On Thursday it was announced that Disney+ and Hulu would follow HBO Max’s lead and begin purging certain titles from their libraries, starting May 26.
One title originally on the list is especially perplexing: Howard, the Disney+ original documentary on Howard Ashman, the lyricist behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors, and Beauty and the Beast. The live-action Little Mermaid reboot comes out May 26, and it struck people as odd that Disney would remove this crucial piece of history the same day. Especially considering Ashman, who was gay, is often credited as reviving Disney’s animated films.
On Friday, Disney announced it did not plan to remove the doc, after a social media outcry. It told Deadline that the list is “still being finalized.”
“interesting how the little mermaid remake will be debuting next week while disney plus will be removing the most heart inspiring documentary about THE legend who saved disney animation with his entire being,” wrote @sincerelyivy.
“I don’t really care about Walt Disney, I care about Howard Ashman,” wrote @dreamsoundsvid. “And for the only official doc about one of the company’s most important (and gay) figures to be removed with no alternative days before pride month, it’s pretty sad.”
“Not to mention they’re about to make a billion dollars off of him AGAIN, the absolute disrespect,” wrote @JoseMLuna.
Disney is also removing new series Willow, which only debuted on the platform in November.
“Before you say tax-write off: these shows have already been released and so can’t be a write-off,” tweeted Willow writer John Bickerstaff. “And in the case of Willow, they own the property outright. The only conclusion is that this is to get out of paying residuals. During a strike.”
That this is happening during the writers’ strike is a pretty big middle finger to writers and showrunners. Dollface, Maggie, Pistol, Little Demon, Big Shot, Y: The Last Man, The Premise, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Earth to Ned, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Turner & Hooch, Stargirl, and Love In the Time of Corona are among the titles being purged.
“My 1st ep of TV is being wiped from the streamer after only 6 months!!!” said Big Shot writer Brittney Jeng. “This totes blows Disney!!! Before there were dvd box sets to have as a keepsake. Now it will be as if it never existed.”
“Well, you work on something for years, pour your heart and soul into it, as do hundreds of other artists,” wrote Y: The Last Man showrunner Eliza Clark. “You make it during a global pandemic, far from home. Then it is canceled before it even has a chance to finish airing. Then, it is disappeared…”
The removed content might end up on another platform, as some of HBO’s purged content did, though that’s no real comfort for the people who created and worked on these shows. We reached out to Disney for comment.