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Original Mickey Mouse Cartoon Enters Public Domain, Here’s What We Already Have To Look Forward To 

Steamboat Willie, the original Mickey Mouse cartoon, officially lost its US copyright protection on January 1st 2024, making its likeness available to the public, who have already taken advantage of having legal access to the iconic character.

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Sorry, Streamers: Disney+ Subscription Cost To Rise 38% In December

For many, multiple streaming subscriptions have become the norm – and unfortunately for you and your wallet, that might soon become challenging.

Disney has announced it will be raising the monthly ad-free subscription price of Disney+ to $10.99, a 38% increase, on Dec. 8th. To keep the same price, users will have to opt into an ad-based tier, which will launch on the same day.

In an analyst conference call, CFO Christine McCarthy voiced her confidence the increases won’t be a dealbreaker for subscribers. “We expect the ad tier to be popular and we expect some people to want to stay with ad-free,” she said.

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Disney also noted Hulu will see its price raised by $2 to $14.99 on Oct. 10th, while the ad-based tier will see a $1 increase, from $6.99 to $7.99. The entertainment giant offers a bundle of ad-free Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $13.99 a month, which will also raise $1 to $14.99. Like the other increases, you can opt to keep the price the same, but all subscriptions will come with ads.

The company had previously upped Disney+’s ad-free tier from $6.99 to $7.99 back in 2021 after bursting out onto the streaming screen in November 2019, passing the number of expected subscribers within its first year.

That torrent pace — fueled by shows like “The Mandalorian” — continues to see ups, with Disney+ scoring over 14.4 million more subscribers than expected this past quarter, bringing it to 152 million total (a 31% year-over-year change).

The long-term forecast isn’t as pleasant. Disney now expects the service to reach around 215 million to a maximum of 245 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024, a lowered estimate that was originally pegged around 230 million to 260 million two years ago.

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Disney and CEO Bob Chapek’s reasoning for the increase is that it’s a necessary evil to match their increased content, which includes “Star Wars” and Marvel. “We believe, because of that increase in investment over the past two-and-a-half years relative to a very good price point, that we have plenty of room on price value,” Chapek said at an earnings call Wednesday.

Disney+ is also adding further content thanks to the acquisition of Fox studio, which will see R-rated movies like “Logan” and “Deadpool” hit the screens. It’s certainly a change of pace for both the service and company, both of which emphasize their family-friendly brand.

Chapek previously admitted it was a surprise to see how many adult-only households have a Disney+ subscription.

“We knew that we had interest in those general entertainment offerings, but didn’t really realize how important they could be towards our overall proposition, if you will.”

However, the price tick is also Disney attempting to compensate for the financial losses that continue to pile up. Direct-to-consumer operating income losses for the third quarter soared to $1.1 billion, up from $293 million a year ago.

Despite the subpar revenues and hits, Disney now ranks over main rival Netflix in terms of total subscribers across all their platforms by 400,000 with 221.1 million. Subscription tiers also remain lower than Netflix’s, which cost $9.99 for ad-supported streaming and $15.49 for HD, ad-free streaming.

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Following Backlash, Hulu Will Begin To Accept Political Advertisements

After facing political backlash from Democratic leaders following their rejection of advertisements on hotly contested topics like abortion, gun control, and the Jan. 6 insurrection, Hulu is now going back on their decision and announced they will allow the ads, effective immediately.

“After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+,” Disney, the owner of Hulu, told Axios on Wednesday.

With the acceptance, Hulu is now more aligned with other Disney properties like ESPN and FX Networks. However, Disney also stated they still reserve the right to ask clients for edits or alternative creative “in alignment with industry standards.”

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The ads, which run on other popular media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, NBCUniversal, and Roku, were originally rejected by the service back on July 15, according to The Washington Post. The Democratic campaign groups attempting to place the ads on Hulu, as well as ABC and ESPN, were told the rejection was for “content-related” issues.

According to Hulu’s advertisement guidelines, advertisements that take “a position on a controversial issue of public importance (e.g. social issues)” are not allowed. The streamer’s guidelines also note that political ads are reviewed on a “case-by-case basis.”

Hulu had previously forced New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel to cut abortion and gun control topics from his advertisements earlier this month and replace them with “non-sensitive issues” like climate change and education.

“Our path to victory runs through making sure we can reach so many of these disaffected younger people,” Patel told Jezebel. “This ad is a very important part of that, and Hulu is an incredibly important part of reaching that audience.” Patel’s campaign team sent Hulu a letter demanding them to end their “unwritten policy” on “censoring” a campaign advertisement before it could be aired.

“We are at an absolutely critical time in our nation’s history. How are voters supposed to make informed choices if their candidates cannot talk about the most important issues of the day?”

