A Disney family documentary targets the mouse house

NEW YORK (AP) — Abigail E. Disney has previously spoken out critical of the company that bears her name. But for the first time, Disney, the granddaughter of co-founder Roy O. Disney, has brought her views to the medium on which Mouse House was built: a film.

In the new documentary The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, Disney argues that the Walt Disney Co. has lost its moral compass. As one of the company’s most prominent and outspoken critics — one who happens to be a member of the Disney family — Disney paints an unflattering portrait of the company, particularly in light of wage inequality and the struggles of some theme park employees to support their families minimum wages.

“They have gone the way of most other companies in this country. They started with a bigger idea of ​​themselves,” Disney said in an interview. “The Walt Disney Co. was better. It was friendlier, it was gentler. It was a human enterprise.

“We lost the plot,” Disney said.

The American Dream, which is in select theaters and debuting Friday on video-on-demand, is directed by Disney, an activist and film producer, and filmmaker Kathleen Hughes. It came after a series of tweets from Disney in 2019 in which she slammed Disney CEO Bob Iger for compensation that exceeded $65 million in 2018. Disney siblings Susan Disney Lord and Tim Disney are also executive producers on the film, which was shot without any interaction from the company.

“No one contacted me. I’m honestly a little confused about this,” Disney said. “I’m happy to talk if you want me to. I cheer them on. I love this company. This is a declaration of love to the company. But when you really, really love something and you see it going off the rails, you can’t stay silent.”

The film follows four Disneyland administrators struggling to make ends meet in the high-priced Anaheim, California area on a $15 an hour wage. Widening pay gaps between executives and low-level workers is an issue Disney knows goes well beyond the company its film affects. At one point in the film, she describes her hope for change as “a little Disney.

“I know people think I live in an abstract country out here,” Disney said. “But the abstractions are very important, and the sensibility has to change.”

The wages of some Disney workers have changed. Unions representing 9,500 Disneyland workers averted a strike by ratifying a contract that increased hourly wages from $15.45 to $18. A union representing hotel workers at an Anaheim hotel also recently agreed to $23.50 an hour. (Anaheim’s Living Wage Ordinance, which is $23.50, did not previously apply to Disneyland.)

In response to “The American Dream,” a Disney spokesperson responded with an explanation.

“Our amazing cast, storytellers and employees are the heart and soul of Disney and their well-being is our top priority. We work hard to ensure our team has the support to advance their careers, take care of their families and thrive at work – that’s why so many people choose to spend their entire careers with us.”

The spokesman also cited health insurance, access to tuition-free higher education and subsidized childcare as employee benefits. “We are committed to building on these impactful programs by finding new ways to support our performers and communities around the world,” said the spokesperson.

When Roy E. Disney, who co-founded the company with his brother Walt in 1923, resigned from the board in 2003, the family stopped participating in the running of the company. Since Abigail Disney directed her documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Iger has been replaced by Bob Chapek, who previously managed Parks for the company. During that time, prices at the company’s theme parks have skyrocketed — another bone of contention for Disney.

“I just don’t think making Disneyland a luxury vacation that most Americans don’t have access to is a good idea,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer the brand can take.”

However, Disney was encouraged by workers who protested Chapek’s response to Florida legislation, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. For Disney, the situation reflected the company’s struggle to retain a role as a moral authority in such politically polarized times.

“There’s no way not to have a position on this issue,” she said. “There is no neutral ground. Pretending you can stand still on a moving train is a terrible mistake.”

Ultimately, Disney is increasingly failing to recognize the company that has been the family business for much of their lives. Making a film about her disapproval, she says, was “exquisitely uncomfortable.” But she hasn’t given up on a happy-ever-after ending.

“I really mean well,” says Disney. “You can say a lot about me, but I mean it well.”

https://wgntv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/a-doc-from-the-disney-family-takes-aim-at-the-mouse-house/ A Disney family documentary targets the mouse house

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