| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Disney CEO says company will ‘quiet the noise’ in culture wars, according to analyst note

Walt Disney (DIS.N) CEO Bob Iger told investors the company will “quiet the noise” in a culture war that has pitted social conservatives against the global media and entertainment conglomerate, according to an analyst note on Wednesday.

Iger’s brief statement, included in an analyst report from Needham media analyst Laura Martin, was part of an investors’ presentation on Tuesday at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in which the CEO also announced Disney will double its investment in theme parks and cruise ships over the next decade.

Disney has suffered a bruising battle that has played out in Florida and at box office, where it faced social media backlash over the casting of Halle Bailey, a Black actress, in the lead role of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.”

Several countries last year blocked the release of the Pixar Animation Studios film “Lightyear,” which depicts a same-sex couple sharing a brief kiss.

The entertainment company was thrust at the center of the nation’s culture wars in 2022, when it publicly criticized Florida legislation restricting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Governor Ron DeSantis responded by campaigning against “woke Disney,” and working with the state legislature to strip it of self-governing authority over the parks.

Florida and Disney are locked in a legal battle over the formation of the Central Florida Oversight District board, which assumed oversight of development in the nearly 25,000 acres (100 square kilometers) of property in and around Disney’s theme parks.

It is unclear how much of the $60 billion in new investment in parks will be spent in Florida, where Disney faces increased competition from rivals such as Universal Orlando Resort. Iger previously said the company planned to spend $17 billion in investment at Walt Disney World over the next 10 years.

Iger’s remarks about its content appear to mirror those he made at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April.

At the time, Iger was responding to an investor, who said Disney had evolved from “a place of magic for children” to an “ideological company serving the LGBTQ” community that promoted a “woke agenda.”

“Our primary mission needs to be to entertain … and to have a positive impact on the world,” Iger said at the time. “I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda-driven.”

In Orlando, Iger also told the investor group that Marvel Entertainment would reduce the pace of its releases, after having made too many films and television series, according to Needham’s report.

Pixar’s young directors will work with existing characters and stories, rather than developing original stories like “Elemental.”

“Elemental” initially struggled at the box office, with a weak $30 million opening weekend. It eventually grossed $486.7 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.

Disney could not immediately be reached for comment.


  • Reuters