Responses on social media aimed at Hulu’s latest rejection were particularly intense and widespread, with #BoycottHulu hitting the number one spot on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous and offensive. Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ extreme agenda on abortion – Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tweeted.

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Unlike regular broadcast channels, which are bound by the FCC to run spots from candidates, streamers have more flexibility when it comes to both the issues at hand, as well as the candidates attempting to advertise.

Disney Refusing To Cut LGBTQ Scene In Doctor Strange 2 For Saudi Arabia

An official from Saudi Arabia has said that while the nation is not planning on banning Doctor Strange 2 for its inclusion of a 12-second scene referring to a lesbian character, they’re still trying to get Marvel to cut the scene.

Disney Resorts To Allow Mickey Mouse, Other Characters To Hug Visitors Again In Coming Weeks

For Disney fans planning to attend attractions soon who have been longing for the days when they could embrace their favorite costumed characters without distancing restrictions, the next few weeks and months should be an exciting time.

Disney Live Entertainment’s senior communications manager, Shawn Slater, announced that as early as April 18, traditional character greetings will be reintroduced at California’s Disneyland, Florida’s Disney World, and on Disney cruises.

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“Very soon, you will once again be able to hug Mickey Mouse, get an autograph from Mulan, and share a laugh with Goofy,” Slater said, referencing Disney’s “gradual, intentional approach” to COVID-19 protocols such as this. “Recent trends and guidance have provided opportunities for us to bring back some of our most beloved magic, like character greetings and dining experiences.”

Slater noted that the reintroductions will not be occurring all at once, an operational strategy Disney has frequently employed over the past two years for matters like this. Instead, only a certain amount of locations will be available for guests to interact at first, while more will see re-openings in phases throughout the spring and early summer.

Like every other entertainment venue, Disney parks were forced to close when the pandemic began back in March of 2020. While the parks reopened that summer — not at full capacity due to state protocols — characters could only stand and wave at distances to visitors, certainly not the same experience children and adults alike had come to expect.

Disney took further steps towards easing the restrictions last fall by allowing characters to come back to locations around the parks for individualized meetups, but they were required to remain at a distance and not touch visitors for photos.

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Back in February, Disney — which previously removed on-site temperature checks — announced it was lifting mask mandates for vaccinated guests in all of its U.S. resorts, while unvaccinated guests are expected to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing.

Disney’s major COVID-19 change came in the form of a new reservation system meant to prevent overcrowding, which is still currently in effect. The system includes everything from rides and restaurants to character meetings, and allows for a “better visitor experience” according to Disney higher ups like CFO Christine McCarthy.

“It allows us to better balance load throughout the year, throughout the week, throughout the month,” McCarthy said during an investors conference. “That’s something that has really given us a toggle for how we’re going to manage attendance.”

“When you’re a guest in a park and you can’t do things and everything is too crowded, your guest experience is going to go down, your intent to return is going to go down and word of mouth will not be as good.”

Returns of classic attractions like character interactions could help Disney to continue reaching pre-pandemic attendance. Also drawing in consumers is Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration, which kicked off last October and will last until 2023 for a full 18 months.

Controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Passes In Florida Senate

On Tuesday, the Florida Senate passed a bill that would disallow any kind of instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in the state’s kindergarten through third grade, while being criticized for its potential to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community.

The legislation is titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, but has become known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. With the 22-17 vote in hand, it now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is in favor and expected to sign.

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“Don’t Say Gay” passed through the Florida House last month. The bill also “prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification & involvement in critical decisions affecting student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being.” Parents would be able to sue school districts in the event of violations of “Don’t Say Gay.”

The bill would not prohibit classroom discussions about students’ families that are LGBTQ or LGTBQ history. However, it doesn’t actively promote what can be discussed, while further confusion  — and lawsuits — could occur should parents decide what kind of gender identity and LGBTQ talk violates the bill thanks to vague legislative language.

Backlash has been swift, with some students in the state organizing walkouts as a form of protest. “This bill, from its introduction, has been used as vehicle to marginalize and attack LGBTQ people,” Democratic Rep. Carlos G. Smith said — noting it sends a terrible message to children — while President Joe Biden had previously called the legislation “hateful.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, supporters of the bill like Republican Sen. Danny Burgess feel it will help to give parents more control over what their children do (and don’t) learn from the education system. “This bill says parents, your right to raise your children does not end when they walk into a classroom,” Burgess said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“This bill recognizes that parents are not the enemy. The bill simply says that there should be an age limit on certain discussions, it’s not a new concept, nor is it radical.”

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The bill has also attracted the attention of an entertainment giant. Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced he will be meeting with DeSantis — along with LGBTQ+ members of their senior team in Florida — to discuss the bill.

