Specifically, Dear Disney Executives,
You are idiots.
Why do I begin this letter in such a fashion?
A particular author, now of famous renown, began what became arguably the single most famous story of his entire career with these words: “Marley was dead.” And he emphasized this: “Old Marley was dead as a doornail.” And a third time, “There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
There is much which I intend to say here, but the ultimate point of it all is that you are idiots. That is the one thing above all that you must allow yourselves to understand, or nothing wonderful at all can arise from the criticism which I am about to level at you.
Oh, make no mistake, the point of all criticism, in my book, should be to help make something better than it is, something wonderful. That is one thing, among many, which you seem to have forgotten.
And considering all that you have forgotten, let’s start with the most basic of basics: why you should listen to me.
Do not misapprehend my meaning in any of this. I suffer no delusions that I could run your entire corporate empire better than you can. You are highly placed executives, after all, and I’ve hardly ever been more than a janitor. You have a great deal of learning and experience, and you have done many things right. You stand on the shoulders of giants and you have not been entirely dumb about it. However, you have also done a number of idiotic things, things which you apparently plan to keep doing, terrible mistakes which have cost, and are costing, and will continue to cost you – and your audience – greatly.
I say this not as some well-educated, well-connected, well-financed, or well-experienced business mogul, but as a basic human being.
I speak as a member of your audience. Nothing more, and nothing less.
And that is why you should listen to me. Not that you should take my word as holy writ, just that you should listen to me because I am speaking as one of many dissatisfied, disheartened, disillusioned customers whose patience is not without limit.
Believe me, I know I must be easy for you to dismiss, if you even spare enough time and attention to read my words in the first place. But just as “Anyone can cook,” meaning that excellent talent and skill for an art can come from anywhere, any background, any setting, so, too, can a handful of good, financially beneficial ideas come from a random customer, just a humble member of that audience which is the source of your entire fortune.
Yes, that fortune of yours, all those billions of dollars, which is made up entirely from what people like me give to you, and which is constantly in need of refreshing. It’s no great financial insight that you need us to keep paying you. You must realize this, and yet you fail to take it as far as you need to. It’s far easier to maintain and even expand your fortune if we, your customers, are not only willing but eager to give you our hard-earned money in exchange for what you give to us.
You need us to not only consent to give you our money in exchange for what we get from you, you need us to be giddy about it, excited for it, screaming “shut up and take my money” over it. You have some understanding of this, which is why you try to excite us, so we make our decisions emotionally, but that trick can work only so many times before we stop trusting you. You need us to be repeat customers, after all.
You need us to be not just paying customers, but satisfied customers.
You need us to be happy about it.
That is where my criticism comes in: we are not happy with you! I am not, and I know many others are not. You would realize this yourself, and realize what you need to do, if you were not so disconnected from us.
Yes, “disconnected” is precisely what you are. You do not know your own audience anymore. You wonder why things go wrong? Why your films fail to make you the kind of profit you want, or sometimes just flat-out fail? It’s because you are so out of touch with us that you cannot satisfy us anymore. Not in the kind of numbers you want.
You wonder what insight I could possibly offer on this subject? Me, a humble little nobody? It’s true, were I working for you, I am certain my station would not be a high one. Perhaps I’d be the guy who comes to pick up your plates after you finish some exquisite luncheon, scraping the trash you leave on your plates into the garbage can. This, while you sit and manage your multimillion dollar ventures.
Oh, yes, you live in a very different world from us, amidst gilded offices in palatial towers so far above the rest of us, so wealthy – with the money we give you – and so privileged that you don’t even need to toss your own trash. You have little peons to do that for you. Not like us at all.
You are disconnected from us. Terribly so.
You have forgotten that we are your customers, not your walking pocketbooks.
That much is proven easily enough with the fiasco of Premier Access on Disney Plus. That didn’t much work out according to your plans, did it?
And yes, even an idiot could see the general outline of those plans. You spend a lot of money making your movies, and the natural goal is to profit from that expenditure. It must be very annoying having to share billions of dollars in revenue with all the theaters, which was not made any better when the COVID shutdowns rolled through, but you couldn’t do anything about that, could you? Not until you got Disney Plus off the ground, that is.
Once you got your little streaming service up and running, all you’d have to do is release your movies yourselves, with sole control over access to such, and then you’d be laughing all the way to the bank again, and screw all those greedy, money-grubbing theaters who dared to profit from all their hard work, as if tearing tickets, sweeping floors, cleaning toilets, and filling bags of popcorn were anything compared to the strenuous activity of signing checks, right?
… … …right?!
