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Disney is safeguarding its future by buying childhood, piece by piece (economist.com)
148 points by e15ctr0n on Dec 21, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 166 comments

FYI, the first part of the article spoils some minor things about the new star wars film, for those who haven't seen it. I bailed out of reading it after that.

At some point, you have to stop considering any discussion of a movie as spoiler.

The term "spoiler" should be reserved for a reveal that actually spoils the movie; where some crucial element of the movies emotional impact can be taken away by knowing some fact in advance that is held secret through the movie.

The discussion in the first paragraph here pretty much just covers the exposition in the credits, and the material you learn very early on about one of the main characters.

I feel like treating this kind of information as a spoiler will just lead you to endless anxiety until you have seen every possible movie that could be "spoiled" for you this way. Why not just relax, accept that people are going to do some light discussion of movies, and reserve your outrage for actual spoilers of surprising plot points, mysteries solved, puzzles spoiled, and the like?

OP didn't seem outraged to me, just a bit disappointed. Which I understand, because "at some point" is still far away for the new Star Wars movie. I do think that any discussion of a movie is a spoiler. It depends, but from friends I don't even want to know if they liked a movie or not as I know them and their taste so well that I will deduce things which will influence my experience. I want my experience as pristine as possible, which is hard enough without articles mentioning tiny details about plots that they just don't need to mention for the point they are making.

When I say "at some point", I don't mean that that's the timeline for a particular movie. I mean at some point in your life, it is better to let go of the idea of walking into a movie in a completely pristine state with no expectation about what will happen in it.

Otherwise, either you have to cut yourself off from all media and conversation that might possibly reference the movie, or try and convince everyone you might interact with, and everyone who might write anything online, not to discuss the movie. Neither option seems particularly pleasant nor realistic to achieve. I suppose you could also just see every movie you intend to see on the first showing of the opening day.

What you are doing by asking for absolutely no information at all, even the basic exposition and setup of characters at the beginning of the movie, is imposing a large burden on everyone else around you to prevent a very minor inconvenience to yourself. I understand not wanting major spoilers, and that there should be a reasonable time before discussing those points openly without a spoiler warning. But it just seems that the trade-off is fairly poor for not even allowing the most basic discussion.

In that case I guess my trouble with your point of view lies not with the "at some point" phrase but rather with the generalization implied by "any discussion". That argument is almost always used against people who complain about spoilers, and sadly it's often insultingly non-understanding. I'm not saying that all discussion are spoilers. While my personal wish is to not know anything about a movie before seeing it (which I have never regretted afterwards, by the way – the opposite, having advance knowledge, has not hurt the experience always, but it has never ever improved it), I realize that this is hard to achieve and requires me to take care of that, not everyone else. As you mention, that would impose too much of a burden on everyone else.

But that does not mean there is not still a lot of stuff that really should be considered spoilers, and the complaints about these should not be brushed off just because you think I expect you to not mention anything about a movie. I think it's a very valid criticism when the article in question reveals something that even the trailers kept unknown by never showing that person, without any need for it in the context of the article. It's like saying "The Sixth Sense, where he was dead all along, was quite good, I loved the cinematography." a week after that movie was released. While I personally would not have wanted to know about the cinematographical quality either, I realize I can't complain about hearing something like that when reading a review or when I'm not fleeing a discussion of the movie quickly enough. I never would complain about that. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be pretty annoyed to read said plot detail in an article about e.g. "The decline of quality in M. Night Shyamalan movies" a week after that movies release.

To sum it up: I agree with your basic point, but I think too often people that are fine with spoilers don't care about the fact that other people have a different level of acceptance and when confronted with that simply resort to saying "Well, it's silly to have this level of acceptance."

>it is better to let go of the idea of walking into a movie in a completely pristine state with no expectation about what will happen in it //

I actually managed this pretty much with the new Star Wars movie - but then on the way in to find the screen was greeted with a massive poster showing lots of info about the movie. I averted my eyes. Then at the entrance there were sales staff touting character drink cups which successfully spoiled a couple of the characters who would feature heavily.

After the movie I watched a BBC program which supposedly reviewed the Star Wars franchise and promised no spoilers. Pretty much the entire plot and many of the scenes could be determined from the content they gave.

The problem I have nowadays is that trailers seem to include the entire plot, all major characters, all the best effects, all the most emotive scenes; ostensibly the entire movie in digest. These to me are very poor trailers.

Generally I agree with your points however, lambda.

I think that _the same weekend it opens_ is not in the span that most would consider "spoiler free". If the movie has been out for a month, maybe.

I'm pretty sure there are no spoilers in that first paragraph. In fact, I'm pretty sure most of what's referenced was available in pre-release materials (trailers, press events, and such). I just saw the movie and just read this article, it's less spoilery (in my opinion, not spoilery at all) than listening to coworkers in the lead up to it who were making conjectures based on their knowledge of other Star Wars media and the pre-release materials.

Pre-release materials are the worst, and often contain awful spoilers. I intentionally avoided them for Star Wars. During the previews when I saw Star Wars, one of the people I went with did his best to ignore the Captain America trailer, because he didn't want it spoiled at all. You watch enough ads/pre-release materials to decide you want to see it, then once you decide to see it, you ignore everything you can.

IMO, outside of thrillers or movies that pretty much rely on a major twist, "spoilers" is nonsense. I'm not going to go around telling the plot of a movie to people (that's a dick move), but if a movie cannot stand on its own even if you've been told the last 5 minutes verbatim (or seen them) before seeing the rest, then the movie is probably not worth watching. And there are very few trailers that are that bad.

