When Disney’s woke “Toy Story” spinoff/prequel “Lightyear” arrived in theaters Friday, it came trailing plenty of woke controversy in its wake.
The company made a big deal about reinserting a wholly extraneous scene featuring a lesbian kiss in the film as a rejoinder to Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill — you know, what progressives call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (that has nothing to do with saying “gay”).
Fourteen foreign markets had already banned the picture and it seems unlikely the largest foreign market for U.S. films, China, will allow it to be released there without edits. (According to Vice, Disney has refused.)
Actor Chris Evans, now voicing main character Buzz Lightyear, has called parents who objected to having someone else’s sexual morality shoved into their child’s face “idiots” and “dinosaurs.” Producer Galyn Susman compared the scene to “showing failed relationships” on screen, implying parents who got upset over one and not the other were automatically bigoted.
According to The Daily Wire, “Lightyear” brought in $51 million in its first weekend at the U.S. box office. While that was enough for second spot, it was nowhere near what analysts had predicted. According to CNBC, the movie was expected to take in $70 million to $85 million domestically.
So what did the mainstream media say was responsible for the movie’s poor performance? Literally anything but controversy surrounding the lesbian kiss.
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By Monday morning, numerous publications had dissected why the sources they talked to thought “Lightyear” underwhelmed, coming in behind “Jurassic World Dominion” in its second week of release.
While “Lightyear” didn’t have stellar reviews, it still finished with a 76 percent positive rating at the movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with critics finding it pleasant, if slight. However, it wasn’t a lack of critical acclaim that kept crowds away — or, if it was, they didn’t read the reviews for “Jurassic World Dominion,” which sits at an astonishingly low 30 percent positive rating. It still earned $7.6 million more than “Lightyear” did at the box office.
Do you plan to see “Lightyear”?
Yes: 0% (0 Votes)
No: 100% (7 Votes)
So, what gives, considering the consensus was for about $70 million and up? The answer seems obvious, unless you write for a major mainstream media publication. I looked at a decent cross-section of “Lightyear” box-office postmortems, sifting through two articles from cable news networks about the flop, two from Hollywood trade publications, and one from a pop-culture magazine.
In all of that coverage, the lesbian kiss and the attendant controversy was only mentioned once — and that was in passing to explain why the film had been banned in over a dozen foreign markets, not as an explanation for its U.S. box office failure.
Here’s CNN’s explanation: “For starters, it may have been difficult for audiences to know what exactly the film was about. It’s not quite a ‘Toy Story’ movie since ‘Lightyear’ was marketed as a film about the man behind the toy rather than the toy itself. Ultimately, families might have been confused about the film and that could have steered them away.”
Yeah, because when kids see Buzz Lightyear on a TV advertisement, they’re really going to be curious about where this fits in the larger “Toy Story” universe: “Is it a prequel?” I can hear so many children across the fruited plain asking their parents. “A film within a film? Gosh, I can’t tell, mom. It looks a bit too meta for my tastes. Let’s go watch the Truffaut festival down at the community theater, instead.”
“This is also the first Pixar movie to be released in theaters since 2020,” CNN’s article continued. “The studio’s last three films — ‘Soul,’ ‘Luca’ and ‘Turning Red’ — all went directly to Disney+. The choice to send those films to streaming may have prompted audiences to stay home and wait for ‘Lightyear’ to hit Disney+ rather than buy a ticket.”
Except film audiences seem to be transitioning to going back to theaters, realizing the pandemic — or its lockdown phase, at least — is over. It wasn’t just “Jurassic World Dominion” racking up big numbers despite opening weeks ago. “Top Gun: Maverick” also took in $44 million and that’s in its fourth weekend.
A media analyst who did the heavy lifting for the analysis in CNBC’s coverage of the “Lightyear” flop shared similar concerns, plus the possibility that the movie theaters are just flooded with too much testosterone right now.
“‘Lightyear’ had a great deal of potential on paper, but a number of factors resulted in this very rare box office misfire for a Pixar release,” BoxOffice.com’s Shawn Robbins told CNBC’s Sarah Whitten.
“Did the film open in a market too crowded with male-driven films?” Robbins asked. “Was marketing ineffective at pitching the idea of this movie to both generations of Toy Story fans? Has Disney’s strategy of siphoning Pixar movies straight to streaming over the past two years backfired and hurt the brand’s value?”
Articles about “Lightyear” flopping: 2. Mentions of the lesbian kiss: 0.
At pop-culture site Complex, there weren’t a whole lot of answers, except for the explanation that “perhaps audiences have grown accustomed to getting their Pixar fix in the comfort of their own home.” Apparently, highly compensated men and women who study movie audiences to help studios make decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars never thought of that possibility when setting the expectations level for “Lightyear.”
Articles: 3. Mentions of the lesbian kiss: 0.
We move on to the Hollywood trade outlet Deadline, which asked, in regards to the “Lightyear” box office, “What the hell happened here?”
Spoiler alert: As far as Deadline is concerned, it had nothing to do with the grooming.
“Despite the lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating of the Toy Story franchise at 77% Certified Fresh, it’s clear no one in great quantity is going to see the origin story of Buzz Lightyear. Understand that a Pixar movie and a Jurassic movie have played in close proximity to each other on the calendar before, and they both walked away with an embarrassment of riches … this could be a case of going to the Toy Story well too soon, too fast,” the publication reported.
“Toy Story 4” came out three years ago. My kingdom for a three-year pause in Marvel Cinematic Universe or the “Fast & Furious” movies. Articles: 4. Mentions of the lesbian kiss: 0.
And in the mother of all trade publications, Variety, we finally have a mention of the kiss … but it had nothing to do with the movie’s flop.
“Internationally, ‘Lightyear’ earned $34.6 million from 43 markets, taking its global total to $85.6 million. The movie was banned in smaller foreign markets, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, because it depicts a same-sex kiss,” Variety reported.
Instead, the analyst Variety talked to blamed spinoff-itis, as well: “‘Toy Story’ defied gravity at the box office during its 27-year run, each episode topping the last, the last two clearing a billion dollars worldwide. But like all spinoffs, the ‘Lightyear’ story is narrower now,” said David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research.
Articles: 5. Mentions of the lesbian kiss: 1, kinda sorta.
If any of the reporters at these publications were moved over to the political beat, all of them would acknowledge in their work that America is a deeply divided nation in the midst of a culture war that has spilled over into our elections. They’d also acknowledge Disney has very visibly planted its flag on one side of that war — and, in doing so, has alienated a slew of parents. It didn’t help when the star of “Lightyear” called those parents “idiots” and “dinosaurs,” either.
Yet, not a one of them explored the alienation of a wide swath of parents as a contributing factor to the failure of “Lightyear.” To them, “get woke, go broke” is some silly thing their conservative relatives put on Facebook sometimes.
They don’t seriously believe families won’t continue to give Disney money after the company ideologically mooned them, then used “Lightyear” as a flagpole to hoist the rainbow standard over the Magic Kingdom.
For what it’s worth, the controversial kissing scene was not part of the official trailer for the movie:
But that’s not likely a sign of contrition, or even regret.
Disney has indicated it has every intention of going further down the LGBT indoctrination road in the future. Good luck trying to cover this phenomenon up when it happens again and again, guys.