It’s happy hour on the Titanic!
That’s what it must feel like to be a Disney employee these days. In a year that should have been filled to the brim with over the top pageantry, and a celebration of a century of greatness; Walt Disney Studios found themselves wallowing in a mire of failure. Financial decisions have been made that would make M.C. Hammer look like Warren Buffet.
Four months ago, it was reported that the Disney Plus subscription service was hemorrhaging money. Losses of up to eight hundred million dollars were reported. The studio is doing even worse. As the year, and Disney’s once heavily anticipated centennial enter their final days, Forbes Magazine reports that Disney has lost upwards of one billion dollars on its theatrical releases.
These numbers are unsustainable. You can’t lose almost two billion dollars in a year and expect to keep your job. You certainly shouldn’t expect to not have to fire anybody.
So what is to be done as Rome burns and Bob Iger stares at the wreckage of what was once an unstoppable force like a baby deer in headlights?
We are at a point where Disney needs to save the company from themselves. As it stands, I don’t think that could happen without drastic changes.
Bob Iger Needs To Hold Himself Accountable
At the New York Times Dealbook Summit, Bob Iger gave an interview which was at its best, littered with corporate doubletalk. At its worst, it was disastrous.
Iger blamed Disney’s box office failures on everything from Bob Chapek to COVID-19. It was an embarrassing display of finger pointing and passing the buck. He even went so far as to blame the failure of the MCU’s recent failure: The Marvels on a lack of executive supervision on the set of the film.
He went mask off and said that letting writers and directors actually do their job was the reason for the film’s failure.
Bob Iger doesn’t have what it takes to handle financial adversity because he has been in a comfortable position for most of his tenure at Disney. When Michael Eisner was forced out of the CEO position at Disney, Bob Iger was ushered in. Iger was given the keys to a fully restored 1968 Oldsmobile 442. He was behind the wheel of an American classic. All he needed to do was check the oil, fill it with premium and do the proper maintenance.
Now, Iger is pulling into the driveway in a Ford Pinto. A cheap, unreliable shadow of a great company. Liable to self destruct if hit the wrong way.
He was viewed as a great CEO in his first tenure because he was coasting off of Eisner’s success. When it comes time for him to actually do the work of a CEO, Iger has two speeds: spend money or spend more money.
- She-Hulk cost 225 million dollars for one season.
- Secret Invasion had a 212 million dollar price tag.
- Ahsoka ran the budget up to a reported 100 million dollars
- He purchased Star Wars for 4 billion dollars.
- He overspent on Fox, spending a staggering 52.4 billion dollars.
She-Hulk had the worst CGI ever committed to screen. The titular character looked and moved like a bad PlayStation 2 game. Secret Invasion was a show that was pretty much just based around two people sitting at a table talking with action scenes interspersed throughout the series. Yet, these two properties had the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster on a streaming service that has become a money furnace for the company.
These financials are even more jarring when you take into account that Secret Invasion was filmed in England and Disney received the standard twenty-five percent tax break that England provides for qualifying film and TV projects.
Iger should be livid at these costs. At the very least, he should be demanding receipts and asking Kevin Feige where the money went.
Kevin Feige Should Be Fired
Despite the fact that a large percentage of the financial woes at Disney can be attributed to Marvel, Kevin Feige still manages to keep his job. The MCU television viewership is abysmal. Between Ant-Man and Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels Feige stands to lose up to 237 million dollars for Disney. He is not a good decision maker. He focuses on sociopolitical issues, and disregards good storytelling.
When Ike Perlmutter was in charge of Marvel Studios, the films had A-list directors attached to them as they should have, since these movies all have a hefty price tag.
You went from having one of the greatest actor/directors in Hollywood history, Kenneth Branagh as the director of Thor, to having a long list of no name, independent film directors helming projects that cost up to a quarter of a billion dollars.
I have nothing against Nia DaCosta as a filmmaker. I have not seen any of her work outside of The Marvels but she has had only two other films on her resume. Ms. DaCosta had no business being put in charge of a movie with that much financial importance.
For whatever reason, Feige decided to put her in the director’s chair anyway. The movie failed and Bob Iger didn’t publicly admonish Feige for making a catastrophic decision. He threw a novice filmmaker under the bus and placed blame on her. Not only is that cowardly for Bob Iger to do, but it can also hurt the growing career of Ms. DaCosta.
Feige could have rejuvenated the MCU when the Fox purchase went down. That transaction was a golden opportunity to give overused characters a rest and put them on the bench. He should have immediately fast tracked X-Men and Fantastic Four projects and had them in theaters by now. He chose not to do that and now fan apathy is setting in.
The Facade Is Being Torn Down
The elephant in the room right now is how Disney has become open to criticism. Bob Iger was never seen as flawed because he had protection from the access media. He hasn’t had to give a serious interview or answer for any mistakes because he would simply just choose to speak when there was not a dissenting voice present.
Nothing has been proven, but YouTube never considered removing the dislike button until a Star Wars movie trailer got ratioed with dislikes. It could be coincidental, it could also have been the threat of pulling future advertisements. The only people that really know why the dislike button was removed are the people at YouTube.
What isn’t up for debate, is Disney’s ability to bully people into submission is dissipating rapidly. If a movie fails, you can’t just accuse people who didn’t want to see it of racism and phobias anymore. That tactic has been maxed out. People don’t care if you’re calling them names and accusing them of abhorrent behavior.
If you want to call me a misogynist because I thought The Marvels was a bad movie, that’s fine. The word has no power anymore. Calling a male a misogynist is now as common as asking somebody how their day is going.
What has really damaged Disney’s influence is the recent South Park special. Joining The Panderverse didn’t just take the mask off of Disney. It violently ripped the mask off and punched Disney studios in the face. Once the special aired, it became socially acceptable to criticize the House of Mouse and point out their flaws.
Then you have the proxy war and possible hostile takeover developing between Disney’s board and activist investor Nelson Peltz. Peltz has combined his and Ike Perlmutter’s shares to make himself one of the company’s largest shareholders. Peltz is not happy with the direction the company is going. He is jockeying for multiple board seats and probably wouldn’t turn down an opportunity for an even bigger power grab.
The cherry on top of this rapidly melting sundae is Elon Musk and his recent comments. Iger pulled Disney advertising from twitter, allegedly to bring Elon Musk to heel. Elon Musk responded in kind by cursing him out by name in a public forum.
It has finally been pointed out. The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
When we look back on this era, we will look back on Iger as a caretaker. He is a man who knows no other business strategy than just buying properties and mass producing their content. He collects white elephants for fun.
His legacy is a low risk, boring, homogenized media library built on a foundation of endless sequels and sub-standard live action remakes. Beautiful movies like Soul, Luca, Strangeworld and Raya and The Last Dragon were disregarded by Iger.
He chooses to go all in only when it is a property that he is certain will do well financially. He only wants the glory. He doesn’t want to answer for any misfires or failures.
Michael Eisner believed in risk, and he lived and died with the results. He saved Disney from the jaws of death in the mid-eighties. He ushered in a renaissance. His illustrious list of successes include Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Alladin and The Lion King.
Iger will be remembered for regurgitating cheap remakes of Eisner’s movies and greenlighting unnecessary sequels. Despite his failures, he refuses to accept blame and continues to play the same tune.
Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
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Thank You for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles. For more hot takes, follow me here and on our brand new YouTube channel. You can also check out more of my content on my author’s page.
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