Bob Chapek was appointed CEO in April of 2020. While his predecessor, Robert Iger, stuck around until December of 2021, Chapek was pretty much the head honcho and the premier decision-maker. Despite a vote in June earlier this year by the board of directors to keep him on for three more years, the company stunned the hell out of everyone when on November 20th, they announced that Chapek had been fired, and effective immediately, Iger was called back in to take over for the next two years. Chapek’s reign as Disney’s chief operating officer lasted 31 months, 8 of them solo. This rivals Ron Miller for shortest tenure as CEO when his ran from March of 1983 to September of 1984 for a total of 18 months…and he was Walt’s son-in-law! So what the fudge happened?
There’s no easy answer to this, sadly. But it helps to have some context. Michael Eisner was Disney’s CEO immediately following Miller, when the company was on the cusp of being greenmailed out of existence by Saul Steinberg. It was more or less still functioning as the company Walt ran, making cartoons, live action films, and theme parks. But Eisner modernized it into the 90’s, initiating the “Disney Decade”. In 1994, between CFO Frank Wells’ death and the failures of Disney’s America and Euro Disneyland, Eisner lost his appetite for big, expensive projects, and resorted to micromanaging and panicked cost-cutting measures, all of which caused public perception of the company to go into a tailspin. Much like Richard Nixon, Eisner thought it better to exit on his own terms, rather than waiting to be ousted by his peers, and resigned in September of 2005.
Formerly an executive for ABC, Iger worked his way up the corporate ladder after Disney bought the station in 1995. Just five years later, he was promoted to COO, effectively making him second only to Eisner. Once he was made CEO upon Eisner’s resignation, he showed shareholders and fans his resolve to the company’s integrity by repairing the strained relations with Pixar, negotiating the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and terminating the oft-maligned parade of direct-to-video sequels. Though his 15 years in charge were not without failures, he seemed to understand the necessary role artistry played in a media company. But more than anything, Iger learned under Eisner’s tutelage the importance of modernization, growth, and expansion. As a result, he brought Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox under the Disney umbrella with increasingly mixed reactions among the public.
By contrast, Chapek started at Disney’s home entertainment division in 1993, worked his way through consumer products, and was made executive of the parks and resorts by 2015. These three branches tend to function more on branding and marketing rather than artistic creativity. By the time he was in charge of the theme parks, the cry of “Stop making every ride based on an I.P.!” was already a well-trod tune. But it became clear Chapek’s credo of “If it’s based on one of our franchises, people will buy it!” was the fiscally safe bet, and as long as profits continued to rise, the board of directors would keep him on.
In February of 2020, Iger announced his retirement for the end of 2021, and Chapek was elected onto the board in April. And since then, a multitude of headlines brought greater and greater scrutiny onto the organization, which is most likely why Chapek got ejected from his role so suddenly.
Now, before I start, let me make something transparently clear: many of these issues may not have been Chapek’s fault, at least directly. Many of these issues were products of Iger’s era that didn’t get completed until after he left, or were the result of another executive like Parks and Resorts head, Josh D’Amaro. Credit at the Walt Disney Company tends to be typically murky between CEO’s assimilating praise and ire from consumers and their desire to suppress individuals to avoid paying them more (a phenomenon that sadly goes back even to Walt’s day). Still, Chapek was the boss of bosses, and he had the power to mitigate any issues that came up. It was his house to keep in order, and his failure to do so led him here.
I listed 16 controversies (Let that number really sink in…16! In two years!!!) I felt could be attributed to Chapek himself, or at least situations he could have prevented and thus, I polled them on two Facebook groups so I didn’t have to rely purely in my gut on which were the worst. And since this is a top ten list only, I should at least let you folks know what I had as the 6 honorable mentions that didn’t make it.
