The Pillars of Chapek

The Pillars of Chapek

I didn’t want to write about it but there are too many people treating this like it’s actual news, rather than a distraction from the fact that Coke got jacked up to $5 a bottle at Disney World today.

Bob Chapek sent out a companywide memo today outlining his grand strategic vision that will be based on three pillars.

I was expecting something like this when Spiderman crossed the $1 billion mark. Disney has had an absolutely brutal year in the theaters.  However, Chapek could go to the investors and say, yes, we had it rough but so did everyone else too.  No one can succeed in this current environment.

Except someone just did.

While I hate being fair to Chapek, there really wasn’t anything he could do about this year’s film slate.  It was Bob Iger who fired John Lasseter and let Kevin Feige run wild and free to the outlands of Super Woke.  

But Chapek is now the guy who has to say something to the institutional stockholders, so he sent out this memo and made sure it hit the trade media. 

Like I said I knew it was coming for a while and so did a lot of other people. The funniest guess I heard about the contents of this memo was:

Dear Bob,

I’m glad you’re gone.



But he actually had more to say than that.

Sort of.

Anyway, Bob Chapek released this grand strategic vision for Disney.  Most of it was corporate buzzword bingo word salad. But there were his Three Pillars upon which all of Disney will be built during his tenure as CEO. Let’s unpack it.

First, storytelling excellence. What makes Disney so unique is that the stories we tell mean something to people. They inspire, give hope, bring us together, illuminate the world around us, and create memories. That is Disney magic, and we must continue to set the creative bar higher and higher. To that end—and in addition to all my other creative meetings—I am establishing a new standing monthly meeting with our senior creative leaders to discuss the opportunities we face as a storytelling enterprise. This will encourage collaboration, sharing of best practices, and stimulate cross-studio ideation.

Translation: He is forcing the studio heads to sit down at a conference table once a month with him at its head and then report to him about what they are doing.  Part of this is a monthly surrender ritual. Once a month they are forcibly reminded of their subordinate position to the CEO.  It’s holding court on a regular basis for people that were used to not having to do so with Iger. All the big wigs must attend the monthly Grande Levee now because Big Bald Bob says so.  

And once you have a court, you have court intrigue, with the crown showing favoritism to some courtiers at the expense of others.  This means the courtiers will start plotting with each other against each other.  And thus weaken each other as a whole.

In theory, this also means something creative might happen but frankly it never does at this kind of a meeting.

The “cross-studio ideation” thing means he found out how much money Demon Slayer made for Shueisha and he would like to report a $9 billion gross for a single property to the stockholders someday.  It won’t work like that for Disney.  Most of what makes a Japanese success story like Demon Slayer possible is a combination of culture and standing infrastructure that are substantially different from anything in America.  Copying their playbook won’t work, but some expert told him it will.

Second, innovation. Since Steamboat Willie, we have been the world’s foremost innovative storytellers. That must continue as technology evolves, giving our creative teams new canvases like the metaverse on which to paint. We should be especially innovative as we seek to bring stories to life in new ways—particularly if they enhance what many call our “franchise ecosystem,” which is one of the things that sets us apart.

The Metaverse?!?! Oh, no!

Here the Boomer is clearly and obviously out of his depth.  Zuckerberg has decided that Bill Gate’s prediction about the Segway being bigger than the PC needed to topped.  If you aren’t familiar with Metaverse, here it is in a nutshell.  The Facebook founder saw Ready, Player One and got super excited about it.  Just substitute “Cyberspace” for “Metaverse” and you pretty much have most of what he wants to do.  The problem is simple enough the tech isn’t there and even if it was, Mark Zuckerberg is the last guy to do anything useful with it.  He got lucky once and thinks that makes him a terrifyingly vast intellect of unearthly proportions. 

He’s going to fail but the Metaverse is now the flavor of the month with Boomer CEOs that want to catch a ride on the next big thing.

Now, “Franchise Ecosystem” means using Deepfake to keep characters on the screen long past the point where the actor is too old to play them, or just isn’t alive anymore.  Honestly, I saw this coming because the big dream of all producers is to get rid of actors and just use copyrighted avatars.  It probably will happen eventually but not in the next three years.

And third, relentless focus on our audience. We are a big company with many constituents and stakeholders, all of whom have a place in our decision-making. But at the end of the day, our most important guide—our North Star—is the consumer. Right now, their behavior tells us and our industry that the way they want to experience entertainment is changing—and changing fast thanks to technology and the pandemic. We must evolve with our audience, not work against them. And so we will put them at the center of every decision we make.

At first, the third pillar looked to be just standard, “the customer is number one” boilerplate, except for that second to the last sentence. “We must evolve with our audience, not work against them.  

That is a major dig.  While I don’t like Chapek, I had to laugh at that one.  That line is an explicit admission of the adversarial relationship various factions within Disney have had with their supposed audience.  Under the Iger, it was “The Thing That Was Not Mentioned.”  But now it has been.  In truth, it means little or nothing if there is no kind of enforcement.

Will it come to anything?

Don’t be silly

Okay, I’m done here.

Share this post