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Bob Iger Has a Brand Problem, But Does It Matter?

bob iger
Either Iger sees the “wokeness” of the past five to seven years as negatively impacting the creative process, and ultimately the output; or he fears the escalating culture wars and the polarization of red and blue America as having a potentially significant impact on the ubiquity of the Disney brand. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
February 15, 2024

Exactly how big a brand problem does Bob Iger have these days? It’s a tough question. You can definitely feel it in the culture—the heightened politicization of Disney thanks to the fights with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and now Elon Musk, who is waging war in a very Elon way, by backing Gina Carano’s dubious discrimination lawsuit and tweeting years-old Disney “inclusion” standards as if they were the Pentagon Papers. But when it comes to the actual movies and shows, Disney has always dismissed the “woke” outcry as just noise. Even if Trump Country may not love Disney as a company, they’re not gonna not see a Pixar movie or watch a Marvel show just because it’s from big, bad Disney.

Or at least that was the thinking. Then the movies started flopping, Star Wars got eviscerated by South Park, and in November, Iger himself publicly criticized the company’s push toward more agenda-driven storytelling. If you remember, he dropped this declaration at the DealBook conference: “We have to entertain first. It’s not about messages,” adding that when he returned as C.E.O., “what I have really tried to do is to return to our roots.”