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What Bob Iger’s Return Means for Disney


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Less than two years after promoting him to CEO, Disney has fired Bob Chapek and reinstated ex-CEO Bob Iger in the role — but what does this mean for Disney movies and TV shows? Iger’s career began at ABC in 1974, long before The Walt Disney Company acquired the network. He worked his way through the ranks there and was President and COO of ABC when Disney came along in 1995. He was then Chairman of ABC until 1999 when he was named president of Walt Disney International. In 2000, he was promoted to President and COO. Then, he replaced Michael Eisner as CEO of Disney in 2005.


Bob Chapek was named CEO in February 2020 after Bob Iger announced his retirement. Chapek had joined Disney in 1993 as the marketing director of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. He was later appointed President of Disney’s Consumer Products in 2011, and then he became head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2015. Only five years later, he was named Disney’s CEO, which surprised many who had expected Iger’s replacement to be ex-COO Tom Staggs. After Chapek was named CEO in early 2020, COVID-19 hit. Iger, who was still Executive Chairman at the time, took back some of his old CEO duties due to the emergency situation but then officially stepped down on December 31, 2021.

Related: Disney’s Upcoming Movie Releases – From 2022 to 2025

Bob Iger’s Return Shows How Disney Has Struggled

Bob Chapek and Bob Iger

Less than a year later, Bob Iger is back as CEO, and Bob Chapek is out. This drastic decision shows just how many problems The Walt Disney Company has had in the past two years. Many Disney employees expressed their frustration with the direction the company took under Chapek’s rule. Disney announced in 2021 that they would be relocating many departments from California to Florida. As a result, several Imagineers — the creative minds behind Disney Parks— quit the company.

Chapek also raised prices across the board for Disney experiences, including Disney+, which had only launched in 2019, and the theme parks. After a disappointing 2022 fiscal fourth-quarter report, Disney stocks were down approximately 40 percent. Losing both money and valuable employees isn’t ideal for the biggest entertainment company in the world.

Bob Iger’s Return Is About Disney Branding As Much As ContentBob Iger and Disney Logo

There have been controversies around Bob Chapek and Disney over the past two years that have detrimentally impacted the company’s brand. For one example, Chapek recently said animation was “for kids and that adults “want something for them.” In addition to conflicting with the actual audiences and consumers of Disney content, this upset Disney’s animation teams considering their films have always been for the whole family. Also, in 2021, when Black Widow was moved to a simultaneous day-and-date, on-demand Disney+ release instead of it getting an exclusive theatrical run, Scarlett Johansson sued the company, and insiders blamed this situation on Chapek.

In early 2022, Chapek faced serious backlash due to his poor response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which could affect Disney employees and their families based in the state. An initial statement from Disney said, “The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.” This response was vague and also highlighted just how little LGBTQ+ representation Disney has in its movies and TV shows. Chapek later said a corporate statement would be “counterproductive.” Bob Iger, meanwhile, condemned the bill almost immediately, even amidst his retirement. It was weeks before Chapek and Disney publicly denounced the bill. Related: Best LGBTQ+ Movies On Disney+ Right Now

These are just a few examples of Chapek putting his foot in his mouth in situations where Iger would have handled things better. At the very least, Iger is a better speaker than Chapek, and he knows how to handle controversy. His return isn’t just about Disney content, it’s also about fixing the Disney brand. The board members who made the surprise decision are hoping that with Iger back at the reins, he will be able to steer the company back into a more positive position with audiences — therefore making Disney more money.

What Bob Iger’s Return Means For Disney’s Biggest Franchises


Some of Bob Iger’s biggest moves during his original run as CEO of Disney were acquiring Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, which are now among the company’s biggest money-makers. But all three of these franchises have been in flux for the past few years. Kevin Feige is keeping Marvel Studios on track, at least, but it has still had issues, including consistency of quality and interest, since the release of Avengers: Endgame, also in 2019.

Even beginning during Iger’s tenure, the future of Star Wars has also been uncertain while the franchise searches for a new direction following the disappointing release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, also in 2019. With Bob Chapek gone, Iger will certainly be tasked with reviving the status of the MCU and Star Wars franchises and making certain Disney’s upcoming first endeavors with Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones property are successful as well.

As for Pixar, Soul, Luca, and Turning Red were released on Disney+, much to the displeasure of the studio’s animators and to the depreciation of its specific brand status. The decision was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it cost the studio money and publicity that could have been salvaged with theatrical releases. As a major force behind the success of these mega-franchises, Iger could help re-focus their respective studios. That said, with how long it takes to produce quality animated movies, audiences will probably see the effects of these quick switches between Chapek and Iger, particularly with the Pixar product, for years to come.

Related: Every Upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie & TV Show In Development

What Bob Iger’s Return Means For Disney+ & Theatrical Releases

Turning Red

As evidenced by the aforementioned Disney+ releases, Bob Chapek has been focusing on streaming more than theatrical output, which makes sense in the current climate. But many releases that were pushed to Disney+, including the Pixar movies, were originally meant for the big screen. This made them less accessible to all audiences and was an especially big blow to Turning Red, Soul, and the live-action Mulan, all of which focus on people of color. These diverse films were big steps for Disney but were seemingly sidelined.

Star Wars has also moved entirely to Disney+ in the last few years, with planned theatrical features like Rogue Squadron removed from the production schedule. It’s not clear what Bob Iger would have done differently with regard to streaming at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes in theatrical releases, but even he admits that things won’t be returning to “normal” anytime soon. Chapek couldn’t find the right balance between streaming and movie budgets, causing problems for Disney+ despite its relative success. Iger will need to figure out this balance to satisfy both audiences and investors.

Next: Disney’s New Star Wars Movie Rule Only Fixes Part Of The Problem

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