The Scarlett Johansson lawsuit. The MCU film Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, was set to be released theatrically in early 2020, but the pandemic delayed its release. Chapek, focused on the future of digital entertainment, opted instead to release it on Disney+. Johansson’s contract promised her her salary plus a bonus in ticket sales, but being on the streaming service meant no ticket sales, which cost her tens of millions in lost revenue. When she announced her intent to sue, the studio released a public statement declaring she showed “callous disregard” for the effects of COVID and announced her $20 million salary in a transparent attempt to publicly shame her. Both parties eventually settled.
The Premier Access fee on Disney+. Desperate to recoup for lost ticket sales during the pandemic, the company began releasing its tentpole films onto the streaming service, and starting with 2020’s Mulan remake, charging viewers (already paying $8 a month for Disney entertainment) the Premier Access fee of $30. The fee would drop off after the movie spent 3 months of being on the service, but this fee left a bad taste since Mulan already had numerous political controversies surrounding it and failed critically. Cruella, Black Widow, Jungle Cruise, and Raya and the Last Dragon all indulged the Premier Access fee, but was retired pretty quickly.
D23 2022’s underwhelming rollout. D23 tends to be a great cornucopia of announcements for upcoming movies, shows, and attractions, but for this past year’s convention, the news was pretty light: unusual for one commemorating the company’s 100th year anniversary. But what got a lot of people curious was theme park chairman Josh D’Amaro and Co-executive for Disney Animation Jennifer Lee took valuable stage time speculating two hypothetical ideas as a sort of litmus test for audiences rather than concrete announcements.
Closing Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky was an animation branch belonging to 21st Century Fox, responsible for Spies in Disguise, Ferdinand, Rio, Robots, Horton Hears a Who!, The Peanuts Movie, and most notably, the Ice Age franchise. In April of 2021, the studio was shuttered, given only a two-month heads up, and its staff of 450 were laid off. The rights of the previous movies went to Disney, and to really twist the knife, Disney contracted a Canadian studio to make a Disney+ exclusive spinoff from Ice Age, The Adventures of Buck Wild.
Refusing to release Pixar films theatrically. The COVID pandemic forced Disney to make some tough calls, even if they don’t make much sense. Raya was released simultaneously into theaters the same day as it was on Disney+, while Encanto had a month-long engagement in cinemas before leaping over. But Pixar’s Soul, Luca, and Turning Red were all dropped exclusively onto the streaming service. Just twenty years ago, Pixar was considered their only saving grace during their second dark age, and now being cast aside without being seen on the big screens. On top of that, none of them came with the Premier Access charge, leading to many speculating if Disney was intentionally devaluing them. Even Pixar’s heads and its artists were mostly in the dark over Disney’s intentions. A Pixar film eluded theater screens until Lightyear in June of 2022.
Ending Magical Express. In 2005, Disney contracted the bus company Mears to provide complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World and its cruise lines. This spared visitors from driving in a strange city, renting a car, and paying for expensive taxis. Plus, it had the added benefit of ensuring guests couldn’t leave and spend money elsewhere…but guests seemed to enjoy the free, hassle-less amenity. But due the strained budget of the pandemic, the decision was made to axe the service, ending January 10th, 2022.
With all those out of the way, let’s get into the ten controversies as voted on by a jury of my peers!
10. Walt Disney World’s lackluster 50th anniversary celebration
Disney has been infatuated with anniversary celebrations since Disneyland’s 35th in 1990. It creates an urgency in travelers to relish this limited-time fête and especially indulge in time-stamped souvenirs. Plus it adds a sense of gravitas: its increasing age instills a feeling of resilience, reliability, and with it, nostalgia. When Disneyland, their oldest park, turned 50 in 2005, they splurged by redecorating all five castles at all their resorts around the world and added – or at least copy/pasted – and renovated several attractions, including opening the brand new Hong Kong Disneyland and cruise lines shifting to service the west coast for awhile. It was a big honkin’ deal for the Happiest Homecoming on Earth. So when WDW hit their golden anniversary on October 1st of 2021, what happened?
