Disney Shareholders Demand an Explanation For Disney’s Lack of Preparation to Compete With Universal Studios’ Soon-to-Open Epic Universe

disney ceo bob iger universal studios epic universe vs disney world
Credit: Becky Burkett/Universal/Disney/Canva

Disney’s shareholders take very seriously the role they play in owning a stake in The Walt Disney Company. As such, they are only too happy to ask the tough questions of Disney’s leadership from time to time.

On Wednesday afternoon, during the annual Disney shareholders meeting, CEO Bob Iger was faced with several questions posed by shareholders, but one of those questions called on Iger to give an explanation for a perceived lack of preparation for battle in the Central Florida theme park wars.

disney world epic universe

Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva/Universal Parks

All Eyes on the Potential Hostile Takeover

During Wednesday afternoon’s shareholders meeting with The Walt Disney Company, all eyes were initially on the proxy vote results. Activist investor Nelson Peltz, co-founder of Trian Partners, has had his sights set on securing a seat at Disney’s boardroom table for nearly two years.

After conceding his loss in early 2023, Peltz ramped up his campaign once again later that year, building up his empire of supporters, one shareholder at a time. This time around, Peltz had the support of shareholders like Ike Perlmutter, the Marvel exec who was removed from his position in early 2023 as part of Disney’s massive layoffs in an effort to cut costs within the company following the reinstatement of Bob Iger to his former post as chief executive officer.

bob iger

Credit: Disney/LinkedIn/Canva

Voting to select Disney’s newest board members ended on Tuesday evening, but those who were vying for a spot on the board were still granted two to three minutes to state the reasons they were right for the job during the first portion of the meeting.

Following those talks, Disney’s leadership made the announcement: shareholders had overwhelmingly voted to keep things as they were at the House of Mouse, denying Nelson Peltz any role on Disney’s board whatsoever.

Upcoming Projects and Other Reveals

Following the announcement, a video montage played as Bob Iger talked about Disney’s upcoming projects and plans during a pre-recorded message.

The message detailed changes and transformations planned at Disney’s parks and gave shareholders a glimpse of all that Disney is doing to “build [the] business for growth.” Iger’s message also included a brand-new sneak peek at Pixar’s soon-to-be-released Inside Out 2, slated for a theatrical debut on June 14, 2024, as well as a look at brand-new, never-before-shared artwork from Walt Disney Animation’s Moana 2, coming to theaters in November 2024.

Moana 2

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

Question and Answer Session Puts Bob Iger in the Hot Seat

A question and answer session followed. Questions were submitted before the meeting, per Disney CEO Bob Iger, who was responsible for answering those questions in a recording.

Various questions were posed by shareholders on a variety of topics, including Disney’s streaming performance, Disney’s initiatives toward making the brand more attractive to older age groups, and Disney’s plans for the company’s previously disclosed $60 billion infusion into its theme park resorts around the world.

But the question that sounded most capable of putting pressure on Iger and landing him in the hot seat was one that many fans have wondered to themselves in recent months: Why hasn’t Disney World done anything to counter Universal Studios’ brand-new theme park, said to be more than four times as large as Magic Kingdom?

In Central Florida, the theme park wars have raged since Universal Studios opened its first theme park in 1990. Disney World and Universal Studios have battled it out for fans’ all-important theme park vacation dollars for more than 30 years now, and Disney World has long been the undisputed winner.

For context, Universal Studios hasn’t built a new theme park in more than 25 years.

Iger Reveals Disney’s Covert Operation

Though it may look to Disney Parks fans that Disney is sitting idly by while Universal Studios Orlando Resort expands its monstrous, wizarding, and cinematic empire in Central Florida, nothing could be further from the truth, per Disney CEO Bob Iger.

bob iger star wars lucasfilm

Credit: Nagi Usano, Flickr/Disney/Canva

Iger’s response did not address the question of why Disney had not yet done anything to counter Universal’s soon-to-open Epic Universe theme park. Rather, Iger responded by explaining that Disney’s modus operandi had involved all the newly-added elements, attractions, themes, and experiences that guests are already enjoying at Disney World–additions that have been made since roughly 2017, based on the elements Iger mentioned in his response.

Preparing in Advance for Universal’s New Addition

Iger explained that Disney had indeed been taking steps to counter such an addition and ensuing debut at Universal Studios–and that many of those steps have already come to fruition, including the construction and opening of TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom in April 2023, the multi-year park-wide transformation of EPCOT, including the development of three new “neighborhoods” inside the park, each of which comprise the area formerly known as Future World.

EPCOT Four Neighborhoods

Credit: Disney Parks

Iger also mentioned the construction and opening of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction at EPCOT in the area that was once home to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, as well as the addition of the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana attraction and various other additions to EPCOT.

guardians of the galaxy: cosmic rewind

Credit: Disney Parks

Iger explained that “by staggering these major launches” at Disney World, the company has been able to meet the challenges of a new addition at its theme park neighbor/nemesis ahead of time. Additionally, Iger noted the recent agreement with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), which he described as a “win-win” scenario that will “enable us to pursue other projects” at Disney World and allow Disney numerous “future development opportunities as well.”

disney world 5th park

Credit: Disney/Canva

No word yet on whether that all-important fifth theme park is among those future developments, but we’re sure hoping.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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