John Oliver took Disney and its CEO Bob Chapek to task on “Last Week Tonight” over the executive’s responses on behalf of the company to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and his handling of employees’ outrage.
Oliver pointed out Sunday that corporate America, including AT&T (which he called, “our soon to be ex-business daddy”) and Disney have made donations to some of the politicians who voted for the bill. Disney’s contributions in the last two years were just shy of $300,000, according to a report from Popular Information, quoted by the HBO host.
“Now, are they morally bankrupt for doing that? Who’s to say? I’ll tell you: I am. I am to say. After all, I’m Zazu. No, no, no, not that one, not the fun one. The fuzzy little dead-eyed bird that ruins everybody’s day — this guy,” Oliver said as onscreen graphics showed the original “Lion King” Zazu and the one he voiced in the 2019 live-action remake.
News of the donations upset various groups of employees at Disney (including LGBTQ members and allies in the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution team, and at Pixar). As Oliver recounted, Chapek went on to make things worse by trying to explain in a staff memo why Disney had remained silent on the bill, citing films including “Encanto” and “Black Panther” — the company’s “diverse stories” — as standing as the company’s “corporate statements — “and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort,” Chapek wrote.
And from that point, Oliver took off.
“Here’s the thing, movies generally can effect how people view the world, but is this really a path you want to go down Disney? You are the same company that’s coded basically every villian in your movies as gay, stereotyped minorities to a breathtaking degree and had something called a ‘Wench Auction’ in place at Disneyland until 2018,” Oliver said, showing a photo from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. “So I don’t know if you’ve had a net 100-percent positive effect here.”
As the “Last Week Tonight” host continued to explain the Disney headlines from last week, including that it will pause all political donations, Oliver used his position as the voice of Zazou to call the company out.
“And for all Chapek’s self-congratulation about how Disney movies like ‘Black Panther’ can instigate change, that change clearly has its limits given that news broke this week that the movie’s director, Ryan Coogler, had been handcuffed by police while trying to withdraw money from his own bank account,” Oliver said. “Marginalized creators have made billions of dollars for Disney. Now, should it embarrass them that it took them until this week to announce that the shouldn’t take that money and use it to actively undermine those creators’ interests? Who’s to say? I’ll tell you. I am. I’m Zazu, remember? And while I haven’t been invited back for the prequel yet — after tonight — I’ve got a pretty good feeling about it.”
Watch the whole segment via HBO Max, or you can view it over on The Daily Beast’s website.