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Topics covered in this section:

bulletReasons for the boycotts
bullet1995-MAR: Boycott by the Catholic League
bullet1996-AUG: Boycott by the Assemblies of God (AOG)

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Reasons for the Boycotts:

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:

bulletThe Disney release "Hercules" portrays a God from ancient Greece, along with fellow Gods and Goddesses
bulletSome anti-Christian scenes were included in the "Hunchback of Notre Dame." In particular, a Roman Catholic priest was portrayed in a negative sense.
bulletIn an act of magic, a genie was shown emerging from a lamp in "Aladdin"
bulletThey portrayed a woman following Native American spirituality in "Pocahontas"
bulletThe "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene in "Fantasia" showed Mickey Mouse as a Wizard engaging in magical activity..
bulletThe Wicked Queen in "Snow White" used evil sorcery to injure other characters.
bulletA 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." 1

But there is very little mention of these themes. Instead:

bulletThe Catholic League appears to be primarily concerned about a Miramax movie which showed priests experiencing sexual problems.
bulletThe 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 groups. 
bulletOne 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

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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:

bulletNewsweek said: "Priest shouldn't be missed."
bulletRolling Stone magazine termed it "One of the best films of the year."
bulletThe New York Observer called it "Electrifying"
bulletThe 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 enterprises. 3 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."

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1996-AUG: Boycott by the Assemblies of God:

Assemblies of God is the second largest Pentecostal denomination in the US, with a membership in excess of 2 million people. 4,5 The 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:

bulletHyperion 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.
bulletMiramax for making the movie "Priest," described above.
bulletDisney 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.

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  1. "Southern Baptists Vote for Boycott of Disney," American Atheists, at: http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/sbc.htm
  2. Greg Bass, "True confession of a newly outed Southern Baptist" Austin American-Statesman, 1997-JUN-28, at: http://www.westom.com/coolsite/baptst01.htm
  3. CATHOLIC LEAGUE for Religious and Civil Rights at http://www.catholicleague.org/Disney/disney.htm
  4. The Assemblies of God denomination has a 1996 press release about its Disney boycott at: http://www.ag.org/info/wnn-wni/archived/9608/0896-22.htm
  5. The full text of the Assemblies of God 1996 resolution concerning Disney is at: http://www.chofgod.org/boycott2.htm

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflict > Disney boycott > here

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Copyright © 1997 to 2000 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2000-DEC-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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