Hello Disney fans, I’m Jill, and I’ve got a confession to make. I don’t want to get rid of Bob Chapek. There, I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest. Before you grab your pitchforks and let me explain:
Step into my time machine, if you will, and let’s go back to 1984. A man named Michael Eisner had just assumed the role of CEO at The Walt Disney Company. Under his skilled eye, the company’s floundering animation studio turned completely around. The studio no longer turned out mediocre children’s movies but instead mega-blockbusters that the whole family could enjoy. Films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King were all produced during this time. This era would come to be known as the “Disney Renaissance.”
Also, under his direction Hollywood Studios (then called Disney-MGM Studios), Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s California Adventure were all built. Four of the six international Disney theme parks were also built during his tenure. He showed a commitment to investment in the parks that turned them into the world-class destination they are today. He’s honestly a large part of the reason so many of us are such ardent Disney fans to this day.
Yet, at the time, he was hated. He was accused of “running the company into the ground,” “ruining the magic,” “devaluing the company,” and just generally criticized every turn. Was he a perfect CEO? No. However, despite his decisions being wildly unpopular at the time, most are universally loved today. He essentially built the company we know and love today. There is far less Walt and far more Eisner than many would care to admit in the Parks today.
Let’s hop on over to 2005. Bob Iger has just become Disney’s CEO. Under his direction, the company went on a spending spree like few had ever seen. The company brought LucasFilm, Pixar, Marvel, ESPN, and 21st Century Fox into the fold. These acquisitions made Disney one of the most significant media forces on the planet.
Under Iger’s direction, the company also launched Disney+, which is wildly successful and changed the way we think about and view Disney films and television shows.
Iger also oversaw major theme park advancements like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Pandora the World of Avatar, Toy Story Land, and The most recent international Park, Shanghai Disney. He made some unpopular decisions, and during his time in the position, we fans hated him too. We’d grumble in Facebook groups that we couldn’t wait until he stepped down. He was “ruining the Magic,” “not what Walt would’ve wanted,” and “letting corporate greed destroy the soul of the company.” We wished we had Eisner back “because at least he cared.”
Now we have Bob Chapek. He’s not made many popular decisions with fans. Collectively, the fans don’t like him. The shareholders seem to flip-flop on him. He’s not personable. Every time he makes an announcement, we feel some of the Eisner era disappear. We wish we had Iger back. He “at least knew what he was doing,” and he “had vision.”
But wait, didn’t we want to eliminate him for Eisner? Didn’t we want to be rid of Eisner for “the way Walt ran it”? Every time there is a changing of the guards at corporate Disney, we lose something we once loved. Let’s face it. They’re never going to say, “you know what? We want to give you back the free stuff we have taken, and these prices, sheesh, they’re too high! Let’s lower them.” We would love that, but they are a business, and businesses exist to make money. Each new CEO will feel pressured to make the company more than the last one. That means it will only get worse from a consumer spending standpoint. Chapek is currently leaving his mark on the company, for better or worse. Personally, I’m not too fond of many of the marks he has left so far. However, I also know that sometimes it takes some time to see the good in a situation and change is hard. Therefore, I’m reserving judgment. Plus, knowing what I know and seeing the pattern that I see, I’m not eager to see what comes next. I choose to try to find the good in Bob Chapek because I fear what comes next will be much worse.
The thoughts and opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Disney Dining or any of its affiliates as a whole.