A month and a half ago, the LA Times published a two-part story that made Mickey Mouse's owners very mad. The story tracks the deals and tax breaks the city of Anaheim has granted Disneyland over the years. Part one is here. Part two is here.
The details are wonky, but it's important journalism, and the picture that emerges is of a city struggling mightily while Disney gets away with more than seems reasonable. A ticket to Disneyland is now $110, and Disney says it can't afford a $1-per-ticket entertainment tax. "We’ve invested billions, really, in the children of tourists," says a politician who recently squeaked onto Anaheim city council over Disney's well-funded opposition. "We’d now like to really turn our investments toward making sure we take care of the children of Anaheim."
The Walt Disney Company called the story "unfair," although they didn't dispute the facts nor call for any corrections. Nevertheless, "apparently punishing the Los Angeles Times for a negative story about Disneyland," Disney prohibited LA Times reporters and critics from screeners of Disney films, depriving the LA Times the ability to cover movies like Thor.
Last Friday, LA Times explained why they didn't have a review of Thor the day it came out: "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."
Yesterday, Flavorwire, the pop culture website, decided to give the middle finger to Disney over the way it was retaliating against LA Times, by announcing they were no longer going to give Disney:
the free advertising provided by not only reviewing their films, but write-ups of their trailers, production announcements, casting rumors, and so on. We will not cover any Disney releases, nor those of subsidiaries Marvel or Lucasfilm (no, not even that one) as long as the Times ban stands.
We are, we’re well aware, a comparatively tiny platform, and Disney will probably not even notice our little blackout. But if larger outlets are willing to do the same, to stand with their colleagues in the critical community against a corporate bully, well, maybe that will move the needle a little.
Just this morning, boycott announcements continued, with the New York Times joining the blackout and, for what it's worth, The Stranger deciding we would join it too. (When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would be about us joining in solidarity with other media outlets; I was going to write with glee that Mudede was prohibited from reviewing The Last Jedi.) Also today, a bunch of film-critic organizations got together and announced:
The members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the National Society of Film Critics jointly denounce the Walt Disney Company's media blackout of the Los Angeles Times. Furthermore, all four critics' organizations have voted to disqualify Disney films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.
All of this is classic Streisand effect, when the attempt to cover something up only results in it being exposed much more widely than it would have been otherwise. Really makes you want to read the stories Disney doesn't want you to read, doesn't it?
Something got Disney's attention (it's got to be the awards thing, right?), because as of a few minutes ago, Disney reversed itself and the LA Times is no longer banned from Disney screeners:
Amid a growing backlash, the Walt Disney Company on Tuesday reversed its decision to bar The Los Angeles Times from press screenings of its movies following an investigation by the newspaper into the media giant’s business dealings in Anaheim.
So there's no blackout for The Stranger to join after all. Knock yourself out at The Last Jedi, Mudede.
And: Well played, LA Times.
Oh and also: Support local journalism.