The live action Mulan was the first. There were, what, twenty-four million subscribers already at that point? Charge thirty-five dollars each, and surely that meant you’d make 875 million! Cue the smoking of Cuban victory cigars atop piles of greenbacks! Instead, it made 70 million. A loss of 130 million, since its budget was 200 million. Hm, oh, is that you coughing, Disney executives? Was the cigar somehow dissatisfactory?
…well, ok, but that was just the first time. That was just a fluke, nothing more!
But that “fluke” repeated itself again and again, to varying degrees.
I can just imagine the various reactions throughout the ranks and commanding structure of everyone who decided what to charge for Premier Access. Surprise, confusion, shock, panic, “What is going on? Wasn’t this supposed to work? It was supposed to WORK! WHY ISN’T IT?! WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?!”
The problem, dear Disney Executives, is that you charged too much for it! AND DELIVERED FAR TOO LITTLE BANG FOR THE BUCK!
Paying that much just to see it at home? Paying three months’ worth (or more) of a subscription service that we are already paying for, just to see it (at home) three months sooner? Ridiculous!
What was it one of you said? Something about how a single charge of thirty-five dollars was cheaper for a parent than paying for tickets for each of their children? Yes, that may be true in some cases, but this just further demonstrates the disconnect between you and us. You were wrong about how much people would pay for Premier Access, and you were wrong about why they should pay such an exorbitant fee, and you were wrong about who your customers really are! You are even wrong about what, exactly, your audience enjoys about seeing your movies in theaters!
Newsflash: it’s not just because it’s a movie! It’s not just because it’s your movie! It’s not just two parents with six kids who go to see your movies, it’s singles and couples and groups of friends, and everyone else who can pay their own way. We go and we enjoy the movie together with friends and family and complete strangers! We go, we leave the house to do something special, on a huge screen with special seats and special treats from the concession stand. It’s a special occasion!
Does it cost more? Sometimes, under very specific circumstances, if, and only if, one person is paying for more people. But even then, we get more out of it. MUCH more than simply sitting on our couch at home – which people were stuck doing during the COVID shutdowns anyway, yearning to get out – and paying far too much for nothing more than watching a movie. A movie we can eventually watch, at least home, for no further charges than continuing our subscription. A movie which, if we were honest, could very well suck! And then we’re out cash with nothing to show for it. As opposed to at least having been able to enjoy the theater experience, and probably for a cheaper price!
The fact that NONE of this occurs to you, as you look down on us from your ivory towers?
I say again: disconnected.
So long as you are so disconnected from us, your audience, your ability to satisfy us will diminish ever further and further, and your profits will wither, or at least not grow as they otherwise would. They will pale in comparison to what you could have made. Heck, they already have, haven’t they?
Picture this: instead of getting one or two percent of your Disney Plus subscribers to pay for Premier Access, you instead got ninety percent, or ninety-five, or more. Imagine if every movie you released would regularly be viewed with Premier Access by virtually your entire base of subscribers. If you could accomplish just that much, then you really could make hundreds of millions, even a billion or two, with every single movie you put out, and corner the market for your product, truly competing with all of the theaters. All of that before even collecting your share of the cash from the theaters.
An appealing image, no?
And all you would have had to do… was charge something in the single digits for it.
A difficult idea to swallow? Then you haven’t been paying attention. You need to limit yourself in how much you charge us, or we will end up limiting what we pay to you.
Take your Mulan remake, for instance. If you had charged four dollars, instead of thirty-five, there would be two major differences from how things actually played out: 1) you likely would have made around 30 million dollars more, because all 24 million of your subscribers would have been much more inclined to pay for it, and 2) you would have begun the service you offered with an act that built up trust with your subscribers and encouraged more of your audience to subscribe quickly, which would have further filled your pockets with more cash. Would you still have taken a hit with Mulan’s release? Yes, probably so. But it would have been a short-term hit with a long-term benefit.
Now, I’m not saying it had to be five dollars or less. It could have been eight, and then you would have barely felt any hit, if at all. Getting more customers is as easy as charging each of them less.
Single digit. And stop with the whole ninety-nine cent thing! It’s annoying! Just charge a basic, even amount, a reasonable amount that lets your audience feel like they’re getting a truly good, satisfactory deal, and their reservations will cease to be relevant! Sure, each individual charge might have been a quarter as much as it was, but multiply that by an audience ten or twenty or fifty or a hundred times larger, and you could well run out room to put all the cash you would have gotten and would, right now, still be getting!
You could practically guarantee making a billion dollars or more off of every movie forever, before collecting additional profits from your rivals, the theaters!
