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Though points 1 and 2 may make us sound like a Chapek apologist willing to make excuses for his poor performance, I'm not. At all. Because even if Chapek was handed an unfair disadvantage, and even if Iger and the Board should've known what they were getting into by choosing a proudly-data-driven financial guy as the lead of an inherently-creative company, we all have to admit... 

3. Bob Chapek really needed to go

Image: Disney

Listen, I feel bad for Chapek in some regards. He really was set up to fail in more ways than one. But he failed as spectacularly as he was set up to and then some. His lack of experience in entertainment; his lack of finesse with fans; his seeming disinterest in the creative side of the company; his exhaustingly monetized view of the theme parks; his notoriously data-driven decision-making processes and painfully stark treatment of the company's legacy...

In the category of "first-world problems," Chapek also oversaw the first and only D23 with zero – zero! – new ride announcements for Disney Parks. He orchestrated the franchise-focused 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World – a major swing and miss. His regime will be remembered for instituting the deeply unpopular park reservation system and paid-for FastPass, the end of Magical Express, and slashed operating hours, maintenance, & staffing at Disney Parks. He also famously insinuated that animation wasn't for adults, kicked up a PR war with Scarlett Johannson, and much more. 

Image: Disney

But no discussion of Chapek can be complete without acknowledging the very real damange he did. Hundreds of Imagineers fled the company rather than undertake his required relocation from California to Florida; tens of thousands of Cast Members at the parks have been negatively affected by his staff reduction techniques; millions of guests have turned away from Disney Parks thanks to Chapek's slashed perks and new upcharges; an army of Chapek-appointed financially-minded executives filled the company's ranks; and incalculable creatives kept their distance from the "Mouse House" because of Chapek's infamous management style and his fumbling of Disney's response to important state and federal politics. Those are real impacts to real people.

Even two more years of his leadership would've made unthinkable changes to Disney's structure, processes, offerings, and culture. That's why the Board was willing to undertake the incredibly fraught and deeply embarassing process of having him exit in the middle of a contract. So I have no tears to shed for Bob Chapek, who was paid $2.5 million in salary 2021 (plus about $30 million in stock) and reportedly made off with a "golden parachute" payout of around $20 million cash upon his dismissal. There's no question: he needed to go. We should just be thankful that his actions finally impacted the stock price enough for the Board to agree.

And more to the point, given how many Cast Members his policies hurt and how many guests were impacted by his actions, it feels alright to laugh about the fact that Bob Chapek was CEO for less time than it's taken to build TRON Lightcycle Run.

4. Even though Chapek is gone, we should still hold Disney to account.

Chapek

For all he did not do, there is something Bob Chapek did that very few others can: he unified Disney fans. Chapek wasn't just a convenient scapegoat; he was a Maleficent-level Villain in fans' discussions about the parks, studios, and beyond. It's a unique relationship evidenced by the fact that Chapek (as Chairman of Parks) got the blame for price hikes and slashed perks where Iger (CEO) did not; but when Chapek was elevated, so was the blame, leaving Josh D'Amaro (new Chairman of Parks) innocent as Chapek (CEO) was viewed as the orchestrator of price hikes.

With Chapek gone, on whom will fall the "blame" for poor guest policies, price hikes, upcharges, and slashed perks? Will fan-favorite D'Amaro become a scapegoat? Iger himself? Or will fans turn their fervor toward CFO Christine McCarthy (who clearly caught foot-in-mouth disease from Chapek, infamously commenting that Disney would tackle inflation by raising prices and reducing portion sizes, "which is probably good for some people’s waistlines," and defended Genie+ by saying some guests have "more money than time" while others have "more time than money")?

Chapek was a uniquely unlikable leader who couldn't seem to warm up to guests. Cold, calculating, and data-oriented, it was easy to single out Chapek as "the problem." And listen – he earned it! Chapek likewise boasted about Disney's "unparalleled synergy machine" and the "franchise flywheel" as if average people speak in corporate memos. He openly asserted that his business plan for Disney Parks was to attraction fewer guests, but who spend more money. He combatted Parks fans' questions about original, IP-free attractions by asserting that that was not Disney's priority and wouldn't be. In other words, he was easy to dislike and therefore, easy to hold to account.

So now, without a leader whose name can be invoked in every negative Facebook comment on Disney, we have to wonder... will we, the fans, continue to demand excellence of Disney Parks? Or will we simply deal with it since D'Amaro and Iger are largely likable, attractive, friendly, and warm leaders?

What's next?

Image: Disney

Clearly, Bob Chapek lacked the kind of vision that a CEO of the Walt Disney Company needs. We can feel bad for him but there's no question at all that Bob Iger's return is a victory in many ways. Iger is a uniquely good leader for The Walt Disney Company, and a uniquely stabilizing force. But at age 71, his commitment to two more years means that once more, a cataclysmic countdown clock begins for Disney...

Will Bob Iger somehow manage to return Disney to fan esteem and overwhelming financial success? How many of Chapek's leadership team will he rehire? How many of his short-lived successors policies will he undo? Will a guest at Disney Parks notice any difference between Chapek's era and Iger's second? If anything, this whole event had taught us it's not worth trying to guess what'll happen...

But if Iger intends to not only re-orient Disney back in the creative direction he initially set course for while finding someone who can step into his shoes in 700-ish days, we're likely to see some major shifts at The Walt Disney Company relatively quickly. And with the Disney100 celebration launching the company's second century with Iger back at the helm, it'll certainly be interesting to see what of Chapek's regime stays and what is left behind...

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