Disney Boycott Lifted in Summer 2005–Interesting Timing

Back in 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) decision to boycott Disney was in the headlines everywhere. One of the biggest denominations was taking on one of the biggest names in the entertainment world. It was set to be a clash of titans, an epic battle. That battle officially ended in June 2005. My question is, who won?

Let’s flash back a bit. The SBC warned Disney in 1996 to return to their family-friendly roots or else a boycott was inevitable. They cited five reasons why they had concerns. They were: “(1) Establishing of an employee policy which accepts and embraces homosexual relationships for the purpose of insurance benefits; (2) Hosting of homosexual and lesbian theme nights at its parks; (3) Choosing of a convicted child molester to direct the Disney movie Powder through its subsidiary Miramax Productions; (4) Publishing of a book aimed at teenage homosexuals entitled Growing Up Gay: From Left Out to Coming Out through its subsidiary Hyperion, connecting Disney to the promotion of the homosexual agenda; (5) Producing, through its subsidiary corporations, of objectionable material such as the film Priest which disparages Christian values and depicts Christian leaders as morally defective.”

Disney didn’t take the warning seriously, so in 1997 the boycott officially began. The official wording of the boycott read: “BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 17-19, 1997, urge every Southern Baptist to take the stewardship of their time, money, and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing The Disney Company and any of its related entities, understanding that this is not an attempt to bring The Disney Company down, but to bring Southern Baptists up to the moral standard of God.”

So, how much did the boycott affect Disney? A boycott is an attempt to persuade a company to make certain changes by impacting it financially. How much money did Disney lose from the boycott? Take a look at the following table of Disney’s finances during an 11 year period:

Disney’s Finances Before & During the SBC Boycott
Year Revenue Operating Income
1994 $10,055 mil $1,965 mil
1995 $12,151 mil $2,466 mil
1996 $18,739 mil $3,333 mil
1997 $22,473 mil $4,312 mil
1998 $22,976 mil $4,079 mil
1999 $23,402 mil $3,231 mil
2000 $25,325 mil $4,112 mil
2001 $25,172 mil $4,005 mil
2002 $25,329 mil $2,822 mil
2003 $27,061 mil $ 3,174 mil
2004 $30,752 mil $4,488 mil

As you can see, there was only one year in which Disney had less revenue than the previous year. That year happened to also be 2001, which my point more to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 than the boycott. However, there was a fairly significant drop in their income from 1997-1999. That downward spiral quickly turned around, and, for the most part, they have been stable in their income.

The SBC wasn’t primarily concerned, however, with “bringing down Disney.” They wanted to make a statement so that they would turn back to making family-friendly films. Did that happen??? Well . . . in a word, no. In 1996, the SBC specifically mentioned Miramax as being one of their concerns. What has Miramax done since the boycott? Here’s a brief list of some of the films they have released from 1997-2005:
– 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)
– Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
– Chasing Amy (1997) Which happens to be about a man falling in love with a lesbian
– Chicago (2002)
– Dirty Pretty Things (2003)
– Kill Bill (2003)

Not really a list of movies you’d want your 5-year old to watch. So, why the sudden change? Why did the SBC all of the sudden decide it was time for the boycott to end? I don’t buy the line they tried to push: “For a boycott to be effective, it must be specifically targeted and of limited duration.” If they really wanted to have a limited boycott, why didn’t they say that in their original resolution??? And nothing really changed at Disney. According to Metro Weekly, a Washington DC gay & lesbian magazine, “the boycott had no effect on its business and the company never altered its policies in response.”

In case you forgot, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was released December 9, 2005 by Disney. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. The Disney boycott was ended in June 2005 only 6 months before the DISNEY movie Narnia? Was that a coincidence? I think not. I guarantee that the upcoming release of Narnia was discussed behind closed doors in the SBC leadership when they talked about ending the boycott of Disney. Think about it. If the boycott wasn’t ended, how many Baptist preachers would have to ignore the great sermon material that they would have at their disposal by not being able to endorse a Disney film.

I’m not really throwing stones at the SBC. I just think they pulled a very well executed move by ending the boycott early enough in the year that the national media wouldn’t put the pieces together. It also let them gracefully end it without having to admit defeat.

The best result of the ending of the boycott had to be that the grey-haired good baptist grandmothers can take their grandchildren to see one of the best allegories of the story of Christianity without a guilty conscience. So, with that in mind, I’d like to say good move SBC.

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