A tad better than losing a hundred and thirty million, no?
If only you provided a bit more to your customers and charged a bit less for it.
That’s the old axiom about profit, isn’t it? Sell the better product for a lower price? That’s how you get and keep more customers who are more satisfied with their purchase.
Speaking of, your mistake with charging so much for Premier Access is only one flaw to be addressed and improved upon. You want to make more money? You want to do so quickly and easily? You want to your new streaming service to do it? Then you really do need to entirely overhaul your use of Disney Plus.
Lowering the price for Premier Access would certainly be a good first step in the right direction, but you need to take that further. I know I am not the only customer who has been annoyed when you’ve increased the subscription price. Surely, you must be aware of that! And surely you must realize that if you keep increasing it, not only will fewer customers sign up for it, but you will eventually start losing subscribers. Thus, on behalf, of your customers, I just want to say… CUT IT OUT!
Once again, I must emphasize that we are your customers, and that we are not your walking pocketbooks!
You would do well to find some more efficient method of operating, and lower the price back down to something where we are grumbling about it a bit less and smiling about it a bit more.
And yet, this may seem paradoxical, but when we watch your content, or at least when we enjoy it, there is inevitably a desire for related merchandise. It could be for the kids you recall us having, for Christmas and birthdays and other special occasions, or it could be for ourselves, just some neat little thing that appeals to us because we were so entertained. You already have your own chain of stores, both in the real world and online, but you have failed to use your own streaming service to properly advertise your own merchandise.
“Hey, kiddies and parents! You like baby Yoda? Here’s where you can get an oversized plushy of him!”
“Hey, you liked the Avengers? Here’s a hoodie with their logo on it!”
“Hey, here’s all sorts of books, toys, games, soundtracks, and so much more, related to this show or movie you just enjoyed, all just one click away!”
Not only would all your merchandise be easier to find, but easier to want, and thus easier for us to buy and for you to profit from.
The rumor mill says you’re considering adding ads to Disney Plus to increase your revenue anyway. Why not use it to just sell your own stuff?
Speaking of, on a related note, next suggestion: sell physical copies of your content. Don’t restrict us to only watching it online, let us own our own copies.
That may seem counter-intuitive, but trust me on this!
You may fear that selling DVDs and Blu-Rays and whatever might hurt your profits from Disney Plus. After all, if we can just buy it to watch on our own, then why would we keep paying a monthly fee to watch it online? And, on the other hand, if we have an online library we can access any time, why buy our own copies at all? But this overlooks several key factors:
1) We would have to be far richer than we are, to be able to afford everything you produce. Being able to purchase our favorites, however, encourages us to keep trying out everything new, which means we keep paying for the online service, and are happier about doing so. Give us more freedom to go, and we are more likely to stay, to try all the new things you make. As opposed to practically extorting us for content we don’t always enjoy, and making us grumble.
2) You keep selling physical copies of your newest features, right? The movies that are released in theaters? So, obvious question: as you make all of your latest movies available for streaming, have you seen any significant decline in home video purchases for those movies? You’re operating a under a false dichotomy. It’s not one or the other potential purchase playing against each other, it’s both of them working together… when things are reasonably priced, at least.
3) We’ve been going and paying to watch your movies and purchase our own copies for as long as we’ve had that option! That’s what we’ve been doing all along, this entire time! We see the movie in theaters, or the show on TV, and then we buy our own copy because we love it so much! Why on Earth would that change with a show that we see first on your streaming service?
4) To simplify this: we see, we want, we buy, and then we keep seeing. Do you want to know how many home video purchases can be traced directly or indirectly to seeing clips of a show or movie on YouTube? Do these purchases diminish YouTube’s audience in any way? No. But, then, what can one expect from a corporation such as yours, which destroys the free advertising it gets on a massive platform when their audience so happily and excitedly shares all of their favorite clips?
Again, you are disconnected from us. You have been consistently failing to think about things from our perspective. You aren’t giving us what we really want!
On which note, a final suggestion for improving Disney Plus: upload everything. All of your content. Everything you have the rights to. Everything Disney has ever made and still owns, right from the beginning! Every last second of every last title!
Now that must be an impressive library, well worth paying a small monthly fee for, no?
Now, you may need to slightly redesign your website a bit to make it easier to navigate through this wondrous library. You can include filters for when any given title was made, sorted by the decade. You can sort them by what they are: animated shorts, cartoons, TV shows, live action or animated movies, educational material, etc. Genres of musicals, westerns, action, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, drama, and more. You can add tags for people looking for specific directors or actors. And ratings, of course, to sort it all by G, PG, PG-13, or R.
