Jeffrey R. Epstein, a vice president of corporate communications for Disney and the man who spearheaded the official Disney fan club D23, was among those laid off this week, TheWrap has confirmed.
Previously working under Zenia Mucha, the feared and respected former senior executive vice president and CCO (otherwise known as the “Director of Revenge”), Epstein is perhaps best known as the spokesperson for D23 – an official Disney fan club that included a quarterly published glossy magazine and, eventually, an official fan convention known as D23 Expo, held every other year in Anaheim, California. Stephen Clark initially developed the concept and the current president of D23 is Michael Vargo.
The last D23 Expo event was held in 2022, having its schedule thrown off by the pandemic. Epstein additionally co-hosted a D23-themed podcast, “D23 Inside Disney,” along with Oh My Disney’s Sheri Henry.
News of the ouster came from six separate sources with knowledge of the situation.
In addition to D23, Epstein co-founded the popular Gay Days at Disneyland, an early and pioneering LGBTQ+ outing that was eventually endorsed by the company. The first event was held in 1998 and drew 2,500 people; by 2021 it drew 30,000 daily visitors and was a fully prepared weekend full of activities like screenings, lectures and celebrity guests.
In recent years, he gained notoriety and a following on social media for repeatedly asserting that he’s not that Jeffrey Epstein, referring to the late convicted sex offender and financier. He also cultivated a strong relationship with many Disney fans, having been one for many years himself, even hosting an early YouTube series for the company called “Disney Geek.”
Epstein’s dismissal was part of companywide layoffs that impacted Elizabeth Newman, VP of Development who was based at 20th Television while overseeing Creative Acquisitions for Disney Television Studios; Mark Levenstein, SVP Production for Hulu; Jayne Bieber, SVP Production Management & Operations for Freeform; and nearly the entire Disney metaverse team.
This week marks the first wave of layoffs initiated by CEO Bob Iger, with as many as 7,000 employees (or, in Disney terms, “cast members”) being let go from every echelon of the company, with additional layoffs coming in the weeks and months ahead.
Upcoming D23 events include a walk through Marceline, Missouri, the inspiration behind Main Street U.S.A. and Walt Disney’s hometown; the premiere of Disney100: The Exhibit in Munich; and an anniversary screening of “Return of the Jedi” in London.
The status of another D23 Expo remains up in the air. It will theoretically happen in the fall of 2024 but there hasn’t been an official announcement yet.