Technoculture, Synergy, Experience Economy: Transformations in the New Disney Empire

Project Details


In recent years, the new Disney empire increasingly dominates worldwide movie theaters and the box-office after the successful acquisitions of major franchise-based studios as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. As formulaic as these franchise-driven blockbusters can be, they nevertheless generate unprecedented revenues for Disney. Not only do they make superhero movies so pervasive, but also animate the entirety of the mega media conglomerate of Disney with merchandising and synergy. From a political economy viewpoint, the acquisitions were premised on the neoliberal deregulation and financialization, post-Fordist flexible accumulation, and branded products and services. As the vanguard of Fordism, however, Disney, with its Fordist obsessions with control and efficiency, must come to term with the above-mentioned post-Fordist situations. So far, as observable from its recent success, Disney seems to excel in the orchestration of synergy and diversification of franchise productions and merchandising across its innumerable subsidiaries. For instance, founded on the most rigorous Fordist division of labor as an animation studio, the Disney conglomerate should acquire Pixar, one of the most emblematic post-Fordist startups that upholds peer-sharing communalism, and let Pixar reinvent the Disney animation studio. Meanwhile, Marvel, the superhero film studio, manages a longer and more complex chain of production by outsourcing visual effects to multiple international studios. In other words, the Pixar and Marvel cases underline the post-Fordist heterogeneity, which requires Disney to simultaneously accommodate Pixar’s knowledge economy and Marvel’s flexible accumulation; and, in turn, their heterogeneity will become defined by diversification and redefined by synergy and thus come to mold every aspect of the franchise-driven films they produce—all to serve the purpose of capitalist accumulation for the conglomerate. Eventually, with the saturation of the endless transmedial merchandizing from the franchise-driven blockbusters, the dream of the so-called experience economy to turn all kinds of transactions in the service industry into packaged experiences in themed spaces may finally become a reality. Therefore, the three-year project proposes to investigate the three interlocking aspects of the Disney conglomerate from technoculture, synergy, and the development of the experience economy so that the entertainment empire in transformations can be approached in the continuum of capital formations, the various modes of production, and film texts.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/07/19

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Disney
  • franchise film
  • Pixar
  • animation
  • Marvel
  • superhero
  • the experience economy


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