Things were going great for Disney and Disney+. Bob Iger’s plan to bring in Jon Favreau to save Star Wars had actually worked, and The Mandalorian had seemed to be both the catalyst for exciting new content on the streaming service as well as a peace offering to the fans who had left after the lackluster sequel trilogy. However, the success of The Mandalorian had grown resentment between the Kathleen Kennedy Lucasfilm acolytes and the true-to-George Lucas Favreau/Filoni team that mostly worked separate from Lucasfilm proper. But the praise for The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda was resounding, the views were phenomenal (and greatly needed), and a female character had come about that was already a huge success like Rey had been before The Last Jedi.
Played by former professional fighter, Gina Carano, the character was genuine and authentically tough without diminishing her femininity. She didn’t feel contrived or all-powerful, but rather came across as the type of personality that one could easily root for. It was a tremendous success for both Favreau and Filoni, as well as the actress playing her. In response to the support of viewers and fans, a plan was made to give Carano her own spinoff within the “Favloni” Star Wars Universe: Rangers of the New Republic. They would additionally double her time on The Mandalorian Season 2.
Everything was going well until late summer of 2020. It was then that Carano was given a demand by Twitter users that she put pronouns in her Twitter bio that were part of an online trend that attempted to provide respect and/or clarity for individuals identifying as transsexual. The actress playing Cara Dune responded that she respected transsexual persons, but that she had no plans to put preferred pronouns in her online bio. Unfortunately for her, she had been caught in the maelstrom of Disney’s defense against online outrage mobs they feared could sidetrack Disney+ with boycotts for any number of reasons. It was for this reason earlier in the year they had declared a Splash Mountain change from historical slave folklore to Princess and the Frog (in order to try to avoid a Black Lives Matters protest against Disney+). And so with Carano now in the crosshairs of a different, but sometimes overlapping, sociopolitical movement, Disney provided Carano with a statement that she would need to post.
But Gina Carano declined.
For Lucasfilm employees sympathetic to the online outrage, this was a grave sin. For the Walt Disney Company, this was an actress in rebellion of their edict… and potentially a threat to them should Disney+ face an outcry. But with the most contentious US election in decades, Lucasfilm and Disney would have to wait to pull the trigger. They needed to avoid anything that could derail The Mandalorian Season 2. Quietly, contingency plans were made to strip Carano of her new series, but Jon Favreau is rumored to have stepped in on her behalf.
For those who don’t know, Jon Favreau is the director and actor who had brought Robert Downey Jr back from the depths. He had cast the then-struggling actor in Ironman, kicking off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and providing the blueprint for Kevin Feige. RDJ had been essentially cancelled at a time before cancelling, deplatforming, and depersoning was in vogue. Indeed, Favreau had become known in the industry for being level-headed, anti-drama, and adept at navigating the abrasiveness of Hollywood with aplomb. When Will Ferrell had been a horrendous celebrity to work with on Elf (because Ferrell had come from raunchy comedies and was terrified this cutesy Christmas movie was about to end his career), Favreau had avoided any badmouthing… even as Ferrell had demanded the director be kicked to the curb if there ever was to be a sequel.
But the calls for Gina Carano’s career decapitation continued to grow on Twitter. #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter off-and-on throughout The Mandalorian Season 2 and beyond. Carano made comments about the US election, which were perceived to be pro-Republican. While her co-star, Pedro Pascal, had also made political statements comparing America to Nazi Germany, Carano had placed herself into complete opposition with the Hollywood elite political structure… not completely divorced from the reason of the Chinese Communist Party wanting a certain president out of power and Hollywood wanting desperately to stay on the good side of the CCP in order to grow their market in China. By November, Disney and Lucasfilm top brass were preparing to remove Carano from her character.
A funny thing was happening though. While all of the Twitter kerfuffle was occurring, and while Carano was making R2D2 jokes online, she and her character were swiftly becoming more popular than The Mandalorian himself. In fact, online traffic, internet searches, and buzz for the characters of the show were all indicating that the only character more popular than Cara Dune was Baby Yoda. Other actors who had been around Carano also began defending her — Carl Weathers put out a rare statement of support. Weathers is still great friends with Sylvester Stallone, and neither of them like cancel culture one bit. Weathers had originally landed the role of Apollo Creed for having the gall to criticize Stallone’s acting when Weather auditioned for the role. Stallone was impressed by his moxie, and Weather respected the heck out of Stallone for hiring him even after critique.
