Disney is a behemoth. There is no doubt about it and it’s not as if we didn’t know this. Still, it is quite something to be reminded of their extensive reach. Say what you will about them; mock them all you like with worst-case scenarios of Star Wars’ musicals, they get things done and they do it with style.
Attending the 2012/2013 Content Showcase for The Walt Disney Company South Africa proved this, as every aspect of the morning was highly organised and shone with slick professionalism. Breakfast and coffee were served before the showcase, followed by a special screening of Wreck-It Ralph, their latest theatrical release, which is already smashing box-office records in the U.S.
Staying at the top of their game, strategically eliminating competition along the way, they tap into every fathomable entertainment market. The mantra “jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind, but Disney pooh poohs the cliché (if you’ll forgive the branded turn-of-phrase). To extend the metaphor, they dip their paws into the honey pots of cinema, television, gaming, theme parks, live entertainment and even fashion.
The showcase was a bevy of upcoming releases. From new films such as Oz: The Great and Powerful and Monsters’ University to new seasons of Phineas and Ferb and Shake It Up; as well as more seasons of glamourised, soap-operas-in-disguise Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and Revenge. Having control over shows such as these is certainly indicative of how well they are able to corner the market. There was also a glimpse into the past year, which proved successful with the acquisition of Lucasfilm. After acquiring Marvel three years ago – certainly a fruitful addition to the family what with 2012 seeing The Avengers become the third highest grossing film of all time – they are certainly not second-guessing their decision.
As they “strive to meet consumers’ high expectations”, they continue to achieve their goals of “high quality and the expansion of the global footprint”. With mission statements such as these, it is not a surprise to find them placing third on the Forbes’ List of Most Reputable Companies in the World for 2012. Their reach, of course, also extends to South Africa. “Through its subsidiary and affiliated companies, [Disney] has been active in South Africa for more than 50 years” and they became even more involved in local film, as we know, approaching Leon Schuster to distribute his latest work, Mad Buddies.
Although Oz and Monsters’ University look somewhat dubious, there are other exciting releases to look forward to such as The Lone Ranger and theatrical re-releases of Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. Most noteworthy, however, are the Marvel movies promising plenty of adrenalin-fuelled, superhero action for the next three years – the purported release date for the second Avengers being 2015. The definite highlight in all the Marvel talk was the trailer for Iron Man 3 – welcoming the return of Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, this time with 42 suits in tow. Other Marvel sequels, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, were also mentioned to build up further anticipation.
Still knowing exactly how to tug at the heartstrings, Disney continues to grow and to dominate despite a flop or a flounder (yes, I did it again) and in spite of – or perhaps because of – the criticism often launched at them. Looking at the vast scope they cover and the wide audiences they both target and reach, I often wonder whether children and tweens today realise that Disney was a person. Even if they don’t, it cannot be denied that they still share the dream and the joy, with countless others, of a man and his vision of revelling in the escape of fun and fantasy.