Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (2024)

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (1)

During the 2024 Walt Disney Company Annual Meeting of Shareholders on April 3, CEO Bob Iger shared an optimistic message for the company’s future after beating back a proxy fight. This shares his update on and vision for the studios & streaming–plus Parks & Resorts, including excerpts from Chairman Josh D’Amaro’s follow-up to fans. (This one is commentary-free, so if you watched the meeting, this is 100% skippable.)

“I just want to take a moment to thank our shareholders for your trust and confidence in the Disney Board and management and the ambitious strategy we are implementing across our businesses to build for the future,” Iger told shareholders. “Now that this distracting proxy contest is behind us, we’re eager to focus 100% of our attention on our most important priorities: growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers.”

With the boardroom battle in the rearview mirror, Iger told shareholders about the ongoing positive impact of Disney’s strategic transformation and the company’s forward momentum building its businesses for growth.“Our plans are ambitious, our strategy is working, and our future is bright,” Iger said in a video message from Disneyland.

“As we gather today, we stand on a far more solid foundation, which has been fortified by our ambitious course of action over the past year. We are once again building our businesses for growth. And as we demonstrated during our most recent earnings report, we have turned the corner and entered a new, positive era for The Walt Disney Company,” said Iger. Adding that Disney is executing at a rapid pace, and “from a position of renewed strength with tremendous optimism.”

Iger highlighted the four key building priorities anchoring the company’s growth strategy:

  • Reinvigorating creativity at Disney’s film studios;
  • Achieving sustained profitability in streaming;
  • Positioning ESPN for the future and turning it into the preeminent digital sports platform;
  • Turbocharging growth in the company’s Experiences business, including domestic and international Parks and the Disney Cruise Line.

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (2)

Studios: An Incredibly Robust Slate

Meanwhile, as part of the company’s ongoing effort to deliver creative excellence from its film and television studios, Iger pointed to the awards season success stories of Disney. He also reminded shareholders about the company’s “incredibly robust slate of upcoming theatrical releases,” which includes Kingdom of the Planet of the Apesin May,Deadpool & Wolverinein July,Alien: Romulusin August, andMufasa: The Lion King in December.

There’s alsoInside Out 2, the sequel to the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, which hits theaters in June. This was also accompanied by a sneak peek at the film, which looks fantastic. (Of course, I also thought the trailer forWishlooked great, and yet…) Here’s hoping it’s a story that needs to be told and not just another cash-grab sequel.

Iger also gave an exclusive look at artwork fromMoana 2, which debuts in theaters in November. “Three years since her first voyage, Moana is heading out on an epic journey to find and reconnect the people of the ocean. We can’t wait to take audiences on another amazing journey with Moana and Maui, and we are excited to confirm that both Auli‘i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson are back reprising their roles,” announced Iger.

“Moana remains an incredibly popular franchise,” Iger added. “The original film from 2016 recently crossed 1 billion hours streamed on Disney+ and was the most streamed movie of 2023 on any platform in the U.S.” (Translation for Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans: look forward to more Moana coming to the parks in the coming decade.)

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (3)

Streaming: A Clear Differentiator

In shifting to streaming, Iger discussed the official launch of Hulu on Disney+ last week.“With our expansive collection of enduring classics and new hits available together in one place, Disney+ truly has something for everyone,” he said. Iger pointed out that the company’s streaming strategy extends into the world of sports and that ESPN “continues to deliver meaningfully for the company.”

“We believe in the power of sports and their unique ability to convene and engage audiences,” Iger said. “And we are hard at work building ESPN into the preeminent digital sports destination to reach even more fans in innovative new ways.”

One way that the company will reach more sports fans, Iger stated, is through the joint venture announced earlier this year in conjunction with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery to create a new streaming service that brings together the companies’ collective portfolios of sports channels.

Additionally, Iger talked about the company’s plans to offer ESPN as a unique direct-to-consumer service, which will launch in fall of 2025.“We will make the full suite of ESPN’s channels available as a stand-alone and highly interactive digital destination,” he said. “This will give consumers the ability to stream their favorite live games and studio programming, and take advantage of an immersive, customizable sports experience that includes betting, fantasy sports, e-commerce, and more.”

Disney’s current and future direct-to-consumer offerings are “a clear differentiator for the company in a very competitive landscape” according to Iger. Most importantly for theme park fans, Iger reiterated that Disney remains “poised to reach profitability in our combined streaming business by the end of this fiscal year, and deliver significant, sustained growth in the future.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (4)

Disney Experiences: Turbocharging Growth

Iger also pointed out that another clear differentiator for the company is Disney’s Experiences (Parks & Resorts) business.“We’re constantly seeking creative new ways to turn our IP into top quality experiences,” he said. That includes the company’s recently announced relationship with Epic Games, which will allow Disney to forge relationships with younger audiences that consume video games more than other media.

