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By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale

The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Attitude Magazine and others have celebrated Disney’s decision to modernize the new Beauty and Beast film with a more feminist Belle and first ever “exclusively gay” character. Emma Watson wants the main character, Belle, not simply to be a reader of books but an assertive, feminist inventor who wears riding boots. The newly added character of LeFou, for his part, struggles with his identity and same-sex attraction toward Gaston, the boorish frat boy that tries to woo Belle.

Adding such politically fashionable themes has indeed generated press and gained the praise of cultural elites. But the new Beauty and the Beast reveals some dark truths about Hollywood. Film makers claim to view art as a form of “resistance.” But in this case ideology, political posturing and publicity stunts trumped doing justice to the original story.

It Fails as Art

The biggest problem with adding shock value to the film is that it is just bad storytelling. Despite powerful cinematography and impressive graphics, what we end up with is not art but kitsch. Disney could have wrestled with the challenge of conveying the powerful original tale — written by Gabrielle Suzanne Villanueve de Barbot in 1740 and famously abridged in 1756 by Madame de Beaumont. Instead, Disney used as its source text … its own animated version from 1991. The original version doesn’t even have the characters Gaston and LeFou, which were added by Disney in the 1991 version.

The original fairy tale is rich in meaning and human struggle. It explores:

the virtue and sacrifice of Belle
her struggle to see beyond appearances
Belle’s love for her father and willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of her desires
the effects of wealth and poverty on the family
the vices of envy and avarice
jealousy and struggles among the sisters
the agony of making decisions in the face of an impossible situation
the redemption that comes from sacrificial, other-directed love.

Little of this survived in the Disney cartoon, a garish romance whose shallowness was disguised with fireworks of sentimental tunes and computer graphics.

For the new, live version, Disney “updated” the old timey 1991 version by adding a character with same sex attraction. The story thus becomes a tool to shock audiences and promote a political agenda. Story and art are sacrificed on the altar of political fashion. The actors and producers get a chance to virtue signal, as Emma Watson does in a recent Vanity Fair article showing off her feminism. It takes very little courage to be applauded as sophisticated by one’s peers.

Bumper Sticker Feminism

The other artistic failure is the portrayal of Belle as the assertive feminist. This misses the point of her character and power as heroine of the story. In contrast to her superficial and materialist sisters, who care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement, Belle is serious and scholarly. She has interior resolve, integrity, profound courage and love that enable her to sacrifice her life for her father, to see beyond appearances and redeem the beast.

Her power is revealed in her character and her actions — not in exterior assertiveness and a willingness to buck convention by wearing riding boots. Her whole life bucks the convention of mediocrity and selfishness, which is why she is the protagonist. Instead of all the authentic character virtues Belle exhibited in the original tale, we get bumper sticker feminism and “girl power.”

The original story and the famous 1756 version, written by women, were more authentically affirming of women than this dumbed-down 2017 production.

Distorting Male Friendship

Beyond the obvious problem of sexualizing everything, the relationship between Gaston and LeFou also distorts and undermines authentic male friendship. This not only hurts boys and young men. It also hurts women because it relegates their brothers and future husbands to a frat boy “bro” culture.

As C.S. Lewis notes in The Four Loves, friendship often begins with mutual appreciation of some thing, idea or activity. It is directed toward something. Aristotle explains that while friendship can be grounded in utility or having a good time, authentic friendship is grounded in virtue and a desire to live a life of excellence.

Men need these authentic friendships that challenge and inspire them. It is quite normal for a young man, especially one entering manhood, to admire and look up to other, often older men. They see their masculinity and seek to emulate it — especially if it is in an area they lack, but desire to excel in. While this attraction and admiration often includes the physical, it is rarely sexual. This is the stuff of growing up, of friendship and camaraderie. It is a normal way a man learns to become himself.

Beauty and the Beast distorts this natural pattern by sexualizing it. Director Bill Condon comments that “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. … He’s confused about what he wants.”

Men are confused about a lot of things, especially when they are young. Disney exploits it. Beauty and the Beast’s decision to sexualize the male friendship of LeFou and Gaston undermines real friendship and creates confusion in young men — who might now begin to wonder if their “attraction” to a man is somehow sexual. The upshot of this will be to create further barriers to real male friendship and encourage the insipid and dehumanizing “bro” culture of the frat boys whose shared activities are narrowed to sports, drunkenness and reducing women to sexual conquests.

