BOYCOTT OF WALT DISNEY:
THE ORIGINAL BOYCOTTING GROUPS
Topics covered in this section:
In Disney's earlier years, the company concentrated on animated films for children.
This led to the first theme park, Disney World, in 1955-JUL, and television programs
suitable for youth in the late 1950's. There is obviously a limit to their expansion into
these areas. The world can only handle a handful of new animated movies each decade. So,
the company broadened into other areas of the entertainment business: books, TV programs,
a television network, and movies of all types. They tended to reserve the Disney name for
their children's films and theme parks. Their subsidiaries have different names, such as
ABC Television, Touchstone and Miramax movies, Hyperion books etc. This isolates the
latter from the Disney name, and gave them the freedom to explore mature themes without
impacting on the "family oriented" Disney reputation. It also allowed the total
corporation to expand financially. However, some religious groups believe that the
subsidiaries should confine themselves to child and family themes and not cover
controversial topics, like sexual orientation, tensions within religious denominations,
and other mature topics.
Conservative Christians might have justified a
boycott on religious grounds. There is considerable Pagan and magical material in Disney
movies that they could logically object to. For example:
||The Disney release "Hercules" portrays a God from ancient
Greece, along with fellow Gods and Goddesses
||Some anti-Christian scenes were included in the "Hunchback of Notre Dame."
In particular, a Roman Catholic priest was portrayed in a negative sense.
||In an act of magic, a genie was shown emerging from a lamp in "Aladdin"
||They portrayed a woman following Native American spirituality in "Pocahontas"
||The "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene in "Fantasia"
showed Mickey Mouse as a Wizard engaging in magical activity..
||The Wicked Queen in "Snow White" used evil sorcery to
||A Southern Baptist commented on "Lion King", a very successful animated
feature, saying that film "doesn't have the same message as what the Bible
teaches us." He cited a theme of "nature worship."
But there is very little mention of these themes. Instead:
||The Catholic League appears to be primarily concerned about a Miramax
movie which showed priests experiencing sexual problems.
||The Southern Baptists seem to be overwhelmingly
concerned about sexual matters: equal employment plans for persons of all sexual
orientations; and theme days sponsored by gay and lesbian
||One source cites the American Family Association as
believing that Timon the meerkat and Pumba the warthog in "Lion King"
are not only homosexual lovers, but inter-species lovers as well. 2
1995-MAR: Boycott by the Catholic League:
In 1995, the Catholic League lodged a complaint with the Disney Company over the movie Priest
which was produced by the Miramax Co. -- an autonomous subsidiary of
Disney. In their 1995 Report on Anti-Catholicism, the League stated: "We objected not because the film showed five dysfunctional priests,
but because it suggested that their depravity was a function of their religion. The cause
and effect was unmistakable and so was the intent of the movie: quotes from writer Jimmy
McGovern and director Antonia Bird removed all doubt that what was at work was an animus
directed sharply at the Catholic Church."
The movie is centered around a 14 year old teenage girl who is regularly being sexually
attacked by her father. She tells a young priest of her problem, but he is unable to act
on her situation because of the secrecy of the confessional. Side-plots include the
homosexuality of the young priest, and the committed relationship between an older priest
and his female housekeeper.
Most reviewers felt that the movie depicted priests as very human individuals, painfully
wrestling with an overwhelming conflict between their need to love and the need to be true
to their vows. The movie was well received by the critics:
||Newsweek said: "Priest shouldn't be missed."
||Rolling Stone magazine termed it "One of the best films of the year."
||The New York Observer called it "Electrifying"
||The Detroit Free Press gave it a 4 star rating.
Disney maintained that there "is no association between Disney and the movie,
and that therefore there was no need for Disney to dissociate itself from Miramax on this
matter." Apparently all creative decisions involving Miramax films are made by
the Miramax executive, and not by Disney. The Catholic League rejected this explanation
and called on a national, total boycott of Miramax and the other Disney
They stated on 1995-MAR-28:
"...we are embarking on a nationwide campaign aimed at Disney. We are calling
for a boycott of all Disney products, a boycott of vacations to Disney World and
Disneyland and a boycott of the Disney cable television channel. We are also asking the
public to call Disney and tie up the lines by making a complaint...We will take out ads in
nationwide newspapers targeting Disney...We will call on all Catholic organizations to
sell Disney stock...we will use every means of communication to reeducate the public as to
the new face and the new status of the Walt Disney Company."
Assemblies of God is the second largest Pentecostal
denomination in the US, with a membership in excess of 2 million people.
church's General Presbytery passed a resolution in 1996-AUG-7 which urged its
congregations and members to boycott the Disney Corporation, and its affiliates.
They commented that: "In recent years we have watched with dismay the productions
of the Disney Corporation abandoning the commitment to strong moral values, and have
noticed this moral shift in a number of Disney-sponsored films and events."
Specific concerns were with:
||Hyperion Press for publishing the book "Growing up Gay".
They incorrectly identify this book as being targeted at teenagers. As noted
above, the book was
written by and for adult homosexuals who recall their teenage years in a
rigidly homophobic society. They referred to homosexuality as a
"lifestyle", thus promoting the concept that one's sexual
orientation is a choice and is something that can be changed.
||Miramax for making the movie "Priest," described above.
||Disney for permitting Gay and Lesbian Day to be held at Disney World
annually. They are in particular concerned that "families purchasing tickets for
the park were not warned [in advance] of the "Gay Day."
They requested that their "Spiritual Life Committee" monitor Disney
products and theme parks. They called upon "the Disney Corporation to return to
the values that strengthen and build this nation, such as honesty, respect, integrity,
decency, and trust." Unfortunately, they did not explain how publishing the book
for adult gays, making of the movie "Priest", or permitting "Gay Days"
is dishonest, disrespectful, or lacking in integrity or trust.
They did not criticize Disney's extension of health benefits to its gay and lesbian
employees. That decision has formed a major part of other boycotts.
"Southern Baptists Vote for Boycott of Disney," American Atheists,
Greg Bass, "True confession of a newly outed Southern Baptist" Austin
American-Statesman, 1997-JUN-28, at: http://www.westom.com/coolsite/baptst01.htm
CATHOLIC LEAGUE for Religious and Civil Rights at http://www.catholicleague.org/Disney/disney.htm
The Assemblies of God
denomination has a 1996 press release about its Disney boycott at:
The full text of the Assemblies of God 1996 resolution concerning Disney is at: http://www.chofgod.org/boycott2.htm
Copyright © 1997 to 2000 incl. by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2000-DEC-4
Author: B.A. Robinson