OPINION: “The Crappiest Place on Earth;” how Disney weaponized COVID-19
Photo of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida courtesy of Pixabay.com.
Ryan O’Donnell | Contributing Writer
Earning its status as the undisputed heavyweight champion of film animation since its rise to fame in 1937, the Walt Disney Company continues to captivate audiences and tug at heartstrings almost a century later. With an extensive library of motion pictures that deliver inspiring messages centered around the importance of values such as hard work, honesty and family, Disney has steadily been a favorite of parents hoping to teach its children these values.
Since the dawn of the 21st century, Disney has expanded upon its own creation and cemented its own status as a Hollywood powerhouse by purchasing other popular media properties such as Star Wars, The Muppets and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the company’s principles seem to be in direct contrast with its lack of transparency to its employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus shocked the world and finally got people to stop picking their noses in March 2020, people across the globe worried about its impact on the economy. In the United States, as many citizens were left jobless and struggled to make ends meet, the federal government granted loans to several large corporations in an effort to help restart the economy. The Walt Disney Company was a recipient of one of the most generous loans, with a gift of a whopping $500 million.
After receiving such a hefty handout from the White House, the house that built Mickey Mouse laid off roughly 28,000 employees from its Disneyland theme park. The company promised to bring these workers back upon the park’s reopening. However, upon the grand reopening of Disneyland in April 2020, Disney pulled a fast one on its employees by offering them similar roles with a decreased salary, no benefits, and fewer hours.
Adding insult to injury, park workers who were tricked into signing their new contracts forfeited their seniority, and other employees were replaced by independent contractors. In addition, about a third of the staff cut from the payroll were members of a department that one would think should receive more funding in the height of a global pandemic: the custodial crew.
These malicious moves made with the motive of saving more money should surprise no one who is well aware of the true intentions of corporate America. The same corporations who are always the first to cry foul about the rise of socialism in the United States are unaware that such an economic system is already present in the country: it just exists for the top one percent.
What separates Disney from the rest of the pack is its continued disingenuous promotion of ethics such as honesty and hard work in its productions. These park employees slaved away for months on end with no days off to keep customers satisfied. Instead of being rewarded for their strenuous labor and strong work ethic, they were unfairly punished.
To evaluate such hypocrisy, one should analyze the 1940 classic Pinocchio. The creative movers and shakers responsible behind the iconic animated masterpiece would not just be spinning in their graves upon witnessing Disney’s treatment of its theme park workers: they would be doing backflips and somersaults. In the titular character’s quest to transform from a shoddy wooden puppet into a “real boy”, he learned a multitude of lessons the hard way in order to prove his worth.
From being locked in a cage by an evil puppeteer as a result of playing hooky to narrowly avoiding being turned into a donkey for drinking and smoking – the latter scene of which remains scarier than anything in a horror film – staunch supporters of capitalism continue to champion the film decades after its release for its metaphor that hard work will always pay off. The abuse suffered by Disneyland employees seems to spit in the face of Pinocchio’s heartfelt message to audiences.
Of course, there is another group of Disney employees whose feet must be held to the fire in the midst of this mess. Many of the a-list stars of Disney’s productions have garnered attention for their left-wing political views. A prime example would be actor Mark Ruffalo, who portrays the Incredible Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ruffalo has increasingly been in the spotlight (no pun intended) for his advocacy of a variety of social justice causes on social media. However, as the old adage states, actions speak louder than words: and the Emmy Award winner’s silence on Disney’s dastardly deeds has spoken volumes about the legitimacy of his activism.
It is not just Disney’s misuse of money from the CARES Act that Ruffalo and other liberal co-stars such as Don Cheadle have been mysteriously mute about. Whether it be Disney pretending to care about gay rights while it cut scenes involving same-sex couples in its films to rake in the dough from homophobic countries or blatantly breaching the contract of Scarlett Johansson, these celebrities have implicitly conveyed that they would rather be docile to the ones writing them their paychecks instead of fighting the good fight. For a team that portrays superheroes on the silver screen, these actions appear to be quite cowardly.
The noses on the faces of the hotshot executives at Disney grew larger and larger as they pulled the wool over the eyes of both their own employees and American taxpayers. Like the other multibillion dollar corporations that received bailouts from the federal government, Disney hid behind the excuse of COVID-19 to dupe its workers by taking the money it received and running with it.
For a company whose films and television programs often emphasize the significance of the traditional nuclear family, it seems to be shamelessly ignoring the cries of the families of full-time Disneyland workers who are forced to sleep in their cars as a result of Disney’s dishonesty and unscrupulousness.
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