The Disney company has been around since the 1920s and it grew from a small cartoon studio to a worldwide business powerhouse with interests and holdings in media and entertainment, industry, manufacturing and even literature. The public has, for the most part, widely received the books, toys, movies and other products that the Disney company produces; however, it is not without its detractors. Many people feel that Disney has introduced negative effects on society, such as materialism, corporate dominance, agenda setting and societal manipulation.
Materialism can be defined as the preoccupation with possessions or things found in the material world to the point that it becomes the sole focus in one's life. Critics, such as author and speaker Peggy Orenstein, have pointed to the Disney company as a major culprit of fostering materialism in society, starting at the youngest ages through its advertising of toys, clothing, movies, games and other Disney-related products that are "must haves" for children and even adults. Through this, the desire to acquire more Disney products becomes so strong that it begins to influence how someone thinks or feels about themselves if they do or do not own the latest Disney item.
Corporate dominance becomes a negative when a company holds controlling interests in areas of society that position that company to push its beliefs and worldviews onto an unsuspecting public. Critics, such as Peter Trifonas in his book "Engaging the Disney Effect," have pointed out the importance of investigating conglomerates such as Disney to see how it blends its ideological and political power with seemingly innocent uses of its television stations, radio stations, book publishing companies, resorts and parks, clothing companies, theaters and music production companies. Mark Weber, author of "Subverting the Disney Legacy," noted ideologies such as anti-Semitism, pro-homosexuality and anti-Christian beliefs in Disney media. Some examples of Disney-owned companies are ESPN, ABC, Lifetime, Hyperion Books, Club Penguin, The Baby Einstein Company and the Muppets.
Because the Disney company is so massive and has a seemingly endless supply of money, it is easy to forget how many areas of life are actually controlled by its corporate leaders. With enough power, the Disney company can influence societal thinking through the education of children all the way up to the political arena and policymaking. Agenda setting for a company such as Disney involves the act of putting messages into the most subtle areas of media that support the company's own beliefs and standards seen in movies such as "The Return of Jafar," which, according to historian and author Mark Weber, is highly anti-Arab. Another consideration is that the Orange County Register pointed to political donation records that showed Disney's political donations have been heavily Democratic.
The bigger a company gets, the more attention it receives, and a family friendly company such as Disney is a household name worldwide. This means that whatever the company believes, it is infusing those beliefs and ideas into all their products, while consumers may not even realize what they are buying into. For example, if the Disney company is pro-homosexuality or anti-Christian, as Mark Weber has stated, consumers buying products supporting the company are inadvertently paying to support those ideas. While under scrutiny, it has been pointed out by Peter Trifonas, that the Disney company is neither innocent nor naive but is rather deliberate about the messages it is sending through its characters, shows, music and other products, which is a caution to those who are susceptible to such influences.