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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Nothing UnAmerican About Peanuts Heading to Apple TV+

 by Chris Lucas

Guest Column


October 22, 2020


(Editor’s Note: While Peanuts is not in the Disney family, the underlying issue here certainly can be applied to assorted Disney vehicles and decisions, including those still to come. Plus, if you love Disney, odds are you love Charlie Brown and Snoopy, too.)


I love the classic Peanuts specials as much as anyone else, but the announcement that holiday specials were leaving broadcast television for Apple TV+ was just business, not personal, despite some who are trying to say that “they!” are attacking American values and traditions. (Who is this mysterious “they!” anyway?) 


It’s the exact opposite of being anti-American. The reason why the specials are moving from broadcast to streaming is as American as it gets. 

Peanuts Worldwide, founded by the Schulz family, owns the rights to the characters and shows, along with Sony and DHX.


The specials aired on CBS for decades, then ABC (now owned by Disney) licensed the rights in 2000. That contract just expired. 


Apple - which got into the TV business with their new streaming channel - was already doing business with Peanuts Worldwide, through brand new Snoopy specials airing on their channel. Apple outbid ABC for the contract to license the exclusive rights to air the existing specials on TV, through their streaming channel. It’s a smart move to increase attention/buzz and attract subscribers (similar to what Disney recently did with Hamilton and Netflix did with Kobra Kai.) 


This deal is completely different than the existing licensing deal for home video, currently owned by Warner Brothers. The DVD’s and Blu-rays will continue to be available for decades to come, and can currently be purchased at supermarkets for less than $10. Most libraries also have copies. 


This is not the 1970s any more, where one company like McDonalds or Dolly Madison would foot the bill for airing the specials once a year, and over 100 million would watch.


Ratings for the Peanuts specials have gone down 70% over the last twenty years, and sponsors were getting hard to come by, as TV viewers went elsewhere. Disney likely didn’t see the return on investment value in matching the bid figure that Apple offered. 


Is it sad that the tradition of watching the Charlie Brown specials on network TV once a year is going away (for now, at least)? Yes, it is, but that’s not because of some insidious push to erase all things wholesome or some race to political correctness. It’s capitalism, pure and simple. Apple is not the villain.


If you really want to be mad, vent at Peanuts Worldwide and Sony for putting the rights up for bid. Even then, remember that they are not a charity and if someone was offering them a sweetheart deal to air the classic specials and create new ones for a new generation (increasing the value of their brand) they’d be crazy to turn it down.


To put it in simpler terms: if you opened a brand new restaurant in a town where the people went crazy over a special holiday pie made by one bakery but only sold in one market - in any area of town that people are moving away from - on one day each year, and you made an exclusive deal with that bakery to be the only place in town that offered the pie because you knew that people would immediately flock to your restaurant, which is in a more popular neighborhood, or - at the very least - you’d get a bunch of publicity, you’d absolutely do it. You certainly wouldn’t want anyone else offering it at the same time. 


To be generous and to honor the sentimental feelings of the people in town, you could even offer a weekend of free pie at your new restaurant just to get people in the door, hoping that they might sample your other offerings and come back again, this time paying for their food. If not, no problem, but you’re still offering access to their beloved product for free. That’s a smart business plan. You’re not completely destroying a tradition, you’re just providing it in a different fashion in a different place, one that more and more people are heading to. 


This is just business as it’s done in 2020. 


Good old Charlie Brown and his holiday specials will still be around long after we are all gone.




Chris Lucas is the author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney, from the Man to the Mouse and Beyond.


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Disneynomics: Governor Newsom vs. California’s Theme Park and Economy

 by Ray Keating

Disneynomics Column


October 21, 2020


California matters. Whether people from other states like it or not, 12 percent of the U.S. population resides in the Golden State, and 15 percent of U.S. GDP comes from California. 

Therefore, when Californian politicians impose misguided and costly policies – such as higher taxes and increased regulations – on entrepreneurs, businesses and investors, it, of course, matters most to Californians, but it’s not like the rest of us can just shrug our shoulders and not care.


