Bob Chapek has been ousted as CEO of the Walt Disney Company and people seem damn happy about it. Stock prices have skyrocketed, several creatives are breathing a sigh of relief, and there seems to be a renewed vigor among the masses.
I’m no business expert, but you only have to glance at the headlines and broader conversations to figure out that Chapek had to go. Not just for the company, but for those who worked under him and were continually subjected to a constant stream of bullshit. He’s gone, replaced by longtime predecessor Bob Iger who’s ready to right the wary ship.
Disney has had a tough time in recent months. It remains one of the largest corporations on the planet, but under Chapek’s leadership it has gone from controversy to controversy, constantly having to put out PR fires and never having the time to reset its creative vision. Disney Plus continues to operate at a loss, and Chapek’s misguided formation of the Media and Entertainment Distribution division has failed to improve operations or revenue.
It was all a bit of a lost cause, and many of those efforts are in danger of being undone when Iger returns to the scene and focuses on storytelling. After just a year or so in retirement, the man who once said he would never return to the position is back, likely having no choice after watching things fall apart throughout 2022. The man who oversaw the acquisition of Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Fox and the company’s transition into the age of the internet and social media walked away hoping that legacy would continue, but it was all wrecked in a mess of bad decisions and political storms that made even the most die-hard fans roll their eyes.
Chapek was front and center in response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” as he continued to push donations to parties and politicians who were funding laws that actively went against Disney’s inclusive values. It took significant public outcry and internal outcry for him to move on his position, and despite apologizing for this ignorance, the damage had been done, and Florida quickly passed a law giving Disney special tax status in Florida as for his theme parks he made it terribly clear. that profits outweighed progress. What is the use of defending representation when you stab us in the back for pennies? Kids love Disney, and those who grow up to be queer will find that their identity isn’t respected, just a demographic on a spreadsheet to be set aside whenever it’s convenient. Chapek embodied that perspective and so many of his actions doomed the fate we watched unfold.
I haven’t even mentioned the high-profile lawsuit with Scarlett Johansson over her Black Widow salary or the current state of Marvel and Star Wars, both of which have pushed quantity over quality in recent years, with the MCU languishing in post. – Late game malaise as fans struggle to interact with the imminent arrival of Secret Wars. Oh, and he was also the guy who pushed Turning Red, Raya and the Last Dragon, and many more into streaming instead of a traditional theatrical release as part of a highly conservative release strategy that robbed the blockbusters of their full glory. He hurt these projects and the creatives behind them, and it’s unclear whether this corporate move was even the right one. Even in the context of a pandemic, Chapek has made many obvious and clumsy mistakes.
Iger’s strategy is old-fashioned Disney through and through, and hopefully a positive sign of change to come: “It’s my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are,” employees said (via BBC) following his reinstatement. Chapek made no such statement, which speaks louder than he probably ever intended. I’m not rooting for the success of a multibillion-dollar company, but the agency of writers, animators, designers and so many other people who work under his umbrella now enjoy greater freedom of expression and hopefully a CEO who won’t sell them down the river for political hotspots. They deserve better, and hopefully Disney’s future will be a little brighter under the returning leadership of someone who gets it.
Next: Strange World Review – A touching but predictable environmental adventure