The Biggest Disney Headlines

Last week there were two big pieces of Disney news announced: the director for the first “Star Wars” sequel, and more information on concerns over privacy relating to the MyMagic+ wristbands.  Let’s look at them both.

In a move that is both surprising and not, Lucasfilm has chosen J.J. Abrams to direct the next “Star Wars” film.  The director/producer is best known for television shows like “Lost” and “Alias,” and for famously rebooting the “Star Trek” film franchise.  J.J. Abrams was rumored as a director for “Star Wars” early on, but he denied it; or really, he claimed he had been offered the job, but turned it down.

It’s possible that Lucasfilm convinced him to reconsider, or that Abrams was required to deny the rumors until the deal was made official.  Either way, Disney has now announced the choice in a press release, so it’s definitely happening.  The move is significant, because it means that the same man is in charge of the new movie versions of science fiction’s two biggest franchises.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Although of course there are many similarities, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” are very different.  I don’t want their respective movies to kind of feel the same.  One thing I do like, however, is how Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” film went in its own direction.

As great as it would be to see many familiar faces in the new “Star Wars,” I kind of want the film to do its own thing.  It can never be or feel like the original trilogy (I’m kind of ignoring the prequels), so it’s better that it doesn’t even try.  There are certainly worse choices that Lucasfilm could have made for the director, so I’m feeling all right about this choice (though still iffy about the new movies overall).

To change gears entirely, MyMagic+ has continued to stir up controversy.  The LA Times reports that Massachusetts congressman Edward J. Markey, who’s a co-chair on a congressional board about privacy, sent a letter to Disney World officials expressing concern over the data collection proposed by MyMagic+.  They were especially concerned as to how it relates to children.

Markey asked Disney World if it had any plans to allow guests to use MyMagic+, but opt out of having that information shared with Disney and with other companies, especially for kids.  A spokesperson for Disney World has said that guests will be able to control whether their personal information is used for “promotional” (i.e., marketing) purposes, and that none of the data collection would ever be used to market to children.  Bob Iger also published a fiery statement online, denouncing the government’s supposed “attack” on his company.

We’ve been assured that no information collected from children will be used to market to them, and that no information will be collected at all (from children) without parental consent.  What’s interesting is that neither statement really addressed the question of whether or not Disney would share the information it collects with outside companies.

Of course, the most interesting part is how angry Iger’s response was.  The government’s privacy board was just doing its job, and the fact that Iger released such a strongly-worded statement actually makes me more suspicious.  Forbes thinks that Disney execs were just worried for the company’s family-friendly image, but as I’ve been shaky on that for a while, I’m not too bothered by it.  The best way, in my opinion, to continue to look family-friendly is to exercise tact.  Iger can’t be surprised that information this new technology has raised some concerns, though I agree that we’ll have to wait for its debut to really see how Disney navigates the MyMagic+ privacy issues.