That brings us pretty close to the present, and “wow” did Disney ever mess everything up regarding the execution of their plan! Yes, they had been planning to let Carano go once she made a significant enough faux pas to provide them a smokescreen. But our sources now say that when Carano posted about the dangerous and slippery slope of hating your neighbors (with a Holocaust basis), things got messy over at Kathleen Kennedy’s Lucasfilm. Somehow, the plan went awry. Instead of anything official, Carano was let go via an angst-field leak to a trade publication… and without Carano even receiving notice prior. Simultaneously, her talent agency – which is third party to Disney – dropped her from their services in what appeared to be back-door coordinated efforts to destroy any chance for a comeback.
Furthermore, and we can’t fully corroborate this at this time, we do not believe that Favreau was consulted or knew that Lucasfilm was about to take the action that day. Normally with an action at this level of public relations importance, Disney proper would be the ones to do the deed, and an official statement would be placed. When Roseanne Barr was fired, it was Bob Iger – then CEO of the company – that explained the decision. When James Gunn was fired (and then rehired) over issues concerning pedophilia, it was Disney brass that handled the decisions. NEVER does the Walt Disney Company take consequential terminations of popular actors or directors through a leak with a poorly-worded, anonymous source. Even when John Lasseter was let go from Pixar for sexual misconduct, both he and Bob Iger coordinated their public statements with laser-point, PR-filtered accuracy.
It's also a lesson that John Lasseter used and abused the power and allure of that technology to manipulate, coerce and harass young actresses.
his behavior forced him to leave the company.
careful what your north star is. Where and how you align is also a lesson it intself
— . (@FiscalSuspicion) February 14, 2021
Things got even worse for Disney, though. Once #CancelDisneyPlus was trending, the heat began to rise. It was especially pronounced given that this leak and anonymous confirmation had occurred on the day of an investor’s call. This is simply not how Disney does things, and it indicated to the higher ups that Lucasfilm could not be trusted. We’ve received rumors that a person whose name the public would likely recognize even gave ultimatums over the past weekend that Disney must clean up the way Lucasfilm is run or they will walk away from Star Wars. Meanwhile, the thing Disney had strove to avoid at all costs – a call for boycott – was now realized with #CancelDisneyPlus having trended number one on Twitter at various times, despite potentially having been manipulated to be difficult to locate.
Further screwing up the House of Mouse, Carano was picked up by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s company to direct, film, and star in her own movie. This meant that the controversy would not go away and she would not be cancelled. This was worse than when Tokyo told Disney to take a hike on changing their version of Splash Mountain (ensuring that Bre’r Rabbit was never going away). The situation continued to spiral as UFC president, Dana White, spoke out against those trying to cancel Gina Carano… and targeting his angst at Ariel Helwani, an ESPN reporter who covers the UFC. This then sucked Disney back into the controversy as subsidiary ESPN made a public response defending Helwani. Helwani, a person of Jewish background, had made the situation be about antisemitism, while at the same time, devout Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro is the entrepreneur hiring Carano to star in a film. As you can see, this is just a huge mess for Disney, and the situation threatens to continue spiraling out of their control.
For Chapek, there are quite a few lessons to be learned. First, the PR people at Lucasfilm, and to a lesser degree Marvel and ESPN, are often out of control. The PR teams for Disney Parks, Disney Animation, etc, would never allow their subsidiaries to exacerbate a damaging situation. Second, Chapek is going to have to learn how to navigate keeping the company out of the political sphere — thus far, under his rule Disney has become too partisan, and it’s damaging its potential revenues. It is not a wise idea to have hyper-popular celebrities leave your brand and then hired by your potential competition. Chapek knows that companies which seem to be no competition in the present can quickly become formidable if you send your assets their way. And now that The Mandalorian / Star Wars have become part of the political landscape through Disney’s mismanagement, Disney will need to find ways to make amends. If the actress you called abhorrent has her merchandise skyrocketing in value, the PR person calling her names might not be on your financial side.
For Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, they’ve likewise been put in an awful spot where they’re stuck no matter what they do. Tensions over this situation within Disney’s sphere are high. Nobody is enjoying being sucked into this utterly epic blunder.
We’ve covered a lot… some of this has come through sources that we can’t independently verify, but we think have enough gravitas to report. If we find out otherwise, we’ll let you know, but as of now this is the story of how Disney screwed up the Gina Carano situation to the best of our knowledge. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered blog that objectively covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.