This economic reality is part of the backdrop to the latest head-scratching decision by California Governor Gavin Newsom and his Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly. At a news conference on Tuesday, October 21, the Newsom administration finally got around to providing guidelines for reopening theme parks in the state. But the guidelines were split between smaller and larger theme parks, and the news for the big boys, like Disneyland, was anything but good. That, in turn, is bad news for workers and small businesses as well.


As the Orange County Register reported:


Smaller theme parks can reopen at 25% capacity or 500 in-county visitors, whichever is fewer, with admission by reservation only in the “moderate” tier. Larger theme parks can reopen at 25% capacity with reservations in the “minimal” tier.


The new guidelines mean Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other large theme parks won’t be able to reopen for months until their respective counties reach the least-restrictive “minimal” risk level…


At best, that means major California theme parks won’t reopen until November or December. At worst, reopening dates could be pushed to next year, which makes setting a reopening date for Disneyland, Universal and other California theme parks difficult if not impossible. Without a firm reopening date, the parks can’t set staffing, training, ride testing and visitor reservation plans.


The Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau was quoted saying that it would be difficult for Orange County to reach the “minimal” tier until there was a vaccine, and he was looking for something like that coming next summer. That would put the reopening of Disneyland into the summer as well.


In a statement, Disneyland President Ken Potrock said:


We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world.


Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead of mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.


Together with our labor unions, we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.


For good measure, Erin Guerrero, executive director of the California Attractions and Parks Association, said:


Theme parks have opened and operated safely around the world for months. Data and science prove that theme parks can operate responsibly anywhere – there’s no rational reason to believe they can’t do so in California. No one cares more about park employees and guest safety than the parks themselves.


Let me be unequivocal - the guidance issued by the Newsom Administration will keep theme parks shuttered for the foreseeable future… 


This plan prolongs unemployment for tens of thousands of people, hastens bankruptcy for families and small business owners adjacent to parks, and contributes to insolvency for local governments whose budgets rely on parks as an anchor economic driver.


So, bewildering policymaking that undermines the California economy continues. 


Some might ask: Why? At its core, it goes to a philosophical bias that places ultimate trust in government – i.e., in politicians and their appointees – to make broad decisions for society, while holding a deep distrust of private-sector entrepreneurs and businesses. But here we have another glaring example courtesy of Governor Newsom that politicians lack the knowledge and proper incentives to make intelligent decisions about most matters in life and the economy. 


It’s true – politicians tend to be clueless. And Disneyland, other theme park operators, workers, small businesses that serve the parks and their workers, and the California economy suffer accordingly.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Florida Drivers Get a Chance to Celebrate Disney World’s 50th Anniversary

 by Ray Keating



October 19, 2020


Fans of all things Disney will soon be able to show off that fandom in a new way – that is, if they live and drive in Florida.


Disney has announced that a specialty license plate will be available to Florida drivers celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, which opened on October 1, 1971 (specifically, the Magic Kingdom).

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog


According to Disney, a pre-sale voucher for the license plate, which has not been unveiled yet, can be purchased for $25, along with applicable state fees, through appointments at local county tax collector’s offices and DMVs in Florida, with online pre-sales coming soon.


Like other specialty plates available in Florida, proceeds will go to charity. In this case, the Disney plates revenues will go to Make-A-Wish of Central and Northern Florida. Disney has a long relationship with Make-A-Wish. The company noted that since 1980, “more than 140,000 Disney-inspired wishes have been granted, with more than 8,000 taking place each year at Walt Disney World Resort.”


So, if you love Disney and have a car registered in Florida, here’s a chance to mark the 50th anniversary of the most wonderful place on earth.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Disney’s Deserved “Mulan” Mess, Part II

 by Ray Keating



October 16, 2020


Disney, no doubt, wants its Mulan mess to go away. But the issue keeps hanging around.


And no, I’m not talking about the decision to serve up the movie on Disney+ for an extra premium price of $29.99. Nor am I referring to the fact that the film has received a mere 50% audience score on RottenTomatos.com, for example.

No, I’m talking about the ongoing mess regarding Disney’s filming the movie in China’s Xinjiang region where prison and indoctrination camps intern Uighur Muslims, while in the movie’s credits, Disney also thanked the government entities guilty of the oppression, along with related propaganda agencies pushing lies. (See the previous DisneyBizJournal column on the topic.)


