Walt Disney’s announcement that Bob Chapek would be stepping down as CEO and the retired Bob Iger was replacing him effective immediately has stunned the industry, with Hollywood taking the news with a mix of shock, confusion and (in most cases) approval.
A rival studio source noted that the timing was suspect and that it was less of a shock that Chapek had been removed than that Iger had agreed to return. “There is a real question of what is expected of (Iger),” they said, asking for anonymity, adding that it is generally expected that he would undo most of Chapek’s structural choices.
Multiple industry sources expressed shock at Iger’s return because the former (and now present) CEO so often declared that he and his wife Willow Bay were enjoying retirement. Moreover, this transition occurred just before Thanksgiving week and days before the theatrical release of Walt Disney Animation’s “Strange World” and weeks before the likely-to-be-massive theatrical release of James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
Those in and around the industry reacted likewise at the notion of Iger returning to the job he held for 15 years before vacating in early 2020. The most obvious reaction was that of surprise.
Zack Stentz (writer of “X-Men: First Class” and “Thor” among other films and television projects) wondered if Iger, based on his Twitter profile listing himself as a former CEO, had even been made aware of the news.
At least one industry person only learned of the transition because the media had reached out to them for comment. Meanwhile, Josh Gad, star of “Frozen” and “Beauty and the Beast,” reacted with unmitigated joy, declaring “the GOAT is back!!!”
Meanwhile, AMC CEO Adam Aron commented publicly on Twitter as well, noting that Disney was the biggest money-maker of any studio (in terms of box office grosses) and that Iger returning to Disney as its CEO was a big deal. He proclaimed the “absolute highest respect for Bob Iger.”
Matt Braly, creator of Disney’s “Amphibia,” expressed great relief, allegedly speaking for the entire animation industry, that Chapek was no longer running Disney. At the very least, the policy of sending Pixar original features to Disney+ in lieu of a conventional theatrical release had proven controversial among those within the industry and in the animation trenches.
Lastly, Benjamin Siemon (Brody on “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and an animation writer for the likes of “Ducktales” and “TrollsTopia”) reacted to the news in relation to Iger and Chapek’s differing public statements in relation to LBGTQIA issues.
Disney made the right decision. Perhaps it was purely financial, but either way Iger helped stand up for LGBTQ employees while Bob Chapek stayed silent as "Don't Say Gay" passed. Chapek's indifference cemented the trend of corporations saying nothing as LGBTQ employees suffered.— https://mstdn.social/@benjaminjs (@BenjaminJS) November 21, 2022
former boss, who was returning to right the ship after his heir messed things up. Whether Iger’s new reign will be markedly different from Chapek’s COVID-era leadership, the mood is upbeat for those who consider themselves fans of Disney movies, Disney parks and the general Disney brand.