Fans. We are the life blood of any good movie franchise. We are loyal. We are ride or die. But even fans have limits.
I am of the generation that grew up with Disney. We were the first generation to own Disney movies on VHS. We saw Star Wars in the theater (okay, maybe I was two when “Star Wars” came out, but I definitely remember seeing Empire and Jedi in the theater!) I remember sitting in the theater when The Little Mermaid came out and being so proud because my dad is on the soundtrack. And the preview for The Lion King took everyone’s breath away. These were epic events we waited for with bated breath. Every new Disney movie was an EVENT.
So, it is not surprising to me that the prequel to the beloved Disney/Pixar tetralogy A Toy Story called Lightyear tanked at the box office. We are inundated with Disney now. Disney, who acquired both the Star Wars franchise and the Marvel franchises, has been pushing sequel after sequel and requel (reboot combined with a sequel) and prequels and side stories.
And people are just tired. A lot of the fans are tired. We want stuff that’s new and innovative.
Disney makes us feel like all we are, are dollar signs. We are just Disney’s cash cow now. Somewhere along the way Walt’s dream of entertaining has been lost in favor of “Let’s churn out another sub-par movie to make some money” and that’s what Lightyear is. I’m kind of surprised Lightyear even bothered with a theatrical release, seeing as so many movies are going straight to streaming and Disney has its very own platform for streaming services with Disney+. Theaters are closing left and right in our post-pandemic reality and a movie has to be an EVENT to get us back. Lightyear is just another Disney movie. Ho hum. I didn’t even know it had come out. I didn’t care when I found out. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.
“What went wrong is that we asked too much of the audience,” Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter said, in an interview with The Wrap. Really? What audience? You have to have an audience to ask something of. If no one is seeing it, you can’t ask your audience to dig too deep or whatever he meant by that.
No. What went wrong is that you tried to play off another tired sequel/prequel to an audience that has been cooped up at home and needs a real reason to go out to the movies. Hollywood in general, is getting LAZY. We don’t want reboots, retreads and prequels. We want to see things we haven’t seen before. Jordan Peele gets it. He’s innovating American Horror practically single handed. The Brits, too, have produced some great supernatural drama recently.
But Disney? Disney is recycling a beloved story just to generate money. It’s not like they haven’t done this before, it’s just that they didn’t put those sequels in theaters. Return of Jafar went straight to video and was more for kids who just needed more Aladdin in their lives, but the execs at Disney didn’t expect the rest of their fan base to spend money in the theater for it.
The multiple sequels to Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast also went straight video for the very same reason. They knew no one would stand in line for Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. But when Aladdin came out, it was an EVENT. And everyone was excited! People filled the theater to see it. It was new, it was exciting, it was fresh! We couldn’t wait for the next movie, and we got a taste of The Lion King, and people around me wept at the trailer. I’m not exaggerating. Wept.
And when Toy Story came out there was an actual event. Disney put together an accompanying event to go with the premiere in Hollywood. I worked that event. There were green army men, full sized guys dressed up like little green army men! There was a maze, and they rented out the building next to the theater so they could turn it into the arcade. It was interactive and FUN! You felt like you got to experience being in the movie for a few moments. That’s the event that made Disney buy the El Captain theater on Hollywood Boulevard, if I’m not mistaken.
So, you can see why, almost 30 years after the original Toy Story came out, you’d have to do more than Lightyear could possibly accomplish after four sequels already. It’s time to come up with something NEW, Disney. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Or better yet, the story board.
Jackie Zwirn is the recent author of the critically acclaimed “Onion” Best Seller Show Me Where Spock Touched You and other heartwarming tales of Trekkery as well as the author of some of the most popular How-To manuals: Crab Walking Downstairs While Possessed and The Hitter, Hacker, Grifter, & Thief 101 Manual. She also authored the biography of Dean Winchester, When I Was a Demon: Rock Salt, Shot Guns and a Lotta Liquor.
She currently lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her husband, and two cats Mozart and Falcor.
And she never forgets her flash drive. Ever. Bazinga.