Any genuine sensitivity to the arts, to deep human emotion or to authentic love that respects a woman in her integrity is looked upon as effeminate, an sign of homosexual tendency. This is bad enough. But the problem is made even worse by Beauty and the Beast, which portrays the heterosexual man as a predator and womanizer. The distortion of male friendship into same sex attraction not only denies boys real friendship. It harms women by creating weak men whose only friendships are based on use or pleasure.

The new Beauty and the Beast could have been a real work of art that addressed the depth of human love and redemption. Instead it is a political puff piece. When the shock wears off, it will be forgotten. But hey, at least it made the headlines and gave the actors and writers a chance to preen to political fashion. And as we’ve seen lately, isn’t that what Hollywood is all about? (For more from the author of “By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Gay Man Speaks Out: Gay Scene in Beauty and the Beast Too Mature for Kids

A conservative gay man has taken issue with Disney’s “gay scene” in the newest Beauty and the Beast film, saying that interjecting mature themes in children’s movies robs them of their innocence.

The movie includes one character, Le Fou, dancing with another male character. The director, Bill Condon, calls the brief scene “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.” Condon is gay.

Joseph R. Murray II, LGBTrump administrator and former Pat Buchanan campaign official, writes in the Orlando Sentinel that pushing the gay lifestyle on kids makes them grow up much too soon. Describing himself as “a proud member of the LGBT community,” he writes: “Why do we have to expose our kids to such mature themes?” Murray asked. “Do they not have plenty of time to grow up? Or maybe the point is to make them grow up too soon and that is where I part ways with my community.”

Disney a Conduit to Social Change

While Walt Disney wanted to entertain children, this generation of Disney leaders has veered sharply off course, Murray said. “No longer did it see itself as a defender of children’s innocence. Instead, it saw itself as a conduit to social change. Walt Disney became Harvey Milk.” Milk, a San Francisco supervisor, was one of the first openly gay politicians in America and known for his advocacy of gay causes.

Others are excited by the scene. Editor-in-Chief of English gay magazine Attitude Matt Cain hopes that the social change message will impact adults and children, calling the implications of the scene in the movie a “watershed moment” for Disney. “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural — and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay.”

For those who believe gays need approval for their homosexual lifestyle, Murray has an answer for them, too. “As for the argument LGBT kids need reaffirmation, I was gay and grew up without gay Disney and made it just fine. I bet the fact I was able to keep my childhood innocence played a part.” (For more from the author of “Gay Man Speaks Out: Gay Scene in Beauty and the Beast Too Mature for Kids” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Let’s Be Honest: Disney Has Been Sexualizing Characters for a Long Time

Ever since Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon told Attitude magazine that the highly-anticipated Disney remake would feature an “exclusively gay moment,” Christian pundits and parents have been up in arms. Pastor Franklin Graham called for Christians to “watch out!” and “say no to Disney.” LifeSiteNews is sponsoring a petition to tell Disney “that children’s entertainment is no place to promote a harmful sexual political agenda.” This Red State columnist wonders why Disney can’t just keep its “hands off” children’s entertainment. Many people are rallying their Twitter followers to #BoycottDisney.

The list goes on.

For Christians who believe the homosexual lifestyle is something to be delivered from and not celebrated, it is disappointing to see the push for homosexual acceptance reaching into the realm of children’s entertainment. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Disney has long been in the business of sexualizing its movies and characters. They just now expanded their sexualization to include a gay character.

Disney and the Sexualized Princess

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane.

For years, Disney’s female characters (and especially Disney princesses) were hyper-sexualized (tiny waists, big busts, heavy make-up), from their animation to their look-alike toy products. Disney’s original princess movies also centered nearly exclusively around romance and marriage, even though all of the princesses are only in their teens. Perhaps parents should think about the message it sends their little girls that when they are 16, a man they don’t know will save them with a kiss on the lips (Sleeping Beauty), or that it’s okay to run off with a prince on a magic carpet when they are only 15 (Aladdin), or that they should be the “fairest of them all” when they are only 14 (Snow White). (Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, Belle is only 17.)

To be clear, I don’t think Disney princesses are inherently evil, but I do think that parents should be wary of the message their daughters are receiving when they constantly watch portrayals of teen girls who are hyper-sexualized and focused on Prince Charming.

That’s not to say that many parents haven’t been wary. Many have been complaining about these traditional Disney princess traits for years, with feminists and liberals often leading the way.

