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Walt Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said Star Wars: Episode VIII, written and directed by Rian Johnson, will be released May 26, 2017, and that a stand-alone movie based on the Star Wars world that is due Dec. 16, 2016, and directed by Gareth Edwards, will be called Rogue One.
Iger made the announcement Thursday at Disney’s annual meeting of shareholders in San Francisco, where he showed off a Mickey Mouse Apple Watch, which the CEO told attendees will be hitting the market soon. Iger boasted of also owning an original Mickey Mouse watch from the 1930s.
Iger showed the attendees several trailers of upcoming Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar films, said that Disney will introduce on TV next year the first Latina in its Disney Princess line, and said he has high hopes for the live-action Cinderella opening on Friday. “We absolutely love this movie,” he said.
He said Big Hero 6 — this years best animated feature Oscar winner — has become Disney’s third-highest-grossing animated film of all time, behind Frozen and The Lion King. And John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, showed the shareholders Frozen Fever, informing them they were the second audience in the world to see the short film.
And Lasseter confirmed Disney is working on Frozen 2 — a feature film, of course.
At the meeting, a couple of proposals by shareholders went down in defeat. One would have stipulated that the next CEO be restricted from also being chairman of the board. Today, Iger is both chairman and CEO, though even if the measure passed the rule would not have applied to him.
The other shareholder proposal that did not pass would have disallowed the acceleration of vesting of any equity award in the event of a change in control at Disney.
Iger also took questions from shareholders, and politics, as has been the case for a few years now, was discussed.
One shareholder noted that the CEO of Mozilla was forced from his job for donating to California’s Proposition 8, which “defined marriage a certain way.” He then noted that some companies have pledged not to fire employees for their political positions, though Disney is not one of them.
“Why does Disney’s management oppose granting its employees the same kind of freedom of conscious protection that GE, Pepsi and Time Warner have seen fit to do, and why did you spend shareholder resources asking the FCC to block shareholders from voting on the nonbinding recommendation on this issue?”
Iger said he looked into the matter and decided such a promise would be redundant.
“We believe that the policies that we have in place, on top of encouraging those activities, also define activities that would be perfectly acceptable to us. Obviously there are some that might not be, and that is obviously subject to judgment on our part,” Iger said.
Another shareholder complained that his wife, a custodian with the company, makes less than $10 an hour. “Maybe you get a little isolated,” he told Iger, before challenging him and other top execs to live on $10 an hour. “These are real people with real issues,” he said, pleading for a higher wage for his wife.
Iger noted that beginning in 2016 union employees of Disney will earn a minimum of $10 an hour and nonunion wages should rise to that minimum shortly thereafter.
Another shareholder wanted to know Disney’s position on net neutrality, but Iger demurred, saying the company hasn’t expressed an opinion publicly on the “hot-button issue” and that he didn’t want to “bog down this meeting” by trying to explain the nuances of net neutrality.
Iger was called on to reiterate his pledge of not showing characters smoking on TV or in movies except where necessary for historical accuracy, though one shareholder asked him to go further by asking the MPAA to give an R-rating to movies that include smoking and to rally other studios to support such a measure.
Iger said it would be “a little presumptuous” to tell other studios what to do or to tell the MPAA how it should rate movies. The shareholder noted that he had spoken to the MPAA about his idea, and the MPAA told him to speak to the studios, so he was now getting the runaround.
“I think the MPAA is kind of talking out of both sides of its mouth, and the result is a million kids are going to die unnecessarily,” said the shareholder.
And one attendee complained that the company’s live-action films proclaim themselves presented by “Disney” as opposed to “Walt Disney,” as had been the case in the past. Iger, though, noted that animated movies are still presented by “Walt Disney.”
“We just thought that it was a shorter way to describe and to apply our brand,” Iger said.
A 6-year-old child seemed to surprise Iger by asking about an impending name change at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. The CEO had to check with other executives before confirming that a name change is, indeed, imminent, though he wouldn’t disclose further details.
Another child asked Iger for his autograph to be used in a school project. Iger told him he’d meet him backstage for a photo together, as well as an autograph.
Shareholder Dwight Morgan, a Disney enthusiast and regular attendee of the annual meetings, reiterated his concern that some policies at the theme parks make it difficult for pin-traders, though he thanked Iger for having an employee contact him about the issue after he raised it a year ago. “Some progress has been made regarding pin-trading,” Iger said. “You should go back to the people you’ve been talking to and maybe get an update.”
Shareholders also voted in favor of all 10 of the company’s director nominees: Iger; Susan Arnold, an executive at the Carlyle Group; John Chen, former CEO of BlackBerry; Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter; Fred Langhammer, former CEO of Estee Lauder; Aylwin Lewis, CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Works; Monica Lozano, chairman of U.S. Hispanic Media; Robert Matschullat, former CFO of Seagram; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; and Orin Smith, former CEO of Starbucks.
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