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Iger’s Disney De-Wokening

NYT Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin and C.E.O. of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger speak during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City.
Speaking at the DealBook conference yesterday, Iger (pictured here with DealBook host Andrew Ross Sorkin)—for the first time—blamed part of the company’s recent box office woes on the “messaging” in Disney content. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
December 1, 2023

“Crickets,” a friend at Pixar texted when I asked how Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger’s “entertain first” comments had gone over in Emeryville. If you remember, back in 2022, Pixar employees screamed censorship while publicly blasting former leader Bob Chapek for his inaction over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, revealing that “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” in Pixar movies “is cut at Disney’s behest.” In response, Chapek allowed a same-sex kiss to be restored in that summer’s Lightyear, which the Pixar folks considered a big victory. Then the movie flopped, though almost certainly not because two women smooched for a half-second.  

But the Disney “go woke, go broke” narrative persists. “Once an unassailable and uniting brand, [the] Disney brand is now negatively associated with activism by a significant number of consumers,” Jonathan Turley, the legal scholar and Fox News contributor, wrote this week in The Hill. Disney was ranked the fifth-most-polarizing brand in the recent Axios Harris Poll. South Park just tapped into that sentiment, though it targeted Lucasfilm’s Kathy Kennedy as the Disney avatar who repeatedly screams, “Put a chick in it! Make her lame and gay!”—which struck insiders as a bit weird because, internally, Kennedy isn’t exactly considered a social justice warrior.