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Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger disclosed Tuesday that Pixar is working on a new Cars movie and a new Incredibles film. He also said Frozen is close to surpassing Toy Story 3 as the biggest animated film of all time, and that the next Star Wars movie will pick up 30 years after the events in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, a timeframe that conceivably would allow Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to play aging versions of their iconic characters, though Iger only hinted at such possibilities.
“There will be some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads,” Iger said. “The team is well into preproduction and from the concept art that I have seen so far, Star Wars: Episode VII really looks amazing.”
Iger was speaking in Portland, Ore., during Disney’s annual meeting of shareholders.
As for Pixar, the Disney CEO said: “We have plans for a new Cars movie and on top of that Brad Bird is already working on a great story for a new Incredibles film.”
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Iger also said a fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise is in development but has not yet been greenlighted.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Disney avoided a clash with some shareholders who were advancing a proposal that would have allowed entities that own 3 percent of the company’s stock to nominate board members. The resolution was championed in part by the California State Teachers Retirement System, though Disney said in a filing Tuesday morning that the resolution was withdrawn and that Disney agreed to separate the roles of chairman and CEO unless “the best interests of shareholders would be otherwise better served.”
Iger is currently both CEO and chairman and will remain in both positions, though because of the new policy Disney’s board must do a better job of justifying the arrangement. Many of the same shareholders who supported the 3 percent rule also advocated splitting the chairmanship and CEO jobs, so dropping one plan while partially embracing the other was seen as a compromise on the part of Disney and its large shareholders.
Iger’s contract runs through June 2016, but chatter about a successor was spurred by the announcement that Anne Sweeney will step down this year as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group.
Wall Street analysts and other observers expect the CEO job will go to either CFO James Rasulo or chairman of the theme park unit Thomas Staggs, though another name in the mix is Sheryl Sandberg, a Disney board member and COO of Facebook.
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On Tuesday, Frozen‘s box-office cume stood at $1.027 billion worldwide; Toy Story 3, released in 2010, earned $1.063 billion, and Iger was confident the former would pass the latter very soon. Iger showed those assembled at the shareholder’s meeting a new trailer for Maleficent and scenes from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and raved about both upcoming movies while speaking of “an unprecedented pipeline” that includes a live-action Cinderella in 2015 and Tomorrowland, a sci-fi film starring George Clooney.
Disney has been having a streak of luck with the timing of its shareholder meetings of late. Last year, its annual meeting was held one day after the stock hit a record high; this time around, the stock was trading just a couple of dollars shy of another record after having risen 43 percent since last year’s meeting.
Iger, in fact, began the meeting by noting that last year at this time, Disney’s market capitalization was more than $100 billion, while this year it is above $140 billion. “I call that a great year,” he said.
Still, a shareholder found something to gripe about and, like last year, it was alleged media bias at ABC News.
A man identifying himself as a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a free-market think tank and Disney shareholder, complained that ABC News has not been adequately covering the story about the IRS allegedly targeting Tea Party groups. He also criticized ABC News for not questioning President Barack Obama‘s pledge that under Obamacare “you can keep your healthcare plan.”
“Do you wish to say anything right now to the millions of Americans who unexpectedly lost their health insurance? Perhaps apologize for the role ABC News played in causing that harm?” asked the shareholder.
“I will pass on your comments to ABC News,” Iger said. “While there are times when critics come forward and point out mistakes that they’ve made, overall the quality of our news is something we should be proud of.”
The CEO also called ABC News “fair and balanced.”
Later during the Q&A session of the meeting, a shareholder defended ABC News while another fawned over Iger — even calling the CEO his favorite Disney character — before saying The Lone Ranger, a box-office dud, “got a bad rap.” The shareholder also lobbied for a Mulan castle at Shanghai Disney Resort but Iger promised only a Mulan “presence,” not a castle.
Another shareholder said her favorite Disney movie is Aladdin and that the character Jafar “is a work of art comparable to Leonardo da Vinci.” She lamented the lack of 2D, traditional animation nowadays but couldn’t get Iger to commit to making a 2D animated film again. “It doesn’t matter what the genre is or the type of technology we use to create or tell the story, it’s about how good the story is,” he said.
Iger also was called on by one man who says he is at Disneyland every Thursday to defend a policy at theme parks that limits the practice of trading collectible pins. “We’ve had to be careful that the pin-traders don’t interrupt the normal flow of traffic and essentially reduce the quality of the experience for the other guests who are not interested in pin trading,” Iger said.
Also during the meeting the shareholders re-elected all 10 members of the company’s board of directors who stood for re-election, as expected, and Iger announced that the next D23 Expo, a Disney fan event, will take place Aug. 14-16 in Anaheim.
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