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Disney in Denial; Part 9; Et tu Marvel?

In the prior post of this series, I demonstrated how Disney/Lucasfilm had ironically dissatisfied women (and men) by skewing Star Wars films toward what they thought women wanted to see. They misread their market, creating a paradoxical result--the more favorably women rated a Star Wars film relative to men, the less women liked the movie.

It's a remarkably weird relationship, but I think there's a simple explanation for it. Both sexes generally didn't like the direction Disney went with The Last Jedi, the second film of its trilogy, but men were much more alienated by it than were women. And it didn't get better from there.

When you get an odd result like this, it's best to test the result with related data to see if the relationship. . . A) holds in cases where one thinks it should and

B) does not hold in cases where one thinks it shouldn't.

My theory is that the relationship should be similar with franchises that 1) historically appealed more to men than they did to women and 2) where Disney has tried to alter the balance of who the franchise should appeal to. This naturally brings Marvel (superhero movies) to mind. Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, in part, because the franchise was strong with boys and men. But, as they did with Star Wars, Disney later attempted to broaden Marvel's appeal.

And the same thing happened, as the above chart shows. The data are for Marvel and Star Wars live action shows on Disney+. I've also added in Willow, a Lucafilm production, which demonstrates the same pattern. That pattern is that the more favorably women rate a Marvel or Star Wars show as compared to men (X axis), the less women like the show overall (Y axis). Audiences responded to the Marvel shows in the same way they responded to Star Wars.

It's weird, but I think the same simple explanation holds. Women haven't responded well to what Disney is selling, but men responded worse. This isn't Disney's only problem, but its problems are being compounded by the Company's management not listening to what its customers are plainly telling it.

None of this is to say, Disney shouldn't continue to create films that appeal primarily to women. That would be silly. After all, Barbie (not a Disney film) just had the best opening weekend of the year on an opening night audience that was 65% female. Oppenheimer's audience was 62% male. There's nothing askew here. Nothing needs to be "fixed." It's just a demonstration of how the market for films is segmented. The audience for every film doesn't need to be a 50/50 split, but a studio would do well to appeal to both sexes equally across its entire portfolio of offerings.

To round this post out, the chart below plots the same data for all Disney, PIXAR, and Jim Henson films since 2010. There's no hint of the Star Wars/Marvel relationship. And there shouldn't be. "Princess films" don't appeal to boys to the same degree they appeal to girls. That's fine, boys are the secondary market for these films.

In the next post I'll demonstrate how the Star Wars/Marvel dynamic played out over the three seasons of the Mandalorian, Disney's most popular streaming show.


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