Iger Is Out Of Here (But Not Really)
Former Narcissist-in-Chief of Disney, Bob Iger, has stepped down.
New Narcissist-in-Chief, Bob Chapek, has assumed the throne.
Of course, Iger is now Chairman-of-the-Board and, Palpatine-style, will be running—or at least trying to run—things from the background for at least the next 22 months. But that’s another story.
I won’t make too much of the fact they are both named Bob, although the fact that Iger replaced himself with someone who shared his first name is a little weird.
I will suggest that, with this change, the narcissism problem at Disney is only going to be getting worse. Allegedly.
If you think Bob Iger didn’t care about the fans, just wait until you meet Bob Chapek.
This Part Is Just A Rumor, But . . .
There is a rumor that, under Chapek’s watch, Disney Parks has been cooking the books.
Specifically, they were over-inflating revenues to make it seem like they were doing better than they were. Why would they do this, when they were doing just fine and Disney Parks have always been the ideal that other theme parks aspire to?
If it happened, it would be because Chapek is a narcissist. And wanted the parks under his watch to do better and be better than ever before. Or at least appear to. Because he’s the best, and whatever came before is nothing compared to him.
While that’s just rumor and speculation, there are plenty of facts about the parks that aren’t.
Budgets Will Be Cut
Cutting budgets is nothing new at Disney Parks. They’ve had a long history of penny-pinching at their resorts with minimal thought to the guest experience. And then getting better. And then getting worse again.
At one point, the budget-cutting fervor became so extreme that they actually just abandoned River Country Water Park at Walt Disney World, rather than spend the money to update and modernize it.
Talk about letting the past die.
But also . . . the folks in charge in 2001 weren’t the people who built the very first Disney water park. It wasn’t really theirs. So what did they care?
In a very strange move, they didn’t demolish the park and clear the land, they didn’t mothball it for a later re-opening. They just put up a plain green fence around it and abandoned it. For several years after, there were still old supplies in the food kiosks, music playing over the speakers, and lights in some areas coming on after dark.
Finally, after 20 years, there are plans to clear the land and turn it into a Disney-owned timeshare in order to fleece Disney Resort fans out of what will probably be hundreds-of-millions of dollars. Apparently no effort will be made to preserve any element of Disney’s very first water park. Because why would they? They didn’t have anything to do with it.
Chapek Upholds The Grand Tradition . . . Of Taking Fans For Granted
Bob Chapek has been cutting budgets at the parks, and according to some, it’s impacting the guest experience. Not according to many, however, because if you are a Disney Blog and say anything remotely critical about Disney, you lose access.
Do they care? No. You’ll take what they give you. Frankly, it’s far more than you deserve.
You think Universal would love you? You think you could ever find another theme park? You’re lucky they even put up with you, you’re so worthless.
Throwing People Under The Bus
Chapek was primarily responsible for Galaxy’s Edge (well, him and Iger), and when Galaxy’s Edge underperformed, typical of the corporate narcissist, it was Catherine Powell who got thrown under the bus.
Because Iger and Chapek screwed up, Disney fired—excuse me, “eliminated the position” of—Catherine Powell, the president of Disney Parks Western Region.
While the decision to remove Powell could also have been part of budget cuts, it really doesn’t make it any better. I didn’t see either of them taking a pay cut.
The Chapek Philosophy: Less For More
Under Chapek, the Disney parks have gotten dirtier.
There have also been complaints about growing changes to classic areas and rides, especially rides that were original and not based on a Disney film. The thrust in the parks—in addition to budget cutting—has been to make everything “synergistic” with other Disney IP.
While there is a strong business argument for replacing rides and refurbishing areas to make the parks more appealing and thus sell more tickets, the narcissist is frequently more concerned with being able to put their mark on things and claim both ownership and credit.
A lack of empathy with patrons inhibits their ability to understand why the general public might be attached to classic rides and areas, ones created in the past by other people who are obviously not the narcissist, and thus of no importance.
They are typically terrible at managing brands whose value comes as much from nostalgia as anything else because they do not understand why people would be nostalgic for things that aren’t the product of the narcissist.
It’s Nothing New
This isn’t new at Disney. There’s a reason the popular Journey Into Imagination ride at Epcot went from being an impressive animatronic classic to being replaced with something that looks like it should be at the WonderWorks in Branson, something that happened well before Chapek’s tenure.
There is a reason that Horizons at Epcot, a perennial favorite of folks who first started going to the parks in the 1980s, was closed and then literally demolished without a thought by the management at the time.
Horizons at first was a fun ride through a future that might be. It became, over time, a nostalgic look at what we thought today and tomorrow might look like back in the 1980s. But it wasn’t attached to current IP or the product of management at the time, so they tore it down.
There’s also a reason I’m bitching about the Horizons ride. I loved it. I wish it was still there. And we’ve all got a little narcissist inside us. I’ve got some. I admit it.
But I digress.
Bob Chapek Is A Rainmaker
Bob Chapek most likely became Iger’s successor because the parks—as has often been the case when Disney has neglected and/or cut the budgets of the parks—have been the largest revenue-generating segment for Disney over the past several years, and have done very well since Chapek took over in 2018.
Like most CEOs, it’s a good bet Chapek is quite the narcissist. He was behind the combination of Parks, Resorts, Travel, Disney Vacation Club, and Consumer Products into a single massive business unit that he was then in charge of. Because why shouldn’t he be?
His focus was increasing profits through increasing prices, creating new revenue opportunities—like charging guests for formerly free parking at the resorts—and cutting budgets and reducing services. It is speculated that he will take this philosophy to the rest of the Walt Disney Company. This could potentially be a very good thing—or a very bad thing. Time will tell.
As I have noted and will note again in this series, sometimes narcissists accomplish great things.
Time Will Tell
Will Chapek be good for Disney or bad? Will Kathleen Kennedy finally be shown the door?
Only time will tell.
Anyway, Bob Iger’s surprise departure changed my plans for this series a little bit, so this wasn’t originally intended as my second installment. But I’m nothing if not flexible.
So I wrote this. Now, back to my originally intended ramblings.
Previous Entry: Killing the Golden Goose.
Until next time, programs.