Legacy Content

Jim on Film
Page 1 of 3

by Jim Miles (archives)
July 3, 2003
Jim wonders if Disney has gone too far with the PG-13 rating for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and other recent moves.

A Step Too Far

Once upon a time, there was a man named Walt Disney. Walt Disney made a name for himself by standing for quality-such as when he spent thousands upon thousands of extra dollars to fix expensive films like Pinocchio and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He made family entertainment-proven by his track records of films that remain popular today, including Old Yeller, The Parent Trap, and Swiss Family Robinson. He was innovative, developing new technologies to create new worlds-such as animatronics.

Though he’s been dead for thirty-seven years, the studio he created is thriving and still producing successful films because of the legacy he fought to maintain. This has not been an easy task. In the decade after his death, instead of looking toward maintaining the legacy of Walt Disney, the studio sought to recreate it, making live-action films with tired formulas that lost touch with contemporary audiences. Instead of pressing forward, the studio got lost in looking back.

When Michael Eisner and friends came to the studio, it had already been taking steps toward modernization with the creation of Touchstone Pictures. With the creation of this division, the studio was attempting to reach adult audiences without tainting the Disney name. Over the years, as Disney has released many movies under other divisions (including the now defunct Hollywood Pictures and the acquired Miramax), the line between these divisions has become blurred, the media labeling many of these films by its main distributor, Disney.

Unfortunately, the more and more Disney moves from its roots, the more and more it loses sight of the legacy Walt Disney began, the same legacy that has allowed the company to make billions upon billions of dollars.

Who Was Walt Disney?
My name is Jim Miles, and there are certain issues and ideas I stand for. While I have no grand outlet to share these ideas, they are important to me. This is the same with anyone reading this article.

I think to suggest that Walt Disney would not have grown with the times would be unlikely. To suggest that, under his direction, the studio output of 1980 would have been the same as in 1965 would be unrealistic. However, there were certain variables present in Walt Disney that clues us as to what he would and would not have done. While it is not the topic at hand, it is probably important to note that Walt Disney was a visionary-one who was constantly creating trends . . . not following. He was at the head of the herd, not mindlessly following behind the masses. Because of this, he would have been able to further shape pop culture without sacrificing his ideas. Walt Disney died in 1966 . . . but knowing all this, it is sad to think of what his name has been used to sell.

Just as I would be very upset to see my name on something I strongly stood against, I can’t help but feel Walt Disney would feel the same. Even though he’s dead and what he thinks might not be relevant, as John Proctors says in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, what our names are put upon is important “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!? Even if the studio has strayed from the roots of its founder, it is disturbing to see the Disney name stamped upon some very un-Disney product.

Pushing the Envelope
Since Eisner and friends took over (which is a far too simplistic description to fully explain those events but one that works for short) and the floodgates opened to R-rated movies and the content connected to them, the company has always maintained certain standards. Either published or generally communicated, these standards have been along the lines of using the Disney name for family entertainment, not releasing films with NC-17 ratings, and so on.

Unfortunately, one by one, these standards have been slipping, as witnessed most recently with the PG-13 release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The problem is that these are more than standards; they are defining qualities of a company. It is no longer a matter of, by comparison, the Target Corporation owning Target (discount retailer), Mervyn’s (middle-level department store), and Marshall Field’s (higher-end department store). It’s a comparison to Marshall Field’s if it was to begin selling generic brands and started selling gum at the registers. Once the image is broken, it loses its potency.

As a person who loves the Disney product, this is a matter of concern because the more that the Disney name crumbles, the more their product will also.

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