A New Kind of Princess

Disney eventually got the message, creating some new Disney princesses that weren’t focused solely on romance, like Merida in Brave and Elsa in Frozen. These movies were a huge breath of fresh air for girls like me, who preferred dressing up as Frodo and conquering Mount Doom to dressing up as Cinderella and going to the ball.

When I saw Brave in 2012 and Frozen in 2013, I can’t tell you how much I wished I’d had those movies — focused on adventure and familial love instead of romance — as a little girl.

Merida would have been my hero with her horse, her weapons and her independent spirit. Even though Frozen contains a romantic subplot, it’s much more realistic; Anna’s infatuation with a prince she just met proves to be unwise and misguided, unlike other Disney movies where young couples jump directly from meeting into happily ever after. In the end Anna falls for a faithful male friend in a sweet, not-in-your-face sort of way.

Bringing Back Romance — With a Twist

LGBTQ pride is currently at the forefront of secular culture. Disney is a secular company. So of course they’re starting to featuring gay characters. This really shouldn’t surprise us.

What should be more concerning is that Disney is willing (or so it seems, from recent events) to swing the spotlight back on romance just so they can celebrate homosexuality on screen. For instance, many liberals have asked Disney to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in the upcoming sequel, since some thought Elsa’s story in Frozen represented coming out of the closet (I didn’t see it this way, but whatever).

Aside from the fact that putting little girls’ favorite princess in a lesbian relationship would be troubling to Christian parents, what bothers me about #GiveElsaAGirlfriend is that people want to insert main-plot romance into a movie franchise that was perfectly fine without it! Why not make Frozen 2 about Elsa’s adventures as the independent ruler of her kingdom, or another story on the virtues of sibling love and working together? Why make her fall in love at all?

As for Beauty and the Beast, it’s already a romance, and a rather complicated one. There is no need to add another layer, except to have, as the director said, a Disney movie’s first “exclusively gay moment.”

A Better Boycott

Boycotting or petitioning Disney over the presence of gay characters will be largely ineffective. The only way to really change culture is by fulfilling the Great Commission and introducing sinners to Jesus, which must be a neighbor-out, not corporation-down initiative. Franklin Graham suggested that Walt Disney “would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.” But Disney has hardly been a paragon of Christian morality in the past, from their hyper-sexualized teenage cartoons to the child actors they’ve graduated into rehab. Collective actions can sometimes make a difference (as it may have with Target) but in general we can’t use boycotts to browbeat secular entities into following our Christian code of conduct when they lack the very foundation for that conduct.

So like it or not, it’s probably best to get used to more gay Disney characters in the near future. I suspect that some (if not much) of the homosexuality portrayed in upcoming Disney films may go over little children’s heads anyway, just like the numerous sexual innuendos placed in Disney films throughout the years (some have supposedly been debunked).

That said, I think there is a better boycott or petition that Christian and non-Christian parents alike can join in when it comes to Disney films. Why not ask Disney to focus less on romance and more on innocent adventures that kids will enjoy? Love, romance and sexuality are delicate subjects that parents themselves should be responsible for broaching with their kids at the right time.

Entertainment shouldn’t be feeding young kids the message that love, sex and romance are what defines them, whether that message comes from a hyper-sexualized 16-year-old princess or a gay man exploring his attractions. (For more from the author of “Let’s Be Honest: Disney Has Been Sexualizing Characters for a Long Time” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Godly Strategy in Response to Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’

Wow. Disney’s “gay moment” in the film Beauty and the Beast sure has stirred up feelings among Christians. Calls for boycotts. Closed doors. Angry urgings to quit being “nice.”

That last came from comments on my Stream article last week, The Beastly Beauty of Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’ — And How We Should Respond. Apparently some readers thought I was suggesting we back out of the conflict. I’m not. I’m talking about our strategy as followers of Christ.

Another comment on that article asked for more specific thoughts on what to do at a time like this. Jesus told His disciples to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) Our forays into pro-gay culture must likewise be marked with both strategic savvy and godly action.

So I’m going to make some observations here on what gay activists want, what God wants, and the strategic lay of the land. Based on that, I’m going to suggest several conclusions.

1. What Gay Activists Want

What do gay activists want from us? That’s easy. The most useful thing we can do for them is play into their picture of hateful Christian conservatism. They’re painting us as intolerant haters, because that image helps them win. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it serves their purposes even more than if we were to lay down our arms and slink quietly away.

2. What God Wants

Not surprisingly, God wants exactly the opposite of what gay activists want. He wants us to:

Stand firm. He doesn’t want us to slink quietly away. Over and over again, Christians have changed history by standing for righteousness in culture.

