How Disney Profits Off of Your Nostalgia

Whether you’ve been streaming Netflix’s Stranger Things, watching Disney’s latest dead-eyed CGI remake in theaters, or partaking in the revival of scrunchies, mom jeans, and windbreakers, you’ve probably noticed one thing these items all have in common. 

That’s right: the ’80s and ’90s are back with a vengeance.  

One way of explaining this recollection can be found in the nostalgia cycle. The nostalgia cycle is a cultural predictor that estimates how long it will take until society longs for the trends and ideas of generations before them. Many versions of the nostalgia cycle exist, ranging from 10-40 years. For example, for a thirty-year long cycle, someone from the 2010s might long for the aesthetics and attitudes of the 1980s. A notable product of a nostalgia cycle includes the 1977’s Star Wars, in which George Lucas calls back to the adventurous serials of the 1940s and ’50s.

While the gimmick of the nostalgia cycle is charming, it is clearer to see that this move towards nostalgia is profit-driven, especially within the film industry. When searching for a suitable example of this phenomenon, pointing fingers and targeting the Disney company is too easy. 

Disney has been a corporation that has depended on nostalgia for most of its existence. Whether it pulls from its early archives with animated classics such as 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and 1951’s “Alice in Wonderland” for their VHS releases or the “preserving” of Disney’s legacy, remembrance of the past permeates Disney’s ethos. But lately, most people have noticed Disney’s emphasis on reviving its films created during its “renaissance” during 1989-1999. Such notable films created in the era include Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan. All of these films have live-action remakes or are currently in production, with release dates scattered throughout the 2020s. 

Logically speaking, pushing for these movies makes sense. One key aspect is that the children who watched the 2D-animated films in the ’90s are now all grown up with their own disposable incomes. With their childhood behind them and responsibilities piling up, of course these adults will want to return to simpler times. Disney, along with other companies, has exploited this longing for nostalgia in order to sell more tickets and merchandise. 

In Disney’s case, however, it has become apparent that seeking profit while using nostalgia as a crutch has resulted in the gutting of some of its most beloved Renaissance films. Lion King (2019) is a prime example of this, as many felt betrayed when the studio decided to take away the original 1994 film’s exaggerated visuals and instead rendered the characters with hyperrealistic CGI effects. 

But sadly, profit-mongering is not new for Disney. Its continued reliance on safe projects makes sense with the lukewarm response recent original stories have received (The Good Dinosaur, Big Hero Six, Brave). Unless audiences show up to theaters, tickets in hand, for movies that don’t have the name value of a remake, fewer originals will be made. 

It would be fitting to end with a note of nostalgia. And who can say it better than the man behind the Disney Renaissance himself, Michael Eisner? The previous CEO of Disney says what current Disney seems too afraid to express: “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”

Featured Image: Polygon

-Grace Lee (’21)

Childhood Toys That Will Make You Nostalgic

Let us wallow in nostalgia of our childhood with these treasured games and toys.

This society, full of competition, endlessly forces weighty duties upon every crosswalk of our lives. Hence we very unconsciously steer our lives for today at our present and tomorrow at our future. But sometimes we must sit back and reminisce. We must reminisce our treasured childhood memories, perhaps hidden in your inner most part of your closet or already past your generation of hand-me-down, these toys that define our childhood will certainly make you nostalgic.

(Yet I warn you, this list may be subjective.)

  1. Build-A-Bear

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    Familiar Sight? (PC: Disney.com)

    No doubt these animals were all of our first official pets. First generation customization, I should say. From stuffing it (where you would choose “Soft & Cuddly,” “Hard & Firm,” or “Somewhere in Between”), choosing it an hip outfit, to giving it a birth certificate, you learned to build-a-bear from scratch!

  2. American Girl

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    Only if I could own any one of them… (PC: nytimes.com)

    American dream and every girl’s dream, put them together, we got American Girl. Again another customization offer for kids to for the first time feel that spirit of independence. But there was just one downside, its price.

  3. Webkinz

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    Cute Plushies (PC: webkinz.com)

    It was our first experience of virtual reality. You would buy the stuffed animal with an impressed rainbow letter “W,” then find a secret code that opened you up to a virtual world online to take care of that new existence.

  4. Neopets

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    New Pets (PC: newscult.com)

    Another virtual pet community, with a magical twist.

  5. Yu-Gi-Oh Cards

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    I’ll take the fifth card from the left. (PC: yugioh.co.kr)

    The stars meant it all. The cards were sold in blind packets and that was probably why you owned so many cards of the same character.

  6. Calico Critters

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    Lovely Family Picture (PC: Target.com)

    These critters were not only adorable but velvety—guilty soft.

  7. Craft Lace Lanyard

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    True Accomplishments (PC: pinterest.com)

    The seamless weaves were just too satisfying. Starting and finishing a braid were the most challenging steps—I still can’t.

  8. Littlest Pet Shop

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    Complexity in Architecture (PC: terapeak)

    Absolutely plastic yet undoubtedly my favorite. Every little piece was as precious as gold. If one got lost, it was as if I could not complete a puzzle. Littlest Pet Shop was godtastic but maybe a bit demeaning now. Let’s face it, we gave every animal a different voice.

  9. Polly Pockets

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    17 fashions in one box! (PC: pinterest.com)

    Think of this as the smartphone of toys. It represented essentiality. A doll, house, car, furniture, outfits, even a castle, you name it, every thing quintessential was magically packed into just this one pocket.

  10. Tamagotchi

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    My First Pet (PC: Tamagotchi Time)

    When you asked for a pet, your parents brought you this. You were for the first time given a true responsibility, except the device and game were basically impossible to comprehend that your pet’s life depended on your rough guesstimates to hopefully press the right button.

  11. Sue Game

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    Loading screen of a Sue Game (PC: jr.naver.com)

    If you spent your childhood in Korea, these Sue games were those you couldn’t miss out. Making Ulcho (Frozen Chocolate Snack), eating in the classroom without getting caught, and giving your boyfriend Bin a haircut, were all possible opportunities as Sue. If you feel, sing with me, “Shrudidubibi shallalalala, my name is Sue, my name is Sue!”

  12. Pogs (Ddakji)

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    Precious Hexagons (PC:gmarket.co.kr)

    There was no such upper limit as to one in math class for the number of pogs you could have. You would match every single friend just to collect more and more. First time you learned that sometimes it’s quantity over quality.

  13. Hair Wraps

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    DIY Vogue Girl (PC: alibris.com)

    Hair wraps were cuter (maybe more stylish) than ombre.

  14. Heelys

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    Color on point (PC: skatecut.com)

    Another hot trend that you could not miss out, heelys was a must for both guys and girls. Why? Because it made you look so cool.

  15. Club Penguin

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    Where’s Rockhopper? (PC: freecpcodeonline.weebly.com)

    It reads Club Penguin, but I proudly call it a legend. If you find Rockhopper in this picture, you know it all. (I think I’ll play this tonight.)

Has a tear of sentimentality, of remembrance, of longing for your naive self dropped yet?

You do Toy Story Andy today.

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Buzz? Woody? (PC: tumblr.com)

– Yoo Bin Shin (’18)

Featured Image: cophilosophy.blogspot.kr