A Disney-Apple partnership more than six months in the making will officially go into effect in just a few days, on February 2, per an announcement from Apple Inc. via press release this week.
Out With the Old, In With the Older
Since November 2022, just days after The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors removed then-CEO Bob Chapek, replacing him with veteran CEO Bob Iger, media outlets began to overflow with news about a potential merger of The Walt Disney Company, purveyor of theme parks like Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, TV shows, and films, and Apple, tech purveyor and creator of the Apple Watch, Apple TV, Apple TV+, and the iPhone.
Iger’s return was an attempt by Disney’s board to stop the bleed at the company that started in the months following one of the most challenging times in Mouse House history–one that began in early 2020 when unexpected global pandemic that rendered Disney Parks non-operational, and hasn’t let up since that time.
But Iger’s reinstatement didn’t bring about instant change–not by a long shot.
Challenges presented by the parks’ extended closures, combined with poor box office returns, less-than-optimal revenue across various divisions of The Walt Disney Company, and a major upheaval between Disney and the State of Florida’s legislature created the perfect storm for Walt’s beloved company, as well as for the Disney CEO–perfect for spelling near-disaster.
And while most Disney fans applauded the board’s decision to remove Chapek from his post and reinstall Iger, they also knew that such a move on the part of Disney’s board meant that things at the House of Disney were likely far more dire than anyone realized.
An Inside Analyst Who Couldn’t Keep a Secret
In the days following Chapek’s removal, the media frenzy centered largely on the speculation about plans by the reinstated Disney CEO Bob Iger for Disney going forward. Gone were the days of “business as usual,” of that much, fans were assured. But more questions–followed by even more speculation–followed:
If things are so bad at Disney that the board brought back the tried-and-true Iger, what happens next?
The claims of that anonymous outspoken “insider” seemed like a well-fitting piece of the puzzle.
A Resurgence of “News” and Speculation
Shortly after the world ushered in 2023, talk of a potential Apple takeover of Disney was silenced by the events of the time, namely a Disney Company earnings call on February 8 that took even Wall Street’s finest by surprise.
In his first earnings call since his return, Iger took charge of the Wednesday afternoon meeting alongside then-CFO Christine McCarthy. Following Iger’s run-through of Disney’s financials, including information about revenue categorized by divisions at the company, the extent of Disney’s dire straits became glaringly more obvious.
Iger announced a complete overhaul and restructuring at Disney, effective immediately, before delving into the specifics of a cost-cutting initiative, also effective immediately, aimed at trimming $5.5 billion in expenditures at the company. The plan included the layoffs of 7,000 employees, and according to upper management, no one knew who would be let go, and no one was safe.
Only weeks later, Disney’s up-tops were told to compile a list of their “useless” and “replaceable” employees in preparation for the layoffs.
Then, in three lashes of layoffs, one that was referred to as a bloodbath, The Walt Disney Company purged itself of those worthless employees once and for all.
Never did the company seem so ripe for a buyout, and news about Apple’s interest in Disney slowly began to infiltrate the headlines yet again.
A Real Apple-Disney Partnership Announced Over the Summer
In June 2023, Apple and Disney announced an upcoming partnership. It’s the first time a representative from either company had spoken publicly about such a proposition. But the announcement had nothing to do with an Apple buyout of Disney. Instead, Disney had something that Apple needed.
Apple introduced its first virtual reality (VR) project, called Apple Vision Pro, which the company describes as a “spatial computer that transforms how people work, collaborate, connect, relive memories, and enjoy entertainment.”
Disney would be instrumental to the way people “enjoy entertainment,” per a partnership that would see Disney’s best content available on Apple’s newest $3500 gadget. According to announcements from both companies, Disney+ would be available on the new VR headset from Apple.
For some, the announcement served to peacefully quell the “wonder-ifs” about Apple taking over Disney. But for others, the Apple Vision Pro announcement only bolstered speculation about a takeover, even giving credence to it.
The Disney-Apple Partnership Is At Hand
In a press release on Monday, Apple announced the rollout of its Apple Vision Pro VR headset, setting the availability date as February 2, 2024. Pre-orders began on January 19, 2024.
Per the announcement from Apple:
Apple today announced Apple Vision Pro will be available beginning Friday, February 2, at all U.S. Apple Store locations and the U.S. Apple Store online.
Vision Pro is a revolutionary spatial computer that transforms how people work, collaborate, connect, relive memories, and enjoy entertainment. Vision Pro seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world and unlocks powerful spatial experiences in visionOS, controlled by the most natural and intuitive inputs possible — a user’s eyes, hands, and voice.
An all-new App Store provides users with access to more than 1 million compatible apps across iOS and iPadOS, as well as new experiences that take advantage of the unique capabilities of Vision Pro. Pre-orders for Apple Vision Pro begin Friday, January 19, at 5:00 a.m. PST.
“The era of spatial computing has arrived,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “Apple Vision Pro is the most advanced consumer electronics device ever created. Its revolutionary and magical user interface will redefine how we connect, create, and explore.”
Ah ha! There’s the Disney keyword: magical. Could it be that this Disney-Apple partnership is only the first leg of the journey toward a full acquisition of The Walt Disney Company by Apple? After all, Apple owns the Vision Pro, and Disney’s content will stream on an Apple-owned device, thanks to the new partnership, not the other way around.
For the answer to that question, fans and Wall Street analysts alike will simply have to wait and watch. Things that transpire after February 2, 2024, may tell more of the story, assuming there’s one to tell in the first place.