Again, I'll except trailers for thrillers and the like, those story structures necessarily depend on twists or slow reveals for their ride to be fun or interesting, and a spoiler can absolutely ruin them. But action movies?

That's cool. Good for you. You've decided what you do and do not care about before seeing a movie. Now let other people do the same.

Read what I wrote:

> I'm not going to go around telling the plot of a movie to people (that's a dick move)

I have let other people decide what they care about. I'm just voicing my opinion about it. I'm not "spoiling" anything here. And, fine, my opinion is that anyone that cares about "spoilers" has first world problems. I have been yelled at (literally yelled at, like I'd just punted a puppy across the room) because I said something as obvious as "The Titanic sinks in the end", and often from movies of similar vintage.

Seriously, don't read reviews, don't watch trailers, and don't ask people their opinions of movies if you don't want "spoilers". Most of us aren't dicks, we won't go around telling you what happens in a movie unprompted (at least, not a recent movie, maybe as a way of explaining our references to older movies).

The root comment was one warning readers that the article contained information that they may consider spoilers. At least if they're the type of person who actively avoids reviews, trailers, and opinions.

If someone wants to go to great lengths to avoid everything then that's fine. If people want to warn their fellow "blackout" fans that's fine too. If someone wants to say something isn't spoilers and it's just an action movie then, uh, ok then, I guess.

Yep, I remember seeing Titanic and obviously knowing how it would end. But strangely enough I forgot about all that once it started and was genuinely surprised when they hit the iceberg. :/

And this is my point. While I didn't particularly enjoy the movie (I was in middle school at the time, it got old fast when all the girls wouldn't stop talking about it), it keeps you engaged and so the moment that that happens can still come as a surprise or jolt. You've been engaged by the rest of the story. Knowing the last few minutes of that movie does not change the drama of the relationships between the characters, and that drama is the point of the movie, not the way it ends, but the way it carries out.

Spoiler alert: Everybody will die eventually. That doesn't mean the journey from birth to death is pointless now that you know the outcome. Everything that happens in between is the part that matters. The same is true for good stories.

I found it interesting how Maleficent trailers all somehow use the movie footage to make her seem evil, where as the movie is actually about her NOT being evil. So the in that pre-release material didn't spoil anything at all.

If the name of a single character now counts as a spoiler, I don't think I want to live on this planet anymore.

Could you spoil it for us with the name of the planet you do want to live on?

Well, if there's a bright center to the universe, then the planet that it's farthest from.

The "spoilers" for the new Star Wars film aren't a big deal. I knew them and the "spoiled" scenes still had a big impact on me, because that's what good film making is all about.

It's more than just the name; the first part of the sentence is far more spoiler-y than the name at the end.

Spoiler alert: franchise soft reboots do the same thing as the original franchise because that's what puts ("record" number, in this case) butts in seats.

I just ruined A LOT of movies from here forward.

It also makes more sense with Star Wars (1977), a simple and universal story (a fairytale, even) than say, Robocop.

It's safe to read the article unless you have a pretty extreme desire to avoid knowing anything whatsoever about the film before you watch it. The spoilers are more like "It's set in space" than "Vader is Luke's father".

Vader is Luke's father? o_O


ironically, this line of dialogue is the biggest spoiler of any movie of all time.

This is super bad form, that sucks.

Reading this gives me a chill down my spine. There's something about a corporation controlling, optimizing, monetizing, and branding dominant components of a childhood that just doesn't seem right.

If we weren't raising our kids to be such consumers--turning stupid shit like Star Wars into "cultural experiences"-- Disney wouldn't have any power. They can't own sticks and dirt.

You know the worst part? You can't even prevent it if you are raising your kids otherwise.

My 5 year old has never seen a Disney movie, yet she told me today that for her 6th birthday she wants a Cinderella shirt and an Elsa costume - both characters she has never actually seen on screen. Her friends at school all talk about it though and recount fantastic stories.

I hear from people saying that we will raise a kid who is out of the loop, so she won't be able to relate and will be an outcast if we don't keep her up to date with all the trends like her peers.

At a certain point as a parent, it's kind of like, it doesn't really matter what we do.

"At a certain point as a parent, it's kind of like, it doesn't really matter what we do."

Congratulations. You've discovered the true essence of parenting ;-)

Not sure if you're being fun or patronizing, but I'll assume the former in good faith.

Regardless, this is a highly contrarian position. In fact a recent article [1] comes to the same conclusion, as well as how controversial said conclusion is.


I'm being partly facetious, but only partly. I've thought the same thing to myself so many times about my kids too ;-)

You really have to experience this to fully appreciate it. Social contagion is real.

As a developer, I do my best to engineer it into my product.

How could you shore up human weakness, instead of exploiting it? A question I've been asking myself...

You can exploit the weakness to help people in another way. How many of us grew up and mastered arithmetic with Math Blaster or similar?

Gasification works and exploits a human weakness. Incorporating it into a game like many mobile games (FarmVille) just wastes people's time and encourages them to spend money on meaningless tokens and trinkets that will literally disappear at some point (as opposed to the still silly and useless trinkets you might get from an arcade prize shop, but at least those you can keep). Incorporating it into something more useful (or at least with a more valuable output) is a good start.

