Even Disney has limits as to how political it will get.
In 2015, the Obama State Department tried to convince Disney to allow the use of its film “Frozen” for public service announcements and other programs designed to educate the public, particularly children, about climate change.
Emails uncovered by The Hill as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show Disney officials were annoyed at the administration’s insistence on stoking perceptions of a connection between the film company and the federal government.
The discord largely stemmed from Robert Papp, a retired Coast Guard admiral and State Department official who was serving as envoy for the Arctic.
Papp met with Disney leadership to propose letting the White House create a public service campaign with characters from “Frozen,” incorporate them into a climate change website, and screen the film at the Kennedy Center.
Disney was originally interested in the deal, but negotiations fell through after a November 2014 meeting between Papp and Disney senior vice president of marketing Paul Baribault.
But even after Disney made its decision clear, Baribault continued to suggest to the media that the Obama administration’s use of “Frozen” was still in the works.
This prompted Disney to write several critical emails to the State Department.
“We felt Admiral Papp misrepresented the informational meeting that was held at Disney in October of last year,” wrote a Disney representative whose name was redacted.
“It is frustrating to see these types of comments continue,” the employee went on to say.
Erin Robertson, who worked under Papp at the State Department, wrote back that the media “put the Admiral on the spot,” making it “very difficult for him to avoid answering.”
The Disney official continued:
“It’s too bad he felt the need to say that he’s continuing discussions with Disney when that simply hasn’t been the case.”
A clash of visions may have been one of the factors that contributed to the falling out between the White House and Disney.
“You’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp told the film company’s representatives. “Unfortunately, the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice.
“What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”
Disney, however, maintained that their culture is to “tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.”
President Trump has taken a vastly different approach to climate change than his predecessor. One of the President’s most notable decisions has been pulling the US from the Paris Climate Agreement over concerns that it would have placed an unfair financial burden on the country.
Given that record, it’s unlikely President Trump will be soliciting Disney for use of its cartoon characters any time soon.
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