Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out

By Sean Griffin | Go to book overview

Epilogue
“The Circle of Life”

Most of Disney's animated features end with some version of the words “And They All Lived Happily Ever After.” Yet, “The Circle of Life,” the song that opens The Lion King, describes life as a constant movement between “despair and hope.” On a more theoretical level, relationships and balances of power continue to shift back and forth in an unending pattern, as various discourses impact upon individuals or groups of individuals, and they in turn react, adapt or resist. Nowhere is this more evident than in the interactions between the Walt Disney Company and social discourse on homosexuality in the past few years. Since 1994, there have been marked changes both in the company's management and in popular opinion towards the company. Now, certain sections of heterosexual society no longer implicitly trust Disney's traditional “wholesome” image and have actually begun to demonize the corporation and its output.

In early 1994, Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash during a ski vacation. In August of that year, Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Walt Disney Company parted ways, leaving Michael Eisner to reign over the empire that the three had rebuilt over the past decade. At the time, many felt this would effect the close of one more era in Disney's history and the start of another. Since Katzenberg held a firm commitment to lesbian/gay issues, some employees worried that his departure would end the more open and accepting atmosphere at the studio and that the company would backtrack from its increasingly overt ties to lesbian/gay culture and consumers. Certain early signs seemed to indicate this possibility. Two film projects dealing with homosexual themes were in development when Katzenberg left: an adaption of the stage musical Falsettos and a fictional reworking of

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