Back to basics. On Wednesday, during the DealBook Summit organized in New York by the New York Times, Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, did not beat around the bush. “The creators lost sight of what their No. 1 goal should be. We must entertain first. It’s not about sending messages,” he insisted. By wanting to embrace multiculturalism too much and multiplying series and films derived from its major franchises to the detriment of quality, Disney recognizes that it has taken the wrong path.
“We entertained with values and made a positive impact on the world in different ways. Black Panther is a great example,” he explained. “I like being able to entertain by instilling positive messages and having a good impact on the world. Fantastic! But that shouldn't be the goal. When I came back, what I really tried to do was go back to our roots.”
The declarations of Bob Iger, back at the head of Disney for a year, come as the global entertainment giant has a string of flops in the cinema. His latest superhero film The Marvels, a $200 million blockbuster, got off to the worst start in the history of the franchise, which until recently was Disney's cash cow. The animated film Wish, which has just been released, is also a failure.
In recent years, Disney has taken a number of positions in favor of diversity. The entertainment giant thus found itself at the heart of a political battle with Ron DeSantis. The conservative governor of Florida accuses the Burbank firm of having become an agent of “woke capitalism”. And by wanting to impose “woke” values on Americans, Disney has alienated part of the public.
The firm was once considered the fourth most popular brand across the Atlantic. It is now one of the brands most hated by Americans, according to a ranking produced last May by Axios-Harris. Too woke for some. Not radical enough for others.
On the shareholder side, Disney also finds itself under pressure. The company's valuation has halved since March 2021. “Since we gave Disney the opportunity to prove it could 'right the ship' last February, to our re-engagement a few weeks ago , shareholders lost approximately $70 billion in value,” activist investor Nelson Peltz said in a statement this week. His company Trian Fund Management, which has invested $3 billion in Disney, is seeking several board seats.
“Investor confidence is low, key strategic questions loom, and even Disney's CEO acknowledges that the company's challenges are greater than previously thought,” he continued.
Earlier in the week, during a seminar with his employees, Bob Iger indicated that his three priorities for rediscovering the magic of Disney in 2024 would be the expansion of theme parks, the development of a full ESPN streaming service and improving studio activity.