Mickey vs the World

Paper by Maria Salgado.

M.J Wolf once said, “Increasingly a film is being regarded as an anchor product that gives birth to other businesses.” Today many companies face challenges from competitors alike. Disney is no exception when it comes to making the most profit from their family films. But as more competitors aim their focus on family films, we start to see a new trend among competitors. The aim for this trend is to beat out other companies that are in competition with one another. The “Disney Model” serves a purpose for competitors to be able aim their focus to children and their families, and have a strong appeal that fascinates their curious minds. In films like Harry Potter, children are able to imagine a world full of wizards. This fascinates children’s minds and makes them more appealed to this type of film because they start to grow with the characters, as each film is released. In Cheaper by The Dozen, we establish this as a family feature film because it is centered on a family and its core values. Making sure that family values is established is key to making a film successful because families can come together as one and make long lasting memories. When it comes to the Disney Model, many of the big companies want to take advantage of the family audiences so that they gain a huge profit and increased ratings. During the baby boom era Disney and other studios made increasingly profit from their films because they were able to target this type of group. When the baby boom era grew into teens, there was a significant decline in people who were interested in family films. Now that most of the baby boom era people have families, sales once again has risen because they are able to take their families to the cinema and watch films that have good moral values (Williams, Hammond and Kramer 265-266).

The Disney Model can be defined as a guideline for other companies to follow in order to gain audiences and generate revenue. In the article Why Disney Scares Us, Kevin Shortsleeve mentions, “Due to overwhelming insistence on organization, the Disney Company has maintained a rare unity in all it aspects for many years (Shortsleeve 1).” This is the reason for Disney being so successful with their films. Many of the companies are scared of this because they often try to copy Disney and end up failing. When it comes to making a film animation, many of the films tend to come up often when Disney decides to release their films. With all the technology today it is no wonder why they have been very successful in films like Frozen, Finding Nemo, and even Inside Out. Many of Disney’s competition are trying to invest in updated technology in order to generate more animated films. Dream Works has to be Disney’s number one competition when it comes to animation. In US Today, David Lieberman mentions, “Virtually every major studio and more minor ones are preparing films with computer-generated imagery. This year, theaters will have a least a dozen-more than twice as many in any other year (Lieberman).” This says a lot about the other companies who are looking to invest a lot of their money into the aim of children and their families. They are starting to see how successful Disney is and wants to get profit from animated films. Since technology is priced so low many of the big companies are taking advantage of this and producing films. DreamWorks is an animated company that has invested a lot in children and their families. They have been known as one of the biggest competitors against Disney and seem to produce as many films that Disney generates. Some of their work include, Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. There statistics prove to their success with them making 419 million gross per film. In the book Disneyization of Society, Alan Bryman mentions, “Walt wanted Disney to appeal to adults, and unless adults found the movie and its content appealing, they would not take their children to see it or buy merchandise (Bryman 89).” Many companies wanted to follow Disney’s ways which meant that they had to study Walt’s decisions. For example if a film needed to generate attention from kids then the film had to draw attention to the parent. Most parents today want to keep their children away from films that don’t provide a happy ending or a good ending message. Disney is known for their happy endings which makes them easily attracted by parents and their children. In order for studios like Paramount, who is well known for their films targeting teens and young adults, then they needed to contain their storyline and make it appropriate for children while also making it entertaining for the parents.

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first came out in United States in 2001, many weren’t sure how successful it would be. Later years we soon found out how successful it truly became. Warner Brothers Pictures accepted the challenge in distributing eight films that followed a young wizard by the name of Harry Potter. Many young children were fascinated by the idea that young wizards would go to a school to teach them wizardry while also being selected in a certain house. These films had a greater impact on the children and young adults who viewed them. This was key because Warner Bros. was starting to keep up with Disney and was seen to follow the Disney Model. I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it displayed a good example of a family film. In the beginning Harry is seen with a family who absolutely hates him. Harry is rescued by his best friend Ron Weasley and the Weasley family. The Weasleys take Harry in as their own and is shown what a true family means. Many children and young adults can relate to Harry because they probably have been in the same situation where they probably felt they weren’t loved and had a family that wasn’t there’s. As Harry goes through school he develops a relationship with two friends Hermione and Ron. They show Harry what true friends are and this is a positive message for young kids who watch these films. There were many characters who showed Harry what it was like to have a family. In the first film Harry is introduced to Hagrid, a huge giant who has the biggest heart. He explains to Harry what happened to his parents and gains a special bond with the twelve year old. Throughout the film we learn true friendships and compassion from the characters. Loyalty plays a big role between Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Director Chris Columbus does a great job with incorporating the characters so that children can relate to them. What Disney does a great job with is merchandise through their films. Many of the other big studios try to incorporate their films into selling and making profit through merchandise. This can relate with the Disney Model because film companies work hard promoting their films with ads and merchandise. Amusements parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios does a good job with making money from various films. Universal Studios owns the rights with Harry Potter and have expanded their parks solely on all the Harry Potter films. I had the chance of visiting Universal Studios in Orlando Florida and had to admit the way the set designers made the lot made it realistic, I felt like I was a part of the film. Many of their merchandise were for sale at numerous shops and people were buying all their products excitedly. There was plenty of things you could buy, if you wanted to be just like Harry, then you must have a wand. Universal had plenty of wands at their theme park for purchase at a whopping $65 dollars. Tired of drinking the same old drinks at amusement parks? Well, Universal sold Butterbeer just like in the Harry Potter films. There was plenty to buy like robes (in case you wanted to pretend you were a student at Hogwarts), and many props used in the films. Due to the enormous crowds and popularity of the films, Universal made a profit of 365 million a year, an increase of a 100 million a year before The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened. (Palmeri). Overall Harry Potter films provide a good message for many young believers when it comes to magic. Harry Potter is a true hero fighting off “bad guys/monsters” that provide entertainment for any age. To this day Warner Brothers have increased their sales with all the Harry Potter films and truly defining what a Disney Model means.

