Despite the numerous, various, ever growing, and near unending examples to the contrary, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has rejected the notion that the House of Mouse has become ‘too woke’, instead arguing that the company’s recent slate of political and creative decisions are simply a result of their following the same long-term key for success they always have: “catering to our audience”.
Asked by the WSJ’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray if he believes the people who say “Disney has become too politically correct” are either “right” or “have a point”, Chapek replied, “I think the more complex something is, the more you have to really drill down into the basics.”
“We want our content to reflect the rich, diverse world that we live in,” he explained. “Again, I guess that’s another way of saying catering to your audience.”
“But the world is a rich, diverse place and we want our content to reflect that, and we’re so blessed to have the greatest content creators, and they see it similarly,” the CEO continued. “But I think that’s good from a commercial standpoint as well, because then you appeal to the largest possible audience, and certainly we live in a world now where everything seems to be polarized.”
To this end, he asserted, “I think we want Disney to stand for bringing people together, and I think we’ll do that by diverse stories and diverse characters.”
Murray then specifically inquired of Chapek what he thought ” your role as CEO of this gigantic company is very specifically on that storytelling front?”, particularly as it related to his role in “shaping” the messaging of Disney’s productions.
“Do you have views about what you should be doing there?” pressed the WSJ head. “Do you meet with the creators and do you get to express your opinions?”
“Yeah,” said Chapek. “We talk about shaping our content a lot, and some of the push/pull of all these different forces, but in the end we have to follow our North Star, which, again, is storytelling and catering to the audiences that actually love Disney, and our audiences that love Disney.”
“So to be clear, you don’t think Disney is too WOKE?” Murray then asked, seeking one last clarification on the topic.
“I think Disney is a company that survived for a hundred years by catering to its audience, and it’s going to thrive the next hundred years by catering to its audience,” affirmed Chapek in turn.
Of course, with the topic broached, Murray took the opportunity to then ask the Disney CEO what “lessons” he had learned from involving the company in the now infamous legislative battle surrounding Florida’s Parental Rights In Education law.
“I think the lesson is the lesson that we probably always knew, which is that Disney is all about the cast members, as we call them,” Chapek opined. “If you think about the nature of why people have great Disney memories…remember, the end benefit is magical memories that last a lifetime.”
“The reason they have those, yeah, it’s about the castle, and yeah, it’s about the great attractions, or they really enjoyed that churro on Main Street, but really what they remember more than anything is the guest/cast interactions,” he told Murray. “So if that’s the secret sauce for making those magical memories and we’re all about the guest and the audience, maximizing their experience, then you have to make sure that the cast is at the center of everything you do.”
“So reading between the lines, you misjudged how the employees would react with your initial stance out of the gate, and you had to get that right, because that was a challenge, their reaction to your original stance of not speaking out on the bill?” asked Murray.
Abruptly interjecting, Chapek posited, “What I would say is that we were reminded through the passion of our cast reaction on how important their sentiments are on these issues in terms of making them feel that they were part of the Walt Disney Company and could relate to the products that the Walt Disney Company puts out.”
Drawing their discussion of Disney’s ‘wokeness’ to an end, Murray ultimately wondered if the CEO would have any advice for anyone dealing with a similar controversy.
“Stick to your values,” the CEO ultimately concluded. “Stick to your North Star. Simplify the cacophony of voices out there and do what you think is right.”
Disney’s next major release, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is due in theaters on November 11th, 2022.