In spite of supposedly being the fifth most-watched children's program (according to Parrot Analytics via Yahoo), Disney’s Star vs. the Forces of Evil is ending with Season 4, according to TV Line. This puts into some kind of context the fact that the announced Star Butterfly balloonicle (Macy's term for a balloon-based vehicle) didn’t appear in last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - Unlikely Comics Match-Ups, And Thanksgiving Balloons"). I have no idea how much it costs to sponsor a balloonicle, but a new Macy’s balloon runs around $190,000 (including the parade fee) while a new float can range between $30,000 and $100,000. So it’s understandable Disney didn’t want to spend that kind of money to promote a series that would be ending in a couple of months,
Not renewing a program this popular seems like they’re giving the property a premature burial, but then, Disney rarely gives a (non-preschool) TV series a fourth season (which naturally is known among Disney fans as “the 4th Season Rule”). Disney undoubtedly does this for economic reasons; I have no idea what they are, but I would imagine it has something to do with metrics and merchandising* revenues. And the fact a series is no longer in production needn't have anything to do with its popularity; Disney’s Gravity Falls which ended in 2016 after two seasons, is #6 on the same Most Popular Kids Shows In America list.
The series will be missed by me though. Like Steven Universe, Star Vs. The Forces Of Evil started out as a simple 11-minute monster-of-the-week comedy, and like SU, SVTFOE got stranger and more sophisticated as it went along and frequently featured groundbreaking content. In 2017 the episode "Just Friends" featured the first animated gay kiss on Disney (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - Toys R Steve"). And in "Princess Turdina," Star's best friend Marco went undercover at a school for princesses where he discovered that he was perfectly comfortable wearing a poofy purple gown (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - An Unexpected Princess").
Both episodes received a great deal of media attention. In comparison, there’s “Ransomgram” from this season where Star (who has a boyfriend) looked appreciatively at a warrior queen character with flushed cheeks and pink, purple and blue rainbows (the colors of the bisexual flag which I’ll confess I didn’t know was a thing until I started writing this) reflected in her eyes. And while this received a lot of positive reactions on social media, in the news media it only generated exactly one actual headline, in the UK’s Pink News; Star vs. the Forces of Evil’s main character is bisexual, say Disney fans, And they were to do all this in a way that avoided alienating parents and staying accessible to its intended core audience; kids 6-11.
But equally interesting to me was how often the series subverted genre expectations and did the unexpected. When the series began, Star fought the monster army of a comic villain who coveted her magic wand and spell book. But in short order, we learn the comic villain was the victim of abuse and that Star didn't need either item to do magic. She also became an advocate for monsters’ rights in her kingdom after learning her kingdom was built on land stolen from them. Then after finding that she had no legitimate claim to it, Star restores the rightful ruler to the throne. Who immediately turns the kingdom over to the mistreated monsters, leaving the humans homeless. You would think someone somewhere would have objections to a kids cartoon about a magical princess being a fantasy allegory about racism, colonialism, and reparations. But apparently not.
So while I’m sad to see SVTFOE go, I realize it can never really be “gone,” as it is after all a Disney property. Now that the Fox has finally merged with Disney they’ll be preoccupied with all of the new properties they have to exploit; like the 15 major movie franchises that Disney owns after buying Fox, from 'Avatar' to 'X-Men.' But it’s pretty safe to assume over time it will be increasingly appreciated, and in a decade or so it will have some sort of revival, and I want to be there to see it.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.