Insights Into Entertainment: Episode 35 “The Happiest Vegans on Earth”

Disney to offer a vegan friendly menu at all of its dining locations in the parks while they sort out the overall lack of interest they’re facing with Star Wars Galaxy’s edge. Then we’ll look at some of the desperate moves Disney is making to compensate for drop in park admissions, including further eroding the guest experience by axing popular street performances in it’s Orlando Parks. All while Disney throwing Disney US Parks Chief Catherine Powell under the bus for the failures of the entire company, including the over paid Disney CEO Bob Iger.

In entertainment news Disney decides 25% is better than 0% in their partnership with Sony over Spider-man, renewing that deal. We’ll also look at the abysmal ratings for another year in a row for the Emmys but we’ll end on a high note celebrating the 70th birthday of The Boss Bruce Springsteen.

Insights into Entertainment


Show Notes

  • Introductions
    • Insights Into Entertainment: Episode 35 “The Happiest Vegans on Earth”
    • My vibrant and intelligent co-host Michelle Whalen
  • Disney Detective
    • Disney’s US theme parks are going vegan
      • Disney announced Tuesday that plant-based food options will be added to every dining location in their US theme parks
      • More than 400 vegan dishes will be available at quick-service and table-service restaurants in Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World in early October, followed by Anaheim, California’s Disneyland in spring 2020.
      • There are more than 602 places to eat at The Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, most of them uniquely themed to a theme park land or hotel.
      • Disney is being careful to call the items “plant-based” and not “vegan.” That’s because the exact definition of what qualifies as vegan has long been a moving target.
      • To help guests easily spot the plant-based plates, Disney is marking each menu item with a new green leaf logo.
      • The company did say that all of the items “are made without animal meat, dairy, eggs or honey,” meeting the broadest definition of vegan cuisine.
    • Disney Gets Serious About Saving “Star Wars” Land
      • “Do or do not,” Yoda famously says in The Empire Strikes Back. “There is no try.” With the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion at both of Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) stateside theme park resorts falling into the “do not” camp these days, the entertainment giant is rolling out a promotional blitz on its own cable and media network properties to promote the new Star Wars-themed lands. 
      • The media blitz kicks off on Tuesday with a promotional spot on ABC’s Live with Kelly and Ryan in the morning and black-ish at night. The cadence will pick up on Thursday with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge being promoted on several ABC shows including Good Morning America, The View, and Nightline. Several of the network’s primetime shows including Modern Family and Dancing with the Stars will follow throughout the next few days with nighttime plugs for the 14-acre expansion that opened at Disneyland in late May and Disney World three months later. 
      • It’s not just ABC that is getting the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge takeover. Neil Patrick Harris will host a two-hour primetime special on Freeform, promoting the new land in a celebrity-stacked presentation. Disney Channel will run segments featuring some of its stars building droids, drinking blue milk, and checking out the only ride currently available where folks fly the Millennium Falcon. Even ESPN is inexplicably getting in on the action, airing a segment during SportsCenter on Saturday morning with some of its College GameDay commentators experiencing the new land.
      • The promotional push will feel heavy-handed, but it’s pretty clear that Disney overplayed its hand with its initial low-key approach to opening Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. CEO Bob Iger may have been half-joking earlier this year in an earnings call when he said that all that Disney would have to do was tweet “its opening” to promote the launch of the new land that is nearly identical in both parks, but overconfidence did not serve the House of Mouse well here.
      • Price hikes, blocking access to many of its seasonal passholders, and failing to open the flagship Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction on time have weighed on the expansion’s lack of success. The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run flight simulator ride has opened to mixed reviews. It also doesn’t help that Star Wars purists have a laundry list of complaints ranging from where Disney has taken the franchise in the past few films to the decision to go with a largely unfamiliar setting for the theme of Galaxy’s Edge. You can’t please them all, but Disney is struggling to just please some of them these days.
      • Disneyland attendance actually declined in its most recent quarter despite the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and there are rumblings and anecdotal evidence that the fiscal fourth quarter that ends next week is also running a bit sluggish. Hurricane Dorian didn’t help at Disney World, but it may just wind up being a convenient scapegoat. The galactic takeover of Disney’s deep bench of networks is a desperate push for attention, likely a sign that vacation bookings through the next few months are running weaker than expected. 
      • It’s not too late. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has all the makings of a bar-raising attraction. Disney will find ways to stock more familiar characters and franchise storylines if that’s what is needed to improve attendance trends. It’s just as easy to reverse passholder blockout dates and promote discounted admissions to reverse its earlier overconfidence, especially if investors and park goers alike brace for a possible global recession. Nothing is permanent — including failure — when you control so many juicy media assets.
