These past several months have been a wild ride for Disney fandom. With former Disney CEO Bob Chapek out of the picture and the returning CEO titan Bob Iger back in the saddle, The Walt Disney Company shakeup is underway. But is Mr. Iger on the right path to fixing what he has diagnosed as Disney’s downfall?
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With Bob Chapek removed in November 2022, Disney CEO Bob Iger has been hard at work attempting to clean up the missteps that the entertainment giant has taken over the past couple of years. While fighting to get its feet back on the ground after the COVID-19 pandemic has been no small feat to overcome, it was no surprise that something needed to change for the company as Disney executives led the charge to have Chapek removed.
In a statement made by Bob Iger during an interview, he reportedly diagnosed Disney’s downfall with one word. Chapek was causing Disney to lose its “soul.” Additionally, the report noted that Iger “lamented Mr. Chapek’s seeming lack of empathy and emotional intelligence, which resulted in an inability to communicate with or relate to Hollywood’s creative community.”
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But can Bob Iger really fix Disney’s lost soul? Well, it does appear like he’s on the right path…
Since Iger’s arrival in November 2022, The Walt Disney Company has seen a shakeup. Iger’s first task was to connect with Cast Members… the true heart and soul of the business. Not only is he regularly attempting to connect with Park and frontline Cast Members, but he is connecting on a bigger executive scale. Several executives have either been asked to leave or have chosen to do so, some as recently as Iger’s announcement that effective immediately, The Walt Disney Company will have a new business structure.
The Cast Member connections and shakeup aren’t even close to being complete. At Disney’s recent quarterly earnings call, Iger announced the company would be laying off 7,000 Cast Members. While many of the frontline Cast Members are still safe, there are impacts to be expected on the Disney Park level. Additionally, Iger has required the return of hybrid Cast Members that have been working from home since COVID. Iger states that he is “reminded of the tremendous value in being together with the people you work with.”
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While this Cast Member shakeup may be disheartening news for many, Disney’s stock surprisingly soared after the layoffs and business restructuring announcements. Disney shareholders seem to appreciate Iger’s direction.
The company is also digging into its entertainment department to pick up the lack of performance over the past couple of years with flops such as Buzz Lightyear (2022) and Strange World (2022) films. Iger has stated there will be a push to return to the roots of proven, successful film franchises such as Toy Story (1995), Frozen (2013), and Zootopia (2016).
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Additionally, Iger has made it clear that he plans to stay out of politics as much as possible, unlike former CEO Bob Chapek. Under Chapek, The Walt Disney Company became known as a “woke” company. The company has been at the center of disagreements with the state of Florida and controversial political stances. Most recently, the independence of Walt Disney World Resort through the Reedy Creek Improvement District Act has been knocked down a notch, as Florida state legislature voted in favor of Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposed bill.
The big question most Disney fans are ready to have answered by Mr. Bob Iger is what are his plans for the Disney theme parks?
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While Josh D’Amaro, the Chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resort, seems to be staying put, D’Amaro and Chapek went hand in hand, creating several of the Chapek instituted money-makers such as the upcharge Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane service (vs. the former FREE FastPass+ system), the Disney Park Reservation System, the 2 p.m. Park hopping limitation, lack of Walt Disney World Annual Passes, and missing Disney Resort Guest perks such as Disney’s Magical Express and MagicBands.
Will Iger work to remove any of these Disney fan woes? Since Bob Iger’s arrival, we have seen some Park hopping restrictions lifted, first-ever discounts for Walt Disney World Resort’s newest Star Wars Hotel (Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser), a Disney Dining promotion card, and the return of free overnight parking for Disney Resort Guests.
There is still plenty left to clean up for The Walt Disney Company. However, it looks like Bob Iger and his team are on the right path to returning the “soul” to the beloved company. We’re eager to be along for the journey.