Two new fireworks shows, a new ride at Epcot themed to Ratatouille, the daytime kite show at Animal Kingdom that became Tiktok fodder (And not for good reasons), and 50 small golden statues of random Disney characters interspersed throughout the parks.
Now, let’s be fair: Disney had a LOT more planned. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Journey of Water, Epcot’s Future World overhaul, the PLAY pavilion, the Galactic Starcruiser hotel, and the Tron-themed roller coaster were all scheduled to be ready to go by then, but the pandemic shutdown really delayed most of these projects, though with the PLAY pavilion getting shelved completely. Still, like for Disneyland’s 50th, the event is set to last for 18 months, ending March of 2023, and they’re gunning to get these open by then, so they can seem as though they were here for the celebration. But others, like Epcot’s ambitious overhaul, is getting repeatedly culled in quality to the point where we may be getting 50% of what we were initially promised, and even then, not in time for the end of the celebration.
The moral of the story: Never bite off more than you can chew. We understand even a three-month shutdown of the parks caused work to stall, as even construction workers shouldn’t be exposed to viral pandemics. But even if they hadn’t, it’s unlikely they would have completed all their projects by October 1st. Disney’s had this recurring issue of announcing grandiose plans and its final result often being a pale imitation, even if the plans don’t include groundbreaking technology for some time now, and it’s getting sad. Because at the end of the day, it means budget is the be-all, end-all on theme park attractions. They never seem to consider coughing up a few hundred thousand more might give that new ride or show enough of a boost to pay off in dividends years down the road.
Kitetails was especially disappointing, as making durable, functioning kites is not a recent, hi-tech phenomenon. Even an extra month of test runs would have allowed them to find ways to build sturdier, less accident-prone kites.
9. The Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel
Ever since the buyout of Lucasfilm in 2012, Iger and Kathleen Kennedy sought to take advantage of the highly, highly lucrative Star Wars franchise and run full tilt with it. Despite the infamous toxic fandom, fans have proven time and again that the franchise is hardcore ride or die for them.
Because of this, the initial plans announced for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge included a land so interactive, so intuitive, that your exploits would follow you between experiences. The specific example cited was depending on how successful you and your crew navigated Smuggler’s Run, would affect how cast and characters in the area would regard you. Despite its hefty promises, the crowds, particularly in Anaheim, were alarmingly thin. And more importantly, those interactive perks were noticeably absent. But this was in 2019 and before Chapek was promoted, so let’s skip ahead.
Disney had also announced a new deluxe hotel themed to A Galaxy Far, Far Away where unlike the hotels built in the past five decades, the place would be so immersive, you’d might not even see Mickey Mouse himself or hear his name for your entire stay. Surprisingly, they kept to this promise, and in 2021, the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel started accepting reservations. Unlike a stay at the Grand Floridian or All-Star Music Resorts, you buy a wholesale, pre-set 2-day package so you and your guests could LARP every minute of every day until it was time to go home. However, concerns began in August of 2021 when the resort’s prices were announced, and that just two adults alone would cost nearly five grand. A literally astronomical sum, even for Disney. That December, a trailer dropped and things went from bad to worse.
The low-quality footage showed a hotel that looked more like a knock-off of a Star Wars thing than the genuine article, many griped. Its amenities were not shown. The light saber training looked meager. The costumes and makeup looked cheap. It was such a trainwreck that about a week later, Disney pulled the trailer after witnessing a colossal amount of cancelations (Of course, no one at Disney released any statistics…but lots of curious Star Wars fans saw a lot of openings for reservations crop up. Coincidence? Unlikely.)
The moral of the story: You should get what you pay for. The idea of an experimental cosplay hotel experience is not without merit. Like, at all. And while no one expected it to be cheap in a park that charges you $250 to build your own fricking light saber, $5,000 was just north of bonkers. But even that didn’t deter fans, as clearly there were plenty who expected Disney to deliver on their renowned quality experience. How could they not at five grand?