Turning to Disney’s Parks and Resorts, Iger added that the division delivers experiences like no other for guests around the world, while generating “enormous growth for the company.”

Recent expansions and additions have been incredibly popular with guests, including World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in November, and Zootopia at Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in December. Fantasy Springs will open at Tokyo DisneySea in June 2024 with its version of a Frozen mini-area, and another World of Frozen debuts at the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris in 2025 (probably/hopefully).

“With such a deep well of untapped IP and buildable land, there are so many experiences that have yet to be brought to our Parks around the world, and we plan to turbocharge growth in this sector with a robust amount of strategic investment,” Iger said.

Meanwhile, the company’s growth strategy also includes significant opportunities for expansion at its domestic theme parks as well, including at Disneyland. Iger said that the company was pleased to have reached an “exciting milestone” as the company’s ambitious DisneylandForward initiative goes before the Anaheim City Council for final approval later this month.

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (5)

“We’re thrilled about many potential new stories that our guests could experience at Walt’s original theme park, including the opportunity to embark on all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to the world of Pandora,” Iger said. “Our Imagineers have been hard at work dreaming up what guests might expect.”

In his own parks-centric letter, Josh D’Amaro added that “Avatar is the latest example of how we are looking to create new and innovative ways to bring our powerful stories to life.” He also called the above a “a piece of inspirational artwork developed for a potential new Avatar experience at theDisneyland Resort.”

Lots of wiggle words and crouching in those statements that suggest what we see in the not-so-conceptual art may not be what we get from the Avatar addition at Disneyland. Is it an experience? Is it a land? Maybe it’s an Avatar-skinned clone of Disney Springs!

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (6)

Josh D’Amaro also added that Disney is keeping its momentum going in 2024. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens this year at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland (an opening date for which was a conspicuous omission from the shareholders meeting). He added that Disney is about to unveil Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea, calling it “the largest single-land expansion ever at a Disney park.”

D’Amaro continued by highlighting that the “expansion is as active on sea as it is on land.” Disney Cruise Line will add to its reputation as the top choice for families in the Bahamas with Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point debuting this summer. Then in December, the Disney Treasure will join the fleet.

“And all of this is just the beginning – there are so many stories in our library yet to be explored. As we turbocharge Disney Experiences over the next 10 years, we’re investing aggressively and thoughtfully to give you more of what you love,” D’Amaro wrapped things up by adding. “There has never been a more exciting time at Disney Experiences. I’m looking forward to having you on this journey with us.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (7)

Being A Responsible Citizen of the World

After speaking about Disneyland, Iger brought up Walt Disney, who “understood the power storytelling has to connect us all to one another.” Iger added that the company “has always been a force for good in the world” and is “dedicated to conducting our businesses with clarity of purpose and a deep sense of integrity, as we strive to have a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.”

Iger then mentioned the company’s “efforts to bring joy and comfort” to children’s hospitals around the world;Disney’s Heroes Work Hereinitiative, which has resulted in the hiring of more than 13,000 veterans since 2012; andDisney Aspire, which covers tuition for eligible hourly and part-time Disney employees looking to pursue higher education.

There’s also the company’s relationship with Make-A-Wish. Disney is the #1 wish-granter in the world, granting more than 150,000 wishes to children facing critical illness. “All of this ongoing work is part of our overarching commitment to being a responsible citizen of the world,” Iger noted.

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (8)

Iger wrapped up his remarks by thanking the company’s employees and Cast Members around the world, saying that “it is a true privilege to lead this remarkable company at this pivotal moment.”

“I’ve often said that one of the greatest attributes of Disney is the mere fact that people expect so much from us. ‘What will they think of next,’ you might hear someone say, or ‘Only Disney can do that.'” Iger continued, “we welcome that challenge, because it motivates us and energizes us to always be bold in everything that we do, and to exceed your highest expectations.”

After this came the questions & answers portion of the meeting, which was odd as ever, but with the even weirder wrinkle of all being pre-recorded questions read by AI. I assume these questions came from real shareholders since they were even more antagonistic and adversarial to Disney than normal, but it was still very dystopian and off-putting. I really hope Disney doesn’t do that again–the Q&A is going to be a trainwreck, everyone knows that. Using AI and having the questions be pre-screened just casts unnecessary aspersions and doubts, even if there’s nothing nefarious at play.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What did you think about Bob Iger and the current board’s plan for the future of Disney? Agree or disagree with the four key building priorities anchoring the company’s growth strategy? Thoughts on anything else discussed during Disney’s shareholder meeting? This is not the place for politics or culture wars; unnecessarily divisive or provocative comments along those lines will be deleted.

Disney CEO Bob Iger & Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro Share Turbocharged Growth Optimism (2024)
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