    • As prices rise and attendance lags, Walt Disney World axes Orlando performers
      • In what has become an annual tradition ahead of the end of the financial year at Walt Disney World, the resort recently saw a wave of layoffs and cutbacks. And, as usual, the reductions have been met with outrage by Disney fans, who turn to online petitions and similar campaigns to show their disapproval. Though again, as usual, none of the anger seems to matter to Disney leadership that is dead-set on achieving year-over-year profit increases.
      • This year, the cuts are hitting live entertainment hard, with Animal Kingdom’s Burudika band in Africa, the Muppets show in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom’s Royal Majesty Makers, and the Coco puppet and Folklórico dancers in Epcot all completely cut. Epcot’s JAMMitors and Taiko Drummers are both moving from performing seven days a week to five days a week
      • While some of these offerings are newer, like the Coco show and the Muppets show, others, like Burudika, have called the parks home for a decade or longer. This might be part of the reasoning behind these latest budget cuts. Much like Epcot’s former Off Kilter, Afropop band Burudika is an actual band, known officially as Wassalou. They’re the only Afropop band of their type in Florida and one of the best known in the nation. Their decade-long stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom likely included pay increases over the years, which may have made them a target for Disney.
      • In recent years, Disney has shifted from hiring Equity actors and other outsourced entertainment to hiring much cheaper non-union, inexperienced performers. This shift saw substantial cutbacks to the Equity-represented Citizens of Hollywood performers in Disney’s Hollywood Studios back in 2016. Another Equity represented show full shut down last year when Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial was eliminated from the Magic Kingdom, after a 12-year run.
      • Over at Animal Kingdom – which is now the third-most-attended in the nation and second-most-attended in Florida – saw Equity cuts of its own last year, with the dancers let go from the Rivers of Light nighttime show. Last year also saw an entire section of the park, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, shifting to seasonal operations, with many of the smaller attractions therein being removed. The area now serves as a temporary Lion King-branded attraction.
      • In recent years, the Magic Kingdom, the world’s most-attended theme park, has seen three live entertainment shows and a nighttime parade cut with no replacements yet to be announced for any of them. Across the resort, Disney has also begun replacing photographers at character meet-and-greets with AI operated automated cameras. At last month’s D23 Expo, Disney announced a new AI-based vacation planning tool that looks to be replicating, or replacing, many of the current services offered by Guest Services.
      • All of this is happening while ticket prices continue to skyrocket. In the last decade, the price for a one-day, one-park ticket has jumped from $79 to $159 (on the most popular days). If ticket prices were tied to inflation, the $79 price in 2009 would cost $94 today.
    • Disney’s U.S. Parks Chief Leaves After 15 Years With Company
      • Catherine Powell, who ran the U.S. and Paris theme parks for Walt Disney Co. during the opening of two new Star Wars lands, is leaving the company.
      • The 15-year veteran is departing to do something different, Disney said Monday. She couldn’t be reached for comment.
      • Powell was credited with reinvigorating the company’s two Paris parks with new attractions. She also worked in Disney’s TV division earlier in her career.
      • Her position has been eliminated, and the heads of the individual resorts will now report directly to Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division.
      • Disney, the world’s largest theme-park operator, unveiled two of its largest resort expansions ever this year. The $1 billion, “Star Wars”-themed Galaxy’s Edge opened at the company’s original Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California, in May. A second attraction opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in Orlando, Florida, in August.
      • But domestic attendance fell at the parks during the three months ended June 30. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said in August that some guests may have put off visiting Disneyland because they feared the new attractions would lead to big crowds.
      • In addition, hotels in Anaheim raised prices in anticipation the opening, and Disney opened Galaxy’s Edge with only one of its two big rides in operation. “That said, guest satisfaction interest in the attractions in the land is extremely high,” Iger said.
  • Entertainment News
    • Spider-Man Will Stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
      • After briefly breaking up, Sony Pictures and Marvel have found a way to get back in the Spider-Man business together.
      • On Friday, the two companies jointly announced that Marvel Studios and its president, Kevin Feige, will produce the third film in the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” series. It will once again feature Tom Holland reprising his role as the titular hero. The rumor mill roared back to life this week with hints that the two companies were close to brokering a new agreement.
      • Over the summer, news broke that the Disney, Marvel’s parent company, and Sony had reached an impasse over a new financing deal. Disney wanted the film to be financed on a 50/50 basis, with Feige remaining in a consulting producer capacity. Sony is believed to have proposed keeping the arrangement under the current terms, which stipulate that Marvel receives about 5% of first-dollar gross and all merchandising revenues.
