Bob Iger has played a unique role within The Walt Disney Company amidst the current closures. Despite stepping down from his former position as Disney CEO on February 25th, Iger is still very much one of the faces of the Walt Disney Company right now. He has played an active part in steering the company through the current situation, and his comments paint a picture of Disney’s current — and future — state.
When Bob Iger stepped down as Disney’s CEO on February 25th, Bob Chapek was named as his replacement. Even though large-scale nationwide shutdowns began AFTER Iger had already taken on his new role as executive chairman, he has been highly involved in navigating Disney through the closures. In fact, he has been significantly more visible than the current CEO, Bob Chapek.
In speaking with the New York Times, Iger said this about his decision to roll back his plan of becoming less involved in managing the company: “A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!”
Many have taken notice that Iger appears to be more visible than Chapek at this time, and have questioned the possible implications. This quote provides some clarification as to why Iger resumed such an active role. Between the unprecedented nature of the crisis and Iger’s experience with the company, it’s an “all hands on deck” mentality that has driven him to assume more responsibility. This also speaks to the gravity of Disney’s current situation.
Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has been suggested as a potential location for the NBA to play the remainder of its season. The NBA still hasn’t made a decision on whether the season will continue at all, but Bob Iger recently attended a conference call with the team owners to discuss how Disney has handled the effects of the crisis.
According to the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, Iger stressed above all else, “It’s about the data, and not the date,” when asked about reopening.
This statement reflects Disney’s ongoing commitment to prioritizing health and safety. Rather than vowing to reopen according to a certain timeline, the company will consider how the situation evolves, and make their decisions accordingly.
On Changes Coming to the Parks
Given the nature of the parks, it seems inevitable that changes will need to be implemented to increase the health and safety of both guests and Cast Members. While measures like temperature checks, virtual queues, and reduced capacity have been suggested, Disney hasn’t announced an official plan.
In an interview discussing what needs to happen before Disney can reopen, Iger said “Clearly, making people feel safe from getting the virus is the biggest obstacle and it’s clearly complicated. It’s not just about — as far as we know — social distancing. It’s about taking a number of steps, implementing a number of procedures to make sure that people feel safe.”
With this quote, Iger indicates that Disney is considering an extensive overhaul of how the parks operate. Rather than implementing one or two measures as a “band-aid” to make guests feel safer, they are taking a holistic approach to examine necessary changes from all angles. Iger acknowledges the fact that people won’t return to the parks unless they feel safe, and the company is taking these concerns seriously.
On Measures Outside of Disney’s Control
Despite the massive size of The Walt Disney Company, it doesn’t exist in a bubble. There are some large-scale measures outside of Disney’s control that will need to take place to ensure the safety of massive gatherings like those in the theme parks.
In the same interview discussing measures needed to reopen the park, Iger said, “But it’s likely that we’re going to need some mass testing, at scale, and some form of contact tracing as well so that we can identify people who have been exposed or people who have had the virus and may be of harm to others.” Iger went on to acknowledge that these efforts will be needed until a vaccine is available.
These comments from Iger indicate that despite efforts to implement additional safety measures in the parks, some of the contingencies needed to reopen the parks are outside of Disney’s control. While Disney is formulating a plan to increase hygiene at the parks, the company is facing limitations that will require a national, organized effort to address.
On the Future
With all of the uncertainty surrounding the current situation, people are questioning when things will “return to normal.” But it seems that there will be a new standard for what is considered “normal” in the future.
When discussing the future of Disney parks, Iger said “I don’t think we’re ever going to see a return to business as usual… .” This statement confirms that things WILL change for Disney — it’s just a matter of how. In addition to changes to improve health and safety at the parks, the company is also considering ways to run more efficiently.
The closure has hit The Walt Disney Company particularly hard given the high percentage of revenue that relies on in-person experiences through parks and resorts. In order to guard the company against future financial hardship, we could see focus shift away from in-person experiences in favor of virtual reality and streaming content.
The Walt Disney Company is facing an unprecedented situation. Even though details are still evolving, these quotes from Bob Iger give us a glimpse into where the company currently stands — and where it might go.
Want to read more? Click Here to see how Bob Iger thinks the current closures will impact The Walt Disney Company in the long-run
Have you heard any other interesting quotes about the closure from Disney leadership? Let us know in the comments!