Once Upon a Time...

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Let’s start this inaugural post with some News You Can Use™ — it’s been four weeks since Robert Iger stepped down as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Four weeks! When the announcement was made, at the end of business on a Tuesday in February, just a few weeks after a successful earnings call to investors, some people scratched their heads. (I was one of those people.) Bob Iger’s contract ended at the close of 2021 — why transition to the role of executive chairman nearly two years early?

Well, a lot happens in four weeks. Bob Chapek, the new CEO of the Walt Disney Company, has inherited something of a nightmarish mess from his predecessor, through no fault of his own. The six theme-park resorts of the Walt Disney Company have had extended closures due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s first two theatrical releases of 2020 — The Call of the Wild and Onward — will have muted box-office returns due to said pandemic. (Onward will wind up making less money domestically than most Pixar films make in their opening weekends.) ESPN has resorted to airing old WrestleManias and Tetris championships, because almost all sports leagues have closed due to…well, you know already.

The one area of the Walt Disney Company that could be thriving is Disney+ — we’re all stuck inside (for at least a couple weeks, whatever any politicians with more interest in the stock market than human lives may say) for a while. So why not stream something? Or stream…lots of things? Well, Disney+ has its finger on the pulse of…uh…hmm.

That tweet arrived as I was writing this post — I want to thank my good friends over in the social-media team there for highlighting an interesting problem I’ll discuss here and elsewhere in the weeks to come. To wit: Disney+ has no clear brand identity, because it’s reflective of a company that’s become all-powerful by gobbling up every media provider in sight. (Look at that tweet again. The first example of a dog-centric film is from 20th Century Fox. Not Disney. Fox. Did Because of Winn-Dixie become a nostalgic favorite for Gen-Z or young Millennials? Really?)

What You Can Expect

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So, you’re here. You’ve hopefully subscribed (and if you haven’t, hey, subscribe). What can you expect from That Still, Small Voice? I’m going to write at length, critically, about Disney. Period. Which means I’ll write about the theme parks, from Orlando to Tokyo; the films, from Frozen II to Black Widow to Stargirl; the business decisions; the characters; the stories; the music (yes, the music). All of it.

I’ll expand upon a daily thread I’m doing on Twitter during this exceedingly strange time, recommending a title for you to watch on Disney+. I’ll write about topics that are too much to detail via tweet-threads, and might not have an easy freelance home.

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Along the way, I’ll introduce a paid option — I don’t have a hard-and-fast date in mind at the moment, but let’s aim for mid-May. You’ll have plenty to enjoy if you’d prefer to stick with the free option. But if you’re willing to throw a few bucks my way each month, I’m going to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

One More Thing

At the end of 2019, I wrote an essay at Slashfilm, discussing the 10 ways in which Disney basically owned the 2010s from a pop-culture standpoint.

2020 begins an uncertain era for the most powerful entertainment company in the world. For reasons out of Disney’s control, this year at the box office will be a wash. (I’ll write about this in the near future, but it was going to be uncertain even without a pandemic.) They now have a new leader at the top, which will likely reshape Disney’s future. When Bob Iger stepped in as the CEO, Disney had many worlds left to conquer. Now, they’ve won the entertainment game. But what’s next?

That’s what we’re going to find out. Stick around. Join me for the ride.

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