A documentary on Howard Ashman should be considered safe but nope, it’s in the list of Disney+ and Hulu titles getting pulled.
(Update: Thanks to the swift backlash, Disney+ will not remove Howard.)
Flashback to Tribeca 2018. I had just left a P&I screening of Howard, a documentary on the late Oscar-winning lyricist. Without him and Alan Menken, there’s no telling what would have happened with the Walt Disney Animation Studios. The studio was in something of a rut after a number of their titles failed in the 1980s. Enter Ashman and Menken–Ashman singlehandedly helped change The Little Mermaid for the better. It’s enough that Ashman would get credit for providing additional dialogue and serve as a producer. He also has an executive producer credit on Beauty and the Beast. But beside that, Ashman is a Disney Legend. Disney was the ONLY studio to acquire the film after its Tribeca premiere. It would also be over two years after its premiere before a wider audience could watch in August 2020.
The press release announcing the streaming premiere in 2020 quotes Don Hahn as saying:
“You may not know his name, but you sure know Howard Ashman’s music. He’s one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century who helped to revitalize the American musical and re-energize Disney Animation. He left us a songbook that still lives on in us today, yet his personal story has never been fully told until now.”
In any event, Disney+ is pulling Howard as the composer is getting back in the zeitgeist once again. How do you do this in the very week that the studio is also releasing a live-action version of the film that kicked off the Disney Renaissance. I don’t get it. It makes zero sense. After they pull it, will it also be available for other streamers? What about digital retailers? Or maybe even a physical media release? Howard is the sort of film where one would certainly assume a physical media release would feature bonus features in the form of extended interviews.
No matter how many times the studios say that the titles are under-performing, pulling these titles hurts directors, writers, and actors when it comes to residual payments. In any event, outside of AI fears, it’s a major reason why the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is currently on strike. As a matter of fact, it is why I expect SAG-AFTRA to join WGA on the picket line in July. Will the Directors Guild of America (DGA) also join them? I’ve yet to see any announcement a strike authorization vote but it would not surprise me. Residual payments are certainly a lifeblood for guild members when they’re in between projects or struggling during a dry spell. Unless the pulled titles will be licensed to other streamers, cable television, or made available through digital retailers, it guts residuals for all involved.
Why are studios so afraid of releasing their streaming numbers? Is this because they are afraid of a drop in stock price? What also surprises me is that a number of the following programs earned a second season renewal. Funny enough, the streaming services tend to hide numbers from showrunners, producers, etc. Take Reboot, for instance, It performs well enough for a Critics Choice Awards nomination but not well enough for a renewal. The unintentional limited series also appears to be safe in its availability for now.
Speaking to the following tweet, I know more people watching broadcast series now on streaming than original series on streaming:
The reason streamers won’t budge on data transparency must be that the data shows that very few people actually watch a meaningful amount of any of the shows (2 mins does not = a view in linear) and if everyone knew the truth, the stocks of all the streamers would crater.
— Daniel Pipski (@dpipski) May 17, 2023
The following is a list of titles have confirmed by multiple outlets, including THR, to be leaving Disney+ or Hulu starting on May 26:
- America the Beautiful
- Among the Stars
- Artemis Fowl
- Be Our Chef
- Best In Dough
- Best In Snow
- The Big Fib
- Big Shot
- Black Beauty
- Cheaper By the Dozen (2022)
- Diary of a Future President
- Disney Fairy Tale Weddings
- Earth To Ned
- Everything’s Trash
- Fairy Tale Weddings
- Harmonious Live
- It’s a Dog’s Life With Bill Farmer
- Just Beyond
- Little Demon
- Love In The Time Of Corona
- Magic Camp
- The Making Of Willow
- The Mighty Ducks
- More Than Robots
- The Mysterious Benedict Society
- The One And Only Ivan
- Own the Room
- Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays
- Pick of the Litter
- The Premise
- The Princess
- The Quest
- Rogue Trip
- Shop Class
- Timmy Failure
- Turner & Hooch
- Weird But True
- The World According To Jeff Goldblum
- Y: The Last Man
Interestingly, Disney+ pulls Stargirl but not its sequel, Hollywood Stargirl. Again, it makes zero sense. If it were me, the studio would not pull any titles from their streaming service. I hope they end up elsewhere, not just for the audience but everyone who worked on the film.
I really do hope that all of the titles end up elsewhere. Removing original titles certainly speaks to a major point of why there is a strike at the moment. Additionally, it gives a new meaning to the Disney vault. But as I say time and time again, streaming is not permanent. But usually, this refers to licensed titles, not originals!
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