Disney CEO Bob Iger talks about LGBTQ inclusion in ‘Don’t say gay’ town hall

Bob Iger poses with Mickey Mouse at Mickey’s 90th performance at The Shrine Auditorium on October 6, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Valerie Macon | AFP | Getty Images

After being criticized for his past handling of LGBTQ issues, Disney CEO Bob Iger told employees on Monday that inclusion and acceptance are among the “core values” of the company’s storytelling.

The remarks come after Disney was criticized by former CEO Bob Chapek for its response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which banned the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten until third grade. Disney’s recent inclusion of explicitly homosexual characters in animated films has also drawn criticism from anti-LGBTQ activists.

“This company has been telling stories for 100 years and those stories have had a meaningful positive impact on the world, and one of the reasons they have had a meaningful positive impact is because one of the core values ​​of our storytelling is inclusion. as well as acceptance and tolerance, and we cannot lose that,” Eiger said on Monday.

Iger also said that some of the issues that have proven controversial should not be considered political.

“I don’t think it’s political when you tell stories and try to be a good citizen of the world,” he said, according to sources who have heard of the event, and asked to remain anonymous because it was not open to the public.

Regarding Florida’s bill, Chapek said he initially chose not to speak out on the measure because he wanted to work “behind the scenes” to interact with lawmakers. However, his silence has led many opponents of the bill to believe that Disney is calming down.

When Chapek later opposed the bill, his remarks angered Florida lawmakers, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, leading to legislation being passed to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek beautification district, which was founded in 1967, so the company could develop infrastructure. and be primarily responsible for the cost of municipal services such as electricity, water and fire protection.

The response, due to take effect in June 2023, means Disney will now have to go through local counties to approve building projects like hotels and theme park expansions. It also means that local counties will be responsible for all municipal services and county debts.

On Monday, Iger told employees he was still preparing for Reedy Creek County’s upcoming dissolution.

“I was sorry to see that we were drawn into this battle, and I have no idea what the consequences are,” he told employees.

In addition, Iger addressed the company’s previously announced plans to move more than 2,000 jobs from California to Florida, noting that the move has been delayed until 2026 and that the company is still working out the details of which jobs will be transferred. He said he is not reversing the decision to relocate those jobs, but is looking into the proposed relocation.

Another big controversy is with the Disney animation studios, which have begun to include more LGBT characters as part of Pixar and Disney Animation’s efforts to create stories that include more diverse characters and cultures.

Ahead of the June release of “Lightyear”, the company made headlines after Pixar’s creatives managed to restore a same-sex kiss cut from a movie. Its newest animated release, Weird World, also features a main character who is gay and has a crush on the boy from the movie.

Disney was praised for including such characters, but many felt that the company did not do enough to support the decisions when they received backlash from some conservative critics.

On Monday, Iger pointed to films like Black Panther and Coco as examples of Disney projects that “changed the world forever.” Iger said the company’s creative decisions won’t make everyone happy, but its studios won’t diminish their core values.

“It’s tough and there’s a balance,” he said.

During the city hall meeting, Iger also announced plans to maintain the company’s hiring moratorium, focus on making its streaming platforms profitable, and overhaul the company’s overall organizational structure.

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