“Hamilton”, Disney+, and the Very Fast Pivot
By: Emily Menken
On July 3rd, Disney+ debuted the most sought after Broadway ticket -- straight to television. Across the globe, movie theaters and concert venues have been closed since March. Broadway is not due to open until 2021. Viewers are eager for new, exciting content that is streamable from the couch.
It’s important to note Disney originally announced “Hamilton” would be released in theaters -- back in February 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney pivoted to speed up the edit and release the musical direct-to-streaming during a cultural moment that reflects the story’s narrative: Independence Day.
The combination of factors combined to form a perfectly-timed launch, leading to a 74% increase of Disney+ downloads (compared to June data). According to Variety, from Friday July 3 to Sunday July 5, the app “was downloaded 752,451 times globally, including 458,796 times in the U.S.”.
Per the Google Trends tool, Hamilton-related queries rose drastically, with questions like, “How long will Hamilton be on Disney+?” and “Did Hamilton have slaves?”. Also notable: Googles of specific historical figures or cast members, have increased. For example, Googles of Hercules Mulligan, a tailor spying on the British government, have gone up by a whopping +1250%.
The musical’s debut continues to spark conversations around racism, which have been re-ignited during the Black Lives Matter resurgence. Critics have accused Lin Manuel Miranda of “whitewashing history”. Alexander Hamilton is depicted as a relatively moral, stand-up guy who is actively against slavery. Similarly, Washington is a much-admired “venerated Virginian veteran”. In reality, Hamilton married into a family that enslaved Africans, and although he supported the voluntary release by enslavers, he was not an abolitionist by any means. Meanwhile, Washington owned a plantation in Mount Vernon that was built off the backs of enslaved persons. Numerous publications have released round-ups of the accurate facts, like this New York Times article.