      • The new deal was signed late on Thursday night. Negotiations involved top players from both studios, including Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman, Feige and Walt Disney Studios co-chairs Alan Horn and Alan Bergman. In exchange for lending Feige’s producing prowess, Marvel and Disney will receive roughly 25% of the profits, according to insiders. Disney will retain its merchandising rights and will put up roughly a quarter of the financing. As part of the arrangement, Spider-Man will also appear in one future Marvel Studios film.
      • The film is scheduled for release on July 16, 2021. Amy Pascal will also produce through Pascal Pictures, as she has on the first two Holland-led films.
      • “I am thrilled that Spidey’s journey in the MCU will continue, and I and all of us at Marvel Studios are very excited that we get to keep working on it,” Feige said in a statement. “Spider-Man is a powerful icon and hero whose story crosses all ages and audiences around the globe. He also happens to be the only hero with the superpower to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold.”
      • Pascal was equally euphoric in her statement. “This is terrific,” she said. “Peter Parker’s story took a dramatic turn in ‘Far From Home’ and I could not be happier we will all be working together as we see where his journey goes.”
      • Marvel has licensed the rights to Spider-Man to Sony for nearly two decades, an agreement they forged prior to Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of the comics company in 2009. Sony achieved critical and financial acclaim with its first round of Spider-Man movies, which were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire. Its second effort, starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Marc Webb, were far less successful, sending the studio back to the drawing board.
      • By bringing Marvel and Feige back into the fold with 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the studio was able to recapture the creative mojo of the first series. It also got a boost from having Holland’s web-spinner appear in Avengers movies, with Spidey becoming a key member of the super-team. Sony said it was pleased that a deal had been reached
      • “We have had a great collaboration over the last four years, and our mutual desire to continue was equal to that of the many fans,” said Robert Lawson, chief communications officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment. “We are delighted to be moving forward together.”
    • TV Ratings: Emmys Tumble 33 Percent to All-Time Low
      • For the second year in a row, the Emmy Awards have hit an all-time low in the ratings.
      • Time zone-adjusted ratings for Sunday’s telecast on Fox have the awards pulling in 6.9 million viewers, down almost a third (32 percent) from last year’s Emmy ceremony on NBC. The 10.21 million viewers was the previous low for the awards.
      • The kudocast also pulled in a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49, down 33 percent from 2.4 a year ago and also an all-time low. The numbers ticked up a little in the finals to 6.98 million viewers and 1.7 in adults 18-49; both are still all-time lows.
      • The adjusted numbers show an ever bigger fall than the preliminary ratings, which came in at a 5.7 household rating in metered markets. That was off by 23 percent from the 7.4 rating for the 2018 Emmys, which aired on a Monday night (to avoid conflicts with NBC’s NFL contract).
      • The last time Fox aired the Emmys, in 2015, the ceremony drew what was then an all-time low of 11.87 million viewers.
      • The slide for the Emmys is also easily the biggest decline among the major televised awards shows in 2019, which reversed, or at least halted, several years of declines from a mid-decade peak. The Oscars improved by more than 10 percent in both total viewers and adults 18-49, and the Golden Globes and Grammys were fairly steady year to year.
      • The hostless broadcast received negative reviews, with The Hollywood Reporter’s chief TV critic Daniel Fienberg noting the producers made “one bad choice after another.” HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones won the Emmy for best drama series to cap the night, and the cast assembled on stage mid-show for a farewell tribute, but the telecast was dominated by lesser-seen shows like limited series winner Chernobyl and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy Fleabag, which won for comedy series, Waller-Bridge’s lead performance, writing and directing. 
      • NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast topped Sunday’s ratings with a 12.8 in metered-market households, up a little bit from last week’s 12.2.
      • Elsewhere on the night, an NFL-delayed Big Brother on CBS is currently at 4.26 million viewers and a 1.0 rating in adults 18-49, pending updates. ABC’s Celebrity Family Feud scored a season-low 0.6 in adults 18-49, and The $100,00 Pyramid (0.5) and To Tell the Truth (0.4) tied season lows.
      • NBC easily led the night in adults 18-49 with a 4.5 rating pending updates. CBS is at 1.8 and Fox at 1.4, also pending updates for both. ABC (0.5) and The CW (0.2) were well off the pace.
      • In the finals, Sunday Night Football drew 18.59 million viewers and a 6.1 in adults 18-49. Big Brother adjusted up to 4.96 million and 1.3.
    • He’s never had a No. 1 hit. But he’s the most honored American rock star ever
      • Bruce Springsteen has never had a No. 1 hit on the pop charts.*
        • * (His biggest hit, “Dancing in the Dark,” peaked at No. 2 in 1984).
      • He hasn’t sold as many records as Billy Joel. He’s arguably not as influential as Elvis or Chuck Berry.
      • But the Boss, who turns 70 today, is almost certainly the most honored American rock star of all time. (Hey, Bob Dylan is more of a folk singer.)
      • Over his five-decade career Springsteen has won 20 Grammys, an Oscar, two Golden Globes, a special Tony Award and a Kennedy Center honor, plus numerous American Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards.
