When you have a young family, like I do, it’s pretty difficult to avoid paying money to The Walt Disney Company in some form or another. But as Disney has come to absorb more and more entertainment franchises, it’s become increasingly harder to avoid paying tribute to the Mouse even when seeking more “grown up” entertainment. Those quote marks around “grown up” are really appropriate too because many of the properties that they own—under the Marvel Comics and the Star Wars banners particularly—are ostensibly for kids, but everyone knows that Americans don’t really grow up anymore.
In December, as the year drew to a close, I got to wondering how much money I had paid to The Walt Disney Company over the previous twelve months in total. I went through my Amazon order history and my wife’a too, and also our Fandango tickets, credit card statements and whatever else I could think of, and tallied every Disney-related expenditure that as a family we incurred. I tried to stick to explicit purchases; I ignored “derivative” expenses like consumption of Disney-related properties within other services like Netflix, or even Disney-related gifts received from friends and extended family. The total was still just over US$1,000.
To be honest I’m not sure whether I expected this number to be higher or lower. On the one hand, for a family of five, it works out to be US$200 per person, which is not that outrageous, really. This is especially true given that 2016 was a particularly Disney-heavy year for us, as we went to Disneyland Park while visiting my mom in Southern California, which added significantly to the total. On the other hand, a thousand dollars is a lot of money to spend on entertainment. It’s certainly a lot of money to give to one company. In the end I think that’s what’s most surprising about this: the idea that all of this goes to a single corporate entity. Just multiply that by millions more families, and the genius—and fearsomeness—of Disney’s business model becomes much clearer to me than it ever had been before.