Can we just admit one sad fact to ourselves? The Magic Kingdom has lost its magic. After a brief spurt of resurrected brilliance in the late Eighties and early Nineties, Disney firmly and finally traded its hat full of magic for the cold math of franchises. Allowing the deliberate construction of franchises (not stories, mind you) on the Disney Channel and in their direct-to-video arm, the Mouse House was slowly infected. Now, more than a decade later, Disney is not only incapable of recapturing its magic–it suffocates and eventually destroys the magic it acquires.

For evidence of this sad fact, I submit the following five films for your consideration. Each is monument to another property that has been dealt (or soon will be dealt) the Disney Kiss of Death:

1. Cars 2

The Nascar vibe turned off a lot of fans with Pixar’s Cars, but once the story left the pits, it was a beautifully conceived, heartfelt story that was true to the Pixar tradition. Cars 2, however, reeked of Disney’s franchise-building. The spirit and discipline of Pixar was ripped out, leaving only the shell of the original movie. Then Disney execs rubbed their hands together and asked greedily, “Now, boys, how do we take this boring car stuff and turn it into another cash cow?”

Their answer: send the characters are on a James Bond-esque international adventure that couldn’t be farther in spirit from the original. Of course, this would allow them to sell new versions of the existing characters and even throw in some new cars to sell.

Then you know some exec raised his hand and said, “And all we gotta do is have Mater say stuff the whole time. Kids love Mater!” Here’s an example of the unfunny attempts at humor that followed:

And just like that, Disney put a huge black eye on the, up-to-that-point, perfect record of Pixar Studios.

2. Princess and the Frog

Disney made much ado about setting their return to hand-drawn animation in New Orleans and having their first black heroine. It all seemed like such an opportunity to open a new chapter in Disney’s history of magical entertainment. They even borrowed the cred of Pixar honcho John Lasseter to make it all the sweeter. Unfortunately, the result was packed full of lessons for independent young women but empty of the sparkle or the imagination that made classics like Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid shine.

And something tells me Disney’s not going to venture into hand-drawn territory again anytime soon. Maybe in another ten years, folks.

3. Brave

In another sign that Pixar has been infected by Disney, when the opposite was supposed to have happened, Pixar released a princess movie that was only a princess movie. It lacked the depth, drama, and attention to character that had become a hallmark of Pixar films. Watching the movie, in fact, it was hard to believe I wasn’t watching just another Disney flick in the mold of Bolt or Meet the Robinsons.

And, can I just say, in its mad rush to be so on top of this whole girl power thing, Disney is really tripping over its own feet. They need to stop trying to tell us that young ladies should be free to be what they want to be (This was powerful in the Sixties. Now, its leftovers.) and start telling stories.

As passable as this film was, it was another black eye for Pixar, thanks to Disney.

4. Wreck-It Ralph

This arcade-themed outing about (you guessed it) being yourself despite what other people say is a pitiful attempt by Disney execs to cash in on geek culture. But here’s the thing, Disney: whatever you touch instantly turns uncool. This is going to detrimentally affect geeks everywhere. We will no longer be hip or ironic for wearing PacMan shirts because every little girl in America will be wearing it (along with her pink princess tutu).

Wreck-It Ralph is Disney delivering the kiss of death to video game geekery.

5. Planes

So it’s a movie about planes above the world of Cars, but it’s being made by Disney, not Pixar. Does anyone else see what this is leading to? This is the Mouse House with Pixar halfway down their throat. In another five years, Pixar will exist in name only and Disney will have assimilated the whole operation. Sure, the characters will look Pixar-ish but the guts will be Disney all the way.

Don’t believe me? Witness the Disney brain trust slowing fleeing out the side exits, Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird trying their hands at live action. Disney is slowly choking the life out of Pixar and every other property it absorbs.

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