Disney executives are reportedly worried Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit will alienate fans of the Mouse House when it opens later this year. Based on the novel Caging Skies, Jojo Rabbit tells the story Jojo Betzler, a Hitler youth who discovers his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home. As one might expect, this makes life quite confusing for Jojo, whose closest companion is his imaginary friend, a fictionalized version of Adolf Hitler.
Described as "anti-hate satire," Jojo Rabbit is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing offerings of the fall. Fox Searchlight is very confident in what they have, as evidenced by Jojo Rabbit going on a tour of the fall film festivals before it opens theatrically in October. At the outset of awards season, the film is expected to be an Oscar contender. Not only is its World War II setting a favorite of the Academy, Fox Searchlight is a studio with a long history of running successful campaigns. However, it would appear executives at Fox's parent company Disney aren't too thrilled about what Waititi has delivered.
A report by Variety details the first Jojo Rabbit screenings for the Disney higher-ups. Allegedly, there's concern the film's approach will "prove a little too edgy" in the eyes of Mouse House executives. In fact, one of them "grew audibly uncomfortable" watching the movie, fearing that it'll "alienate Disney fans." Waititi previously said he was excited to ridicule Nazis, so it sounds like he didn't hold back any punches in his commentary.
For viewers, the concern is whether or not Disney will require changes be made to tone down Jojo Rabbit's satirical elements. What makes this tricky, of course, is Waititi is a beloved member of the Mouse House family due to his relationship with Marvel Studios. Disney potentially would risk souring that connection if they were to ask the director to compromise his vision on a film he's clearly passionate about. What's more is Fox Searchlight loves being in the Waititi business, as they just announced he'll direct Next Goal Wins later this year before beginning work on Thor: Love and Thunder. Jojo Rabbit might be making Disney executives uncomfortable, but Fox Searchlight is definitely pleased with the way it turned out. And by now, their reputation for delivering critically acclaimed films that go the distance in the Oscar race should give them leeway to operate freely.
Disney specializes in four-quadrant, family-friendly entertainment that dominates the box office. They clearly have a familiar brand that audiences recognize. However, now that Fox is under their umbrella, Disney might be better served being open to expanding their horizons and accepting that not everything they release will appeal to the same target demographic. Jojo Rabbit was not made with the intention of being a typical "Disney movie." It's going after a different group of viewers who may appreciate a "scathing takedown" of the Nazis during awards season. Hopefully, Disney will stay hands off and Jojo Rabbit will be seen as Waititi intended it.
- Jojo Rabbit (2019) release date: Oct 18, 2019