG13 or G, etc.,) the creativity in Hollywood might be even less I’m afraid.

Before we start, let’s see the picture made by a Reddit user to summarize the companies that Disney owns: (you can click the link below the picture to see a bigger one)

kcvsm0ydu5631(Source: The Galaxy belongs to The Disney Empire)

Although Disney has around $200 billion assets worldwide, which cannot compete with some tech companies, the companies Disney controls still affect you and me. And today we will only talk about Disney’s media empire, which means assets such as Disneyland won’t be mentioned, otherwise, it could be an endless article since Disney is too huge.

thanosney-3.pngThanosney: One snap, half of the population on Earth would be watching only me!

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Legion No. 1: The first and oldest legion – Walt Disney Pictures & Animation Studios

Since Mr. Walt Disney, who was the first one targeted the children market of the studios, founded Disney in the 1920s and reformed it to the Disney I know in the 1930s, Disney Pictures and Animation has made a lot of classic films, such as the world’s first animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, live-action Zorro, Mary Poppins, etc.

Recently they’ve focused on adapting their own classic animated feature films into live-action films, which have been successful tremendously: from Alice in Wonderland (2010) to The Lion King (2019) have already earned them around $8.6 billion with a total of around $1.6 billion budget. And for their animations, they are more remarkable. In the past 10 years, only Winnie the Pooh (2011) lost money and there were 2 surpassed $1 billion box office- Frozen (2013) and Zootopia (2016). 

You could say, Disney may not know what is a failure since 2010.

Legion No. 2: The legion formed by Lucasfilm and Steve Jobs – Pixar

pixar

Nowadays, no one could possibly not know about Pixar, which its name equals animation films with quality. From Toy Story (1995) to Toy Story 4 (2019), Pixar has generated more than $14 billion box office, and in these 21 films, only the Cars franchise and The Good Dinosaur (2015) are less good, and later one is the only one that lost money. It is incredible that Pixar has such excellent performance, which must credit to its founders.

Pixar was founded as The Graphics Group of Lucasfilm Computer Division in 1979 until 1986 when George was suffering financial issues and decided to sell this division, and Steve Jobs, who was just kicked out from his own company- Apple, acquired the division.

In the first 10 years, Jobs only paid attention to its computer science part, and the company had kept losing money until Disney invested in Pixar, which contributed to produce Toy Story. And the success of Toy Story changed Jobs’ mind until another 10 years later that Disney acquired Pixar to save their animation division since they hadn’t made good animations as classical as the previous ones. And Disney has moved the talented people from Pixar to Disney, which has switched their performance; Disney began to make better animations while Pixar’s quality has dropped a little bit.

Since 2010, Pixar has made many sequels, which is more than half of their animations. Can Pixar amaze us again or the creative part already absorbed by Disney Animation?

Legion No. 3: The legion formed with superheroes – Marvel 

marvel-disney-plus-1200x570

Since the 1970s, Marvel has optioned out their characters to the studios to make movies, however, they were not quite successful as their nemesis DC’s Batman and Superman until the 90s.

After Marvel was sold to New World Entertainment, they began to work with other productions to produce their own contents, such as this classic X-men cartoon (I believe many people would recognize this intro like me I do):

(Source: DirRudy)

Even though, the comic book sales slump had made Marvel have to face bankruptcy, unfortunately. After Toy Biz partially controlled Marvel, the Marvel Studios we know nowadays was founded. Marvel Studios, however, still worked licensing to the studios, so the Blade trilogy was made. Then they made a deal with Fox and made X-men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil franchise.

Due to seeing the potential of comic book movies, Marvel Studios began to make their own superhero movie, and the first one of its famous MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)- Iron Man (2008)– was a great success and life-saver of Marvel.

And the last day of 2009, Disney acquired Marvel. With the money from its rich parent Disney, Marvel has become like one of its most famous characters- Incredible Hulk- that kind of unstoppable.

This year’s Avengers: Endgame has pushed Marvel to its peak, but could they continue after the first Avengers are retired? The secret of Marvel’s success is how they introduce a cinematic universe, the bonding among its film are expecting and exciting to the audience.

Although it’s not rare to see crossovers before MCU, Marvel sets up a film universe with long-term plans and adjusts each film based on the box office and critics but the long-term plans remain. For example, Thor 1 and 2 are two ordinary movies, however, Marvel did not abandon Thor but changed the tone in Thor 3 and received positive reviews mostly, which is the biggest difference between Marvel and DC.

Legion No. 4: The legion in a galaxy far far away… – Lucasfilm

L-SWLucasfilm was founded by the legendary filmmaker George Lucas in 1971 and made the epic movie Star Wars in 1977, and not only working on making films but also the filmmaking technology.

Except for the animation division that now becomes Pixar, there are several other divisions that are the best of their kind:
– Industrial Light & Magic- the most famous and one of the best visual effects companies.
– Skywalker Sound- an excellent audio post-production company.
– THX- an audio company developed “high fidelity audio/visual reproduction standards” of the movie playing at all platforms such as theater, home theater, car audio, etc., but acquired by Raze, a gaming company, in 2016.

These are all the great works proving that George Lucas has not only created classical films but contributed to the whole industry.

Except for Starwars,  the other famous franchise from Lucasfilm is Indiana Jones, which is developing its fifth movie and probably the last one.

