When the Walt Disney Company decided to acquire 21st Century Fox, it was clear that the modern media landscape would never be the same again. Now that the deal is done, Disney is working to figure out how this new company fits in with the rest of the organization and, as might be expected, things have been complicated. One Fox project that is reportedly proving especially difficult is Taika Waititi’s upcoming World War II comedy JoJo Rabbit.
It’s probably unsurprising. Any movie where Hitler is a main character is going to be something of a minefield movie and a movie where Hitler is an imaginary friend to small boy in Germany during the second World War probably isn’t any easier. However, because of the movie’s unusual subject, and very Taika Waititi sort of production, Variety reports that there is a feeling among some higher ups at Disney that the film could alienate core Disney fans.
On the one hand, it’s easy to see why Disney executives might be hesitant. JoJo Rabbit is about as far from a “Disney movie” as it’s possible to get.
At the same time, it seems like that was sort of the point. JoJo Rabbit is a Fox Searchlight film, the arm of Fox that is focused on prestige pictures, and one of the segments of the company that many felt was quite attractive to Disney during the negotiations. The one area Disney has never had a great deal of success is in winning high profile awards.
JoJo Rabbit isn’t a Disney movie. and it seems unlikely that it, or any movie from Fox Searchlight, would be released with Disney branding on it. So the fact that it doesn’t fit the mold shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s not like this is the first time that Disney has owned studios that made movies that would not agree with Disney’s larger image. Touchstone Pictures was specifically created by Disney to make those kinds of movies, and Disney owned Miramax, the home of the movies of Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino, among others, in the 1990s.
Still, Disney is the only major studio that is so closely associated with any specific type of film, and those films are of the family friendly variety. And the Fox/Disney deal was very much in the public eye, most average moviegoers are certainly aware of it, so the association is unavoidable. Disney has an image to uphold so it needs a level of separation between the core brands and the more mature content for all this to work out.
It will certainly be interesting to see how these companies eventually fit together. Disney has reportedly killed a multitude of in development projects, which is expected considering the new Fox will certainly make fewer movies than the old one, but if the company only produces the sorts of movies that Disney itself might make, then there’s really no point in it even existing.
We’ll have to wait and see if the movie gets buried by the studio, maybe with an unfavorable release date.