Disney Is NOT Struggling

By | Friday, January 05, 2024 Leave a Comment
Bob Iger
There's a piece that went up over on The Beat yesterday talking about how Ike Perlmutter is trying to claw back some control over the Disney board of directors. There's not a ton there, mainly because Perlmutter hasn't made any real action yet; he's mostly been trying to work behind the scenes so far. But that's not what I want to talk about. Let's take a look at this passage setting up the framing of where Disney as a company is at currently...
But since then even Disney’s most beloved brands have proven to be as effective as a Wood Elemental: animation is lost in the weeds; an 80 year old Indiana Jones was 80 years old; Star Wars is lost in an uncharted system; and of course, most distressingly, the long-dreaded MCU fatigue has finally settled in. ESPN and Disney+ are also flailing about in the general disaster that is any streaming company that isn’t Netflix. Disney stock is struggling – so is everything else, especially after two long, draining strikes, but Disney was supposed to be special.
I've never especially cared for Disney as a company and their original properties never held much interest for me. I am a fan of Marvel and Star Wars broadly speaking, and I generally like what Pixar does. I'm definitely not above calling out problems when I see them, but this "everything is falling apart" framing seems grounded more in the popularity of piling on any corporation than actual facts. Let me rebut each line there...
  • animation is lost in the weeds -- Wish is Disney's latest animated theatrial release. It's currently got a worldwide gross of over $180 million US; not box office gold certainly, but A) it was released with effectively zero promotion since the actors couldn't promote it at all during the SAG-AFTRA strike, and B) it's already earned back it's production budget. Sure, everyone who worked on the movie wanted it to perform better, but it didn't bomb or anything. For television, they've got lined up Iwájú, Tiana, and Moana: The Series for 2024, all of which seem to have garnered early praise and/or anticipation.
  • an 80 year old Indiana Jones was 80 years old -- Again, minimal promotion on Dial of Destiny because of the strike, so it didn't perform up to expectations. It's not the best of the Indiana Jones movies, but quite a bit better than Crystal Skull.
  • Star Wars is lost in an uncharted system -- The amount of Star Wars content these days is staggering to an old fan like me, and I honestly cannot keep up with all of it. But the Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni material all strikes me as they have a VERY clear direction they're heading with all their material. Yes, there's varying quality but it is abundantly clear they are far from lost in what they're doing. Lost would be floundering around with crap like the Droids cartoon or Caravan of Courage from back in the '80s. Lost would be the people working on Rise of Skywalker second-guessing themselves at every turn and actively working against the story setups from Force Awakens and Last Jedi.
  • the long-dreaded MCU fatigue has finally settled in -- I am so sick of hearing this. Do you know when "superhero fatigue" was at it's most common as a search term? March 2004. It has been hovering where it currently sits as a search term since 2010 punctuated only by periodic bouts of literally not being brought up at all! Do you know why The Marvels didn't perform as well as people hoped? Again, the SAG-AFTRA strike prevented any of the actors from promoting the movie at all until two days before it opened. I'm not so blind as to think superheroes will remain popular indefinitely, and I am surprised they've remained as popular as they have for this long. But "superhero fatigue" is not a thing in exactly the same way that "comics are dying" is not a thing.
  • ESPN and Disney+ are also flailing about -- Disney's expectations were to have 60-90 million subscribers for Disney+ by 2024. They had 100 million by March 2021. While they have lost some ground since their high of 164 million at the end of 2022, they've actually seen their numbers start to grow again over the past three months or so, putting them on par with where they were just over a year earlier. Meanwhile ESPN has seen growth in every quarter since 2019, with the exception of a minor blip in Q3 2023. They literally have more subscribers than ever, double what they had in Q2 2021.
  • Disney stock is struggling -- Their price at the close of business yesterday was $90.62 US. It's been bouncing between $90 and $95 since November. That is down from their record high of $197 back in March 2021 but with the excpetion of 2020-2021, Disney's stock has been hovering around $100 since 2014. And for the decade before that, it was between $25-$50. So no, Disney's stock isn't doing exceptionally well, but "struggling" is a gross exaggeration, I'd say. It's barely 10% off what it's ten-year average has been.
None of the Disney-bashing they're doing is in the headline, so I don't think this is click-bait, and so I'm at a bit of a loss to see a reason for it. I'm by no means a Disney apologist and I'm not saying everything is perfectly rosy with the company, but I don't understand why people want to portray a company that's consistently brought in gross profits of between $6-$8 billion US every quarter for a decade as in disarray or struggling. Is everything running as smoothly or effeciently as it could? No, of course not. But it's hardly in so desperate a sitution that they're grasping at straws trying to get anything to work.
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