Last week, Disney did get around to answering an inquiry from Iain Duncan Smith, a Conservative MP in the United Kingdom, and Baroness Helena Kennedy, a Labour member of the House of Lords, about this situation. The response, signed by Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture production, was a model of corporate-speak. Bailey managed to serve up a page-and-a-half that didn’t answer any of the issues at hand.


For example, Bailey wrote, “Although ‘Mulan’ was filmed almost entirely in New Zealand, in order to accurately depict the unique geography and landscape of China for this period drama, the producers chose to film some scenery in 20 locations throughout the country, including the Kumtag Desert in Xinjiang Province, home to an important passageway along the historic Silk Road. The decision to film in each of these locations was made by the film’s producers in the interest of authenticity, and was in no way dictated or influenced by state or local Chinese officials.”


And he later summed up, “It is standard practice across the film industry worldwide to acknowledge in a film’s credits the cooperation, approvals, and assistance provided by various entities and individuals over the course of a film’s production. In this case, the production company Beijing Shadow Times provided our production team with the list of acknowledgements to be included in the credits for Mulan.”


To put this in further perspective, Variety reported:


The earliest evidence of re-education work in Turpan, the city home to five of the government entities Disney thanked, dates back to 2013. “Mulan” was green-lit in 2015. Early reporting on the camps started to emerge around the summer of 2017. Niki Caro went to Xinjiang in September 2017, posting a photo of sand dunes there to Instagram. The production’s set designer said they spent “months” scouting in the region.


During the actual 2018 shoot, China was at the height of its “strike hard” campaign against Xinjiang’s ethnic minority population. Analysts estimate by looking at satellite imagery that there are at least 10 internment camps and five prisons in the other Xinjiang county Disney thanked.


How did Iain Duncan Smith respond to the Disney letter? He tweeted: “The reply from @DisneyStudios regarding the filming of #Mulan in #Xinjiang region is very weak and full of platitudes. The reality is that Disney simply does not want to offend China, and have given in to China’s demands and will not stand up to them. Disney's corporate policy does not appear to care about the human rights issues affecting the #Uighurs. It seems human rights come second to the corporate policy of not upsetting China.”


That’s hard to argue with, at least in this instance. Variety also noted, “Disney has not issued a formal statement or apology on the matter, and has told creatives involved in ‘Mulan’ to steer clear of the subject.” Yes, Disney apparently is hoping that this would all just go away. I don’t think Walt would be proud.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Political Fireworks Over Disneyland

 by Ray Keating



October 14, 2020


There are fireworks going off all around Disneyland in California. But it’s not about those over Sleeping Beauty Castle. Instead, it’s about political fireworks being fired between Disney and California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in terms of being able to open the happiest place on earth.


Take a look at the latest articles on the matter at the Orange County Register, and you get a pretty good feel for how frustrated Disney is, and how, well, clueless Newsom and his people are coming off.

As OCR reported this afternoon, Disney CEO Bob Chapek appeared on CNBC, and said, “It seems to me that the guidelines that are set up by the state of California are more stringent than any state across the country. If you look at the history of Disney and what we’ve been able to do during the reopening — rather than arbitrary standards set up without regard to actual fact — and what we’ve been able to do as a company, I think you’d come to a different decision about reopening Disneyland.”


Chapek went on to highlight what the company has done in its other parks: “I look across our Disney properties — be it Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Walt Disney World, the Disney bubble for the NBA — and all I see is that we’ve been able to open up responsibly using the guidelines that health care experts have given us. As a result, we’ve been very, very successful at reopening without having issues that would preclude us from staying open.” 


He also noted that given social distancing requirements, the parks are at 25 percent capacity, and “that won’t change until the CDC guidelines change.” 


Meanwhile, it was hard not to take away from another OCR report from October 13 that bureaucratic indifference and incompetence were running at full throttle in California. California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly was quoted declaring, “I know a number of people are continuing to wonder when that guidance is coming out and I like to say, ‘It will come out when we’re ready.’”


