The Time Disney Got Into A War With The Newspaper Industry

Disney is one of the largest media companies in the world. Their portfolio is quite diverse. The founder, Walt Disney, started with animated cartoons and movies in the early 20th century, then branched out to the far corners of the known universe. They own the Marvel Cinematic Universe, theme parks, Fox's entertainment division, A&E, Lucas Films, Pixar, Lifetime, and many, many more. They're a media powerhouse with a net worth around $130 billion, according to Business Insider.

A war between a media conglomerate as large as Disney and the newspaper industry as a whole sounds like something so abstract that you'd only read about it in a Kurt Vonnegut novel, but it's a real thing that really happened. It all started with a little publication called the Los Angeles Times. Granted, the LA Times isn't a tiny hometown newspaper, but in comparison to a giant like Disney, it might as well be an insect on the bottom of Mickey Mouse's sole. Well, that's probably what Disney hoped when the company went to war with them in 2017.

The LA Times called out some iffy Disney business

The "war" began when the Times started reporting on Disney and its relationship with the local politics in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. Disney was throwing money at Jordan Brandman's campaign for city council. Brandman was running against Jose F. Moreno. According to an LA Times article from the series that kicked off the war, Moreno had openly spoken out about the city prioritizing the Walt Disney Company over its own residents. Moreno ended up winning despite the money funneled into Brandman's campaign, and the city started cleaning up its pro-Disney politics.

Another article in the series called out Disney for not paying its fair share to the city. Anaheim owns the parking garage that Disneyland uses for its visitors, and the city only charges the mega-corporation $1 per year to lease it. Meanwhile, Disneyland pulls in multi-million-dollar revenue every year. The Times article goes on to highlight how the deals made with the city have kept Disney safe from over $1 billion the city should've collected.

Maybe Disney was in the wrong for being a multi-billion-dollar corporation that was using its wealth to manhandle a city's political system. Or maybe the LA Times was in the wrong for calling out a multi-billion-dollar corporation that was using its wealth to manhandle a city's political system. Honestly, we may never know.

Disney went to war

As you may have guessed, Walt Disney Co. wasn't exactly happy with the LA Times for making the company's business public. They had to fight back. Of course, they couldn't send the Avengers after the newspaper without breaking the law and letting the public know that they've turned a bunch of actors into real-life super beings. So, they kept the Avengers from the Times instead.

Entertainment writers are often given early access to media, like TV shows and movies, so that critics can write reviews. This can be good for both sides. The publication gains readership (news!) and the production gets free advertising (publicity!). Disney refused to allow the Times to screen Thor: Ragnarok before it was released as punishment for airing Disney's dirty laundry. The LA Times told Indie Wire that Disney had stripped their writer's access from Disney TV, instituted a company-wide ban on their publication, and refused to allow their executives to be interviewed about the issue.

Disney also pulled its ads from the Times. This was a big hit to their finances. Ads, as unfortunate as it might seem while you're reading, are what pay for news publications to run. They pulled ads from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as well.

Media outlets put an end to Disney's shenanigans

"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," Disney said in a statement after restoring the Times' access to film screenings. Why the change of heart? It was all thanks to backlash from other news outlets, according to the New York Times.

News media banded together to save the LA Times from Disney's "assault." If businesses are allowed to push some publications around, there's nothing preventing them from strongarming and thereby damaging the journalistic integrity of others. The media outlet either fights back or bends to the will of another corporation. The Washington Post stepped up; one of its reporters announced she wouldn't attend advance screenings of Disney films until LA Times was back in Disney's graces. The New York Times and the AV Club also came to the publication's assistance. Several film critic associations announced that they would disqualify Disney films from awards, according to The Guardian. Finally, Disney was defeated.

And that, folks, is how the Disney-Newspaper War of 2017 played out.