Music

OPINION: Joy Division vs Disney: Oh no they didn’t

by Winston "Stone" Ford

The original album cover.

Where’s the “c’mon son” gif when you need it!? Disney found themselves in a bit of a consumer mishap when they took the image from Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures, and blended it behind Mickey Mouse’s silhouette for retail. Oddly enough though, Disney unexpectedly removed the shirt from their website and shelves, stating that they had become aware an issue could be present and wanted to assess it further. But they did that a little too late. Those who were able to get their hands on the shirts are selling them on eBay at ridiculous prices.

The Disney-fied version.

I am extremely disappointed in Disney for merging the two images together, but at the same time, a tad bit impressed in their ability to spot popular trends in today’s generation. It’s obvious they knew the economic success that could stem from this collaboration or else they wouldn’t of created the shirts. If you do not believe Disney is that clever, let me explain just how powerful they are.

Disney is one of the largest media conglomerates in the WORLD. It gains revenue from movies, music, publishing, television, Internet, parks, resorts; this list goes on and on. ABC and ESPN are just two of a wide variety of networks and media outlets that Disney controls. So it’s easy to assume that Disney saw this as a business opportunity more than paying homage. To add insult to injury, Peter Hook, co-founder of Joy Division, never gave the okay for the Under Pressure image to be used, but he’s extremely flattered that such a powerhouse company would be interested in them at all. I think it’s pretty bold of Disney to put themselves at risk for a possible legal situation by not obtaining permission from Joy Division, but with the death of their beloved frontman, Ian Curtis, maybe Disney doesn’t fully understand the story behind this small Manchester-based band, thus being completely blind to the harm done.

Joy Division has not only revolutionized music in the late 70’s, but also the punk rock culture as a whole by experimenting outside the norms with their more solemn and atmospheric sound. The band had a fervent presence, yet they purposefully created a distance between themselves and the audience. Ian Curtis had a voice so haunting and chilling. You could feel his emotion, his depression, his frustration, and by the end of each song, the listener is left emotionally moved and physically entranced. We were robbed from an icon way too soon, but that’s the bittersweet thing about death, it makes you appreciate people so much more. I think now it’s easy to understand the anger and confusion from fans. If Disney was unaware of the story behind Joy Divisoin, how could the tee shirt properly pay homage to them?

There will clearly be three opinions on this issue: those who know the history of Joy Division, will forever love their legacy, and are insulted by Disney’s decision; those who have the same characteristics as the first side, but see nothing wrong with Disney’s use of the image; and finally, every hipster’s worse nightmare, those who know very little about Joy Division, only know the lyrics to “She’s Lost Control” and want to be part of the trend. But no matter how you look at it, Disney was very sneaky in taking the image without obtaining proper rights from the remaining members. I mean honestly, is nothing sacred anymore?