According to Chapek, Disney — which has made numerous efforts in various media and attractions to become more diverse and inclusive — was opposed to the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation from the beginning, but opted not to take a public stance and instead work behind the scenes, “engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.” “Ultimately, we were unsuccessful,” Chapek said.

In addition to the meeting, Disney will be donating $5 million to LGBTQ activist groups while signing the Human Rights Campaign’s statement that opposes similar legislations. “I understand our original approach, no matter how well-intended, didn’t quite get the job done. We are committed to support the community going forward,” Chapek stated. Disney currently employs over 62,000 workers in Florida.

Legislations that target LGBTQ+ communities have been enacted at a record-setting pace, with 2021 seeing 17 laws passed, the most since 2015’s 15. Florida possesses 12 bills currently being considered that Freedom For All Americans terms “anti-LGBT.” Should DeSantis sign the bill, it would go into effect on July 1.

Disney Launching Residential Communities For Fans 

The theme park division at Disney announced that they are developing master-planned residential communities that will “meet the demand from fans looking for new ways to make Disney a bigger part of their lives.”

The project is a part of Disney’s decades-long efforts to expand into residential development. The company announced this Wednesday that “Storyliving By Disney” communities will be master-planned by Disney Imagineers, who are responsible for designing the company’s many theme parks. 

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Disney employees will operate the community associations. The company also announced that the communities will feature clubs where residents can participate in different forms of entertainment, health and wellness activities, and seminars. 

The first community is set to be developed on a 618-acre community called Cotino in Rancho Mirage, California; DMB Development is also helping bring the community to life. 

Disney plans on building full-scale residential houses, including a neighborhood specifically for individuals aged 55 and older. Mixed-use districts will consist of shopping centers, restaurants, a beachfront hotel, beach park, and a 24-acre “grand oasis” lagoon. 

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Disney is currently looking for additional community locations throughout the nation to further develop the communities. Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, made a statement Wednesday regarding the search:

“As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are, expanding storytelling to Storyliving.” 

Disney’s original residential efforts began in the 1960’s when the late Walt Disney announced his plans for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. The initial plans were to make the residential community the centerpiece of what is now Disney World. However, when Walt Disney died in 1966, the plans were put on hold, and the EPCOT name was repurposed to be used for Disney’s second theme park. 

Disney restarted residential development in the late 80s and 90s in Florida, with a planned community of Celebration. Celebration was a small town designed by Disney to give fans a nostalgic feeling. 

Disney sold a majority of its shares in Celebration in 2004 to a private investment firm. There’s no solid timeline as to when these Storyliving communities will be available for living, but it’s the biggest effort to come from Disney’s residential sector in a while.

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Disney’s US Parks To Remove Mask Mandates For Vaccinated Individuals 

Starting this Tuesday, June 15th, both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, are lifting their mask mandates for fully individuals who decide to visit their parks from this point forward. Disney also revealed that they won’t even be asking for proof of vaccination. 

Disneyland’s site posted this week that “while guests will not be required to show proof of vaccination, vaccinated guests with self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.”

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“In addition, all guests will need to attest that they are aware of the state of California’s strong recommendation that guests be fully vaccinated or receive a negative covid-19 test prior to entering the theme parks.” 

The Disneyland page also reads: “Guests (ages 2 and up) who are not fully vaccinated must continue wearing face coverings indoors, except when dining.” 

Disney World, on the other hand, told their guests this week: “While we will not require proof of vaccination, we expect guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation. Guests must observe current policies on face coverings until June 15.”

Both parks add that Disney “encourages[s] people to get vaccinated. Physical distancing will also be relaxed or self-determined at both parks, and temperature checks will no longer take place at Disneyland where out-of-state guests will officially be allowed back as well. One thing that’s not changing is the reservations—guests still can’t just show up to the parks unannounced, they must have previous reservations to get in,” according to reports from Gizmodo Magazine. 

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June 15th is the official date that the state of California decided on for removing all restrictions put in place over the past year in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Disney parks themselves have been reopened within the past few months as vaccination efforts have increased in the US as well. 

Germain Lussier is an entertainment writer who recently visited Disneyland this weekend to get one last look at the park before the mask mandates are fully lifted. 

“Having personally been to Disneyland this past weekend, while masks seemed to be monitored well, distancing was only partially enforced, simply because there aren’t enough Disney employees to check every place in the park. Also, no one checked to make sure I was a California resident. So half of this was already self-determined by the guests anyway which is probably not the safest way to operate.”

It’s important to remember that even if you’re vaccinated, you can still carry and spread Covid-19, you’re just much less likely to get sick yourself. So continue to take all the precautions you find necessary in the coming months as the world begins to reopen and we all navigate the rest of this year. 

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Disney To Lay Off 32,000 Workers As Theme Parks Continue To Struggle During Pandemic 

The Walt Disney Corporation announced this week that they would be increasing the number of employee layoffs projected for the beginning of 2021 by 4,000. Most of these layoffs are occurring within the theme parks themselves, as most parks throughout the nation are greatly struggling to keep up with the economic loss the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on. 