Fight God’s way. The “weapons of our warfare are not worldly,” but have power over strongholds, arguments and every proud obstacle. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

Be quick to speak, slow to anger. The anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)

Be human. Sean McDowell wisely urges us to avoid an us-versus-them mentality. We’re all created in God’s image, so we dare not treat others inhumanely; we dare not dehumanize them.

Be persuasive. Christianity is a religion of persuasion through love, and through preaching, teaching and explanation. Some misguided believers have tried to advance the faith through power; they have gained only corrupted ground. True Christianity has covered the globe through persuasively speaking the truth in love. (Acts 17:1-3, Eph. 4:15)

Be relational. God is a God of relationship from even before creation: the three Persons of the Trinity have always related to in perfect love. He created us to love Him, our neighbor and even our enemies.

3. The Lay of the Land

To be wise in battle requires knowing the terrain. We have to recognize that the pro-gay forces control most of the persuasive power centers in our culture. They’ve got Disney Studios and so much more: education, music, the major news media … I could go on, but you already know it. They own the heavy artillery.

What do we have on our side? We have the Church and we have prayer.

From a strictly social/cultural perspective the Church is huge: it’s the ground organization to beat all ground organizations. Obviously it’s hugely under-equipped and under-deployed, but more on that in a moment.

Meanwhile prayer is the spiritual analogue to “air power” in relation to the ground game we’re all engaged in. Prayer flies even higher than our opponents’ artillery.

How Not To Fight

So yes, we fight, but not by the world’s methods, and not without being wise to the strategic realities. Here’s what won’t work.

We’re not going to win this in the media. We don’t control enough of it. We can win some persuasive battles here and there; certainly enough to be worthwhile — let’s do all we can! — but realistically, not enough to turn the tide. (The more crucial role played by The Stream and similar media is to equip and encourage our own.)

The same goes in spades for “not being nice.” Even if being not-nice were a godly idea — which it isn’t — we’re outgunned anyway. The other side is (thank God!) way better at it than we are. For us it’s a failed, hopeless and wrong tactic.

Persuasion, Action, Deeds and Prayer

Instead we must stand for truth by persuasive speech, righteous action, loving deeds and prayer.

Persuasion means knowing the reasons for our position. Do you know where to find the five key Bible passages on homosexuality? Can you state several reasons man-woman marriage is healthier for society than gay marriage? Have you listened to opponents’ objections thoughtfully, and are you prepared with answers?

I almost hate to introduce this word into polite conversation, but getting ready for this battle means doing some homework.

Righteous action could certainly include boycotting a film like Beauty and the Beast. It also includes speaking up. It also includes loving our enemies.

Loving deeds are the real challenge, because it’s impossible to love from arm’s length. Gays and gay-affirming people can continue to believe Christians are haters only as long as we let them. We can’t argue them out of it; the way to stop them thinking it is by loving them. We certainly don’t need to agree with their views, but if they’ll let us, we can be friends anyway. Not all of them will welcome our friendship, but many are actually hoping for it.

This is the ground game we are uniquely positioned to engage in; for which our huge, under-deployed ground organization, the Church, must become equipped, and in which each believer must become active.

Finally, Prayer. We have the privilege and the obligation to pray for ourselves. We must pray fervently for the Church. We must pray for Disney and all others who may be arrayed against God’s truth.

The battle is the Lord’s. He isn’t on our side (don’t ever be mistaken about that!) but we can be on His, if we fight for His goals in His way. (For more from the author of “Godly Strategy in Response to Disney’s ‘Gay Moment'” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Disney Faces Backlash After Revealing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Homosexual Scene

People are beginning to take a stand against Disney after it was revealed the upcoming live action version of Beauty and the Beast will feature the company’s first-ever “exclusively gay moment.”

Director Bill Condon said in interview with Attitude magazine that Belle’s suitor, Gaston- has a male admirer in manservant LeFou, and that he will be used in the movie to highlight homosexuality.

However, some audiences aren’t happy with this.

Already, a movie theatre in Alabama has decided it will not be showing the latest version of the Disney classic.

“It is with great sorrow that I have to tell our customers that we will not be showing Beauty and the Beast at the Henagar Drive-In when it comes out. When companies continually force their views on us we need to take a stand. We all make choices and I am making mine,” the owner said in a statement on Facebook.

He added, “If we can not take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie, we have no business watching it. If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it.”

The owner says he only wants to show “wholesome movies” and will not compromise on what the Bible teaches.

Responses to the post ranged from hatred to support.

