The Mouse With Many Hats: Exploring The Duality Of Disney+

Ed Farley

It was an evening at home when I decided to watch Disney+’s new offering, Pam and Tommy. Upon watching, I mused to myself “I’m watching this on the same site I can watch Snow White or Monsters Inc….”.  It’s an interesting concept that Ed Farley discusses further.

In 2019, headed by CEO Robert Iger, Disney finalised its acquisition of production studio 21st Century Fox. Disney now owned Fox TV Studios, The FX Network, National Geographic and a majority share in streaming site, Hulu, amongst others. With such a diverse collection under its belt, how does Disney manage to maintain, or even strengthen, its brand?

Disney+ isn’t the thing of magic like Disney the brand is because it frames itself as an entertainment provider

Fast forwarding to this rainy night in 2022, I can now find shows like FX’ American Horror Story, The Americans and Hulu’s Pam and Tommy snuggled within the service’s interface. These all have one thing in common; they have an ‘18’ certification due to their involvement with adult themes. Being readily accessible on Disney+ means themes such as violence and sex can be found near to themes of love conquering all and singing animals of all things. Yet let’s be clear, Pam and Tommy wouldn’t be sitting directly next to Cinderella – the interface of the streaming service separates the two through categories such as Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and Star. Not only does the separation create an ease of access for viewers to get exactly what they want, it also helps retain Disney’s brand. Disney+ isn’t the thing of magic like Disney the brand is because it frames itself as an entertainment provider. This is evident in the streamer’s title itself: ‘Disney PLUS’. Disney – the family favourite – PLUS Star Wars, PLUS Marvel, PLUS Hulu and therefore, PLUS Pam and Tommy.

Disney profits off its name whilst thematically separating itself from any content that doesn’t align with its wholesome image. The separation also ensures it doesn’t push its other content aside or devalue it either. Even in spaces that do rely on the traditional imagery concocted by Walt Disney, the company still ensures to cater to all. In its parks for example, parents can buy themselves an alcoholic beverage whilst they buy their children branded stuffed animals or playsets. Disney+ acts the same way Disneyland does, it’s all encompassing, creating an atmosphere with the assumption that it will offer anything and everything to its consumers.

Just because American Horror Story is now owned by Disney, you’re not going to see Mickey wielding a knife

Moving past the platform itself, a discussion must also be had about content offered to these diverse audiences more broadly. Namely, Disney’s cable networks such as Fox Television. These networks were founded decades before their acquisition by Disney, so to change what to expect from its content would be nonsensical and hurtful to both parties. You know what to expect from each property, and it works well. Disney’s recognised branding as a family-favourite isn’t tainted by the more mature natures of other shows because everything is overseen accordingly. Each form of programming has its own clear lens- a separate identity that distinguishes it from other shows in Disney’s General Entertainment Content (overseen by University of Nottingham alum Peter Rice.) Just because American Horror Story is now owned by Disney, you’re not going to see Mickey wielding a knife in the hallway of a haunted house, but you’re probably going to see Sarah Paulson screaming in that hallway, just like you did pre-2019. This pre-establishment means properties can efficiently find their home underneath Disney’s umbrella without attracting any storms that could jeopardise them.

No matter what iteration, Disney guarantees that it has entertainment covered. When you’re wanting to watch something, you can easily go to the service and find what you want. Disney as a company is a provider, whereas Disney as a brand can exist separately. If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then the powers that be over at the company certainly know where to put their dreams, that’s for sure.

Ed Farley

Featured Image courtesy of JeffChristiansen via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article trailer courtesy of ONE Media via Youtube.com. No changes made to this video. 

In-article image courtesy of disneyplusuk via Instagram.com. No changes made to this image. 

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