The problem is that our weaknesses are also our strengths, just in different contexts. Efficient heuristic formation is an amazing strength in many contexts, but it's also the same system that leads to racism, stereotyping etc...

I have come to the conclusion that you really can't "shore up" human weaknesses without chemical changes or maybe some kind of tDCS type system. Even then, there seem to be some major tradeoffs.


Disney films are based on Joseph Campbell's comparative mythology. After the success of Lucas using one of Campbell's plots in A New Hope and Raiders of the Lost Arc, Disney decided to use this plot for all of their movies. [1] It isn't science, but it enormously compelling and effective.

Why wouldn't you want your daughter to be like Elsa? Of all the role models throughout history for little girls, Elsa is without doubt one of the best. It is only recently that women weren't portrayed a submissive needing to marry the right man to be successful. Or, Belle? Beauty and the Beast is story about the inventor's daughter, a bibliophile, who is isolated because she can't relate to her bland vanilla society that rejects intellectuals like Belle and her father. I wouldn't write off Disney so quickly. It's worth reading the Power of Myth, the transcript of the interview between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, because you might appreciate the thinking behind Disney movies. You will find that there are people in control at Disney who share your values.

I can't pass judgement on parenting. However, there is a big difference allowing children to watch a Disney movie once a month or even once a week and letting children watch television 4 hours a day after school.

[1] http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm

You could think of it like, once Disney has permeated our culture to such a degree, people would collectively decide they don't deserve to own them and their kids and erode copyright.

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

The problem is not that Disney can own entertainment products they create. The problem is our society elevating base entertainment to the level of cultural artifact. Disney has no power if people don't treat their disposable trinkets like sacred totems.

The post near the top about spoilers is a good example. We're all supposed go out of our way go protect the sanctified experience of the movie for true believers. How messed up is that?

One of my friends has had enough with little girls talking about Frozen. If I'm describing something with that word (as in, describing the icy nature of something), he will scream "ELSA IS THE DEVIL'S WHORRREEEE!". This behavior is well known among our friends and has been exploited countless times.

Meh. Just wait until they discover Minecraft. Frozen is low alcohol beer compared to the pure uncut heroin that Mojang spawned.

He's been exposed. He's more annoyed over the kids fawning over a (who seems to him) an obviously destructive character. As an alternative, he follows the Elsa line with "Hans is the true king of Arendell", because of his charity during crisis. I didn't know who he was; for all I know, he deserved what he got. Then I watched the movie, and he deserved what he got.

Neither of us like the movie that much, because it's monarchist.

Are we really "raising our kids to be consumers"? I mean, you have to really go out of your way to not make them consumers. I don't even know how it's possible. I recall you have a daughter -- does she not go on and on with the 'let it go' song? When she goes to a store does she not by her own accord beg you to buy her Elsa and Anna themed toys?

If not, what are you doing as a parent to not make them consumers? Lots would like to know!

I'm not anti-disney really, we let ours watch Mary Poppins and Frozen a few times. But it isn't really hard, you just get rid of the TV (best thing you can do, commercials are a cancer) and focus instead on books and (real) music in the evenings.

The Peanuts Christmas album (vince guaraldi trio) is wonderful this time of year.

The things Disney are buying were always controlled, monetized and branded. Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel were not little community driven charities.

I saw The Force Awakens at Alamo Drafthouse and they had little montages of some of the marketing and merchandising that went on throughout the original trilogy. Toys, breakfast cereals, even a C3-PO and RS-D2 anti-smoking commercial.

Space Balls even made fun of it!

Anyone who thinks Star Wars wasn't super-monetized on Day One isn't old enough to remember it.

Star Wars invented and perfected the tie-in. That was George Lucas' real and major contribution to movies as a business.

It's a little self-limiting in the end, at least. The more Disney throws recycled characters in our face as part of a bland franchise-entertainment product, the more compelling real original work will become, and the more likely they are to ruin the childhood magic.

I also find hope in recent developments overseas, and anticipate the impact of works such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica on the future of children's television here in the US as well.

Disney got started by recycling fairy tales with happy endings instead of sad endings the original books had.

Marvel, Star Wars, etc got recycled as well. Marvel got an all brand new universe after destroying Earth-616 and the Ultimate universe to make Secret Wars, and then after Secret Wars they changed things up in the comic books. Star Wars they basically rewrote Episode 4 A New Hope as Episode 7 The Force Awakens by changing the character names and roles. All of this is focused on the young that didn't watch or read the original materials. Disney is youth focused, so us older people in our childhood we had things different in Marvel and Star Wars, and under Disney they have been recycled and changed for a global market now instead of just the USA, etc.

There was a time when the Disney Channel was stealing ideas from Nickelodeon for shows with teens/tweens. But now owning Marvel and Star Wars they can make shows based on those characters on their own channel without having to steal ideas from others.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is most certainly not children's television. /人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

It most certainly is! Maybe not little children, but have you seen the marketing on that thing? The main character is 14, but it will easily pick up the whole 8-to-16 set with that, especially if some 13-year-old watching it in middle school has a little sister who looks up to her and they watch shows together.



Or the Madoka-inspired Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, which doubles down on the happy fun times (investing a full five episodes instead of Madoka's two-and-a-half): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ljIjdf0Vg

More importantly, even if American audiences shouldn't expect such overtly dark shows in front of small children any time soon, creators are definitely paying attention, and Madoka is exactly the sort of phenomenon which gets creators of all sorts thinking about how to up their game and make something that's meaningful (dark or otherwise). Everybody wins.

