Disney CEO Responds to Criticism of Studio Going ‘Too Woke’

By Savannah Sanders Posted:
Disney Woke

Overseeing Disney's vast entertainment empire is Bob Chapek, who assumed the title of CEO mere weeks before the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Even though the company weathered the global shutdown and is thriving once more, Chapek has seemingly made one blunder after another, such as in the lawsuit feud with Scarlett Johanssen, to his focus on cutting costs, to referring to Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi as an "interesting experiment."

The CEO also experienced backlash from within the company and via Marvel Boss Victoria Alonso in the wake of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill

All the while, the Disney company and its subsidiaries have been enduring backlash of their own, particularly in terms of producing content that's considered "woke." Now, in a new interview, Chapek has addressed these criticisms, where the company stands, and even responded to whether Disney has become "too woke."

CEO Bob Chapek Addresses Disney's "Woke" Criticisms

Bob Chapek, Disney

In talking with the Wall Street Journal, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked about the company's attempts to reflect modern-day positions and the subsequent backlash, such as in the case of Lightyear's same-sex kiss and the ending of Pinocchio on Disney+. 

When questioned whether Disney has become too politically correct or too woke, Chapek explained that reflecting "the rich, diverse world that we live in" is another way of "'catering to your audience:'"

“You know, I think the more complex something is, the more you really have to drill down into the basics. And we want our content to reflect the rich, diverse world that we live in. And, again, I guess that’s another way of saying, ‘Catering to your audience.’ But the world is a rich, diverse place and we want our content to reflect that. And we’re so blessed to have the greatest content creators and they see it similarly."

He also admitted that its "good from a commercial standpoint as well" because Disney is appealing "to the largest possible audience:"

"But, I think that’s good from a commercial standpoint as well, because then, you appeal to the largest possible audience and certainly, we live in a world now where everything seems to be polarized."

But apart from the commercial benefits, the CEO noted that guests looking at a Disney Park castle aren't thinking, "'I'm on one side of the political spectrum." Therefore, he believes that Disney can bring people together through "diverse stories and diverse characters:"

"But I think, we want Disney to stand for bringing people together. I always say, when someone walks down Main Street and you look at the castle, you’re not thinking, ‘I’m on one side of the political spectrum or the other.’ You have a shared belief in all the wonderful aspects of what Disney is, and we wanna use Disney to bring people together, and I think we’ll do that by diverse stories and diverse characters.”

When asked what role he plays in directing Disney towards diversity or in including woke elements, Chapek circled back on the focus of "catering to audiences" and "all audiences that love Disney:"

“Yeah, we talk about shaping our content a lot. And some of the push/pull of all these different forces. But in the end, we have to follow our North Star, which, again, is storytelling and catering to the audiences that actually love Disney and all audiences that love Disney.”

Finally, when directly asked if he thinks Disney is too woke, Chapek responded by crediting the company's survival to catering to its audience:

“I think Disney is a company that has survived for a hundred years by catering to its audience and it’s going to thrive the next hundred years by catering to its audience.”

Will Chapek's Answers Help the CEO? 

Chapek isn't the first within the company to respond to criticisms about woke, political, or diverse content. In addition to Marvel's Victoria Alonso, Ms. Marvel producer Sana Amanat addressed the criticisms the Disney+ series received, saying if others "can't connect with it, then that's OK. I just wish they wouldn't try to put it down."

She also explained how she hoped the show provided viewers "a sense of connectedness inside of their culture" - something she didn't have. 

While Amanat and Alonso's responses have stemmed from personal experience, Chapek's responses did not. However, that's to be expected since he's speaking for the Disney Company as opposed to himself. But whether these latest comments will help or further hurt the CEO remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, outside of the court of public opinion, Chapek's role as Disney CEO remains secure, given that the Walt Disney Company's board of directors unanimously extended his contract until at least 2025 earlier this year.

Until then, it's unlikely that this will be the last time Chapek will be asked about the company's stance and its criticisms. 

- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.