Disney CEO Bob Chapek on Replacing Bob Iger: "I Do Understand the Gravity"

Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks -March 25, 2017 - Getty-H 2020
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Iger also addressed the studio's succession at the top during an annual shareholder meeting after handing the CEO reins to Chapek.

After Bob Iger stepped down as Disney CEO and was replaced by Bob Chapek, the former Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairman on Wednesday told investors he was both thrilled and awed at becoming the studio's seventh CEO.

"I've never been more excited — maybe that's to be expected — but I do understand the gravity of trying to fill this gentleman's shoes, but I'm ready for it and look forward to some great years ahead," Chapek told Disney's annual shareholders meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was webcast.

Iger, who will stay on as executive chairman through 2021, with an eye on creative endeavors, early on in the investors meeting introduced Chapek at the helm of the studio.

"I can't think of a better person to succeed me in this role. Bob is someone that we know very well, and he certainly knows our company very well. He will do an outstanding job leading our company into its next century as its seventh CEO," Iger said.

Iger on Feb. 25 announced he was stepping down as Disney CEO and into the role of executive chairman.

As chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products, Chapek oversaw Disney’s biggest revenue-generating segment, which has seen nearly 18 percent growth from 2016 to 2019, when it brought in $26.2 billion in revenue.

Iger in prepared remarks made early on to investors addressed the impact of the coronavirus on the studio, and also touted the upcoming launch of the Disney+ streaming service. “The decision to pivot to a direct-to-consumer strategy was a critical one and it is a top priority,” he said.

Iger also appeared quick to let Chapek take the lead, where possible, during a relaxed investor gathering tempered only by remarks about the global virus outbreak. "OK, so we have Formula One, Pixar, Star Wars and parks and resorts. I'll let you go first," he told Chapek after both fielded a lengthy question from a shareholder.

Chapek later addressed another shareholder who complained that ABC News "continues to run overwhelmingly negative stories about President Trump," as the shareholder added he thinks the news division has an "extreme anti-conservative bias."

"Interestingly enough, the very first trip I took after I got the new job was to ABC News, and I must say I was overwhelmed by their professionalism and their commitment to objectivity," Chapek said. He also addressed ABC News recently suspending David Wright after comments he made in a leaked video was made public by Project Veritas.

"He (Wright) said some things that made us question his objectivity and obviously when you're reporting the news, there's no place for someone who's got a heavily subjective opinion. So internally we dealt with that situation," Chapek added.

Another shareholder raised a complaint about Disney's representation of LGBTQ communities, as she urged: "Please, let's not have Gay Pride in the Disneyland parks."

Chapek in his response defended the studio's drive toward inclusion in its creative offerings. "At Disney we strongly believe that we should reflect in our creative content the diversity that we find in our fan base and with our audience. And I believe that will continue with an increased commitment as we move forward.... We believe we want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear and that reflects their lives," he said.

Iger told another shareholder that Disney's 1946 film Song of the South would not land on Disney+. "I've felt as long as I was CEO that Song of the South even with a disclaimer was just not appropriate in today's world. It's actually true with some of the other things we've made as well," he said.

Song of the South has been criticized for its portrayal of African Americans following the end of the Civil War. The film, which won a best original song Oscar for "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has not been released on home video in the U.S.

Chapek also addressed tobacco and depictions of smoking in 20th Century content that lands on Disney+ or Hulu, in response to another concerned shareholder. "You'll be glad to know the same policy that we implement at Marvel, Lucas and Disney will be implemented across the 20th Century product as well. Any product that's youth oriented, that is PG-13 or below, will be free of smoking," he said.