What about bokurano? There are at least 15 children there! It must be good for them!

Get the hell out of here Kyubey. I'm not signing your goddamn contract.

Yap, there is no other place to see this better than going to Disney World. That place is super-optimized for maximum throughtput of people, maximum magic to capture children's imagination, good service, friendly atmosphere, and maximum extraction of your money. Even in supposedly a recession, the place was packed with people.

With my kid, most characters and shows they like, are owned by Disney. We were going through the list recently and there was a handful only that were not Disney owned. Disney owns the childhood, that not a joke.

> There's something about a corporation controlling, optimizing, monetizing, and branding dominant components of a childhood that just doesn't seem right.

And especially such one as Disney...

Apart from the monopolization, is it at all new? ex: Lego. Lego is not produced by artisan plasticsmiths down the street, they're a big company.

Well, before their patent expired, it seemed that they were less focused on getting exclusive trademark rights for movie-franchise-branded brick sets.

Lego sells both general bricks and licensed IP characters. Guess which 90% of their consumers prefer?

When Disney acquires Barbie, their domination will be complete.

(Check out "Hello Barbie", in stores now.[1] Now your kids can talk to Barbie and she'll talk back. Barbie has a WiFi connection to servers back at Mattel HQ running AI software. "ToyTalk, the tech company that partnered with Mattel to bring Hello Barbie to life, stores by default everything the doll records for at least two years to help it better analyze children’s speech." Coming up next, Cognitoys, plush animals powered by IBM's Watson system and able to answer hard questions.)

[1] http://shop.mattel.com/product/index.jsp?productId=65561726 [2] https://cognitoys.com

I'm somewhat reminded of Harrison's "I Always Do What Teddy Says" (https://opalcp12.wikispaces.com/file/view/I+Always+Do+What+T...).

SPOILER ALERT! The story was a bit hard to believe, as it claims that everyone who wasn't conditioned against it (like none of us are) would just grow up to be a sociopath and kill their parents without second thought.

Not going to read it due to the spoilers, but I give Disney a lot of credit. They've done pretty well by Pixar, and exceedingly well by Marvel.

Disney is certainly a corporate behemoth out to make a buck, but I really believe that it's accompany that understands these properties, and wants people to love them.

Disney knows fans will not continue to flock to prequel-quality Star Wars films. Even the die-hard fans have a limit. These movies need to be excellent if they're going to continue to draw audiences. George Lucas himself doesn't understand what makes the original trilogy so special to fans, which is why Disney is putting fans like JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson at the helm of these new movies. It seems like they're off to a great start. I have faith they'll continue to be great.

Edit: First sentence: I, not u. Yikes, what a typo.

If you're worried about the spoiler that some people seem to think is in the article, skip the first paragraph. It merely starts the narrative, it doesn't contain any content pertinent to the discussion of the article beyond that it may or may not contain a spoiler.

They only did well by Pixar once Eisner left (or moreso, forced to leave). Edit: just realized that most of what I wrote is already mentioned in article.

There was some magic to the 80s childhood movies -- Star Wars, ET, Last Starfighter, Goonies -- that I don't think can be bottled. Whatever stories hold that place for our kids, I don't think they will be the same movies that did it for us. There's just something about seeing Star Wars in the context of that time, and it's not the same as seeing it now.

It's because you were (presumably) a kid back then - and everything was much more magical then because it was your whole world and imagination. Just like old people now state how much better the 50s were, because that's when they were children.

I pretty much discount anytime someone says "It was better when I was a kid."

There is actually something different with these 80s movies for kids _and_ adults. Part of it was some true courage in the story-telling, for what movie studio of today would allow a character like "Sloth" from the Goonies to end up in a movie? Darkness along with the light. And sincerity in both rather than vapid "sarcasm." These movies have soul and heart.

Not saying that similar movie magic is impossible now or in the future, but in the current world of profit-driven decisions on creative direction it seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Seriously? ANY pixar film puts those to shame in terms of depth. The entire back story of UP was about a widower; Finding Nemo, same story - talk about darkness and light. How about The Incredibles, Wall-E, Monsters Inc, all fantastic story telling and incredible depth. It even goes further back than 80s, to movies like The Sound of Music with the Nazis.

Again, your biases are only fuzzy nostalgia and it seemed bigger to you then cause your brain couldn't contextualize it as well.

What about Gollum?

I know what you mean, but sometimes it isn't pure nostalgia. I like hand-drawn non-CG animation a lot, but there aren't a lot of animated movies coming out now that have it. And cultures can change dramatically too. I liked it better when people weren't so distracted by their cellphones. (This is a fairly small change.)

If you really want blatant commercialization, see Pokemon, Digimon, Yu Gi Oh etc. The latter at least had an interesting plot, and deeper characters. But both are basically cheap adaptations of Japanese anime -- draw a few frames with action lines, sell millions of trading cards.

Compare that to, say, Spiderman for FOX Kids in the 90s. Every scene was carefully animated and the plot was deep.

And to prove it's not just nostalgia, there were cheap shows back then too, like all the Power Rangers knockoffs. Anyone remember "Samurai Pizzacats"? Kind of funny, but mostly repetitive power rangers formula.

Even Japanese anime knockoffs were better before -- like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

There is still good stuff today but it's few and far between. I'm inclined to think the business objectives have changed more than the kids' tastes. It's like people used to play immersive 3d games, real time strategy games, and now so many play addictive pay-to-accelerate casual nonsense like Farmville or Boom Beach or whatever. Did people simply change their tastes to get ripped off? No, it was directed by business. Actual quality is secondary now.