But whatever you do, the point is: improve your product! Give us everything you got, and we’ll keep giving you money for it!
Half the reason many of us signed up for Disney Plus in the first place was in the hope of having unrestricted access to everything Disney has ever made. And we have been sadly disappointed to find such a relatively small sampling of your classics, your history, while every new flash in the pan gets shoved into our faces at every turn like it’s surely the best thing ever.
What’s worse, we can’t even trust that what is on Disney Plus will stay there! Not with you catering to every supposed offense taken by the “woke” mob. Censoring your material, putting up trigger warnings, even outright removing various titles, the beloved classics of our childhood! We pay you, and you lessen what we are paying for, while having us pay more, all because of your politics!
And now, at last, we are coming to the true crux of the matter. All of the things I have mentioned thus far – your failure to satisfy us, your greedy grubbing for our money, your disconnection from us, your failure to capitalize on all the opportunities presented by your streaming service – have been symptoms, easily seen on the surface but indicative of a much deeper, fouler rot which must soon be excised:
Your political agenda.
The agenda that you, Disney executives, work to advance, and that many of your employees are rabidly devoted to, and which many of us, your customers, are finally growing weary of.
I use the word, “finally,” very deliberately.
See, in your disconnection from us, you have forgotten that we are not stupid. We know about your agenda, and we have known of it for decades. Yet we have not only continued to purchase what you have produced, we have absolutely loved it, year after year, decade after decade. All for you to turn around, with our cash in hand, and scream to the world and to our children of how “intolerant” we supposedly are. Us, your steadfast, loving customers.
You wield cancel culture, a culture you had a direct hand in cultivating, against every figure who does not conform, who does not agree with and support your politics.
You are increasingly blatant in the injection of your agenda into your productions, even altering favorite characters from our favorite franchises, preaching and shoving it down our throats.
You outright advocate, fervently, for policies which deliberately target our children, to indoctrinate them with your destructive political drivel.
You eagerly kowtow to the censorship of foreign governments while disparaging the country of your origin, all unaware that, far from gaining a greater audience, you are driving cracks into the very foundation of your empire.
You encourage one set of political inclinations within your employees, at every level, while stifling and ostracizing those of other political beliefs within your own ranks.
You foolishly try to cater to a woke mob that will never be satisfied, and will turn on you, yourselves, again and again in due time. This, while alienating the conservatives who have steadfastly supported you no matter the disagreements they have had with you, and who would continue to do so… if only you did not push them – push us – away, harder and harder at every turn.
I’m going to be blunt here: you have a lot of ground to make up with us, and if you don’t start making it up, you will lose us, and lose our hard-earned money, forever.
You need to become more balanced. You need to make Disney absolutely apolitical, where everyone is free to work and to express themselves freely, without fear.
You need to promote conservative ideals and conservative employees and let conservative projects get off the ground without inserting your own politics into them.
For that matter, you need to stop shoving your own agenda in our faces at every turn, period.
You need to admit your wrongdoings, apologize, and pledge to do better.
You need to not give an inch to cancel culture, which means you also need to stop using it, and seek to make amends with those you have wronged with it.
You need to remember the virtues of the country and the financial system which birthed you, and stop catering to our enemies.
In short, you need to move away from the politics and focus on telling good stories that we, your audience, will love. As the Disney of old once did, you need to just tell us good, quality stories, well-crafted and well-told. Give us back the heroes and villains of old, the songs we couldn’t help but sing along with, and the magic of storytelling itself.
Just imagine it!
Imagine a Disney that is not bemused by or at odds with its own customers, but entirely beloved like Disney used to be! Delivering a vast and increasing library of every title in your history, no matter who might dislike some of them! All of it easy to navigate online, with direct links to home video copies and other related merchandise, and access to your latest features! With everything so reasonably priced that your customers can hardly wait to pay you!
Can there be any doubt that your profits would skyrocket? That your customer base would multiply and remain entirely satisfied? Have you any idea how much you would make from all of this together? Thirty billion? Forty billion? Even more? Every single year?
…you wouldn’t mind becoming the very richest people in the world, now, would you?
A century ago, Walt Disney started with nothing. He devoted himself to telling good stories, the kind that helped children believe in the magic of dreaming, and working to make those dreams come true. He built up a beautiful kingdom unlike anything the world had ever seen before.
But you? You have inherited a mighty empire, the very world itself in your hands. And all you seem to do with it is grab for more money, more power, even turning on your own audience. An audience you utterly fail to understand now.