      • In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2016, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
      • And Bruce is still a musical force. Here are seven reasons why.
      • He writes great songs
        • His best songs ache with longing and ring with poetry:
        • And his most urgent anthems, like “Badlands” and “Born to Run,” can’t help but quicken your pulse.
      • His live shows are legendary
        • Nobody has ever gone to a Springsteen concert and complained they didn’t get their money’s worth.
        • He sings every song like it’s his last. He spins yarns. He crowd surfs. He climbs atop his piano and exhorts the crowd with the fervor of a tent-revival preacher.
        • His famously exhaustive performances can leave audiences enraptured — and drained.
        • At an age when many rock stars are long since retired, Springsteen routinely keeps rocking late into the night. At a 2016 show in Philadelphia — at the age of 66 — he played for 4 hours and 4 minutes.
      • He’s not afraid to challenge his audience
        • Yes, Springsteen is a roots rocker and a traditionalist. You’re not going to hear him rap. But throughout his career he’s made some bold and unexpected moves.
        • In 1982, on the cusp of broad commercial success, he put out “Nebraska,” a bleak album of acoustic demos. Critics loved it, but it did not sell well. Five years later, after the blockbuster success of “Born in the USA,” he swerved again and released “Tunnel of Love,” a melancholy concept album inspired by his failing first marriage.
      • He slayed the Super Bowl halftime show
        • In the years after the 2004 Nipplegate fiasco, the NFL grew conservative and booked a string of classic rock acts — including Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and The Who — to play the Super Bowl. Springsteen, in 2009, was arguably the best of them.
        • “I want you to step away from the guacamole dip! I want you to put the chicken fingers down and turn your television all the way up!” he cried upon taking the stage.
        • The Boss charged through a typically high-energy “Born to Run,” changed the lyrics of “Glory Days” from baseball to football and punctuated “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with an impressive knee slide across the stage into the cameras.
      • He’s revered by other musicians
        • Springsteen’s authenticity, passion and body of work have inspired countless other artists, from Gaslight Anthem to the Killers to Rage Against the Machine.
        • His songs have been covered by everyone from Patti Smith and the Pointer Sisters to Ed Sheeran (!) and Vampire Weekend.
        • And in another sign of respect, he has been joined onstage over the years by a Who’s Who of musical royalty: Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, Bono, Eric Burdon, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty and Eddie Vedder, to name just a few.
      • He’s open about his vulnerabilities
        • In recent interviews and in his 2016 memoir, “Born to Run,” Springsteen has been candid about his battles with depression.
        • The rocker says he’s suffered two emotional breakdowns — one when he was 32 and another when he was in his 60s.
      • He’s been a voice for social justice
        • Whatever you think of Springsteen’s politics (he’s performed at rallies for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats), there’s no doubting the man’s compassion for the downtrodden.
        • He’s done benefit concerts for charities that fight hunger and poverty, advocate for human rights, help Vietnam veterans and support numerous other social and environmental causes.
        • He’s also been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights — remember “Streets of Philadelphia”? — and in 2016 was one of the first artists to boycott North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom bill.
  • Insightful Picks of the Week
    • Michelle
      • Prodigal Son – American drama series
        • The series centers on Malcolm Bright, whose father, Dr. Martin Whitly, is the infamous serial killer known as “The Surgeon”. Malcolm was the one responsible as a child for enabling the police to arrest his father, and has not (of his own volition) seen his father in ten years. Now a profiler, formerly with the FBI (until he was fired) and currently working with the New York City Police Department, Malcolm is forced to confront his father after a copycat serial killer uses Dr. Whitly’s methods of killing, and now finds himself drawn back into constant contact with his father as he must both use Dr. Whitly’s insights to help the police solve particularly horrible crimes and battle his own inner demons.
    • Joe
      • The Mind Explained
      • Netflix Series
        • Ever wonder what’s happening inside your head? From dreaming to anxiety disorders, discover how your brain works with this illuminating series.

          How does remembering work? Delve into the way the brain stores, processes and retrieves memories — and why certain ones sometimes prove unreliable.

          Why do we dream? When the lights go out, interesting things happen in the brain and body. What’s the significance of dreams, and what can they teach us?

          Feeling anxious? You’re not alone. Stand-up comedian Maria Bamford shares her personal experience with OCD in this examination of anxiety disorders.

          Take a deep, cleansing breath and slowly exhale while being enlightened on the impact meditation can have on your mind and body.

          What happens to a brain on psychedelics? Turn on, tune in and drop out on this trip to explore the history and effects of mind-altering substances.

    • Afterthoughts
      • Delaware Train Show – Oct 5th – Nur Shrine Center New Castle, DE
      • Octoberfest Toy Show – Oct 6th – Nur Shrine Center New Castle, DE
  • Jersey Shore Toy Show – Oct 20th – Manasquan, NJ 


Twitter: @insights_things