Well I generally agree that titles today are super lame compared to the awesomeness of my own childhood. But it's hard to remove my own subjective nostalgia from the equation, as someone pointed out above.

It may be possible that there is almost too much focus on "quality" now but it's the wrong kind of quality -- lack of errors, linear predictability, control of financial risk in the business of storytelling. Today's cartoons do not take risks, economic, artistic, or political.

I've been watching He-man b/c s1 is free on Prime, and noticed that wow the cartoons are way more interesting than the crap that's on TV today (Thomas-the-Preachy-Tank-Engine; Bob-the-Incompetent-Builder; etc.). There basically is no such thing as Saturday morning cartoons anymore! WTF?! But my son doesn't care. He isn't into He-man, and he does not seem offended by the preachy morality of today's kids' shows, or their slick ultracheap CGI...

I honestly think I'll raise my kids watching 80s and 90s cartoons and not show them iPads til they're 6 or so. I don't want them to wind up like this kid:


Oh yeah, tracking down video of Samurai Pizza Cats wasted many hours of my 20s, nothing like trying to rewatch the cartoons of your youth.

As for comercialised, TMNT was hardly pure on this front, in fact they helped pioneer it in western cartoons. Nothing blatantly commercial in the the 94 strong cast of the original 1988-1997 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures line. http://turtlepedia.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Teenage_Mutant_Nin...

Farmer Don and his Modern Mutant Tractor are totally not trying to fleece your parents hard earned money.

But seriously, at least they started out making awesome toys like the Turtle Blimp -http://turtlepedia.wikia.com/wiki/Turtle_Blimp_(1988_toy)

What I meant about TMNT is that back then the cartoons were fully animated, not showing 0.5 FPS with action lines. Japanese Anime got away with it by having deep story lines and funky stuff. US knockoffs in the 2000s had the worst of both.

Um Pokemon/Digimon/Yugioh are all made in Japan.

There are plenty of well-animated and well-written shows these days. Legend of Korra looks amazing. My Little Pony became a cultural moment but its popularity is founded in genuinely good writing and characterization.

Quality has always been secondary to business, you just remember the good stuff and forget the cash-ins.

I think part of it is a greater social bias towards capitalism. You used to be awesome if you made art, now you're awesome if you make money.

That's a different argument. I'm saying that I am not concerned with Disney monopolizing the rights to my favorite stories, b/c my kids will enjoy different stories that appeal to them b/c of the context they are growing up in.

As someone that watched the Star Wars film for the first time relatively recent, I concur. I did not like ANY of the films at all (I watched them in the order they were released). The scripts of the first three seemed utter shit to me. It works as a family movie I guess but not one an adult should be able to enjoy. Needless to say this opinion makes me part of a despised minority but I understand why many people love the films and that many grew up with them. Just like I still love the Goonies many people still love Star Wars.

With you all the way brother. Stripped of nostalgia (I also saw the original movies for the first time only this year), It's a fun little space drama with the eternal good vs evil fight... with lasers and death rays.

Darth and Droids is still good fun to read, by comparison.

Part of it was that other magic out there wasn't of the same quality. Now there are video games, phones, internet, it is not that movies are not as cool, but there is more stuff competing with it.

Part of it was that some of it was honestly the stories the boomers wanted to watch/read as children. But today, I haven't seen many stories from the current crop of Disney's writers that feel the same way. It's not about the question of marketing semi-original work, it's just that Gen Xers don't have much in the way of incentive for it. It's easier to recycle what the boomers did than make our own stories it seems.

It is down right perverse that you have a discussion of how Disney is buying childhood without a discussion of copyright laws they're also buying...

Basically nothing about Disney's strategy would be wrong, or even harmful, provided copyright terms were something reasonable rather than infinite as a practical matter. By now anyone should have been allowed to make "The Force Awakens" and without paying $4.1 billion for the privilege, either.

I'm not so sure I agree. First of all, it's not like anyone could have made this movie without significant financial resources -- reportedly it cost $200 million to make, and it looks it (not to mention, Harrison Ford isn't coming back for cheap). Nobody without a large commercial stake in it was going to be able to make a movie like this.

That doesn't justify current copyright laws (trademarks alone might be sufficient to keep someone from making Star Wars VIII even if copyright was allowed to lapse on ordinary time rather than being constantly extended to keep Steamboat Willy out of the public domain), but collaborative works of fiction require big financial commitments sometimes to get made.

You're assuming that the monopoly on IP is necessary to get a good return on a film like this. It's also arguable that copyright law made this film more expensive than it otherwise would have been - I don't think your $200 million figure includes the cost of buying the franchise in the first place.

You are actually talking about how you believe you should be able to profit selling the original movies, if you're complaining about copyright. Trademarks are what prevent you from making a new Star Wars movie and those don't expire on a schedule.

If you make a movie called "Star Wars", sure. But (and please correct me if I'm wrong) making any derivative work, i.e. using the characters and stories - fan-fiction basically, would fall under the copyright regime. That's what I'm talking about.

It seemed like new star wars was a remake of the old star wars. I think people people know what they like and they just want it repackaged in a slightly different form. Surprised they haven't gone out and brought out hasbro and mattel.

