May 21, 2024

Did Disney own the rights to Sound of Freedom?

The success of Sound of Freedom has invited questions about its past connections to Disney: did the House of Mouse own the rights, and if so, did it shelve the movie? Here’s everything you need to know.

Sound of Freedom is a new thriller movie telling the true story of Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel), a federal agent who launched Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit organization focused on rescuing children from sex trafficking rings. 

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The film has been the talk of the town due to the controversy surrounding it and its unprecedented box office performance, earning third spot in the domestic charts just behind Indiana Jones 5 and Barbie.

Since dropping on July 4, a debate has emerged on social media in relation to Sound of Freedom’s distribution and its association with Disney – so, here’s what you need to know. 

Did Disney own the rights to Sound of Freedom?

Yes, Disney was the previous owner of the rights to Sound of Freedom after it completed its acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. 

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Even though the film only just hit cinemas last week, development on the script started all the way back in 2015. It was shot three years later, during which time a distribution deal was made with the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

But when the Disney-Fox merger went ahead and the House of Mouse took over the rights, the media giant shelved the project. What ensued was an alleged battle for the filmmakers to set Sound of Freedom, well, free. 

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The movie’s producer, Eduardo Verastegui, spoke about the passionate drive to get Tim Ballard’s story out there, telling the Washington Examiner that despite the film being finished in 2018, no one wanted to distribute it for years. 

The outlet stated that Netflix and Amazon passed, adding: “Every studio was worried about losing money.”

But this all changed in fall 2022, when Verastegui met with the CEO of Angel Studios, Neal Harmon, who co-founded the company alongside his brothers Jeffrey and Jordan.

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Although the Harmons are reported to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the studio is behind The Chosen, a TV series about the life of Jesus, the company isn’t formally associated with any specific religion. 

Angle Studios, which runs its own streaming service of the same name, uses equity crowdfunding to finance its projects, allowing investors the chance to buy shares in the firm and its productions. 

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And when the company showed Sound of Freedom to its investors, they were excited about the project – in March this year, Angel Studios agreed to distribute the film. 

Jordan Harmon told the outlet that in the space of less than 10 days, approximately 7,200 people invested $5 million to ensure the film went “out into the world.” 

So far, it appears they’re set to make a return on their investment, with Sound of Freedom surpassing expectations at the box office. 

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Why did Disney shelve Sound of Freedom?

Unfortunately, Disney hasn’t released an official statement explaining why it shelved Sound of Freedom, but there’s plenty of speculation about the situation online, with some suggesting it could be related to the controversy surrounding the film. 

As we explained in our article on the subject, there have been doubts about the legitimacy of OUR’s rescue missions, with a 2020 investigation led by Vice World News indicating a “divide between the group’s actual practices and some of its claimed successes.”

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At the time, the Attorney’s Office of Davis County, Utah, stated that OUR and Tim Ballard were under criminal investigation in relation to complaints that the organization had carried out illegal fundraising activities, although the investigation was dropped this year. 

YouTube/CBN News

Tim Ballard founded Operation Underground Railroad

But most alarming for many has been Sound of Freedom’s association with QAnon. Both Ballard and the actor who plays him, Jim Caviezel, previously shared their support for conspiracy theories born from the movement, which believes that Satanic elitists are operating a child sex trafficking ring and conspired against Donald Trump during his presidency. 

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In its review of the film, Rolling Stone wrote: “Over and over, the far right turns to these sordid fantasies about godless monsters hurting children. Now, as in the 1980s Satanic panic, they won’t even face the fact that most kids who suffer sexual abuse are harmed not by a shadowy cabal of strangers, but at the hands of a family member. 

“To know thousands of adults will absorb Sound of Freedom, this vigilante fever dream, and come away thinking themselves better informed on a hidden civilizational crisis… well, it’s profoundly depressing.”

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On the other side of the fence, those in support of Ballard, OUR, and Sound of Freedom have accused Disney of rejecting the distribution deal and the media of linking it to to prevent the truth from spreading to viewers across America.

Some go as far as to claim the House of Mouse is part of the so-called Satanic Hollywood elite. Taking to Twitter, one wrote: “Disney TURNED DOWN Sound of Freedom but made a satanic movie about a teenage girl having a baby with a devil. Why was DISNEY against fighting child trafficking but OK with satanism?!”

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Another, who shared an image of Ghislaine Maxwell at Disney, said: “Disney owned the rights to the newly released anti-child sex trafficking movie, The Sound of Freedom after it acquired Fox Studios. 

“However, Disney did not release the movie. But instead decided to fight back and forth with José Eduardo Verástegui Córdoba who then obtained the distribution rights to the movie and then took it over to Angel Studios so that the movie could finally be released and we the public would finally have the chance to see the movie after it ate dust for 5 years sitting on a shelf.”

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Tweet about Sound of Freedom and DisneyTwitter/Lily

And a third asked: “@Disney just wondering if you wanted to make a statement about the claims from the Sound of Freedom, people saying you stonewalled the release of their film. A lot of people would like to know your official position on this matter.”

That’s all we know about Disney’s former ownership of Sound of Freedom, but we’ll be sure to keep this post updated if the House of Mouse releases a statement on the matter. 

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If you want to see what all the fuss is about, Sound of Freedom is in cinemas in the US and Canada now. You can read more about the movie in the links below:

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