Ghaly also was quoted, “In terms of the California visits, those are upcoming, and together the information and the dialogue with our theme park operators across the state will help us land in a place that I think we can all feel confident is based on the best and most up-to-date information.” Now, that’s some bureaucrat-speak.


Another report today noted that while state officials had journeyed, unannounced, to Florida to see what was going on in the theme parks there, they apparently are getting around to checking out the California parks: “A delegation of state officials are visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood this week to review reopening plans after a team from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration traveled to Florida last week to inspect COVID-19 protocols at Disney World and Universal Orlando.” The OCR story also noted, “California theme parks have been asking state officials for months to visit their properties and review their COVID-19 health and safety protocols…”


The outlook? Who knows? But Chapek told CNBC, “It’s not much of a negotiation. It’s pretty much a mandate that we stay closed.”


The fireworks continue, while Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has no visitors.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Disney Announces Strategic Reorganization Focused on Streaming

 by Ray Keating



October 12, 2020


The shift in emphasis at The Walt Disney Company toward direct-to-consumer online streaming continued today with the company’s announced strategic reorganization. The new structure of Disney’s media and entertainment businesses will be focused on creating original content for streaming services, as well as for legacy platforms.

Meanwhile, distribution and commercialization will be centered in one Media and Entertainment Distribution organization for the global company. In a statement, Disney explained that the unit “will be responsible for all monetization of content—both distribution and ad sales—and will oversee operations of the Company’s streaming services. It will also have sole P&L accountability for Disney’s media and entertainment businesses.”


As for the leadership team, Disney noted, “The creation of content will be managed in three distinct groups—Studios, General Entertainment, and Sports—headed by current leaders Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman, Peter Rice, and James Pitaro. The Media and Entertainment Distribution group will be headed by Kareem Daniel, formerly President, Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.” They, of course, will report to CEO Bob Chapek.


The three units will produce content for theatrical, linear and streaming, with streaming services notably called “the primary focus.”


Specifically, Horn and Bergman will head up studios with a focus on branded vehicles for theatrical releases, Disney+ and other streaming services, and will cover Disney live action and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures.


As chairman of General Entertainment Content, Rice will focus on episodic and long-form content for streaming, and for cable and broadcast vehicles, including via  20th Television, ABC Signature and Touchstone Television; ABC News; Disney Channels; Freeform; FX; and National Geographic.


Pitaro will head up ESPN and Sports Content for the ESPN cable channels, ESPN+, and ABC.


Chapek said, “Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our Company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value. Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it. Our creative teams will concentrate on what they do best—making world-class, franchise-based content—while our newly centralized global distribution team will focus on delivering and monetizing that content in the most optimal way across all platforms, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and the coming Star international streaming service.”


Investors seemed to like what Disney had to say, as the company’s stock was up by better than 5 percent in after-hours trading at the time of this writing on October 12.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Broadway League Announces Continuing Closures for NYC Theatres

 by Beth Keating



October 9, 2020


The Broadway League today (October 9) announced that New York City’s Broadway theatres will extend the suspension of performances through May 30, 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.  Individual theatres will then determine the start dates and performance schedules for their respective shows.  As more information becomes available and theatres solidify the dates for raising their curtains, The Broadway League will make the schedules available to theatre patrons. 

After closing March 12 due to rising coronavirus numbers and state restrictions, the theatres hoped to reopen sometime in January.  (The first reopening had been anticipated for Labor Day 2020... but obviously that didn’t happen.)  Some shows, such as Disney’s Frozen at the St. James Theatre, announced that they had taken their final curtain calls, and would not return post-pandemic. (See the DisneyBizJournal story here.)


“With nearly 97,000 workers who rely on Broadway for their livelihood and an annual economic impact of $14.8 billion to the city, our membership is committed to re-opening as soon as conditions permit us to do so. We are working tirelessly with multiple partners on sustaining the industry once we raise our curtains again,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League.


Shows on hiatus right now include Disney’s Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre and The Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre. The Broadway on Tour version of Disney’s Frozen has touring dates scheduled in a number of cities beginning in February, as does The Lion King tour (beginning in March), but performances of the tours may be canceled or postponed due to the evolving coronavirus situation. Check with the specific theatre’s box office or website for clarifications, refunds and information.


