Disney + forgets the Fox classics | TV

Disney + forgets the Fox classics |  TV

Disney + launched Star on February 23, the brand created to add non-family content to its offer, much of it from the Twentieth Century Fox catalog (now renamed 20th Century Studios), which The Walt Disney Company acquired in 2019. That day, the platform incorporated more than two hundred Fox films at once. But none before 1975. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released that year, is the oldest in that package. In Disney + there are only three Fox films billed on previous dates, which, being considered family classics, are hosted on the platform from the beginning: Of illusion also lives (1947), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and Smiles and tears (1965).

Twentieth Century Fox was born in 1935 as a result of the merger between Fox Film Corporation, created by William Fox in 1915, and Twentieth Century Pictures, which Darryl F. Zanuck and Joseph M. Schenck had set up in 1933. In their first four decades of life , produced films by most of the great Hollywood masters. Essential titles like The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How green was my valley? (1941), Laura (1944), Passion of the strong (1946), Naked eva (1950), The lifeguard (1961), MASH (1970) the Against the drug empire (1971). Big hits like The sacred robe (1953), the first film shot in CinemaScope, the wide format patented by the studio to compete with television; Temptation lives above (1955); two men and one destiny (1969); Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) the Young Frankenstein (1974). Films by John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Nicholas Ray, Elia Kazan … None of them are available on the platform.

Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, on the set of ‘Rebecca’.

The company does not explain the reasons for those absences or the plans it has for those films. It only alleges that “certain titles”, which it does not specify, “are subject to limitations” such as the fact that the broadcasting rights are assigned to some other channel, and that it expects them to “become part of Disney + in the future, once these expire ”.

Elena Neira, professor of Communication at the UOC and author of Streaming Wars. The new television, considers that this could be a factor in some cases, but adds that what Disney + seeks with Star is “to compete with Netflix”, which does not play the trump card of classic cinema either. The difference is that if Netflix wanted to do it, it would have to pay for the rights to the movies, and Disney + would just have to showcase their wardrobe. Jaume Ripoll, editorial director of Filmin, the platform that has most firmly opted in Spain for classic cinema, explains that, leaving aside the rights and, if applicable, dubbing and subtitling, the costs of having a film hosted on a platform “are minimal.” Even so, Neira concludes, “older content is not part of the preferences of a consumer of a generalist platform. And probably the commercialization of these films through other channels is more lucrative for Disney than having them captive in its own platform in which they do not add value ”.

The low value that Disney + attaches to Fox’s most traditional catalog is even more striking because the platform does host, in addition to Disney’s classic animated feature films and a selection of its shorts, many of the company’s live-action films. based in Burbank, California, produced between the fifties and the seventies. Thus, in Disney + you can find The Sign of Zorro (1958), a rematch for commercialization in the cinema of several episodes of a popular television series that Disney billed on the masked vigilante, and is not available instead The sign of the Fox (1940), from Fox, considered the best version of the adventures of the hero created by Johnston McCulley.

Gene Hackman and William Friedkin, during the filming of 'Against the Drug Empire', in 1971.
Gene Hackman and William Friedkin, during the filming of ‘Against the Drug Empire’, in 1971.Stanley Bielecki Movie Collectio / Getty Images

The book The other Disney. Volume 1, in which Alberto Corona describes the production of real-image feature films of the company from 1946 to 1967, picking up a precedent that does not leave a good place for the attitude that the empire built on Mickey Mouse has with the heritage of others: in 1960, shortly before brand new The robinsons of the South Seas (Ken Annakin), an adaptation of The Swiss robinson which was its most expensive film to date, the production company acquired the rights and all available copies of The Robinson Family (Edward Ludwig), an earlier adaptation of the same novel that RKO had produced in 1940, and wiped it off the map so that no one would compare it to the new version. For decades, it was missing. Although now, curiously, it is part of the catalog of Disney + family classics.

Corona points out that Star is nothing more than “a fix” to release in Europe the productions that Disney distributes in the United States through other platforms of its property such as Hulu or FX, and does not believe that the company feels a responsibility with the dissemination of the Fox’s film heritage “beyond the movies that can work for it.” The purchase had to do, he explains, with the acquisition of large intellectual properties, large brands, such as those of X-Men O Alien, but otherwise, the absorbed firm “has remained in the background. There is a lot of evidence: Fox’s animation studio Blue Sky recently closed down and many of its films [nuevas] Disney has given them an absolutely precarious premiere. “

The position of Disney + deepens the cornering of classic cinema in the magma of the cinema and series offer of the platforms, after Warner closed at the end of 2018 FilmStruck, the service that it had created to cover that market niche, and opted, To compete head-to-head with Netflix, for the creation of HBO Max, which does not yet operate in Spain but whose catalog in the United States barely includes feature films prior to the eighties either. In Spain, in addition to Filmin, that gap is covered above all by MUBI and, as regards Spanish cinema, FlixOlé. And both Movistar + and lately Amazon also include old films in their catalogs. Jaume Ripoll assures that reaching agreements with large Hollywood companies to offer classic titles “is not easy and it is not always possible”. Filmin has them with Universal, MGM and Sony, but not with Disney or Warner, both with their own platforms. “I would love to have the catalog of classics they have,” he points out about Disney +. “And, for the part that touches us”, ditch, “better continue like this”, without betting on them.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in an instant from 'Two Men and a Destiny'.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in an instant from ‘Two Men and a Destiny’.FOX

Ludovico Longhi, professor of film history and theory at the UAB, considers that the ideal would be for large production companies that have their own platform to “have everything available”, but he understands that “they do not consider it interesting or profitable”, and takes iron out of the matter. Longhi considers it significant that it is a studio like Disney, which from its inception had a “multimedia mentality, in the sense of thinking about profitability beyond the box office, whether with comics or stickers of its characters or with its theme parks”, who has engulfed Fox, one of the production companies along with Paramount and MGM, who bet the strongest in the fifties for gigantism to compete with television. “His films were the biggest, the most spectacular.” For Disney, a platform constitutes “a magnificent showcase” for the merchandising that the company has always squeezed. Instead, “it is difficult to find an audience that stands before a platform to see a Marilyn Monroe or an old Fox blockbuster.”

Hence, Longhi understands, that any hint of censorship applied for the sake of political correctness generates much more controversy, such as the restriction that Disney itself applied to the access of younger children to films such as Dumbo for including racist stereotypes, that this invisibility dictated instead by mere calculation of business profitability. “There is much more attention to issues related to values, issues on which we are much more sensitive, but the marginalization of the catalog of classics” does not generate any sense of loss or offense among an audience that does not know him, “he concludes. “And those of us who like those movies, we look for them elsewhere. That’s the same as before [de las plataformas]: the idea of ​​having to look for a movie, and the excitement of finding it ”.

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Disney + forgets the Fox classics | TV