From what I understand, since the hotel opened in March of 2022, it seems to be a mixed bag. The Google Reviews show enough 1-star reviews to bring its score down to a 4.1 out of 5, and it’s hard to get a true bead onto whether or not the overall guest experience follows. But first impressions matter, and setting the price restrictively high along with the confusingly underwhelming trailer caused real issues.
8. The hiring freeze and layoffs
In a move that came mere days before Chapek’s firing, Disney saw a dismal sign: their stock price hit a 52-week low and lost over a billion dollars from the streaming service, their quarterly report claimed. Chapek soon released a memo claiming the company was to initiate a hiring freeze in some departments and lay off others.
The memo outlined several suggestions to limit cost expenditure, such as limiting business travel and advance approval for in-person meetings. In addition, Chapek set up a “taskforce” between his CFO (Christine McCarthy, who once was reported as wanting to raise food prices at the parks and shrink the portions as well as guest’s waistlines. Seriously) and General Counsel to seek out and find costs that could be cut to make the company more streamlined. But far and away, the hiring freeze and layoffs was the most alarming news.
The moral of the story: Maybe don’t screw over the little guy when things get tough. Sadly, this is a pathetically common game in corporate capitalism: protect the executives and their bonuses at all costs, and when things get dicey, just fire all the peons who are barely making enough to live. Not only did Chapek initiate this foolhardy taskforce with literally the top financial position at the company (basically “Do your job, but with more ruthlessness!”), but since his start, he brought on board Kareem Daniels as the head of Disney Media and Entertainment Division. It was essentially his job to mediate all creative decisions from a fiscal perspective. And the man currently has a net worth of $5 million.
Let me rephrase it this way: the company who was started by a guy whose credo was basically “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we did this” was now being run by a handful of highly paid money guys whose jobs were to determine where money was being spent and where to cut costs, who think the minimum wage workers are where it’s at. No wonder Iger fired Kareem the day after Chapek was ousted.
Good thing Chapek never implemented some stupid blue check system. That would’ve been dumb.
7. The reservation system
One of the best things I loved about going to Walt Disney World was having the freedom of choice. If things got too crowded at Magic Kingdom, just park hop over the Animal Kingdom. Want to see Fantasmic! after your day at Epcot? Go for it. Want dinner at Be Our Guest after you spent all day on Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Roller Coaster? You do you. But when Walt Disney World reopened after its closure for the pandemic in July of 2020, they also rolled out a new reservation system. What this meant was now days, even weeks ahead of time, when you buy your park tickets, you also have to determine which park you want to go to on what day. Disney’s official explanation was that it was meant to reduce crowds and avoid filling parks to capacity.
See, Disney got bit by the reservation bug a long time ago, knowing what to predict and when to predict it, as chaos and unpredictabilities are unwelcome in the financial world. They knew numerous guests liked to plan their trips ahead of time, but this mentality left out the subset of guests that preferred to wing it, and before Chapek moved in, Disney was already demanding not just hotel or dining reservations, but also fastpass reservations, too. But now to plan a trip on a macro scale seemed excessive.
While it’s not a bad idea to exert some parameters to determine how your business is going to run, it took some control away from guests. It gave Disney a clearer idea of how much food and merchandise to order for upcoming times, which means no more running out of inventory. It seemed to be just that much more dystopian.
The moral of the story: You can only control your customers so much. Sure, it sucks when the park fills to capacity before you have a chance to get there, or your favorite entrée is out of stock, or there are no more Fastpasses to be dispersed, but the planning ahead aspect takes away some of the impulsivity and makes contingency planning that much more difficult.
Besides, this kind of “big brothering” is what causes some to retreat to their log cabins and live off the grid. And Disney using it to pre-determine how guests will spend their vacations to this degree is a mite too restrictive.