One person posted “Maybe you could take your 11- and 8-year-old grandchildren to see the movie and teach them that love is love so they don’t grow up hateful and miserable like you.”

Another wrote “I support your decision 100%. As usual, the left-wing anything-goes crowd is posting negativity. Please do not be swayed in your belief. I don’t think you’ll be out of business, I’m positive there are millions of people that share your values and will stand beside you to keep decency alive. Thank you. May you continue to be blessed.”

Others upset with Disney’s decision have decided to sign a boycott and let their frustrations be heard.

LifePetitions, a website used to serve pro-life and pro-family communities, started a petition in order to send a “strong message to Disney that children’s entertainment is no place to promote a harmful sexual political agenda.”

The petition already reached more than half of its 100,000 signature goal. (For more from the author of “Disney Faces Backlash After Revealing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Homosexual Scene” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Disney Goes Full Homo, Decides to Indoctrinate Children in Perversity

By Todd Starnes. The folks who gave us Mickey Mouse and Goofy have decided it’s time for your children to enjoy same-sex romance while they slurp down their Fruit Loops. Disney just broadcast their very first gay cartoon kiss.

The smooch happened during the second season of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, a cartoon broadcast on Disney XD. An audience scene shows two guys kissing and a later scene show two ladies sharing an intimate moment . . .

There’s also word the upcoming live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will include a gay storyline — between LeFou and Gaston. I figured it would’ve been the candlestick. But whatever.

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants,” director Bill Condon told Attitude magazine . . .

So, don’t be too surprised if the next Disney animated classic documents Tinker Bell’s torrid lesbian affair with Snow White while a gender questioning Peter Pan crushes on Pinocchio who just got out of a long-term relationship with one of the seven gender-fluid dwarfs. (Read more from “Disney Goes Full Homo, Decides to Indoctrinate Children in Perversity” HERE)

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Disney Announces First ‘Exclusively Gay Moment’ in Live-Action Beauty and the Beast

By The Week. The director of the forthcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast movie announced Wednesday that his film will feature Disney’s first-ever “exclusively gay moment,” Pacific Standard reports. “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural  —  and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay,” wrote Attitude editor-in-chief Matt Cain, who published the interview with director Bill Condon. (Read more from “Disney Announces First ‘Exclusively Gay Moment’ in Live-Action Beauty and the Beast” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Disney Teams up with Hate-Filled, Profane Activist for New Sitcom

Photo Credit: Western Journalism

Photo Credit: Western Journalism

As though Disney-owned ABC intentionally sought out the most divisive public figure available for its most recently announced venture, recent reports indicate Dan Savage has been slated to head up a television program based on his life. Though his name might not have household recognition across the U.S., his comments have frequently earned him the disdain of critics – and some with whom he might otherwise agree.

The outspokenly gay activist is not satisfied with merely touting the ostensible virtues of his own lifestyle choices; he repeatedly advocates pain and death for those who dare oppose his radical agenda.

Newsbusters compiled a truncated list of his objectionable remarks, including his daydreams about “f—king the s—t out of” former Sen. Rick Santorum and suggesting that another politician he opposed should be “dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

Savage, who has teamed up with the Obama administration to raise money for his social program, also infamously proclaimed his belief that “abortion should be mandatory for about 30 years” to address overpopulation concerns.

His new exposure via a personally tailored vehicle currently titled Family of the Year is sure to make the foul-mouthed activist even more recognizable. (Read more from “Disney Teams up with Hate-Filled, Profane Activist for New Sitcom” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

3 Year Old Cancer Patient Tells Friend She’s Going to Disneyland (+video)

Photo Credit: ABC News There’s nothing quite like a chat with a good friend to get you excited for an upcoming trip — even when that friend is 3 years old.

“Juni! You’re going to Disneeeylaaaand!” Violet, 3, squealed in a bon voyage video to her friend, Juniper, 3.

The girls were cancer treatment buddies battling retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that starts in the eye. They had similar requests for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Violet wanted to meet Mickey Mouse. And Juniper wanted to meet Minnie Mouse.

Violet went to Disneyland first, and when she heard her buddy Juniper was going, she wanted to send her off with a farewell video — while wearing a Cinderella costume, of course . . .

“Juni, I’m so happy your wish is coming true,” Violet said into the camera. “I love you.” (Read more about what the three-year old cancer patient did HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Why Did Disney Block God?

Photo Credit: Fox News

Photo Credit: Fox News

It turns out you can give thanks for a lot of different folks on the Disney Channel website – but you can’t thank God.

