Bob Iger Urged Disney Executives to Avoid Using Data to Answer Creative Questions During CEO Transition

The Walt Disney Company has seen a lot of change over the past year and a half.

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A new CEO (Bob Chapek) has taken over and shifted the structure and leadership of the company, there has been a greater focus on direct-to-consumer products with the launch of Disney+, and the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to impact the company in many ways. But, now we’re learning more about the CEO transition process that took place over the past year and how the company’s business model in Hollywood is shifting under new leadership.

Back in February 2020, the former CEO of 15 years, Bob Iger, announced that he would be stepping down and that his successor would be Bob Chapek. But, Iger didn’t leave the company immediately, instead, the transition period lasted about a year and a half, with Iger serving in a creative capacity (coordinating Disney+ releases during the pandemic) as Chapek took over as CEO. And, it wasn’t until mid-July 2021 that Iger attended his final board meeting before fully retiring from the company.

Bob Iger and Bob Chapek ©Disney

Iger had been known for his strength in dealing with Hollywood and bringing big titles to the company, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he had some parting advice for the new CEO and the company at the final meeting in Aulani.

He opened the meeting by sharing that “In a world and business that is awash with data, it is tempting to use data to answer all of our questions, including creative questions…I urge all of you not to do that.” He then added that solely relying on data in previous years likely would have led to the company never bringing big titles to the screen like Black Panther, Coco, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Bob Iger ©Disney

Disney’s new CEO, Chapek has been described by colleagues as a “numbers-oriented, bottom-line-focused businessman lacking creative experience and without Iger’s polish and flair.” And, while it is unclear exactly how Disney executives responded to Iger’s comments in the meeting, some believe that his words were meant to be a warning, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Bob Chapek ©Bloomberg via Getty Images

But, pressure for the new CEO with little Hollywood experience has been building throughout the past year, as investors advocate for adding more content to Disney+ on the same day that they hit the theaters without an additional fee for subscribers. In fact, Rich Greenfield (Lightshed Partners analyst) has noted that “Disney investors are pushing Chapek to lean harder into streaming even if it frustrates talent.”


Now, Disney has not yet opted to take this approach, however, they have made the decision to alter release schedules over the past year in light of COVID-19. For example, both Cruella and Black Widow were released in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access (a $30 fee) on the same day and select Pixar films like Soul and Luca skipped the theatrical release and premiered directly on Disney+ free for subscribers.

Black Widow billboard in Disney World

But, this release approach has upset some of Disney’s Hollywood stars, with Scarlett Johansson (star of Black Widow) suing the company over the summer due to the loss of compensation from the film’s dual premiere. Plus, Pixar animators like Pete Docter have spoken out against the decision to stream recent Pixar films directly on Disney+ for free.

Joe Gardner 50th Anniversary Golden Statue

The Scarlett Johansson suit has since been settled and Disney has announced that all future films set to debut in 2021 will have an exclusive theatrical release window, much like Marvel’s Shang-Chi.


So, Disney’s dealings in Hollywood have seen a shift since Chapek has taken over the creative side as CEO, but many executives still feel that he will lead the company into its next big phase with President of Marvel,  Kevin Feige, saying that Chapek has been “underestimated” and that “he is a creative guy, a nice guy, a real guy.”

Bob Chapek Filming in front of Cinderella Castle

With so much changing across all aspects of the Disney Company and the parks reaching a milestone year, we will see what more is to come from Disney’s seventh CEO. And, of course, we’ll continue to keep an eye out for all of the latest Disney news concerning upcoming releases both in theaters and on Disney+, so be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for more!

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