6. Rushing to reopen the parks during the pandemic
Bob started just as COVID was starting to become a big deal in the U.S. Before long, hundreds were dying from this virus that seemed to target the elderly and the poor. The then-president, one Donald Trump, made it no secret he not only thought was the virus was no big deal, but that it might even have been a plot by democrats to hinder his presidency. Before long, right-wing pundits and the republican voter base ran with the idea that the virus was a hoax, the vaccine was dangerous, and the economic shutdown was far worse than a high death toll. Disneyland and Walt Disney World both closed in March of 2020, but Florida reopened a measly three months later, while California wouldn’t reopen until April of 2021.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, believed in the seriousness of the virus, and kept numerous businesses closed to ensure a minimal death count, which made him wildly unpopular with Chapek and D’Amaro, since the company was losing money hand over fist now that the Happiest Place on Earth was empty. Meanwhile, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, made it no secret his contempt for the safety restrictions, and only after three months, WDW reopened its gates, despite gathering still-absurdly high case counts. Never mind all these cast members were straight-up furloughed, and Florida’s unemployment system was intentionally rigged to fail around this time.
The moral of the story: It’s bad business to let your customers die to service capitalism. The parks reopened eventually with several safety restrictions, but no amount of guidelines could thwart the spread of a highly-contagious virus when tens of thousands of guests converge in a 100 acre theme park. If Disney were a mom-and-pop establishment where even a week off threatens their livelihood, I might have had a touch more sympathy, but they routinely rake in billions annually.
Even now, as I write this. we’re still not completely out of the woods, and Disney could have worked harder at taking the knee just to keep people alive. After all, dead people make lousy repeat customers.
5. Canceling annual passes
When the parks shut down, the big question that lingered was what was to be done about guest’s annual passes. There was more or less a mutual understanding between Disney and guests that if you opted for an annual pass, you could visit any time you wanted (blackout dates notwithstanding), so if you had an annual pass when the pandemic hit, Disney certainly did right by offering refunds, but in July of 2020, Disney outright canceled the sale of all annual passes. Annual passholders couldn’t even renew their current passes under this lockdown. 14 months later, Disney reinstated selling passes, but two months later, in November, they stopped yet again for all but the lowest-tiered passes. And whole year later, as I write this, the most news announced was the price increase, but not when they’ll go back on sale again.
The moral of the story: Loyalty goes both ways. One thing I learned working at Walt Disney World is that their primary demographic is the once-in-a-lifetimers. While annual passholders have cash to spare with frequent trips to the parks and the pass costs in and of themselves, the people who come once or twice in their lives will drop so much more money for merchandise and food. The irony of a loyalty program like this shows Disney can only extend so much of their respect to its guests, and especially its repeat visitors who bought a pass assuring they’ll return again and again. I worry perks like special merchandise may soon not be enough to retain these guests who have essentially pledged eternal loyalty to the theme parks.
4. Saying adults don’t like animation
In October of 2022, Chapek said this in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:
“I always say that when our fans and our audiences put their kids to bed at night after watching Pinocchio or Dumbo or Little Mermaid, they’re probably not going to tune into another animated movie. They want something for them.”
Look, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, adult fans and audiences will undoubtedly want to tune into other Disney products like a Marvel limited series or the latest Star Wars spinoff, maybe even a National Geographic special…but Disney FANS will HAPPILY put on any one of the 60+ animated films because being a Disney fan means you love Disney productions! If you retain the idea that cartoons are for kids, you show a callous disregard for the artistic integrity of animation and what it has to offer!
If Bob scoffed at the ludicrousness of Star Wars or Simpsons or even ESPN, fans would be offended, but Disney was started on the foundation of animated films, which begs the question: if you are so dismissive of adults who like Little Mermaid, do you respect them at all as consumers?
The moral of the story: Know your freaking audience. Are there adults who just want to watch something that isn’t a cartoon after the kids go to bed? Of course! But a core aspect of Disney’s business is how well adults are drawn to it, either because they’re nostalgic for the stuff they watched they were kids themselves or the themes and jokes are intended for mature audiences. Yeah, it’s great to expand beyond making cartoons, but man, with that mindset, why are you CEO of a company known for making cartoons?
