Twice while shopping this week, I've run into the Disney Infinity franchise only to then experience a total blue screen moment as I stare in disbelief at the universe.
For those who haven't encountered this franchise yet, it's a combination video game + collect-all-the-figurines marketing ploy, where buying the figurines unlocks relevant areas of gameplay. In other words, and if I understand correctly, you have to buy the physical Monsters, Inc. add-on playset in order to access the Monsters, Inc. areas of the game. The platform options for the game are various gaming consoles (XBOX 360, PS3, Wii, etc.), online, and iPads. To quote the wikipedia article:
Disney Infinity is a platformer sandbox video game developed by Avalanche Software and published by Disney Interactive Studios. [...] Similar to Activision's Skylanders franchise, the game uses collectible figurines that are then synchronized with the game, allowing for characters from Disney and Pixar properties to interact and go on adventures. The game was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS in August 2013.So we're all on the same page, right? This is a video game, marketed to children, containing lots of Disney and Pixar characters, and children are encouraged to buy representations of all the characters, because without the add-on playsets, sections of the game are locked off. So fine, so standard.
[...] Disney Infinity is an action-adventure game with physical toys, open world creation and story-driven gameplay. Characters, play-sets and other features are brought into the game using figurines and discs with the included Infinity Base.
[...] [P]lay sets have their own unique campaign, which can be played with up to two players. However, only characters from a specific franchise can play in their respective play-set (for example, Mr. Incredible can't be used in the Pirates of the Caribbean play set), meaning two figures from the same series are required to play a play-set in split-screen multiplayer. Playing through play set unlocks objects and vehicles that can be used in the Toy Box mode.
My horror comes from the fact that of the 18 currently buyable-and-playable characters, 2 of them are Lone Ranger and Tonto from the recently super-racist film which was projected back in August of being so massively unpopular that the flop may cost Disney $150 million.
|The Lone Ranger and Tonto figurines from Disney Infinity.|
"Screw you adults for refusing to consume our racist swill! We'll just pressure and trick children into doing so instead!" ~ Disney, apparently.
Way too many privileged people like to assume that racism not only happens in a vacuum, but that it also happens with the best of innocent intentions. Like somehow Disney just failed to receive all the many messages, prior to their racist film, that their racist film was hella racist. "Whoops!" becomes the rallying cry of racism apologetics, like it's just so damn hard to educate yourself on how racism is a thing.
This excuse is (as ever) bullshit, but I think it's especially telling in a situation like this, where Disney already knows with the power of numbers that their super-racist film was both super-racist and horribly unpopular. Instead of doing the decent thing and apologizing for the movie, letting it quietly slink off to the Disney movie vaults to rot, and doing better next time, Disney is trying to recoup some of its lost money by repackaging the racism and selling it to children in a marketing scheme where they can't access existing game content if they don't buy the Native American Appropriation and Racist Stereotypes add-on playset.
And, you know, despite the fact that (best I can tell) none of the other 16 playable characters are people of color or voiced by actors of color, I can still imagine that children of color might want to play Disney Infinity if it's a fun game or has characters from films they care about. So it is especially classy of Disney to create a game which mandates that children of color play a racist stereotype if they want to access the full game.
Disney, you are the worst.