Editorial: Clash of Titans: Moore vs. Mouse

Friday May 07, 2004

Wow. It looks like the aging but still potent Disney megacorp might finally have met its match. Here at the Daily Planet alone we got a bunch of letters expressing outrage about Disney’s decision to bar its subsidiary Miramax from distributing Michael Moore’s new movie Fahrenheit 911. It’s an expose of, among other things, the Bush family’s long history of palling around with the Bin Ladens of Saudi Arabia. (Yes, those Bin Ladens.) Hot stuff. The New York Times has already written an editorial denouncing Disney. Maureen Dowd has made a skewering comment in her column. FAIR, the very effective media criticism organization, has taken up the cause. The FAIR e-mail newsletter quotes Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, about the reason for Disney’s action: “According to Emanuel, he had a conversation last spring with Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, who asked him to cancel his deal with Miramax and ‘expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor.’” 

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Disney has owned a big hunk of Florida politics for a long time, and a little thing like a critical documentary probably won’t change that. The first magazine article I ever wrote, now about 25 years ago, was an expose of how Disney circumvented Florida’s environmental laws to build Disney World, mainly by acquiring a few legislators. It’s hard to believe that brother Jeb would get unbought just because of a little ol’ movie distribution deal.  

The Disney Corporation has a history of fighting long and hard for what it wants. Our beloved op-ed page comic strip author Dan O’Neill had an epic battle with Disney over whether he had the right to satirize Mickey Mouse. It’s almost enough to make one believe in the arcane branch of political thought which holds that corporations are living Frankenstein’s monsters, capable at the drop of a comma of running wild and devouring everything in their paths. It’s true that the big bad Disney Corporation legend has gone on for a long time. Many people who grew up in Los Angeles in the 40s and 50s knew cartoonists who were victims of the battles to unionize the Disney studio, which Disney won.  

But Michael Moore has won a few battles too. He relishes the role of David to the corporate Goliath, and is a master at rallying the supporting legions. This promises to be a worthy sequel to Dan O’Neill’s epic, and it should be fun to watch. 

—Becky O’Malley›