This increase in layoffs brings Disney’s projected total of employment layoffs to 32,000. The company filed with the SEC this week revealing the extended layoff plans, which will largely take place in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Product sectors. Back in September the entertainment giant announced it would be reducing its workforce by 28,000 employees due to the pandemic. 

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Overall Disney has estimated that the net economic impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on its “full-year segment operating income” was approximately $7.4 billion in losses. The Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products sector accounts for $6.9 billion of those losses as well due to a complete lack in revenue and profit. 

Downtown Disney in California recently reopened some of its shopping and dining facilities, with a slew of Covid-19 restrictions, as a means of making up for some of the loss, however, it’s not nearly enough to make back the billions. 

On October 3rd Disney had approximately 203,000 employees throughout the nation; around 155,000 of those workers were in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products sectors. The global workforce was made up of around 80% full-time employees and 20% part-time, meaning a lot of these individuals’ livelihoods have been completely uprooted and destroyed from this pandemic. 

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Disney’s merchandise licensing business has also taken a hit amid the pandemic due to a multitude of studio entertainment delays. Theatrical releases of certain films have been cancelled and thus the marketing sectors for those films, shows, and characters have been thrown off their projected schedules as well. This has led to stock piles upon stockpiles of merchandise just sitting in warehouses; like many businesses have seen happen with their product throughout this pandemic. 

Advertising sales at the companies media networks have struggled as well, and direct-to-consumer and international segments are also unable to operate to their fullest extent due to a lack of business. Since March 2020, like most entertainment companies have seen, there has been a significant decline in production and availability of content for Disney. 

Production of most film and television content has been suspended indefinitely until the pandemic is brought under greater control in the US. Disney has claimed that some film and television productions have resumed operations with dozens of restrictions and health and safety measures in place.

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Disneyland Will Delay Reopening Amid Rising Covid-19 Numbers

Disneyland is among the many parks and establishments throughout the US that are shutting down again after making plans to reopen by the end of July. Initially Disneyland was projecting to reopen on July 17th, now, California, Florida, and countless other states are seeing major spikes in new Covid-19 cases which is prompting many state governments to reinstate lockdown procedures. 

In a statement posted to Disneyland’s social media platforms, the company announced that the state of California won’t issue any theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4th, however, their priorities lie more in getting the case numbers down before they think about opening up amusement parks or any other major businesses for that matter. 

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 “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

Disney continued to claim that they would be working with California officials closely in the coming weeks so that they can issue more concrete plans for a potential reopening this summer. Walt Disney World in Florida is still projecting to reopen by the end of July despite Florida being one of the many states with record-breaking single-day case numbers. Florida is especially under close observation, as the state is projected to be the next epicenter for the virus’ second-wave; much like New York City was during the initial wave of infections. 

The Downtown Disney District is still planning on reopening on July 9th, according to the statement. The reopening of this district follows the same guidelines as all other restaurants and retail openings in the state of California. For Disney World in Florida, the company is planning to reopen the first of several major theme park attractions on July 11th, however, they will need to continue to be in contact with Florida’s state government everyday in regards to new case numbers. 

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Both parks have lost millions of dollars in revenue since initially closing back in March, however, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, this hasn’t made a major economic impact for Disney. When the parks reopen, whenever that may be, visitors will also have to be prepared to abide by very strict health and safety/social distancing procedures while in the park. These measures will include wearing a mask at all times, remaining six feet apart from everyone by following markers on the ground, and character meet and greets will likely not be happening. Visitors will also be required to get their temperature checked prior to entering. 

Some attractions and events will remain shut down indefinitely until this pandemic comes to a more concrete close. Most parades and playgrounds will likely remain shutdown for the time being, and visitors will not be able to travel among multiple parks per day. 

Despite all of these health and safety measures, thousands of American citizens have signed a petition urging Disney to remain fully closed until “COVID-19 cases are no longer rising and no longer posing risk of spreading this disease to our working cast/team members, their families, and our theme park guests.” 

Florida is one of the most infected states in America currently with over 103,000 cases total. Union leaders representing around 17,000 Disneyland employees have also written a letter to the Governor arguing that it is unsafe and irresponsible to reopen the park, and more than 40,000 individuals signed a petition that came from them as well which called the companies plan to reopen “greedy.”

Another major point of contention has been the argument that even if Disney does fully reopen with every single health and safety procedure imaginable, are families really going to be willing to spend the money on a Disney ticket if they have to wear a mask and likely wait even longer for the limited rides that are available? Only time will tell if Disney will even be able to follow through with any of these plans, as we know, this virus is unpredictable, so anything can happen between now and July.