Culture Clips: The Mouse House Gets a New Big Cheese

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Most of us are familiar with Luke Skywalker, Tony Stark, Mickey Mouse and Homer Simpson. We might not know the guy who was instrumental in bringing them all together in one big Disney family: Bob Iger.

Iger, who’d been Disney’s CEO since 2005, announced yesterday that he was stepping down—clearing the way for Bob Chapek to take over. Granted, Iger’s not going anywhere for a while: He’s under contract until the end of 2021, and after that he’ll slide into the role of Disney’s executive chairman. Still, the announcement came as a shock to many, and it marked the end of a regime that saw the Mouse House purchase pretty much all of our childhoods.

Iger was the guy behind the 2006 purchase of Pixar, which Disney bought for a cool $7.4 billion. He got Marvel in 2009 for the low, low price of $4 billion. Then, in 2012, he was behind the purchase of Lucasfilm—the company behind the Star Wars franchise, of course—for another $4 billion. And then, just last year, Disney gobbled up 20th Century Fox for (gulp) a staggering $71 billion.

While the fiscal success of Fox has yet to be determined, there’s little question that Disney’s other buys have been wildly successful: When Iger became CEO, Disney’s annual net income was a paltry $2.5 billion. It’s now at about $10.4 billion yearly, according to CNBC—an increase of around 300%.

Iger was reportedly instrumental in getting Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, off the ground, too—a service that already boasts 28.6 million subscribers. ‘Course, you can thank Baby Yoda for Disney+’s success as much as Iger, I suppose. By the way, did you know that you can finally buy Baby Yoda toys now?

And while the final chapter in the core Star Wars canon (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) was something of a fiscal letdown (if you can call a movie that made more than $1 billion a “disappointment”), the franchise continues to push forward. In fact, Lucasfilm announced that it’ll be developing comic books, novels and children’s books exploring what it calls its “High Republic” era—a prequel to the Star Wars prequels, if you will.

But Star Wars isn’t the only Disney-owned franchise making headlines. Kevin Smith, the profane filmmaker behind such movies as Clerks and Mallrats, says that Avengers: Endgame might just be a source of spiritual inspiration down the road.

Of course, success can come with controversy, too. Disney/Pixar’s new film Onward includes an LGBTQ character—the first in an animated feature, according to Disney—and Slate’s Sam Adams says it was the first film to “get it right.”

“It goes by so fast you could barely notice it,” he writes. “But that’s why it works so well. The film doesn’t pause to let it sink in or isolate the moment with a cut for emphasis. It passes unremarked, because in this world, it’s accepted as a fact of life.”

On a related note, Disney is shifting its teen-centric show Love, Victor (based on the same-sex romance Love, Simon) from its family-friendly Disney+ outlet to the still Disney-owned Hulu. According to Entertainment Weekly, “the show’s depiction of alcohol use, sexual exploration, and marital issues among parents was the main concern for the family-focused Disney+ service. …”

Disney+ is a big reason why we’re on the cusp of what Slate is calling the “streaming wars,” where various creative-and-distribution platforms will be vying for your disposable income. Disney+ is clearly a massive player in the space: Indeed, it was the most downloaded app during the fourth quarter of 2019 by a wide margin.

What was second? I’m glad you asked. The answer would be TikTok, of course—the wildly popular social network that encourages users to record little videos of themselves doing things. Some of those things are incredibly stupid and even dangerous, as the popularity of the appropriately-named “skull-breaker challenge” illustrates. Writes Forbes’ Bruce Y. Lee:

The “skull-breaker challenge” begins with three people standing alongside each other, seemingly ready to jump into the air all at once. Sounds innocent, right? Sort of like a musical or a pharmaceutical ad. Ah, but the two people on the sides actually have something bad planned ahead for the person in the middle. The side people don’t end up jumping, letting the middle person jump alone. Here is where the “hilarity” ensues. The two side people then try to kick the middle person’s legs out from under him or her. The result if you are the middle person? Well, unless you are a basketball, you need your legs and feet braced to land safely. Without your legs in the right position, you can lose your balance and ho ho ho, fall awkwardly to the floor or ground.

Usually the result is a bruised behind. But let’s face it: You can land on other things, too. The challenge got its name for a reason, and some allege that people have been seriously hurt.

TikTok can facilitate plenty of other, um, less-savory bits of entertainment, too, which makes it a troubling app for many parents. But TikTok seems to be trying to address some parental concerns by offering a new feature that allows parents to see how much time their children spend using the app.

Meanwhile, other social media outlets are teaching their youngest users to do something else besides dumb challenges. It’s teaching them to buy stuff. A recent study from Wunderman Thompson Commerce found that YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat influencers were indeed influential to a quarter of kids and teens from the United States and Britain—impacting their and their families’ buying decisions.

Yep, social streaming services are powerful forces in the world today, and one of the most powerful is Twitch—an outlet that facilitates videogame streaming. In fact, experts say that Twitch is just about to hit 40 million users in the United States. And eMarketer says that userbase will only keep growing. But really, esports as a whole is rising in popularity—so much so that some gyms are now catering to, um, videogame athletes.

By the way, TikTok and Twitch are the only social media platforms on the rise among users between the ages of 6 and 17, according to Ipsos. Everything else, the study suggests, is slowly trending downward.

The only business that might rival TikTok and Twitch—in buzzy popularity, if not actual profits—might be South Korea’s Sky Pizza.

The Pizzeria earned a measure of fame in Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite. (The family at the core of the story spends some time folding boxes for the joint.) The owner, Eom Hangil, says sales have more than doubled, and some tourists are struggling to actually eat there. “I came to eat pizza and also feel the atmosphere of the movie, but the place is so popular they are out of dough,” says Ha Kyeongsu. “I have to wait four more hours.”

Sounds like a business Bob Iger might want to buy.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 18 days ago
I'm a big fan of Disney's live-action remakes as I might have mentioned a few times before, but this new version of Mulan seems absolutely terrible to me. The original was never one of Disney's top-tier animated films anyway, but it did have a certain charm to it mostly thanks to the dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy and the songs Reflection and I'll Make a Man Out of You, but all the previews of the new version just seem stupid to me. One can only hope they kept the songs and the talking dragon, but I just see a bunch of Chinese people fighting, which doesn't bode well for me at all.
charitysplace 26 days ago
I wonder if a new guy in charge will mean Disney goes back to original films rather than recycling their old hits with live-action remakes? It was the creativity, beautiful artwork, and original music that made Disney so good in the 80s/90s. Most of the remakes are just meh.
Edna Konrad 25 days ago
I so agree. Not only are the remakes bland and lifeless, but there's also literally no point to them. I've seen Beauty and the Beast, it's great. Why would I want to watch a remake that changes nothing?

I honestly am a little hopeful for Mulan for that reason. It looks like they are actually going for a different take on the story instead of a useless recreation of a perfectly fine animated film.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
I am definitely going to go see Onward now.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Now we just need to get Kathleen Kennedy fired and Disney may actually start earning some respect from me again.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
The sequel trilogy was such a hot mess. I'm pretty happy with most of the rest of Disney Star Wars though.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I'd be okay with bad movies if the cartoons and video games from the movies were great (like the prequel trilogy), and aside from The Mandalorian and Jedi: Fallen Order, we haven't got any of that.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
@First Comment Guy

I actually kind of like the Rebels cartoon. But that might just be because of Thrawn lol. Resistance was trash though. I couldn't even stomach the first episode.