Former Disney CEO Bob Iger recently claimed that making Black Panther is one of the proudest moments in his over 15 years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Iger revealed the film was one of his proudest moments during a lengthy interview with Variety about his exit from Disney.
Variety’s Claudia Eller asked Iger, “Over your 15 years as CEO, you’ve transformed Disney in so many ways, including with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox and the launch of ESPN Plus and Disney Plus. What are you most proud of?”
The former CEO responded, “I could cite a number of examples, ‘Black Panther’ probably being near the top of the list.”
He then went on to cite a number of other examples, “Cutting the ribbon and opening a theme park in Shanghai and delivering the quintessential Disney theme park experience to the most populous city and country in the world. Signing a contract at this desk in this office with George Lucas to buy Lucasfilm.”
“Standing at Pixar with Steve Jobs and being handed a Luxo Jr. lamp and saying to a thousand people at Pixar that I’m going to use this to illuminate the castle,” he continued.
Finally, he concluded, “An incredible moment buying Marvel, of course, is right up there, and gaining access to not only the treasure trove of great characters but so many incredibly talented people who knew so much about the Marvel brand and its storytelling potential.”
Iger claimed in his memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, that Black Panther was his proudest achievement.
He wrote in the book, “There may be no product we’ve created that I’m more proud of than Black Panther.”
Iger went on to share an email he sent to employees sharing his pride for the film. He prefaced the email writing, “After its opening week, I felt the need to share my pride of the film and sent this note out to everyone in the company.”
The email begins, “It’s hard not starting with ‘Wakanda forever,’ as we share great news about Black Panther! Marvel’s Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making, a film that succeeds on multiple levels, touching hearts and opening minds…all while entertaining millions of people and far exceeding the loftiest box office projections.”
“This groundbreaking movie opened to a record-breaking $242 million in domestic box office over the holiday weekend, and delivered the second-highest four-day opening in movie history. Worldwide box office to date is more than $426 million, and the movie has yet to open in a number of major markets,” it continues.
“Black Panther has also become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, causing reflection, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths,” Iger wrote.
“As CEO of this phenomenal company, I receive a lot of feedback about what we create. In the 12 years I’ve had this role I have never seen such an overwhelming outpouring of genuine excitement, praise, respect, and gratitude as I’ve seen for Black Panther….It speaks to the importance of showcasing diverse voices and visions, and how powerful it is for all sectors of our society to be seen and represented in our art and entertainment,” he stated.
“The movie’s success is also a testament to our company’s willingness to champion bold business and creative initiatives, our ability to execute an innovative vision flawlessly, and our commitment to bringing extraordinary entertainment to a world that is hungry for heroes, role models, and unbelievably great storytelling,” the email concluded.
In his interview with Variety, Iger would also go on to reveal that his toughest decisions as CEO revolved around people.
He explained, “I think the hardest always was having to make tough decisions about people. I mean, some people made it easier I guess by their behavior, but a lot of people didn’t.”
“People I liked, people I respected, people I worked closely with. Looking back, I’ve never felt great about having to make tough decisions about people, even though it’s necessary,” he added.
The former Disney CEO would also discuss releasing movies to streaming services the same day they are released in theaters.
Iger would first reveal he believes there’s a shift happening where consumers want to be entertained in their home rather than at a theater.
He explained, “I learned that the experience of watching a big movie on a big screen outside of your home with a lot of other people was a big deal not just for the company but for consumers. It’s kind of a shared common experience — and there’s real value to that.”
“I do think what we’re seeing today, and some of it has been accelerated by the pandemic, is far more interest in being entertained in the home. There’s comfort with the technology and comfort with the experience,” he opined.
“I do think the big-screen movie experience is migrating, not completely, but to a significant extent to an in-home experience versus an out-of-home experience,” he asserted.
However, he doesn’t believe in releasing films simultaneously on streaming services and in theaters, “The whole day-and-date thing, I don’t know what that gets anybody, frankly.”
“I know everybody says, ‘Give consumers a choice,’ but I think I prefer a model where certain movies — not all movies — are projected on the big screen for a certain period of time and then made available on screening platforms pretty quickly,” he stated.
What do you make of Iger claiming Black Panther is one of his proudest moments as CEO of The Walt Disney Company?