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Disney’s Bob Iger: ‘Infusing Messaging’ Into Our Films and TV Shows ‘Is Not What We’re Up To’

Bob Iger just put the shush-finger up (he probably wanted to do the middle one) to Elon Musk and anyone else who says Disney’s content is more about social-justice issues these days than entertainment.

On Thursday, Iger sat with CNBC reporter David Faber at Disney HQ. The Disney chief was primarily there to celebrate his proxy-fight victory over Nelson Peltz, Ike Perlmutter, and other activist investors, but the topics went wide over the 30-minute conversation.

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After the requisite stuff about the Disney board (status quo is good!), its Iger succession plan (no updates!), Disney+ and Hulu together (“doing extremely well”), their coming password-sharing crackdown (rolls out in June, wide in September), and a whole bunch on sports (no name or price point still on coming joint venture), Faber went “woke.” Well, he asked about the high-profile public figures, specifically Twitter/X owner Musk, who use the term as a pejorative when discussing Disney — how does Iger handle it?

“I ignore it,” Iger said. “There’s no relevance to the Walt Disney Company or me.”

“Infusing messaging as the sort of number-one priority in our films and TV shows is not what we’re up to. They need to be entertaining,” Iger said. “And look, where the Disney company can have a positive impact on the world — whether it’s fostering acceptance and understanding of people of all different types — great. But, generally speaking, we need to be an entertainment-first company, and I’ve worked really hard to do that.”

As a result of his efforts in the space, Iger says “the noise” surrounding Disney’s place in the culture wars “has sort of quieted down.” Seeing as how Disney World and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have made peace (there is still a federal free-speech case), it is hard to argue that point.

Also, many of the company’s critics are using the word “woke” wrong. “The term ‘woke’ is thrown around rather liberally,” Iger said. “I think a lot of people don’t really understand what it means.”

Earlier in the conversation, Iger called the Peltz fight “distracting” and said it was “absolutely not” helpful to the company — regardless of what Disney’s share price has done during the battle. (DIS is up more than 40 percent since October 2023; Iger credits the company’s earnings, not the proxy fight.)

Peltz, the 81-year-old manager of multibillion-dollar asset-management firm Trian Partners, has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to infiltrate the board alongside two allies. Disney has spent a similar chunk of change to fend its foes off and keep the same butts in the same board seats.

Peltz has tried this before — and failed before. This push seemed to be his last gasp. Peltz wants to see (even more) drastic cuts to Disney’s spending, including the C-suite’s executive compensation. Perlmutter, the former Marvel chief whose Disney shares gave Peltz some serious voting power, just seems to be out for blood. (While Iger said the fight was not “personal” for him, he said it probably was for Perlmutter — but ask him.)

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