Saturday, March 09, 2013

Careful! You'll Hurt Disney's Feelings!

Who knew?  The mighty multinational conglomerate that is Disney can't stand to be criticized.

You are probably already aware that Disney has refused permission to use Disney artwork in Amid Amidi's biography of Ward Kimball.  Chronicle Books, the original publisher, has decided against publishing the book as a result.  Amidi is now making other arrangements for publication. (It appears that has de-listed the book or I would provide a link.)

But it doesn't stop there.

Don Rosa was a writer/artist of Disney comics whose work was hugely successful, especially in Europe.  He has written material in a nine volume collection of his work about the creation of his stories.  That is, until he got to the reasons why he retired.  Disney refused to allow that piece of writing to be published.  Perhaps because it highlights the medieval treatment of people who create Disney comics and how they are taken advantage of.  Perhaps because Disney's licensees exploited Rosa's name without compensation, so that he had to copyright his own name so that Disney licensees couldn't use it without his permission.  Rosa decided that he wasn't willing to be muzzled and put his explanation for retiring on the internet.

In a recent podcast, author Sean Howe explained why his book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story contains no images from the comics.  This quote comes from 1:15:43 in the podcast.
"I was going to license about 20 images and I got approvals for captions for those images and everything was typeset, the whole thing was laid out, and then I got the contracts. A price had been agreed on, but when I actually got the paperwork, I was going to have to agree that I would say nothing critical about Marvel Comics in the entire book.  A lot of people have asked me why there are no pictures from the comic books and that's the reason.  If I had used illustrations, I would have had to take out half of the book."
Disney is so sensitive that it cannot tolerate anything that casts aspersions on its behaviour or the behaviour of its subsidiaries or licensees.  And look how absurdly ineffective they are at squelching it.  While they are busy attempting to suppress books, their behaviour is being noted all over the internet.  Amidi's book will eventually be published and I hope that Disney's refusal to grant permission to use images becomes a major talking point in the book's reviews.  Don Rosa's writing would have been limited to Europe, but is now readable by anyone in the world.  Sean Howe wrote the book he wanted to and has a tumblr where he has published more images from Marvel than he ever could have squeezed into his book.

Disney's failure doesn't address the bigger issue.  From this point forward, any book on Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars or the Muppets that includes copyrighted images is tainted.  The author, rightly or not, will be suspected of compromising the text to satisfy Disney.  The books will be damaged goods.  The use of Disney-owned images will be proof that the book contains nothing critical of Disney.  So while Disney is trying to protect itself from criticism in print, it has essentially neutered any praise it may receive as it is biased.  Meanwhile, on the internet, Disney provides ammunition for those who want to criticize it.  Good thing nobody ever looks at the internet.


Christopher Sobieniak said...

It's a shame when the term "butt hurt" gets used more and more to describe situations like this when it comes to the reputations of said companies.

Amid Amidi said...

Mark, You are quite observant in noting that Disney's attempts to squelch its history affects not only authors like myself, but also compromises the integrity of official company-sanctioned books. Their upcoming book about Roy E. Disney—"Remembering Roy E. Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life"—is case in point.

The book on Roy is compiled/authored by David Bossert. He happened to be one of the people who gave notes on my Ward Kimball biography. He knows his Disney history, and from my understanding, was supportive of the project. But that doesn't change the fact that at no point in his note-giving process was he able to identify a factual error in my biography. Every single one of his notes was arbitrary, based on how he personally felt Walt Disney and the Disney company ought to be portrayed in a book.

What's more galling is that his notes often contradicted notes coming from people in other parts of the company. It quickly became evident that the Disney company had no clear guidelines for how Walt should be portrayed. Their understanding of Walt was based on the individual whims of various Disney employees, each being as cautious as they could be to cover their own asses.

Bossert's actions, well-intentioned though they may have been, are an embarrassment to the animation history community. His willingness to censor valuable factually documented history leads me to question his own ability to write accurately about Disney history while under the employ of the Disney company.

Anonymous said...

Their upcoming book about Roy E. Disney—"Remembering Roy E. Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life"—is case in point.

Well, not really - any book they produced, like any company or organization's "official" history, would be suspect. Disney is synonymous with the word bland.