From a Stockholder: 3 Problems The Walt Disney Company Needs to Fix NOW

The Walt Disney Company

Chapek, Chapek, Chapek…

The name itself is enough to trigger people across the spectrum of Disney fans and has become almost a synonym for “corporate scapegoat.” People aren’t happy, and according to recent reports, The Walt Disney Company’s stockholders are looking to vote him out of position this year.

I have been a stockholder in The Walt Disney Company for most of my life. I have been lucky enough to view the company as both a fanatic and investor, and let me tell you, Disney has more significant problems than Bob Chapek.

Here are the three biggest issues, in my opinion. I do not dare to try and claim any of these decisions to be Chapek’s alone. These problems are company-wide.

1. Disney Needs to Get Out of Bed with the CCP

Mulan Remake

Credit: Disney

First, let me say that I understand why Disney wants to infiltrate Mainland China. What entertainment conglomerate wouldn’t want to be the first to really tap into a market of 1.4 billion people?

The fact that former CEO Bob Iger was able to build the first American Theme Park on Mainland China alone is enough to earn a page in Business History. But it’s gone too far.

Disney needs to stop dealing with the Chinese Communist Party: the outright evil authoritarian organization that holds occupation over Mainland China, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Hong Kong, and East Turkestan; restricts free speech and abducts journalists; and forced the Uyigher people into re-education camps (just to name a few things). Nothing China stands for aligns with the American values upon which Walt Disney founded his wonderful company.

As a stockholder, I have watched as Disney kowtowed to the Chinese people when it comes to movie-making. These moments are as subtle as making the Force Ghosts in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy blue to match their customs to going as far as to make a Mulan remake. Disney’s live-action Mulan was practically a love letter to the communist nation and was rumored to employ force Uiygher labor on set, but the film heavily underperformed in Mainland China, as well as the other movies since Avengers: Endgame. Mulan was criticized by some for being too American for the Chinese and too Chinese for the Americans.

Disney prides itself on being a global corporation, but it is not. It is a globally recognized and appreciated American corporation and that is a big difference! The Walt Disney Company needs to go back to being unapologetically American and share its cornucopia of American cinema and television with all who want it. That’s the first thing.

2. Disney Needs to Stop Trying to be Woke

Pirates of the Caribbean

Through its insistence upon intersectionality and far-left woke doctrine, The Walt Disney Company has created even more division among its audience, especially in the Theme Parks and in movies and television.

In recent years, Disney has made unnecessary changes to iconic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise, took animated classics, and made woke-washed (as I call it) CGI and live-action remakes with far weaker writing, and they have begun pushing divisive kids shows.

Anybody who provides a rational reason against the changes and tries to defend the fact that Disney’s classic movies and rides were good-natured and had no offense intended was–and still is–labeled a racist, sexist, or some other kind of bigot.

Jungle Cruise

Related: Disney Jr. Show Criticized for ‘Woke’ Song About ‘Micro-aggressions

Natural representation and diversity are good things and necessary for genuine, truthful storytelling. But representation, and diversity, just for its own sake, is wrong and is honestly cheap storytelling. People are more intelligent than the studios let on, and they can tell when Disney is playing the “diversity game.” Where can we fit in a black character? Where can we drop in a gay character? It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense for the story. Let’s check all the boxes.

Josh Gad and Luke Evans in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ which starred Emma Watson. Credit: Disney

Basic intersectionality cheapens representation and works to distract a desperate superficial public. Don’t bother giving Halle Bailey or Rachel Zegler their own princess stories. Let’s just make Snow White and The Little Mermaid again and put them in the leading roles. Let’s not risk a new project on diversity. Let’s just take Beauty and the Beast and put a bunch of Black people as villagers and nobles. (Oh, and let’s make LaFou gay for good measure.) We don’t want to do the work to pitch an experimental and more “historically-accurate” film about the middle east. Let’s just remake Aladdin, give Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s lyrics a woke wash and put Will Smith as the Genie to distract everybody.

Disney’s woke-washing is disingenuous, unnecessarily divisive, and takes half the “realism” and almost all of the fun out of its content. While the short term has shown fantastic financial results, I sincerely worry about the long-term effects this will have on the company. As Captain Hook would say, “Bad Form.”

Related: OpEd: Disney No Longer Making ‘Snow White,’ Remake Doomed from the Start

I can go further and say how Disney is listening to the Ugly Step Sisters, turning away from excellent Cinderellas, and starting to tell people to fight for their mediocrity and antagonize instead of aspiring to what is actually beautiful and dream-worthy in the world. But, that is another article, so I will move on to my last point.

3. Disney Needs to Start Paying Dividends Again

The Walt Disney Company

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

On May 5, 2020, The Walt Disney Company-which shut down The Disneyland Resort, The Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and the Shanghai Disney Resort, as well as movie productions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic-decided to suspend its dividend payout. This was a decision made by the board of directors, not by the rest of the stockholders. It is now almost two years later, and stockholders are still without their dividends.

Now, the move was understandable at the time. Disney stated in its announcement,

By not issuing a semi-annual dividend, the Company will preserve about $1.6 billion in cash, based on the 88 cents a share previously paid to shareholders in January.

When a company as massive as Disney’s main sources of revenue are all shut down, it makes sense to shore up as much money as they can. I have no doubt that suspending dividend payments played a crucial role in how Disney was able to navigate the pandemic. But that was then. This is now.

It was recently announced that Disney Parks pulled off its second-best quarter ever, and CEO Bob Chapek received a massive raise. Mask mandates are being lowered as Guests flood into the parks, Disney+ is outperforming subscription expectations, and cinemas are starting to make a comeback.

I have been a stockholder in The Walt Disney Company most of my life. I have always reinvested my dividends and watched my little piece of Disney grow like a backyard garden thanks to those dividends. The company seems in good shape, so I want my dividends back now. And there’s little doubt that I am the only stockholder who feels this way.

Will Bob Chapek’s Departure Really Solve These Problems?

Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Disney CEO Bob Chapek Credit: Disney

There you have a stockholder’s three biggest problems with Disney’s performance. So as the annual meeting approaches, this stockholder wonders what he has to do to fix these problems.

Will Chapek’s departure really make a difference here? Honestly, I don’t know. These are corporate-level problems, one of which has already infiltrated down to entry-level hiring. I think it’s going to require a change of heart or outright replacement of several key figures to get Disney out of China, to end its fallacious woke crusade, and start giving stockholders their due dividends once again.

But what I do know is that Bob Chapek was the “wartime general” who needed to tighten Disney’s belt and get it back to where it is today. He has also proven that he knows how to make the company money in Disney Parks as well as Disney streaming services, especially by utilizing content for and from Marvel Studios, Star Wars, Disney Hotstar, 20th Century Studios (formerly 21st Century Fox), and other Disney media outlets. I will listen to both sides, but I got other priorities besides ticket prices and crowds right now.

About T.K. Bosacki

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, TK Bosacki is a professional writer, amateur adventurer, and lifelong Disney Fanatic. His Disney Park days include Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Nomad Lounge. He believes in starting at the Canada pavilion (IYKYK), and the Monorail is superior to all Ferry Boats.

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