As legal battles continue with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Disney CEO Bob Iger told analysts and investors that Disney will “quiet the noise” in culture wars. This comes after Governor Ron DeSantis attacked Disney for coming out against the “don’t say gay” law last year. Since then, the Governor has referred to the company as “woke Disney” as he has threatened the house of mouse and eventually also dissolved and replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District where Walt Disney World Resort mostly resides. The comments from the Disney CEO came at Walt Disney World Resort during a special investor summit.
These new comments by Iger also echo what he said during the annual shareholder meeting earlier this spring. “Our primary mission needs to be to entertain … and to have a positive impact on the world,” Iger said at the April meeting. “I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda-driven.”
The controversy between Governor DeSantis and Disney has added fuel to a fire of a simmering culture war between conservatives and Disney, which traditionally stays out of these issues. However, since the feud began, it has become a much bigger issue. Frequently, since the controversy began, Governor DeSantis has called out the company and used the fight as a tool to further his agenda.
With the return of Bob Iger to the role of CEO at the end of the last year, the controversy has become less public. It does continue in the courts, however. Disney currently is still sueing the Governor in federal court. In the lawsuit, it says that Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders violated the company’s First Ammendment rights with the actions that were retaliatory because of its stance on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Another lawsuit in state court was brought against Disney by the now named Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This lawsuit seeks to nullify a development agreement Disney made with the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney has countersued at the state level as well.
During the investor summit, Disney shared that it would be investing $60 billion in its parks and cruise line in the coming 10 years. This is nearly double what was spent by the company in this segment in the last ten years. The announcement comes as the company is working to turn its streaming service profitable and figure out a path forward with (and potentially out of) its linear television networks. The company is also figuring out a path forward for ESPN. Through the recent challenges facing the company, the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products segment continues to be a shining star. It makes sense that the company would continue to invest in what is working. Disney also shared that there is plenty of room for growth in the properties it already owns. There are over 1,000 acres available for future development by Disney. This is about the equivalent of seven Disneyland Park theme parks.
“Throughout our history, we’ve created enormous growth by investing the right amount of capital into the right projects at the right moment,” said Iger at the investor summit. “We are planning to turbocharge our growth yet again with a robust amount of strategic investment in this business.”
“We’re incredibly mindful of the financial underpinning of the company, the need to continue to grow in terms of bottom line, the need to invest wisely so that we’re increasing the returns on invested capital, and the need to maintain a balance sheet, for a variety of reasons,” Iger also said. “The company is able to absorb those costs and continue to grow the bottom line and look expansively at how we return value and capital to our shareholders.”
“We have an ambitious growth story that is supported by a proven track record and a bold vision for the future of our Parks business,” said Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.
There is plenty of speculation already over what exactly Disney could invest in moving forward. Just this week, an environmental impact report was submitted to Anaheim for the future of the Disneyland Resort. During the investor summit, D’Amaro shared some of the possibilities for this expansion. “We have a wealth of untapped stories to bring to life across our business,” said D’Amaro. “Frozen, one of the most successful and popular animated franchises of all time, could have a presence at the Disneyland Resort. Wakanda has yet to be brought to life. The world of Coco is just waiting to be explored. There’s a lot of storytelling opportunity.”
As things continue to move forward for The Walt Disney Company, there are plenty of challenges to be faced in the future and also plenty of possibilities. One obstacle the company undoubtably doesn’t want to be facing is an ongoing culture war. Time will only tell how successful the company with this. However, if history is any indicator, Bob Iger is nothing if not a diplomat that can bring resolution to controversies.
Do you think Disney will be successful in its efforts to “quiet the noise” of culture wars? How do you think this will play out? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!