The members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics have voted to disqualify Walt Disney Company films from consideration for their year-end awards until the company publicly rescinds their blackout of The Los Angeles Times.
The Times blackout, which we told you about yesterday, is the company’s retaliation for a Times investigation critical of the company’s business ties with the city of Anaheim, where their Disneyland resort is located. Disney has claimed it is “a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda,” but has provided neither the Times nor other media members (including this one) with any examples of inaccuracies in the reporting. They also have not asked for a correction.
Instead, they’ve chosen to punish the paper’s film and television reporters by blocking access to film screenings and television screeners. Yesterday, this site announced we will not review Disney films, nor post their trailers, posters, casting announcements, and other de facto free advertising, as long as the Times ban stands. The Boston Globe, the AV Club, and the Washington Post‘s Alyssa Rosenberg have also announced adjustments to their Disney coverage in solidarity with the Times.
And now comes this statement from the LAFCA, the NYFCC, the BSFC, and the NSFC. “Disney’s actions, which include an indefinite ban on any interaction with The Times, are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists,” it reads.
“It is admittedly extraordinary for a critics’ group, let alone four critics’ groups, to take any action that might penalize film artists for decisions beyond their control,” the statement continues. “But Disney brought forth this action when it chose to punish The Times’ journalists rather than express its disagreement with a business story via ongoing public discussion. Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.”
The New York Film Critics Circle votes on its annual awards Thursday, Nov. 30, with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association following on Sunday, Dec. 3, the Boston Society of Film Critics on Sunday, Dec. 10, and the National Society of Film Critics on Saturday, Jan. 6. Disney has asked critics and awards bodies to consider Beauty and the Beast, Cars 3, Coco, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Thor: Ragnarok for awards.
UPDATE 3:00pm: Well, that was fast. The New York Times reports that Disney has reversed its ban, and has issued a statement to that effect: “We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.” Significantly, the joint statement from the critics’ societies vowed to “disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.” So.