I know a lot of people are probably going to want to yell at me but I think it needed to be remade. And I say this as a fan. I don't think a non-fan would pour over Star Wars vehicle cross sections. What they did was remake it in the best way possible given their constraints (old diehard fans) and I think it was done smartly and tastefully. Done this way you get new fans without losing a lot of them to appeasing old fans and old fans without losing a lot of them to appeasing new fans.

Except for that it wasn't supposed to be a remake, rather this was just a case of everyone involved phoning it in. I think Andrew O'Hehir said it best, "it's the Citibank of movies, literally too big to fail." Right now everyone has been brainwashed into loving it because of Disney's billion-dollar marketing spend. But much like Bush's popularity after 9/11, sooner or later reality is going to catch up.

As a kid part of the magic of Star Wars was that you could sort of imagine there was an entire universe of interesting stories and characters beyond what was pictured in the movies. But J.J. Abrams has made it abundantly clear that no, actually, there was never anything else there.

[STAR WARS: TFA SPOILERS AHEAD] I don't understand how you got to this conclusion. There were more interesting characters and missing backstory in this single movie than in the OT. Characters like Phasma, Maz, the old man that give Poe the map, Poe, Snoke, and the rest of the Knights of Ren. And while there were many parallels between the new movie and the OT, it also introduced and developed a ton of extremely strong new characters, namely Finn, Kylo, Poe, and Rey. My biggest gripes with the new film was Death Star 3.0 and the helo pan at the end, neither of which were really intricate to the story. Also the acting was head and shoulders above any of the previous films and the most impressive thing was how real everything felt, from the Stormtroopers humanization to the land battling and dog fighting.

There's also the fact that entire antagonist team seems desperate to be bigger and badder than what came before (with the possible exception of Snoke who is somewhat mysterious). I took the new super-weapon to be a symptom of this. A healthy number of tropes were both subverted and upheld by the film, a pattern I hope continues.

The books and TV shows and video games and their consumers disagree with you

Well, old die hard fans being who they are for it to work it would require that you not actually tell anyone that you're remaking it.

For all the hype, ep 7 doesn't have one bit the originality ep 1 had.

Well, originality isn't everything if your "original" idea is poorly executed and doesn't have much of a story to begin with.

OTOH, it can be argued that ep. 4 is basically a ripoff of kurosawa + WW2 fighter movies... in SPACE! So it's some people are maybe taking all these movies too seriously if they expect great artistic cinema out of them.

I don't know. I loved some Disney movies and appreciated their art growing up but never bought the action figures or anything. I also went to disneyland once and disneyworld once to check them out, but I went to six flags twice. Oh, and I visited disneyland while in Paris, to show the girl I was with from Moldova, who had never been.

I guess maybe it's because I'm a child of immigrants. I don't see what the big deal is. Everyone commercializes and ties stuff in. Many if you are probably users of the whole Apple ecosystem.

It's fascinating how strongly we feel about things we were exposed to as children. Exploiting that seems inevitable.

Which is why the US original law put a 14-28 year limit on it

This is why I bet they buy Nintendo at some point.

I hope they do. Nintendo has been pretty awful at hardware for a while now but I still love the characters.

Rare being bought by Microsoft was very unfortunate, however.

Rare deciding to go for the "casual" market was apparently an internal decision, like Konami's.


It's why I hope they're broken up under antitrust law at some point.

I have been thinking that over the past couple of days too. In Japan, Disney everything is literally everywhere. How do you think that work out? Split into parks and movies?

Hey, why not just fix copyright and regain ownership of our own culture?

But the ugly truth is that we will never fix copyright. Not within our lifetimes, not even within the life of our grandchildren.

Studio Ghibli also seems like a good bet

> Marvel turned the story of a second-tier character, Iron Man, into a blockbuster.

Iron Man was popular enough to have a 90s cartoon made for him. I'm not sure how he is second-tier...

Definitely second tier in mainstream culture compared to Batman and Superman---which are universally known.

Whats the point in putting a complex image up if I can't zoom in to read it.

Is the only way to beat Disney to build another Pixar?

What if Disney bought Netflix and/or Valve?

Netflix would be a bad idea, if the next step after acquisition is that all non-Disney content providers announce that they will not be renewing anything. Valve hasn't got very much to do with their core "childhood" strategy; they hardly seem to make games anymore, and what does Disney need a PC game distributing network for?

They can't afford Netflix, at least not any time soon. Netflix's market cap is almost a third of Disney's right now.

That's nothing financiers (banks) can't solve. There are historical examples of smaller companies buying larger one (especially interesting as a counter-maneuver to a hostile take over bid: though it doesn't usually end well)

Isn't this what all profit driven companies targeting children would do? Should do?

"Inside Out" made me fucking furious. No child should have such an calcified perspective of mind or language shoved down their throat at such an early age by a global corporation.

I watched it and I thought it was cute. I would like to hear more about what made you so furious - it's a perspective I didn't get while watching or with other people I spoke with after. Maybe I'm already disney brain washed.

Emotions are so much more complex than our terrible labels for them, and much of your emotional sense of self comes from the language your parents branded you with for the most cultural convenience: '"Anger" is bad! It's your fault in not handling "it", not ours or the systems', but "Anger" in-of-itself doesn't exist outside of language, just the nebulous array of feelings and reactions we've been to coniditoned to label as "Anger", what this film effectively did was create an false emotional framework for children to rely on in the future, which should fucking terrify you because so much of modern society and capitalism is built on neurological manipulation to get you to buy things and not disrupt systems of power. The movie was nothing less than brainwashing.