Cheaper by the Dozen is a film that is established highly for following the Disney Model and truly being reputable as a family film. In this film we are immediately introduced to a large family with their parents. There seems to be an odd child out who feels left out and the audiences get a sense that he isn’t happy. His name is Mark and Mark seems to try to talk to his siblings but they either ignore him or tell him that they are too busy. Mark has a pet frog who he spends most of his time with when he isn’t at school. I think that the writers did a great job with this film because many families could relate with all the struggles the Baker’s went through. What makes a film a great family film is when the audiences can relate it with their own families. They can think that they are going through the same struggles that this fictional family is going through. Tom, the dad, gets an offer to be a coach at a college where he went when he was younger. Tom and his wife decided to accept the offer and move the whole family and relocate in another city. Moving can be difficult in anyone’s life but especially with children. Many children make memories from their hometown and when something in their life changes it can be exceptionally hard for them. Many times kids will have to make new friends and even move to new schools. They lose that sense of comfort and feel scared and lost. After the whole family adjusts and discover their new house, they start to unpack and choose which room they want. Mark on the other hand is last to choose a room and he ends up getting the attic which at first isn’t the best room, but we soon find out that it turns out to be a really cool room. Many kids can relate with Mark when it comes to lots of siblings. Sometimes kids wonder why they aren’t liked or why they feel ignored. When the Bakers settle in everything isn’t going to Toms plans. He was hoping that by moving the family they would turn out to be happier and stronger. That isn’t the case and many of the children start to struggle with school. On a certain day Kate (the mom) is invited to go on a national tour for the launch of her book. Hesitant to leave the children Tom offers to find a solution for the kids. After his ideas fail he decides that he can handle all the children on his own. The kids start to grow on each other when they see some bullies picking on their younger sibling Mark. The older kids stand up for Mark and start attacking the bullies. Tom is called in to the principal’s office for the fight and grounds the children. Throughout the film there are many up and downs but in all, this film seemed to follow the classical Hollywood narrative that was seen in family films. The story reached a climax followed by the famous happy ending that we are familiar with in any Disney film. Towards the end of the film Mark wants to go back home to bury his frog with the other frog that is buried at his old house. No one will listen to him when he asked to go back, so Mark decides to go out on his own leaving his family without them knowing. When the family acknowledges that he is missing they all frantically go out searching for him. His parents call the police and they ask where they think he could have gone. They soon realize that he probably tried to go back home and took the train to get there. Tom rushes to catch the train and finds his son in an empty seat. He sits next to him in relief. This was a true turning moment for this family and the audience finally get a sense of closure. When Tom and Mark return to the family everyone was very relieved to see him and all the siblings hugged Mark. He finally got the sense that he belonged in the family and was truly happy. I think this film showed a family that struggled but stayed true to their values and beliefs. They proved that even though their family was chaotic most of the time they were able to prove that they could stand up for each other. This film proved to be a good example of a family film. In a way this film relates with the Disney film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Alexander related with the character Mark because he felt like he was left out in the family. When he decided to change things up everything turned out worse for him. The Disney Model proves that many film companies can follow what Disney does and stay true to their own beliefs. Many of the families that watched Cheaper by the Dozen got a sense of hope that their own families could be fixed whether through horrible or bad times.

Overall family films will be here for a very long time and that means that the concept of the “Disney Model” will be around for years to come. Many companies will continue their focus on children and their families. As long as the films generate mass of audiences then we will see an increase in films that are focused primarily on family films. Just like Harry Potter and Cheaper by the Dozen, films today have special messages that provides a good/happy ending. When it comes to the Disney Model many of the companies try to follow their own set of guidelines in order to attain what they expect out of a family film. As long as there is good messages that are portrayed in these types of films then we will see family films for years to come.


Works Cited

Bryman, Alan. Disneyization of Society. SAGE Publications Ltd., 2004. Book.
Lieberman, David. US Today. 25 January 2006. Web. 10 April 2016.
Palmeri, Christopher. Harry Potter Attreaction Cause 38% Jump In Universal Parks’ Profit. 15 February 2015. Web. 12 April 2016.
Shortsleeve, Kevin. “The Wonderful World of the Depression: disney, Depotism, and the 1930s. Or, Why Disney Scares Us.” The Lion and the Unicorn (2004): 1. Article.
Williams, Linda Ruth, Michael Hammond and Peter Kramer. Contemporary American Cinema. New York: Opem University Press, 2006. Book.

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