Disney Stands Firm on Diversity Amid Criticism of ‘Wokeness’ in Films

Black Panther and Bob Iger edited together.

The Walt Disney Company issued a response to Nelson Peltz’s recent remarks on Friday amidst his ongoing efforts, alongside former CFO Jay Rasulo, to gain control of Disney through a shareholder vote scheduled for April 3.

Peltz’s criticisms primarily focus on what he perceives as excessive “wokeness” in Disney’s films. With support from former Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, Peltz initiated a social media campaign called “Restore the Magic,” targeting shareholders nostalgic for Disney’s earlier days.

In a recent interview with The Financial Times, Peltz continued to critique Disney, particularly citing films like The Marvels (2023) and Black Panther (2018) for prioritizing messaging over storytelling. He questioned the necessity of all-female or all-Black casts in Marvel productions, and criticized the proliferation of sequels and franchise extensions under Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, alleging a dilution of quality.

Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz with his hands crossed looking at the Cinderella Castle inside Disney World.

In response, a representative for Disney expressed to Reuters that Peltz’s views underscore why he’s unsuitable for a creatively driven company.

Despite Peltz’s alliance with Perlmutter and Rasulo, Disney has garnered support from influential figures, including nine of Walt Disney and Roy E. Disney’s grandchildren, who penned letters backing CEO Bob Iger in his battle against Peltz. Roy P. Disney emphasized the need to defeat such activists, accusing them of prioritizing profit over preserving Disney’s essence.

The grandchildren of Walter Elias Disney also publicly endorsed Disney’s current leadership, opposing Peltz’s nominations and expressing confidence in Disney’s ability to navigate challenges.

Kevin Feige at D23 Expo

Shareholders will decide between Peltz and Disney at the April 3 meeting, with ongoing coverage available from Inside the Magic.

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