When Disney+ first came onto the market, one of their biggest projects was the “Lizzie McGuire” revival, starring Hilary Duff as the titular character.
The show faced it’s first snag in January, when the original series creator, Terri Minsky, stepped down, putting a hold on production.
“Fans have a sentimental attachment to Lizzie McGuire and high expectations for a new series,” a Disney spokesperson told TVLine in January. “After filming two episodes, we concluded that we need to move in a different creative direction and are putting a new lens on the series.”
The show was rumored to focus on Lizzie in her 30s, working as an interior designer and dealing with relationships and adulthood. Many of the actors from the original Disney Channel series were planned to return, as well as the classic animated Lizzie. The series was going to be filled with nostalgia and appeal to the same generation that grew up with teenage Lizzie. After Minsky stepped down, industry insiders speculated that the show would come to a halt altogether, as the content might be too mature for Disney.
In late February, Duff reiterated similar feelings. On Feb. 25, the actress took to Instagram to express her opinion on the subject.
Duff posted a screenshot to her Instagram story of a news headline about the planned Disney+ “Love, Simon” series. Now titled “Love, Victor,” the show moved to Hulu after it was deemed not “family-friendly” enough for the Disney-branded streaming site. In her post, Duff circled the words “family-friendly” in the headline and wrote above it “Sounds familiar.”
While Duff was clearly displeased with Minsky’s removal, and the direction Disney was trying to push the show, Minsky spoke out on the subject and her hopes for the remainder of the project.
“I am so proud of the two episodes we did,” Minsky told Variety in an interview. “Hilary has a grasp of Lizzie McGuire at 30 that needs to be seen. It’s a wonderful thing to watch. I would love the show to exist, but ideally I would love it if it could be given that treatment of going to Hulu and doing the show that we were doing. That’s the part where I am completely in the dark. It’s important to me that this show was important to people. I felt like I wanted to do a show that was worthy of that kind of devotion.”
The time-out on “Lizzie McGuire” and the removal of the “Love, Simon” series would not be the first time that Disney tried to manipulate its employees and direct their content towards a very specific demographic. Disney has a history of strict policy and regulations. Many Disney stars and production staff have spoken out on their feelings of being stifled by the media giant. Upon their return to the spotlight, The Jonas Brothers commented on Disney’s impact on their band and music growing up.
“It really stunted our growth,” Kevin Jonas said to Insider about Disney back in May of 2019. “Literally, we couldn’t evolve because of it.” All the brothers spoke out on outgrowing Disney’s values and crumbling when faced with the pressure of adhering to their clean-cut, “family-friendly” vision.
Disney has only just breached the LGBTQ+ representation barrier by including an openly gay character in their new animated flick “Onward,” and with their first gay main character, Cyrus Goodman in the hit series “Andi Mack.” The company clearly has a lot of work to do as far as being representative of people and relationships in the 21st century.
In a time when kids are exposed to more and more pain and misinformation online about their identities, and when older generations are trying to fight for equality, it seems like Disney should be making more of an effort to be inclusive and representative in their content for all their viewers. Limiting shows like “Lizzie McGuire” and the “Love, Simon” series from depicting more mature themes will undoubtedly negatively impact their sales and their fanbase. There are other platforms, like Hulu and Netflix, that have been making more progress when it comes to inclusivity work, so Disney and Disney+ are doing themselves a disservice by butting heads with their creative teams and actors.
These recent changes to the Disney+ line-up have fans questioning what will become of other promised revivals, like “The Proud Family.” For now, millennial viewers might have to rely on other services, like HBO Max and Peacock that are streaming reboots like “Friends” and “Gossip Girl,” for a healthy dose of nostalgia, because Disney’s strict “family-friendly” policies are not giving audiences what they want.
Julia Mancini is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.