3. Disney Genie
If you want to know the full story behind Disney’s ticket book system, the single rider lines, the Fastpass, the Maxpass, and the eventual Disney Genie program, Defunctland did a magnificent documentary video on how the bane of Disney’s existence – the long lines at the theme parks – became an uncontrollable monster in its own right: one that cannot be slain or befriended. Disney has tried multiple times to make a system to appease everyone, but as the crowds continue to grow, any hope of managing lines has dwindled dramatically.
At D23 in 2019, Chapek himself announced the arrival of Disney Genie, an app that dramatically complicated the theme park experience by – you guessed it – directing guests to pre-plan everything from dining and attraction times to character meet-and-greets. However, now guests that wanted to jump the lines at Space Mountain or Tower of Terror now had to pay $15 per person per day for Disney Genie+. Not only does this system remove a guest’s ability to jump a line through the “lightning lanes” at the same attraction more than once, but even that wasn’t the end of the price-gouging microtransactions. For the most in-demand attractions, you had to individually request them for a nominal fee per person per ride.
Perhaps I’m a touch spoiled by my pre-Chapek days as a WDW cast member, untethered by park admission or limited time on Florida, but I loved the freedom to wander around, grabbing a Fastpass when I only felt like it, not having to plan an itinerary. It used to be minor bits of advice like “When kids are in school, the parks will be quieter”, or “Go left at Pirates of the Caribbean, because most people go right” were enough to add that much more magic to your visit, and had the added benefit of making you feel clever. Kind of like knowing the lore of a certain Marvel character, while watching movie as a n00b is fun, understanding the detailed backstory just makes it rewarding. Instead, not only is it important for getting your money’s worth, it’s required, all the while forcing you to spend even more.
The moral of the story: There has GOT to be a better way of managing this system. In the aforementioned Defunctland video, host Kevin Perjurer outsourced a data experiment whether no Fastpasses, paper Fastpasses, or Disney Genie+ were the best ways to maximize guest experiences. Through this very elaborate algorithm, the results ultimately showed the paper Fastpasses were the best way to deal with the chaos, and I don’t find this surprising. Pricing out lower-incone guests should NEVER be the solution to deal with crowd control. Instead, if dense crowds are the problem, then build more rides! Increase rider capacity! Expand park capacity! Add that fifth park, since you got so much room to spare!
So many amenities and perks have straight-up vanished in these two short years and it’s such a stop-gap response to a much bigger problem. After all, focusing squarely in raising prices and cutting costs while blatantly ignoring the creative angle is essentially what doomed Eisner. And those who ignore history, et cetera, et cetera.
2. Layoffs while giving himself a raise
The round of layoffs and hiring freeze he warned of this past month wasn’t the only time he looked to getting rid of staff to solve the company’s financial woes. Much of the equity performers were terminated outright and cast members all over the parks were completely furloughed when the parks closed. To a point, it makes sense. Something drastic needed to be done to keep them solvent. From what I understand, when things started to get tough, Iger – still on the board at the time – decided to forego his salary and pushed to wait until the CARES Act went through. Chapek – who just cut his in half – wanted to start layoffs right away. Thank goodness Iger won out.
Still, reports in 2021 showed both men boosted their pay, with Chapek literally doubling his from $14 million to more than $32 million, and according to this article, Chapek and the board were chomping at the bit to start reclaiming their stock options and other financial goodies despite, you know, the company losing money like crazy.
The moral of the story: Do I really need to explain? A responder to my poll informed me that Chapek didn’t have the power to raise his own pay, and that this was a decision by the board, and if it’s true…fine, but the point isn’t negated. Chapek wasn’t exactly insisting on cutting executive pay or fighting for cast member’s jobs when things got tight. Again, this kind of American capitalism will defend its higher-ups till the bitter end or until too much money is lost, whichever comes first. Not sure what changed their minds between June’s vote to keep him on and November, but man, he must’ve made some enemies.