The profit Star Wars has brought to Lucasfilm and now Disney would be unbelievably tremendous enough- just the movies have already contributed more than $9 billion box office to the company, and not even mentioned the profit from toys, apparel, consumer goods licensing and theme park, etc. Truly a legendary movie IP and probably the most valuable one. And soon the 9th Star Wars coming in theater within a month will make its box office surpass 10 billion for sure.

Legion No. 5: A legion that transformed from a kingdom – Fox Group

disney-simpsons-e1513260890858One of the biggest news in the film industry earlier this year might be the completion of the merging between Disney and Fox, which was one of the Hollywood Six and the competitors of Disney. Acquiring Fox no doubt is a deadly weapon with not only quantity but also quality that could secure the crown of Disney.

Fox does not have a long history but a vault of great contents and IPs, for instance, Alien, Die Hard, ID4, Titanic, Avatar, X-men, The Simpsons, The X-Files and so on. In addition, Fox’s subsidiaries are also quite incredible, for example- Fox Searchlight, which produces and distributes indie films and has become the Oscar winner creator in the past few years; another one is  Blue Sky, which was the competitor of Disney Animation and Pixar and created animation franchises like Ice Age and Rio.

Merging with Fox not just expands Disney’s IPs but also reduces their weaknesses. Why? For instance, Fox Searchlight can help Disney win more Oscar awards while they’ve been focusing on making more commercial movies.

Besides, Fox was also a media group that could handle distribution and owned its TV network, which gives Disney a way to produce and distribute PG-13 and R-rated contents under Fox’s name because Disney means family-oriented. Nonetheless, Disney still owns Fox and most likely would not allow something like HBO’s Game of Thrones to happen.

How soon that Fox will become the shape of Disney is concerned since the creativity in the industry would be limited. Because this Fox legion will help Disney conquer half of the box office soon next year, if not this year (which would be very likely.)

Legion No. 6: The united legion of Media Networks  – Disney Channels, ABC (and Freeform), Fox (and National Geographic,) ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+

DISNEY_TV_NETWORKDisney Channels:

I believe not only the Americans but also the kids of the whole world are familiar with or even grow up with Disney Channels and their cartoons and TV series, such as DuckTales, Chip’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Hannah Montana, Shake It Up, High School Musical, etc. These shows not only companied the kids all over the world but also made some stars like Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Bella Thorne, Selena Gomez, Zac Efron, etc.

People in the world could be, so to say, loyal to Disney, which is one of the reasons why Disney is so powerful and proves that Mr. Walt Disney’s strategy of targeting the audience when they were children is extremely brilliant. 

ABC:

Was one of the three oldest broadcasting company in the US (the other two are CBS and NBC), founded in 1943 and acquired by Disney in 1995. They have long-time popular shows like The Bachelorette, Dancing with the Stars, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, Shark Tank, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Nightline, Good Morning America, etc., which have brought them tens of millions of viewers every year.

In addition, its subsidiary- Freeform, which was interestingly acquired by Disney from Fox in the 2000s, also targets families and teens and enhances the influence of ABC. 

Fox:

After Fox merging with Disney, it does not only bring in the IPs but TV networks. Fox network was the 4th TV network in the US but now is partially owned by Disney except for its news assets and network because the government worried about Disney could become a media giant and affect (or control) the neutrality of news and media. And Fox’s viewers had surpassed the other three mostly teenagers and young adults, which would expand Disney’s audience from children. And its subsidiary- National Geographic is definitely one of the most important TV assets in the world. Although the viewers might be as many as others, its quality and necessity are way more important than the quantity.

ESPN: Although Disney does not entirely own this company (Disney-80%, Hearst -20%), ESPN is not only known in the US but the whole world. Almost all the major sports-related games are aired on ESPN, and it is definitely the first name that would come to mind when thinking about watching sports games. And we all know the sports fans are passionate, royal, and sometimes influential, which gives Disney a powerful weapon to face the war of networks.

Hulu:

Founded by NBC and News Corp at the beginning in 2007, and Disney joined the ownership in 2013 and Time Warner did in 2017. After the merging of Disney and Fox, Disney becomes dominant and also acquired the shares from AT&T (which owns Time Warner now. Although its partner Comcast (which owns NBC) shares about 1/3 of the company, Disney is the one in charge of and controls the contents.

After Netflix started the video streaming service era, Amazon and Hulu have become its biggest competitors. Now Hulu has about 30 million users while its service basically provided in North America only; it is also the platform for Disney to display their content not made for children.

Disney+: The trend of streaming service is inevitable, and all the major companies all build up their own streaming service, which is not good for the consumers because fewer contents to watch but more money to pay and has already driven people back to embrace piracy.

Although Disney already has Hulu this top streaming service platform, the contents on Hulu are not only for children and it is risky to lose most of the users if Disney wants to remove those contents and make it become a family-oriented platform.

Thus, Disney+ seems to be a necessary evil, which can allow Disney to produce content based on their legions only and have more control to enhance and adjust the names of these brands. For example, the first live-action Star Wars TV series- The Mandalorian- has created a buzz on the Internet and corrected the negative reviews about Star Wars since the arguable story of Star Wars 8.

Now the users of Disney+ are claimed to be more than 10 million in a few weeks. Although the strategy that Verizon users can get 1-year Disney+ free does help increase the number, the billions of dollars that Disney has and plans to invest in original high-quality content for this platform would be the main reason I believe.


Disney has acquired numerous companies to make it bigger and powerful; it is intriguing to guess which company would be the next. I think a gaming company would be great, such as Blizzard. What do you think? Feel free to leave your opinion in the comment.

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