Did we watch different films? The end of the movie was about realizing that emotional experiences are complex and that it's ok to be sad about things and that you shouldn't run from negative emotions.

Every person had an anger too.

Not sure how you got the notion that the film makers thought anger is bad.

\philosophical: Showing growth requires showing "before" and "after". Yet, if the bulk of a movie is the "before", it can be a way of celebrating that behaviour, and the brief "after" at the end is a way to slip past the censors. [In general - not saying Inside Out would be censored!] The greater screen time and scenes means "before" leaves the greater impression on viewers.

Inside Out's is a dissatisfying explantion for emotion, because each emotion-character themselves exhibited a variety of emotion (e.g. Joy was sad), implying by the conceit of the movie that they each had a set of emotions within their own head... ad infinitum. That's the problem with the homunculi theory of mind: it doesn't explain anything.

Did anger ever make a useful contribution in the movie? IIRC only a source of humour, or a problem to be worked around.

BTW The outtake-like scenes at the end included a bus driver who was all anger.

My main gripe is that of symbolic brainwashing; allowing millions of children to view media from a global corporation that asserts that the inner world of your mind acts in a specific way using constant mini-deities, asserting that "abstract thought" is risky, and enforcing psychological cliches is dangerous.

I guess I see where you're coming from and I agree that we're all entitled to our peeves and things that just rub us the wrong way.

That said, I look at these sorts of films like the old fables and many newer children's stories: they personify various aspects of life (in this case, emotions) in order to simplify them at first glance for easy recognition and then as a vehicle to show where those seemingly simple things can also be complex and unpredictable.

It's not even just kids' stories that do this. Plenty of movies and other stories use archetypes and "avatars" as characters. It's shorthand that makes it easier to jump into the narrative. Often they're combinations of different stock characters but the kids' stuff is often simpler.

Either way, I grew up with plenty of kids' stories where you knew who the good guy was, who the bad guy was, who the rogue/trickster was, etc. It hasn't stopped me from appreciating more subtle or complex characters and stories as an adult. It's almost as if you learn the basic "language" of characterization and storytelling first, and then can appreciate more varied combinations that as possible with experience. At some point, the fact that certain traits and behaviors are unexpected becomes a big part of a more "grown up" story's appeal.

The danger in this is programming children, and especially the largest global children's media conglomerate, one whose track record is defined by hegemonic ethnocentrism... programming children, to believe that they can tell who the "good guys" or "bad guys" are, what the "positive" or "negative" emotional reactions to events are, targets or images that the giant media machine behind each movie gets to decide. I also refuse to accept that there is or should be a universal "language for storytelling" and it should be a little creepy that most if not all of the participants in this comment tree grew up watching Disney's media, and that if for some reason one doesn't want to see another image associated with Disney again or have their children influenced by them, one literally has to run into the wilderness or leave the planet (but good luck finding an areospace organization without Star Wars fanboys).

You realize that Pixar movies are made by a brain-trust of intelligent, empathetic, and cultured people, right?

None of that means that they are immune to their cultural and corporate biases and zeitgeist, but you seem to be implying something much more intentional and predatory. Why?

We don't have clear, culturally relative definitions (nor would we want any) of "intelligence", "empathy", or what is "cultured" other than those that the most psychopathically inclined conquerors of civilizations past brought us, however the display of those characteristics seems to be the most valuable social signifier today, and the people behind Pixar (one them was Steve Jobs, a known psychopath) have been the most ruthless accumulators of this level of trust regardless of their individual intentions.

I'm not referring to Steve Jobs, I'm referring to the Pixar "Brain Trust": http://www.fastcompany.com/3027135/lessons-learned/inside-th...

Fundamentally, these people are artists.

Fundamentally their films are there to make money in a global economy and to ensure the artists stay hired there. And their art is shit, repetitive, and horrifically ethnocentric, they draw all their eyes the same, big, colorful, inviting, with nice clear whites; their bodies are soft, squeezable, like big babies, with fuzzy or gleaming hair, to exploit humanistic reactions.

Is there anything you're trying to accomplish? I love myself a good rant, and most of us love to be righteous ... but ...

What's the state of the world that you want? Does being this angry help you get it there?

I'm automating distributed dialectics software and it appears to be working.

> they draw all their eyes the same, big, colorful, inviting, with nice clear whites; their bodies are soft, squeezable, like big babies, with fuzzy or gleaming hair, to exploit humanistic reactions.

Do you also hate the Muppets? Or are you just trolling now?

Yes, children have better things to do than watching television shows owned by Disney and OP's article details why.

Why are you still limiting yourself to Disney? Your complaints apply to basically 100% of all cartoons, and quite a lot of live-action children's programming, e.g. Sesame Street.

See my response to soylentcola

I'm not sure that Inside Out was meant to be an accurate depiction of our emotions any more than Finding Nemo is meant as an accurate portrayal of marine ecosystems, or Ratatouille of French cuisine. While our emotions certainly are complex and misunderstood, I don't think that children watching the movie will really grow up believing they have all these little people in their heads. It's a fun concept that takes some existing cultural trope and runs with it to tell a story. Everything is more complex that the limited linguistic labels that we slice the world into. But if we couldn't reduce that complexity into modular, independent pieces then how would we ever communicate?

>I'm not sure that Inside Out was meant to be an accurate depiction of our emotions any more than Finding Nemo is meant as an accurate portrayal of marine ecosystems, or Ratatouille of French cuisine.

