MEMORY-HOLED: The great cancellation: why megabucks TV shows are vanishing without a trace.

Two years ago, Nautilus was big news. A vast, expensive Disney+ prequel to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nautilus promised to tell the early story of Captain Nemo as he embarked on an epic submarine adventure, seeking revenge on his former captors the East India Company. A colossal replica submarine was built. Several soundstages on Australia’s Gold Coast were given over to it. Hundreds of crew members were hired alongside hundreds of extras. Filming took almost a year. The Queensland government claimed that the series would inject A$96m into the local economy. It looked certain to be a hit; an exciting new big-budget spectacle, underpinned with contemporary themes, based on a legendary piece of intellectual property. Nautilus couldn’t go wrong.

Except nobody is going to see Nautilus because, even though it has already been made, Disney+ has decided not to stream it. Clearly, this is unusual. The television industry has a long history of dropping previously announced shows for a variety of reasons – 2004’s animated Popetown was canned by the BBC after complaints from Catholics, 2017’s The Cops was axed after reports of creator Louis CK’s sexual misconduct came to light, and 2021’s Ultimate Slip ’N Slide was cancelled after the crew all came down with a highly infectious variant of explosive diarrhoea that can be spread through tainted water. But Disney+ has a different reason for getting rid of Nautilus: it was axed as a cost-cutting exercise.

In May, Disney+ announced a content removal plan designed to cut US$1.5bn worth of content, meaning it substantially reduces the company’s value, giving it a lot less tax to pay.

There’s also this angle: Investors Sue Disney Over Alleged Chapek Era “Cost-Shifting Scheme” to Hide Streaming Losses. “The suit claims that company executives hid the expense and difficulty of maintaining subscriber growth as it suffered “staggering costs” to create content. In an effort to hide losses, the complaint claims, former chief executive Bob Chapek, his lieutenant Kareem Daniel and former CFO Christine McCarthy aired The Mysterious Benedict Society and Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. — which were supposed to be Disney+ originals — on the Disney Channel to make the streaming service appear more successful than it actually was.”

Whatever you think is going on at Disney, the truth is probably worse.