Julia Mirsky | Contributing Writer
The Walt Disney Company has not been “the happiest place on earth” these past few days due to a recently resolved feud with The Los Angeles Times. On September 24 The L.A. Times ran the first of a three-part article on Disneyland Park’s business ties with its hometown of Anaheim, California.
The first publication examined grants and tax breaks the famous park has received from the city. The second and third articles were published on September 26 and considered how the residents and politicians of the city are beginning to have an issue with the so-called one-sided relationship between the Disneyland Park and Anaheim. In a statement countering the three-part article, Disney explained that they believe the coverage by The L.A. Times was biased and unfair.
“We regularly work with news organizations around the world that we don’t always agree with,” Disney stated. “But in this instance, The L.A. Times showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards…”
In apparent retaliation for the negative articles, Disney prohibited the Times’ critics from attending pre-screenings of its films and from press conferences with the actors in upcoming films. The L.A. Times brought this dispute to the public’s attention by calling out the entertainment giant with an announcement made in its November 3 newspaper. The statement explained why the paper was lacking a review of the highly anticipated Marvel superhero production, Thor: Ragnarok.
“Walt Disney Co. studios declined to screen the movie for The Times’ critics, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with the city of Anaheim,” the Times’ statement read. “The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public. Justin Chang’s review of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ will appear in Saturday’s paper.”
The ban was short-lived due to the widespread backlash that Disney received. Various actors spoke out against the ban Disney placed, including Ava DuVernay, who recently directed Disney’s upcoming production, A Wrinkle in Time. Additionally, journalists from highly accredited news sources, such as The Washington Times and The New York Times, publicized their own support for The L.A. Times in vowing that they would boycott pre-screenings of any Disney movies until the ban was lifted.
The New York Times further condemned Disney by stating that the practice of penalizing a news organization was not in the public’s best interest and a powerful name like The Walt Disney Company taking such an action should not be taken lightly.
Likewise, four prominent film critic groups denounced the ban placed against The L.A. Times and vowed that Disney films would not be included in consideration for any year-end awards until the ban was “publicly rescinded.” The Los Angeles Critics Association, The New York Film Critics Circle, The Boston Society of Film Critics, and the US’s National Society of Film Critics issued a joint assertion on The Los Angeles Critics Association’s Twitter account. The groups gave a detailed statement explaining that during a time of already amplified antagonism directed towards journalists, Disney’s actions are in violation to the right of free press.
The powerful and extensive backlash that Disney experienced is what prompted them to revoke the less than weeklong news blackout against The L.A. Times.
According to The New York Times, Disney’s statement read, “We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.”