Guests who purchased tickets for Broadway performances through May 30, 2021, should contact their point of purchase for refunds or exchanges.  For additional COVID-19 theatre updates, go to The Broadway League website here.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


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Thursday, October 8, 2020

“Soul” Will Arrive on Disney+ on Christmas Day

 by Ray Keating



October 8, 2020


The Walt Disney Company announced today that the Pixar movie Soul will be released directly on Disney+, rather than in theaters. And it might make the holiday season a bit more fun for families, as it will be released on Disney+ on Christmas Day.

Unlike Mulan, there will be no additional cost to view the film. If you subscribe to Disney+, then you’ll be able to tune in Soul. In international markets where Disney+ is not available, the film will be released at some point in theaters.


According to Disney’s previous release schedule, Soul was supposed to head into theaters on November 20, 2020. But with the pandemic still wreaking havoc with movie theaters, it’s not surprising that Soul will debut on Disney+ instead.


Disney CEO Bob Chapek said, “We are thrilled to share Pixar’s spectacular and moving ‘Soul’ with audiences direct to Disney+ in December. A new original Pixar film is always a special occasion, and this truly heartwarming and humorous story about human connection and finding one’s place in the world will be a treat for families to enjoy together this holiday season.”


Disney describes Soul this way:


What is it that makes you...YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions. “Soul” is Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a. (Pixar short “Lou”).




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Chef Mickey’s Set to Return December 16

 by Beth Keating



October 8, 2020


Just in time for the holiday season, Chef Mickey will be back in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for guests at his namesake restaurant.  Beginning December 16, the gang will be whipping up some all new – and tasty looking entrées – at Chef Mickey’s restaurant.


Formerly a character buffet, the meal will now be a sit-down event, and cast members will bring all-you-care-to-eat dishes to your table, serving family style. There will be traditional breakfast favorites, but the exciting news is that Disney, perhaps inspired by the recent success of the changed menu at Hollywood Studios’ “Hollywood & Vine Minnie’s Halloween Dine,” is offering up several new specialty plates at Chef Mickey’s. 

Photo: Disney Parks Blog

Guest will be able to enjoy Mickey’s “Celebration” Pancake, featuring whipped cream, celebration sprinkles, and shimmering pixie dust; “Loaded” Potato-Cheese Casserole topped with smoked bacon crumbles and chives; or Goofy’s Banana Bread French Toast, a banana bread baked in orange-scented French toast batter, and topped with Espresso-mascarpone cream, toasted bananas and chocolate crumbles.


Chef Mickey’s new character appearances will be in keeping with the current safely-distanced format seen throughout other locations. Mickey and friends will still make guest appearances, but they will not stop at your table for individual autographs and hugs. They’ll be there to smile, wave and interact as they parade through the restaurant, dressed in their chef’s best.


As was previously the case at Hollywood & Vine, the food at the buffet at Chef Mickey’s often took a back seat to the character interactions. Chef Mickey’s, located in the cavernous atrium of the Contemporary Resort, with the monorail gliding by overhead, was/is sort of a rite of passage and must-do for many Disney guests.  But it was undeniably loud with its soaring, open ceilings, and the atmosphere was sometimes raucous. Periodic napkin waving and singing with the characters would break out throughout the meal, and you’d have to keep a close eye on where the characters were in the room so you wouldn’t be up at the buffet when Mickey or Minnie showed up at your table. You didn’t want to miss your chance at those iconic photos with the Fab 5 – that’s why you were paying premium prices at Chef Mickey’s, after all. 


Over at Hollywood & Vine, the new tableside service with its upgraded entrées has gotten rave reviews from recent guests since its reopening. Hopefully, Chef Mickey’s will experience the same boost with its new menu. (Will Goofy’s Banana Bread French Toast become a cult favorite like Kona Café’s Tonga Toast?)

Photo: Disney Parks Blog

Reservations for Chef Mickey’s Family Feast character breakfast will begin October 17. Disney Resort hotel guests can make reservations up to 60 days in advance (plus the length of their stay - up to 10 days.) The cost is $42 per adult and $27 per child, plus tax and gratuity.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.