One of the sidebar stories accompanying Actor Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic meltdown a fortnight ago was the news that The Walt Disney Studios would be distributing Gibson’s upcoming movie, "Apocalypto."
As might be expected, Disney’s tacit support of the Gibson film project did not sit well with the larger Jewish community. One member in particular, New York Lawyer Carl Schwartz, felt compelled to take keyboard in hand and dash out a note to Disney’s investor relations folks and express his feelings.
As a Disney shareholder and big fan of all things Disney, Schwartz clearly and calmly explained that, while he and his family had loyally patronized Disney’s multiple entertainment offerings over the years, he would pull his support if the conglomerate didn’t disassociate itself pronto from "Apocalypto."
Disney’s response was classic Corporate Speak. Heidi Trotta, whose e-mail contained no title or department, spoke on behalf of Disney. While she thanked Mr. Schwartz for his note and shared his "….concern about the tremendous dangers of hatred and prejudice and the need for greater understanding and tolerance among all people," she never addressed his request that Disney pull the plug on its support of Gibson. Instead, she "clarified" that Disney’s only involvement with the project is to "…handle distribution in the United States and Canada." Well, excuse me, but that’s one serious commitment. No Disney distribution support and, tell me if I’m wrong here, no Mel Gibson movie for anyone to see.
To his credit, Mr. Schwartz saw right through Disney’s Pinocchio-like lie and fired off a response. In it, he nails the larger issue on the head by saying, "…Disney’s participation in the release will signal a tolerance of anti-Semitism and, in my view, send a message about the triumph of corporate greed over what is right."
You can read the email correspondence here: Schwartz’s correspondence with Heidi Trotta from Disney
Not surprisingly, Heidi and her investor relations ilk never responded.
Ignoring complaints like the one by Mr. Shwartz won’t make the Apocalypto conundrum disappear for Disney. Nor will vaguely worded responses laden with platitudes about tolerance. It’s time for Disney to bite the bullet and walk away from the bucks it would have made from distributing Gibson’s flick.
So, what’s it going to be, Disney? Will you step up, do the right thing and come out shining like one of Snow White’s bright red apples, or end up looking more like the evil queen who poisoned the apples in the first place?
I have to disagree with you, Lunchboy. Disney needs to step up and do the right thing. And the right thing is to pass the baton on distribution. They also need to get their act together in terms of shareholder relations. That note to Mr. Schwartz was a joke.”
The film is not tainted; the man who made the film is tainted. You should keep them separate.
And while it may be corporate greed at play, the corporation (and its shareholders) will benefit if the movie does well at the box office, right?
Lighten up people! You walk past, work with, and speak to religious zealots, racists, sexists, etc., all day long without even knowing it. In Mel’s case, he got drunk and shared his opinions. He made a mistake (by showing his true colors) and he’s paying for it.
Disclaimer: I am not anti-Semitic. I am neither a racist nor a sexist. I also believe that the sun will still rise tomorrow, folks.
In addition to the shareholders and consumers of all things Disney, you didn’t mention the thousands of employees whom probably aren’t thrilled to be supporting, distributing and promoting the work of an anti-semite. (This Heidi person is most likey one of them.) I’m sure it’s not doing much to boost morale, especially after the recent firings: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hollyfear20jul20,0,1365957.story?coll=la-home-headlines
I’m sure a majority of employees (religious or not) are against the executives’ decision to distribute this film. To their credit though, Disney has been shopping it around to other distributors. I wish them luck in finding someone to take this tainted film off their hands.