You know things are bad when your family calls you out publicly. But the Walt Disney Co. has long had an issue with being in tune with the audiences it plays to. From offensive and racist stereotypical characters, like the Crows in Dumbo, to the Indians in Peter Pan to, most recently, the pathetic pay for workers at Disney’s theme parks. The House of Mouse has issues, and Walt’s grandkids are calling his company to the not-so-magical carpet in a new documentary.
Roy O. Disney’s granddaughter, Abigail E. Disney, directed the film. Her siblings, Susan Disney Lord, and Tim Disney are executive producers. The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales highlight the salary inequities of their family’s company.
The Associated Press reports the documentary was born out of a series of tweets from 2019 when the filmmaker dragged then-Disney CEO Bob Iger’s bloated $65 million salary while employees at the theme parks were barely making ends meet.
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“They have gone the way of most every other company in this country. They started with a bigger idea of themselves than that. [...] The Walt Disney Co. was better. It was kinder, it was gentler. It was a human company,” Abigail Disney said in an interview with the Associated Press. “We have lost the plot.”
According to the Orange County Register, in 2021, Disneyland employees agreed to a new contract, but only after a threat to strike. Disneyland union members voted on a 19% pay raise, meaning an hourly pay increase from $15.50 an hour to $18.50 an hour, and the company agreed.
The increase remains below the $21.62 living wage calculation for an adult in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Anaheim—where Disneyland is located.
In response to the new film, a Disney spokesperson writes:
“Our amazing cast members, storytellers, and employees are the heart and soul of Disney, and their wellbeing is our top priority. We work hard to ensure that our team is supported in ways that enable them to grow their careers, care for their families, and thrive at work — which is why so many people choose to spend their entire careers with us."
The spokesperson adds that “cast members,” aka Disney employees, have medical coverage, child care, and tuition are covered. “We are committed to building on these impactful programs by identifying new ways to support our cast members and communities around the world,” the spokesman told The Associated Press.
A visit to the Happiest Place on Earth is likely out of the budget of those who work there. In the last five years, the price of a one-day visit with parking has been around $164, that’s up from $124 for the day in 2017.
Disneyland and its deplorable pay for workers, given the size and amount of money the company rakes in every year, isn’t its only problem. The company has also refused to rise to the ethics of inclusivity.
The characters are primarily white or white aspirational (Pocahontas, for example), all are heterosexual, and most of the stories drip with misogyny.
Even when the company had a chance to step up in Florida and fight back against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ridiculous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it fell flat, leaving its employees to do the dirty work.
In March, Disney workers protested with a walkout. Disney CEO Bob Chapek had remained silent on the homophobic legislation until the public dispute became too large. In a statement, the company announced that it was committed to efforts to repeal DeSantis’ law.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the company said in a statement. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”
A month later, DeSantis doubled down on Disney by taking away its special privileges in the state. Privileges such as building with approval from local planning commissions, collecting taxes, and issuing bonds, Politico reports.
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to martial your economic might to attack the parents of my state? We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that,” DeSantis said at the time.
Abigail Disney says, ultimately, the company has lost its moral compass.
“There is no such thing as not having a position on this question,” she says. "There is no neutral ground. To pretend you can stand still on a moving train is a terrible mistake."
This week on The Downballot
we check in on Pennsylvania, where Republican Doug Mastriano has called for "40 days of fasting and prayer" to save his ailing campaign for governor; dig into ad spending numbers that show Democrats airing far more spots because they aren't relying on super PACs; circle back to the J.R. Majewski stolen valor scandal, which prompted the NRCC to cut him loose; and recap the dispiriting results of Italy's general election, which saw the far-right win for the first time since Mussolini.