Walt Disney (DIS.N) CEO Bob Iger told investors the company will “quiet the noise” in a culture war that has pitted social conservatives against the global media and entertainment conglomerate, according to an analyst note on Wednesday.
Iger’s brief statement, included in an analyst report from Needham media analyst Laura Martin, was part of an investors’ presentation on Tuesday at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in which the CEO also announced Disney will double its investment in theme parks and cruise ships over the next decade.
Disney is struggling to make its streaming business profitable, improve the quality of its films, position its flagship sports brand, ESPN, to stream directly to consumers, and potentially shed its television networks. In its most recent quarter, the company beat Wall Street’s profit expectations but fell short on revenue.
Disney declined comment.
The entertainment company was thrust at the center of the nation’s culture wars in 2022, when it publicly criticized Florida legislation restricting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Governor Ron DeSantis responded by campaigning against “woke Disney,” and working with the state legislature to strip it of self-governing authority over the parks.
Florida and Disney are locked in a legal battle over the formation of the Central Florida Oversight District board, which assumed oversight of development in the nearly 25,000 acres (100 square kilometers) of property in and around Disney’s theme parks.
It is unclear how much of the $60 billion in new investment in parks will be spent in Florida, where Disney faces increased competition from rivals such as Universal Orlando Resort. Iger previously said the company planned to spend $17 billion in investment at Walt Disney World over the next 10 years.
Parks have become a reliable profit engine for Disney at a challenging time for the company.
Disney has also faced social media backlash from conservative commentators over the casting of Halle Bailey, a Black actress, in the lead role of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” though the movie ended up making $570 million worldwide, making it the seventh-highest grossing film of 2023 so far, according to Boxofficemojo.
Several countries last year blocked the release of the Pixar Animation Studios film “Lightyear,” which depicts a same-sex couple sharing a brief kiss.
Iger’s remarks about its content appear to mirror those he made at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April.
At the time, Iger was responding to an investor who said the company was becoming too concerned with social issues.
“Our primary mission needs to be to entertain … and to have a positive impact on the world,” Iger said at the time. “I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda-driven.”
Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles Editing by Marguerita Choy