Emily Johnson ‘25
Disney is an iconic company that has changed the way the world views entertainment. Films and television shows created by Disney have become household names for generations, and specifically in Generation-Z, it quickly became a lifestyle, a way of life, and a place to escape reality when we need a dosage of childhood memories. My personal favorites include The Incredibles, The Parent Trap, and Monster’s Inc. One element these movies have in common: they came out between the late 1990s and early 2000s. With this, I question whether or not Disney has fallen off the map in the eyes of younger generations. Has the audience changed, or is it really just a change in the quality of the company?
When I think of Disney, I think of direct humor, unproblematic plots, and relatable characters that would brighten my mood after a long day at school. I imagine a night in with my family where we had to vote on what to watch, and although we have differing opinions, the options were always Disney. For our age group, Disney was a staple that influenced pop culture, and we were molded to see the actors and actresses in these productions as role model celebrities who had the keys to success. With a few exceptions, most of these people flourished in maintaining a good image during their Disney days. Because of this, I naturally saw Disney as a powerhouse that would be around forever.
The Disney Channel was extremely popular during my younger years, with its peak number of viewers in the US being 1.96 million in 2014 (Statista). However, from 2014-2020, the number of viewers dropped to 360,000, losing about 88.1% of the audience (Statista). The iconic actors and actresses that brought in the views during the 1990s and early 2000s left, and without them, Disney was not able to keep up the same reputation that it had gained during its heyday. Viewing the shows airing currently, with some examples being Kiff, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Secrets of Sulphur Springs, gives a completely different vibe and experience than hit shows like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, and Lizzie McGuire. Nothing in current shows feels unique, almost as if the company is playing it safe in every which way. The people who appear on shows now are different from those of the past, and in my opinion, a major reason for this is the excessive usage of social media. There is a constant pressure to stay relevant, and the people who are in the spotlight are forced to be more creative with their content. It is extremely difficult to keep originality in a world where social media is such a prevalent element in marketing, advertising, and entertainment, showing everything that has already been done.
Disney Plus has caused somewhat of a revival for the company, offering a platform for people to watch old and new productions; however, I do not believe that this will be enough to save the Disney brand. Personally, I use Disney Plus strictly for throwback shows and movies when I am feeling nostalgic, which goes against what the company is trying to achieve: the increase of ratings of more current films and shows. In conclusion, Disney will always be a huge part of my life along with millions of others around the world. The company should be credited with creating such a strong legacy and influencing pop culture in a positive way. They provided us with major names who are still around today, including Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, and Dylan and Cole Sprouse. However, I do not believe that this will last forever. Like all other legacies, Disney will eventually fade into the past as the world progresses and people change. All good things come to an end.
Featured image courtesy of Disney Channel and Superium Selena Gomez: And you’re watching Disney Channel
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