Chapek feeling the pinch and the third shift custodial cast member getting laid off are two wildly disparate scenarios so wildly incomparable it’s hard to put into words. And yet Iger at one point thought this greedy nimrod was a worthy successor to the Walt Disney Company.
1. The “Don’t Say Gay” debacle
And at last, we come to arguably the most obvious and most prolific of all the controversies, the one most transparently was the company acting in poor stead, and the one most clearly on Chapek and Chapek alone.
Now, I’ve talked about this over and over and over, and chances are you’re only here because you’ve read all my other articles about this kerfuffle. But let’s recap: the Parental Rights in Education bill was a bill in Florida that defined only grades 4 and up could recieve any classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity deemed arbitrarily “appropriate”, and allowed parents to sue schools for any reason. Labeled the Don’t Say Gay bill, cast members in Florida and all over the U.S. begged Disney – the biggest employer and political contributer in the state – to do something. Instead, they stayed silent until a week after gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law, and Chapek’s response drew ire from DeSantis and his voter base, all calling Disney “woke” and “groomers”. Even then, Chapek just mumbled some half-hearted excuse about how the company was helping all LGBT+ people by representing them in movies, then stopped all political funding.
The cessation of donations pissed off DeSantis so much he put forth a concerted effort to revoke the 50+ year contract Disney had with the state to build pretty much whatever they wanted, which was a naked act of petty retaliation and will charge over $1 billion to Floridians with barely any pushback from Chapek. All the while, the beleaguered Chapek showed his true colors as a staunch conservative who employed thousands of LGBT+ staff, and tried so hard to appear politically neutral that neither the left nor the right bought what he was selling.
The moral of the story: Practice what you preach. One thing that upsets me most about American politics is that of the two parties, I can either put myself behind the one that’s clearly full of hateful, judgemental, spiteful rhetoric focused on taking us backward…or I can opt for the party that talks a good game, but does little to nothing to change things for the better. I can either hate Disney if they stuck to the conservative values of anti-LGBT+ anything but appreciate the honesty, or I can get the wishy-washy, fence-straddling “apolitical ” company that refuses to take a stance, and tries to have it both ways and look completely disingenuous in the process.
The disingenuous aspect was not the worst strategy over the past decades, as it allowed Disney to appease both sides of the aisle for awhile. But as the rights of the LGBT+ community became increasingly polarized, the refusal to commit caused the left to believe Disney would happily sacrifice them to the slaughter if given half the chance, and the right to believe the company was a bunch socialist groomers or whatever buzzword they adopt is.
This was by far the winner in both polls, and certainly the biggest PR disaster since AT LEAST since the Disney’s America ordeal. And yet, just three months later, The board of directors still voted to keep Chapek on three more years. How bad were things behind the scenes in the final five months?!
The future is…something.
I kind of admit to this conspiracy theory I have no evidence for…so indulge me. What if Chapek was just a patsy?
Like I said earlier, many of these issues started under Iger. And he handed the gig to Chapek just as the pandemic was getting serious. What if the company was worried its upcoming ideas were not going to be seen in a great light, so they quickly ushered in a fall guy who acted the cluelessly greedy jerkwad, got all the blame for everything, recieved nothing but a sullied reputation, and by bringing Iger back, would make them look great again? After all, their stock prices shot up the day Iger returned. Again, I have no proof of any of this aside from basic apophenia, but I can’t help but wonder…
Anyway, where do we go from here? I doubt much will change. I don’t see Fastpass or Magical Express returning. Prices won’t go down: they never have, never will. I heard maintenance suffered at the parks under Chapek, so maybe we can see that turn around. Iger openly announced his desire to focus back on creativity and the front-line cast members, so only time will tell. Beyond that, I don’t think anything significant is in the works, but I genuinely hope I’m wrong. I really do. Iger has two short years to pick a better replacement than his last choice, and let’s hope he learned his lesson.