Is Disney Hoping China Will Save Its Skin?

The good ship Disney has been taking on water for some time now.

The company's stock sunk, big time, in 2022. Disney+ experienced its first subscriber shrinkage since its spectacular 2019 launch. Surefire hits like "Lightyear" bellyflopped at the box office last year.

And, of course, the Mouse House damaged its family-friendly brand, perhaps permanently, by inserting itself into the culture wars. The company went woke, big time, bringing sexualized content into its kid-friendly programming.

The latest outrage? "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder" injected radical Critical Race Theory messaging into the rebooted show, seen on Disney+.

Sound bad? It gets worse.

Disney recently announced it will lay off 7,000 employees while former CEO Bob Chapek enjoys a $20 million-plus parachute.

The company also picked a losing fight with rising GOP star Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a battle it lost in short order.

The company still holds an ace in the hole. Several, actually.

The studio's portfolio includes "Star Wars," the "Avatar" franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar and more beloved films than most studios have ... combined.

Never count Disney out. And new/old CEO Bob Iger has one more trick up his sleeve, even if he might not want to look at himself in the mirror moving forward.


Hollywood film studios genuflected to China for years, eager to have their expensive films play in the Middle Kingdom. Franchise films like the "Fast & Furious" saga and the MCU made hundreds of millions by entering Chinese movie houses.

To placate Chinese government officials, Hollywood swallowed its pride and edited films to appease the local censors. The money was too irresistible to ignore, they silently declared, all the while ignoring China's horrific human rights abuses.

Now, Disney is hoping to re-ignite that relationship under Iger's leadership to save the company from future economic hits. It's the not-so-hidden message in a recent Variety article about Disney, China and Iger.

In recent years China wouldn't allow MCU films into its country. Chinese audiences missed out on films like "Black Widow," "Eternals" and "Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

Now, both "Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" and the recent "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" will be seen in China. There's more.

Two days , Disney’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” landed a coveted China release. Then, the sci-fi film received a rare release extension in China that allowed it to run through Feb. 14, enabling it to gross more than $240 million in the country. 

The move comes around the same time Disney snipped a "Simpsons" episode that insulted China by bringing up the nation's "forced labor camps."

Pure coincidence.

The Variety piece notes that, prior to Iger's return, Disney refused to edit out LGBTQ content from "Thor: Love and Thunder" and "Lightyear." As a result, neither film graced a Chinese theater.

Will that policy remain under Iger 2.0? The CEO understands he must bring balance back to the Mouse House's financial landscape. If that means selling another chunk of the brand's soul to China, so be it.

There's one big problem with Iger's master plan, beyond its moral depravity. China's theater marketplace isn't what it was just a few short years ago. Not only has the pandemic weakened the movie-going impulse, but Chinese citizens no longer adore U.S. films like they once did.

Domestic movies now dominate the box office charts in China, with a small number of U.S.-made films crashing the charts ("Jurassic World: Dominion" fared well last year, for example).

Long story short? The money spigot isn't flowing like it once did.

Of course, Iger could make other changes to help the bottom line. The company could abandon its "not-so-secret gay agenda," focus on stories with universal themes and remember why Walt Disney's creation exists in the first place.

Chances are, Iger and co. will stick with the China plan rather than do anything like that.

Written by
Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic, journalist and founder of, the Right Take on Entertainment. He’s the author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” and a lifelong Yankees fan. Toto lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, two sons and too many chickens. Follow Christian on Twitter at