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It’s no longer the happiest place on Earth.
Disney’s major leadership shift is rankling employees, as former chief executive Bob Iger prepares to step away from his role as executive chairman at the end of the year, according to a report.
Newly-minted CEO Bob Chapek is asserting more authority as longtime leader Iger heads for the door, which has rubbed some staff the wrong way.
“The two men’s once-warm relationship has grown strained,” according to a report by Hollywood trade publication Variety, which cited four unnamed Disney insiders.
When he left the C-suite, Iger was charged with focusing on the creative side of Disney, including working on Disney+, the company’s important streaming service, but now sources say that Chapek is encroaching on that territory.
Iger, who held the role of CEO for 15 years, has slid “much more into the background than he was a few months ago, even on the creative side,” an anonymous source said.
Chapek has not only been seen in creative meetings with Iger, but he has also recently convened his own meetings with top creative teams in television led by Peter Rice and Dana Walden without Iger present.
“Everyone is becoming more and more deferential to Chapek,” an unnamed Disney executive said. “Things are radically different than they were six months ago.” The exec noted that the senior leaders have tried to “insulate” the creative teams from all the upheaval.
Sources whispered that Chapek’s tightened grip over the creative business comes now that he has righted the ship in areas that were hardest hit by the pandemic. During the virus crisis, Disney was forced to shut down its Disneyland and Disney World parks worldwide and halt movie and TV production amid global movie theater closures.
Other sources said that Chapek’s leadership became most apparent when the exec reorganized Disney’s entertainment operations to focus on streaming. They pointed to Chapek’s promotion of his allies such as Kareem Daniel to chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution from overseeing consumer products.
“It’s a very different place and a very different organization,” a Disney insider said. “Kareem has huge authority and power.”
While the reorganization — which created three content divisions, studios, general entertainment and sports — was meant to produce a more harmonious workflow, it has caused “more confusion.” Employees griped that the changes have made the workflow “more convoluted than necessary,” citing an extra managerial layer that stands in the way of projects getting made.
Another big change that will cement Chapek’s Disney is widely anticipated end of year departure of longtime, well-respected chief creative officer Alan Horn.
Disney insiders said Horn’s counterpart Alan Bergman, who was recently elevated to chairman of Disney Studios Content, will be taking the creative reins solo. Bergman will have his hands full overseeing various fiefdoms at Disney rom Pixar to LucasFIlm and Marvel, as the company continues to grapple with how to prioritize content for Disney+ and its other streaming services such as Hulu.
Disney declined to comment.
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