I received a Facebook message on Sunday from Julie Anderson, of Angier, North Carolina, a town located about 30 miles from Raleigh. Julie was writing to tell me about her daughter, Lilly.

Lilly celebrated her 10th birthday on Sunday. After church and a delicious lunch at the Golden Corral, the Andersons headed home – and Lilly made a beeline for the computer.

Now, Lilly loves the Disney Channel – and as she was browsing the channel’s website she noticed a question. The Disney Channel wanted to know what she was thankful for. So Lilly typed in her answer.

“God, my family, my church and my friends,” the 10-year-old wrote. Lilly pressed the return key and waited for her answer to appear on the website. But her response did not appear. Instead, a message written in red popped up on the screen.

“Please be nice!” the message read.

Read more from this story HERE.

Walt Disney Family Feud: Inside His Grandkids’ Weird, Sad Battle Over a $400 Million Fortune

Photo Credit: Gary TaxallBefore Walt Disney’s youngest daughter, Sharon Disney Lund, died in 1993 of breast cancer at age 56, her three grown children gathered in a North Hollywood office and were told about the vast fortune that awaited them. Brad and Michelle were the then-23-year-old twins from Sharon’s second marriage to Bill Lund, the real estate developer who scouted the 27,000 acres in Orlando that later would become Disney World, Walt’s second “Happiest Place on Earth” after Disneyland in Anaheim. And then there was Victoria Disney, then 27, the daughter adopted by Sharon (who herself was adopted) with her first husband, Robert Brown. All three already lived comfortably. But this was a whole other level of wealth on the table.

Per the terms of their combined trusts — today worth about $400 million — Walt Disney’s grandchildren were to receive 20 percent distributions, a good portion of it in Disney stock. The payouts were to be dispensed to the three children at the ages of 35, 40 and 45, once amounting to about $20 million (and now closer to $30 million) for each every five years. But there was one important caveat: Sharon empowered three trustees — including, at the time, ex-husband Bill and older sister Diane Disney Miller — to withhold distributions in the event the children did not demonstrate “maturity and financial ability to manage and utilize such funds in a prudent and responsible manner.”

The caveat would prove to have a catastrophic impact on the Lund branch of the Disney family. Its interpretation by the trustees on the twins’ 35th and 40th birthdays would lead to accusations of conspiracy and mental incompetence and would culminate in ugly depositions, complete with insinuations of incest, leading up to a two-week-long battle of a trial in December in Los Angeles Superior Court. On one side of the lawsuit is Brad, now 43; his lawyers; his father, Bill, 83; and his stepmother, Sherry Lund, Bill’s fifth wife. On the other: the three current trustees, each paid up to $1 million annually (and some years more) for their role, who counted Brad’s twin sister, Michelle, as a witness, and who were represented by lead attorney Peter Gelblum. Brad’s side was contesting the trustees’ rulings for his 35th and 40th birthday distributions that determined he lacked the mental abilities to oversee them. The trustees had reached the opposite conclusion about his twin sister, Michelle, awarding her millions on her birthday despite word of her history of drug addiction and a brain aneurysm in 2009 that had left her with uncertain mental abilities.

The heated testimony included Sherry accusing the trustees essentially of brainwashing her stepdaughter Michelle against her and Bill. She also blamed them for trying “to ruin our family” and attempting “to kill my husband over this,” as Gelblum probed whether Sherry was behind a “campaign to sue everyone who gets between [her] and Brad’s money.” For a $140 billion company built on appealing to families, the inheritance war has been an ugly sideshow. And it is a far cry from the way things used to be in the Disney dynasty.

Since Walt Disney died in 1966 at age 65, his two children, Diane and Sharon, shied away from Hollywood. Diane had seven children of her own, while Sharon — who briefly became a model and actress (she had a small role in the 1957 film Johnny Tremain) — settled into a comfortable life as a mother of three kids. Says Jim Korkis, who now writes for an all-things-Disney site called Mouse Planet: “When I worked at Walt Disney World and asked about Walt’s grandchildren, the response was, ‘They spend their time managing their portfolios.’ Walt was adamant about keeping his children and grandchildren away from the business.” With the exception of Walt’s nephew, Roy, who helped bring in Michael Eisner as CEO in 1984 to revitalize the company — and later fought unsuccessfully to remove him — the family largely has stayed away from corporate affairs, choosing to exert their wealth and power in other ways, including philanthropically.

Read more from this story HERE.