And yet the first thing to come to many children's minds when shown a clown fish or French cuisine is Nemo and Ratatouille.

> I don't think that children watching the movie will really grow up believing they have all these little people in their heads.

I've met people who think the movie helped them "understand themselves better" whether or not that is actually true.

>But if we couldn't reduce that complexity into modular, independent pieces then how would we ever communicate?

Not everyone wants to speak the same language, (or even be forced to hear you).

> I've met people who think the movie helped them "understand themselves better" whether or not that is actually true.

What makes you better qualified than them to understand what's happening in their heads?

I'm not, but neither is Disney, what makes Paul Ekman "the best lie detector in the world" if he can't also provide a universal theory of truth?

What? You said that people think the movie helped them understand themselves better, but that at least some of them are wrong. I'd like to know on what basis you make that judgment. I'm not clear where Paul Ekman enters into that question.

My phrasing was "Whether or not that is actually true", but one shouldn't ascribe any psychological authority to anyone, especially those involved in mass media, other than a vicious ability to con people into consuming their tripe.

> And yet the first thing to come to many children's minds when shown a clown fish or French cuisine is Nemo and Ratatouille.

Is that a bad thing?

Disney having a monopoly on children's psychological and cultural associations is a bad thing, yes.

The Nemo movie created a holocaust of clownfish pets.

101 Dalmations also had a effect on the dalmation breed, but does that mean we should stop featuring animals in movies? Should movies have a cultural influence limit before we stop showing them to children? Should we add a lecture before/after the movie on responsible pet ownership?

More broadly--to what extent are entertainment creators responsible for what stupid people do after watching/reading/listening/playing? I do think children's media has more responsibility than adult media, but how far does that responsibility go?

If the impression you got was "anger is bad and abstract thought is risky," then I'm not sure what movie you watched, but it definitely wasn't Inside Out.

You're mistaken about "anger" being purely a cultural/linguistic construction, and about the authenticity of Inside Out's psychological model in general: the film was inspired by (and admittedly somewhat simplifies) solid psychological research, particularly the work of Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner, whom Pixar brought on as consultants.

So have we dialed back from "Inside Out's psych theories are monstrous corporate brainwashing lies" to "Inside Out's psych theories are mildly controversial"?

I get that you didn't like the movie, and that's okay, and it's certainly reasonable to not like Disney in general; but I don't think you have any grounds to extrapolate that to the movie's message being actively and specifically harmful.

I've dialed it to "Inside Out is such an effective piece of brainwashing that it can get people to passionately defend it for free on the Internet".

"All of my arguments have been refuted, so clearly this means that I have won."

That's kinda nostalgic, actually. I remember seeing it a lot on Usenet. It's dwindled since people stopped calling flamewars "flamewars." Dunno why.

"I'm losing the argument, time to put words in the oppositions mouth"...

Actually psychologists have identified seven basic emotions: fear, anger, joy, sadness, surprise, contempt, and disgust. "Surprise" was considered similar enough to "fear" that Pixar made one character out of them; the same goes for "contempt" and "disgust". Complexity in emotions arises from their interactions, much like how we perceive a spectrum of colors as a mixture of three primaries.

Most of the professionals in the field who saw Inside Out have praised it for getting the basics of emotion and memory right, even if it isn't super accurate. It is after all a cartoon.

The original Tomkins model had dissmell in place of contempt, but it's similar. I think it's limited because it's based on facial expressions and doesn't account for things like shame and guilt and compassion.

> Actually psychologists have identified

No link?

Is there any evidence those labels aren't a product of linguistics and culture? Two things developed during childhood that Disney is working to profit from? Did those professionals grow up watching Disney movies?

The labels are based on experiments and are cross-cultural.

Are you insinuating those cross-cultural experiments predate the institutions of culture and language that produced them? Sounds a bit like time travel.

They looked at people's facial expressions, it wasn't based on self-reporting of emotion. The subjects were treated as animals in a biology experiment. You can look it up easily enough, the guy's name is Silvan Tomkins and the work is known as "affect theory".

Care to elaborate?

Many of you will downvote me for sharing this, but parents will appreciate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwUwchCeeI4

DO NOT let your kids watch Disney!

Saving you a click, the title of the video is "Illuminati Hypersexualization of Children Exposed! Disney Pedophilia and Satanic Rolemodels".

Did you watch it?

Since when is youtube about reading titles?? This title is misleading; it's all about Disney as empire.

The abstract is "Exposing subliminal sexualizing content aimed at young children from Hollywood, TV shows, Movies, and the pedophile fashion industry. Disney channel and Disney movies exposed. Young girls being turned into miniature sex kittens. Illuminati brainwashing and destruction of Morality", and the preview image shows a young girl drinking out of a penis-shaped bottle.

Furthermore, there are comments (never read the comments) like " This truly shows we live in a sick ass perverted world even looking at the scene from a reality show at the 28:00 mark that the fat bitch is telling little girls they should make the audenice think they are naked to that i say sick ass world there would be no way in hell that this type of shit would've been on tv 30 years ago & if it ever did make it on tv back then every tv watchdog group across the country would have called for the networks to take shows like this off the air....."

Even furthermore, the suggested video page has videos like "Dead babied in Your Food", "Martin Lawrence EXPOSES Illuminati", "Lil Wayne says the Illuminati is changing the world for the Mark of the Beast".

EDIT: One of the suggested videos is of clear importance to the Hacker News community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbldNqL6LOI

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