M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! The world’s most recognizable rodent, intrinsically connected with the Walt Disney Company, made his first appearance in a comic strip this week in 1930. Though the beloved mouse had already been in film shorts, Mickey’s comic strip brought him into homes across the United States.
Now, of course, Disney has more of a stake in our home than just in our newspapers. With the roll out of Disney +, Disney seems to permeate and control all kinds of media. Disney + and its original series, especially The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, have been getting a lot of buzz lately, as The Mandolarian garners rave reviews and teens, adults and children alike flock to the streaming service to watch old movie favorites, such as Newsies, Disney Channel shows of decades past, like Wizards of Waverly Place and more. With Disney + comes almost-unlimited access to the films of Disney’s biggest franchises, including Marvel and Star Wars, and the promise of new content for those brands.
Marvel and Star Wars are the two biggest grossing movie franchises of all time according to Mental Floss, earning around $18 billion and $9 billion respectively, with Star Wars ahead of the Harry Potter series by approximately $200 million. Though the main Star Wars saga has ended with the most recent film, the brand will continue through TV series such as The Mandalorian and the untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
Marvel, on the other hand, is only growing. Early last year Marvel re-acquired the rights to both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after having sold them to Fox in the 1990s. With eight movies with release dates in the next three years, and 11 more hanging in the air, Marvel isn’t slowing down with the loss of three of its biggest characters.
Regardless of personal opinions on the movies themselves, there is no way to deny that Marvel is a powerhouse to be reckoned with.
Disney’s control of the big-box-office movie business is undeniable even outside of Marvel properties. Of the top 10 highest grossing movies of 2019 according to the-numbers.com, the top eight are all Disney properties, including the non-Marvel/Star Wars Lion King, Frozen II, Toy Story 4, and Aladdin. The nine and 10 spots are the only non-Disney properties and held by Joker, an addition into Marvel’s longtime competitor DC Comics’ catalog, and Jumanji: The Next Level, a sequel to the hit 2017 reboot of the 1995 film starring Robin Williams.
In a world of growing media presence and a shrinking number of media companies, it becomes clear the problems inherent in Disney’s almost unchecked power. Disney has been heavily criticized twice this year for lacking LGBT+ representation in their media, after the underwhelming representation in Avengers: Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker, which were limited to either a single line of dialogue from an unnamed character and a kiss that was all too easy to miss in the background. Marvel’s biggest competition, DC Comics, failed to launch a similarly-huge cinematic universe with Justice League and their far less popular streaming service. 2019 made it abundantly clear that we are living in the mouse’s house.