Since Disney officially acquired Fox earlier this year, the changing media landscape certainly has posed some new questions for the studio. Would The Simpsons start to align more with Disney’s other animated properties? When will the MCU bring in mutants to the well-established superhero universe? Is Die Hard’s John McClane a Disney prince? (OK some of these are more reasonable than others.) Anyway, the list goes on and on, and the conversation has now continued with World War II set satire, Jojo Rabbit, which stars writer/director Taika Waititi as a goofy Hitler imaginary friend.
Weeks ago, reports surfaced that Disney was worried about being affiliated with Jojo Rabbit considering the playful take ties in with a dark time in world history. According to one of the film’s stars Scarlett Johansson, Disney execs were actually surprisingly lax about the release. While attending a dinner with members of Disney’s board and her fellow Avengers cast, she recalled the following:
The Disney execs were saying, 'We're excited about Jojo.' They had just acquired it. I said, 'How is that going to be?' Because Searchlight's made quite a lot of subversive films. It's harder and harder to try to find a home for something that's more off-color or subversive and push the limit. I thought, 'There's no way Disney would bring [Jojo Rabbit] out.
While at the dinner, she says the execs were excited about the project, even going so far as to tell her:
Whether it's Pixar or Marvel, the most important thing is when Disney acquires a company that's working, they let the studio continue to have their own style. The creative freedom of that studio stays, the DNA of the studio stays intact. Ultimately when Jojo Rabbit went over [to Disney], it didn't make any difference, which was cool. Because I was worried that maybe it would.
Many entertainment consumers may have found themselves biting their fingernails in worry the House of Mouse would imprint family-friendly branding on each of the new acquisitions. Yet, per Scarlett Johansson’s words to THR, Disney executives have been careful not to mess with the creative integrity of Fox’s products, even if it includes a dark satire on Hitler’s evildoings.
It looks like Disney CEO Bob Iger is so proud of Jojo Rabbit’s award season buzz that he is hosting a private screening of the comedy for the film’s Oscar campaign. Jojo Rabbit was produced under Fox Searchlight, which often produces independent, foreign, horror and arthouse films. Fox Searchlight has previously helmed Best Picture Oscar-winners such as The Shape of Water, Birdman, Slumdog Millionaire and 12 Years A Slave.
Still, Scarlett Johansson was understandably surprised to learn about Disney’s excitement over her upcoming release. The actress has been a part of the Disney family for years, prominently as the MCU’s Black Widow -- meaning she knows the brand. She says she was pleasantly surprised to learn that the studio was maintaining Fox Searchlight’s vision following their acquisition.
Disney has a good relationship with Taika Waititi though. He also brought the Disney Company massive success in the past with the release of Thor: Ragnarok in 2017. The three-quel became the highest-grossing Thor film and revitalized the franchise. Waititi is now swiftly coming back to write and direct Thor: Love and Thunder in 2021.
In Jojo Rabbit, Scarlett Johansson plays Rosie, mother to the film’s titular boy Jojo, who together hide a Jewish girl in their home in Nazi Germany. The film, which also stars Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson, comes to theaters on October 18, 2019.