Disney Digest 2/20/24: R.I.P.W.D.S.H.E., Ryan Reynolds, DisneylandForward

Today, we memorialize a division that is near and dear to many Disney fans' hearts, discuss how Ryan Reynolds' parents are fighting, and vent about local politics in Anaheim.

R.I.P. W.D.S.H.E.

Today’s news that Disney will be outsourcing their physical media sales hit a lot of Disney fans in the gut. While the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, for many Disney aficionados who did not grow up near a park, getting the latest home video release was a major event in their Disney calendars. However, Disney’s focus moved away from home video a long time ago. What was perhaps a hail mary, their Disney100 set, was plagued with issues and the marketing campaigns tied to releases have dwindled to virtually non-existent.

But this transition isn’t Disney’s fault. People are purchasing less, which has caused major retailers to give up shelf space, which in turn makes it harder for the whole business to pencil out. It is just a basic fact that most people have moved to streaming, via Disney+ and other platforms. While they may still buy physical media for their most cherished titles, everyone has cut back on the number they buy. In addition, parents who were buying Disney features to keep their kids entertained can just rely on Disney+. That way, they don’t have to shell out more cash when the kids are probably just watching Bluey and Moana on repeat anyways. Yet, Disney+ does not seem to have any interest in fully taking advantage of Disney’s rich catalog. While they will occasionally remaster or dig into the vault, the financial incentive isn’t nearly as great as those that would watch those more niche titles are probably subscribed anyways. Disney Movie Club was able to justify exclusive hidden gems because people would shell out for them, whereas Disney+ is not on a per title basis.

We do not know how Sony plans on handling Disney releases. Perhaps, they will release more titles than Disney has in recent years. So, perhaps there is a silver lining. It is fitting that they were selected as Sony has licensed much of their library to Disney+ and Hulu. Disney won’t have physical media distribution and Sony doesn’t have a streaming service (or the ability to make a good live-action Spider-verse film). But even if Sony decides to expand that business, it does feel weird that Disney is finally moving on from an endeavor that had served them so well over the years.

It was the decision to release animated classics on VHS, which some viewed as sacrilege at the time, that provided the cash that allowed Michael Eisner and Frank Wells to invest and grow the company. Disney Animation was saved due to the need to have more titles that could be cycled in and out of the Disney vault. It wasn’t until The Little Mermaid hit that Disney Animation’s theatrical business was viewed as sustainable. As DVDs grew in popularity, the marketing campaigns for the home video releases sometimes rivaled the promotion for the theatrical window. FastPlay, BD-Live, Divix, Second Screen, and the famous disappearing DVDs were all technologies that Disney invested in as they tried to find ways to plump up their golden goose. But the company that made their name by mailing you those DVDs changed the business forever, and now vintage home video releases are used for merchandise and promotion of the X-Men ‘97 Disney+ series. So as we say goodbye to Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, let’s remember that it will always be “Walt Disney and You.”

Sports Page

In what was an inevitability, FUBO is suing to stop the sports-focused streaming service joint venture between Disney, FOX, and Warner Bros Discovery. The complaint mentions that the companies have received large profits from sports consumers and that they are copying FUBO’s business model. Neither of those things are illegal, but what FUBO is probably trying to ensure is that they could offer the same package of sports channels to their consumers.

For years, content companies like Disney have bundled sports networks with other channels in order to get higher fees. While sports remains a large draw, those other networks are less important in a streaming focused world. In fact, production at many cable channels such as Freeform and Disney Channel is a fraction of what it was even five years ago. But, if these companies are willing to sell a skinny bundle to themselves for a lower cost, are they also willing to sell it to others such as FUBO, Comcast, and Charter?

It is a bit interesting that FUBO has a content deal with Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort who produces the sports docuseries Welcome to Wrexham and hopes to be the Marvel savior this summer with Wolverine & Deadpool. I wonder if he will pick a side while his corporate parents are fighting. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how this service will come to be, so instead of worrying about it, I would just enjoy that we have a new “This is SportsCenter” ad.

Tuesdays are for Drama

ABC is finally debuting their scripted Tuesday night lineup as the strike recovery continues. Will Trent, The Good Doctor, and, The Rookie are the returning shows which will be available on Hulu tomorrow. This is the last season of The Good Doctor, which is probably correlated to the fact it is produced by the aforementioned Sony instead of a Disney unit while The Rookie has become a streaming sleeper hit. In fact, the show generated over 500 million hours of viewing on Hulu since premiering in 2018 with nearly 1/2 of those hours occurring in just the last year. Will Trent has the challenge of being a sophomore show that saw its second outing delayed by a strike which has not worked out well for others in the past (RIP Pushing Daisies).

I asked our resident TV expert Alex Reif, fresh off the TCA Press Tour to rank the three shows and here they are:

#1: Will Trent

#2: The Rookie

#3: The Good Doctor

DisneylandForward Keeps Moving Forward

Today, the City of Anaheim revealed that the Planning Commission will be holding a workshop on the DisneylandForward project next Monday at 5 p.m. at City Hall. This is another workshop, similar to the recent City Council workshop, where details of the project will be shared and the public can ask questions and provide comments. Although there will be those with nuanced questions and perspectives, expect many to blindly be against the project because they enjoy being against Disney at every turn. One may think that, during the pandemic, it would become clear how Anaheim benefits from the taxes generated by tourism that dwarf the impact of any other Orange County city. Yet, there are always those that feel Disney should contribute more out of their own pocket or the pockets of its customers. While the city has every right to make sure the development agreement is in the best interest of their citizens, any negotiation requires good faith from both sides. Sure, Disneyland has taken advantage of their position in the past, but I hope they have reset their relationship with the city over the past 30 years — to a place where they can find a mutually beneficial solution that also allows Disneyland to build cutting edge experiences with as little unnecessary bureaucracy as possible.

Quick Hits:

  • Who says everything needs to be IP based? Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuted a new snack shack themed to… Ice Cold Hydraulics. Let’s just hope that this isn’t the theme to an unannounced animated project.
  • Iwaju merchandise is now available at the parks, which officially means they spent more money on product development than marketing the upcoming series which is about a week away from release.
  • Since we spent a lot of time talking about Sony, we got some casting news on Venom 3. While I did not enjoy the first two, somehow they are the best of Sony’s recent live-action Marvel movies.

6 Things to Watch For Tomorrow: