Walt Disney Co. has been enticing LGBTQ+ visitors to its theme parks for years, selling rainbow-colored souvenirs and organizing groups that host annual “Gay Days” celebrations.
But Disney first started marketing and promoting merchandise under the name “Pride Collection” this week, a major brand movement for a company that has become a conservative target for its support of LGBTQ+ rights.
Profits from sales of T-shirts, Mickey Mouse ears, stuffed animals and other keepsakes in the new brand collection will be donated to a select group of LGBTQ advocacy groups through the end of June, the company said.
The move comes as Disney faces mounting criticism and disdain from conservative lawmakers and others who say the company is over-influencing children, and American culture in general, and pushing a progressive agenda that it opposes. to postpone.
Created by LGBTQIA+ employees and allies of The Walt Disney Company, the Disney Pride Collection is a reflection of their incredible contributions and place at the heart of the company. “We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ community everywhere.”
Disney began to feel the wrath of conservative lawmakers several months ago when Chief Executive Bob Chapek voiced opposition to Florida’s parental rights law, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. . Since then, it has been seen by conservatives as a cultural force that must be stopped.
A Disney representative said the decision to release the “Pride Collection” did not come in response to recent outcry from conservative critics. Disney merchandise production takes months to design, manufacture and ship, and the Pride Collection” was conceived months ago as part of the “continuing evolution of the company,” the rep said.
In 1985, Disneyland quietly returned a long-held policy of banning same-sex partners from dancing together at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Ten years later, Disney began offering health benefits to same-sex couples, after many other Hollywood companies took the plunge.
The company started selling rainbow themed merchandise in 2018.
Disney executives declined to comment publicly on the “Pride Collection,” but referenced a blog post published Monday by Lisa Becket, senior vice president of global marketing, who described herself as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In the post titled “Share Your Pride,” Becket said she is proud to work for a “company that supports inclusion as a core value and provides a welcoming environment in which I can bring my true authentic self to work.”
She said the collection was “conceived and designed by community members and allies, for community members and allies,” adding that the Pride Collection shows the company “further deepens our support” for the LGBTQIA+ community. community.
People who responded to the public post were thrilled. “THAT IS HOW IT WORKS! And the merch is FIERCE! Bravo, Disney. inheritance is [on] your side. Thank you,” reads one comment.
News of the ‘Pride Collection’ was praised and scorned on social media.
A Twitter post an account described as a Disneyland food blog that showed a photo of a “Pride Collection” marketing sign generated a range of responses, from “Step in the right direction Disney” to “Sorry, but we won’t be WOKE Disney World support longer. Disney must stick to entertainment and outside of politics. We traditional families are also IMPORTANT.”
One of Disney’s largest revenue sources is merchandise licensing and retail sales, which generated approximately $4.2 billion in 2021, according to the company’s latest annual report.
And there may be a business case to support LGBTQ+ park visitors, according to the findings of a recent survey of Grindr dating app users, which found that LGBTQ+ travelers spend $100 billion a year in the US alone. A 2019 survey of LGBTQ travelers found that 11% visited theme parks in the past 12 months.
Other theme parks have moved in recent years to publicly support their LGBTQ+ visitors.
Universal Studios Hollywood is the annual venue of a gay pride party known as the Pride Is Universal. It’s not on the park’s calendar, but in 2019 the park first posted a Twitter announcement about the event.
That year, the park also sold T-shirts and other merchandise featuring the “Love Is Universal” logo at the event for the first time. Proceeds from ticket sales helped support housing programs for people with AIDS and scholarships for students studying LGBTQ+ issues.
For years, Florida’s Disneyland and Walt Disney World have been the site of “Gay Days” celebrations that have drawn thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ communities.
The events take place in the parks, but are organized by external groups. According to organizers, “Gay Days” events attract approximately 30,000 visitors to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim each year. This year’s event is scheduled for September 16-18 at Disneyland.
Eddie Shapiro, who launched “Gay Days Anaheim” with his friend Jeffrey Epstein, called the sale of the “Pride Collection” a “step in the right direction” and said he expects Disney to continue to support and stop the LGBTQ+ community. with campaign coffers from conservatives demonizing the acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
“The world has evolved and so has Walt Disney Co.”, Shapiro said.
Daan Colijn, who runs a gay travel blog with his partner Karl Krause, applauded Disney’s move, calling the company an LGBTQ ally.
“By rebranding rainbow merchandise into the new Disney Pride Collection and donating 100% of profits during Pride Month, Disney is sending out a clearer message about supporting the LGBTQ+ community we consider a win,” he said. .