In an interview just published by The Hollywood Reporter, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger briefly covered a wide array of topics that have been at the forefront of recent Disney headlines, including how Fox’s Marvel IP will join Disney’s, the controversial firings of creative talent, the pace of upcoming Star Wars installments, and alcohol in Disneyland.
The full interview with THR editorial director Matthew Belloni can be found at The Hollywood Reporter, but here are some highlights of the conversation:
On Disney’s Streaming Service
Iger’s focus for The Walt Disney Company of late has been toward expanding their direct-to-consumer presence. The CEO paid respect to Netflix and Amazon’s ability to thrive in a global market but outlined the importance of brand quality over quantity when Disney’s new streaming service launches in 2019.
“I’m impressed with what has been accomplished at Netflix and Amazon. But none of them is either Disney or Marvel. Or Pixar. Or Star Wars or National Geographic or FX or Searchlight or Avatar — I could go on,” Iger said, adding, “So we enter the business that they’re in, in many respects, with an advantage from a content perspective that will enable us to focus on quality rather than just volume.”
As for how the spending associated with this new direction will affect the company’s financial stability, Iger noted that the numbers for fiscal 2019 are expected to be low, but Disney’s board understands the potential for future success with these investments. He said, “In order to transform successfully, it means that you’re going to go through a period of time where you’ve reduced your profitability somewhat. It’s the right thing because we’re playing the long game and not the short.”
He also mentioned that 2019 will start bringing returns, as licensing deals with Netflix for new films will expire.
On the Fox Transition
The Hollywood Reporter questioned Iger on how new employees from 21st Century Fox will be integrated with the current Disney staff, to which Iger replied that “talent will prevail.”
Iger also fielded a few questions about ESPN’s current direction; no specifics were mentioned, but he displayed faith in current ESPN head James Pitaro.
On Recent Firings
Disney has recently made headlines for the firing of key creative personalities on two separate occasions: Actress/comedian Rosanne Barr and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn were both dismissed for controversial or inappropriate statements on social media. Iger was asked how much of a role he played in those decisions. Iger said his part was minimal; he supported unanimous decisions brought to him by his executives in both cases. As far as the controversy which followed Iger said, “I haven’t second-guessed their decision.”
Iger refused to go into detail about what has changed at Pixar in the absence of long-time leader John Lasseter; he simply compared the company’s cultural shift to the one that accompanied his succession of Michael Eisner. The follow-up question naturally strayed towards the #MeToo movement and its impact on Disney. Iger expressed his usual sentiments of support for victimized workers, and stressed that the same standards must be set company wide.
“There aren’t two standards based on title, rank, importance, talent, whatever,” Iger said. “Second, you’ve got to communicate very, very effectively to people that if they are a victim, if they have witnessed this, they must come forward because in not doing so they are only perpetuating an unsafe work environment, and that’s not good.”
Since the news of The Walt Disney Company’s impending purchase of 21st Century Fox properties broke, fans and business insiders alike have been questioning if and how Fox’s Marvel-related content — namely, the X-Men franchise — will be integrated with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While giving no specifics about the films themselves, Iger said of the business side, “I think it only makes sense. I want to be careful here because of what’s been communicated to the Fox folks, but I think they know. It only makes sense for Marvel to be supervised by one entity. There shouldn’t be two Marvels.”
On Star Wars
Speculation has surrounded the currently-in-question profitability of the Star Wars franchise, with many claiming that oversaturation and rushed releases are to blame. Iger took full responsibility, saying, “I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast.”
The CEO stated that fans would see a slower pace for film releases in the future, and that Disney would be “a little bit more careful about volume and timing”
On Alcohol in Disneyland
Lastly, THR asked Iger about a subject near and dear to many California park-goer’s hearts — alcohol in Disneyland. Iger’s response to this line of questioning mostly came in the form of dismissive quips, saying, “We have to be careful we don’t let people drink and then go on Autopia.”
When confronted with Walt Disney’s stated belief about Disneyland being alcohol-free Iger responded, “Yeah, except I think Walt had a nip or two in his apartment at night. (Laughs.) I am a big believer in tradition. This just seemed like one of those traditions that if we changed it the empire wasn’t gonna crumble.”
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Image: By hyku [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons