Abigail Disney on Disney’s moral breakdown: ‘I think the company needs to be saved from itself’

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As the pandemic shut down theme parks, Disney laid off 32,000 workers this year. Meanwhile, executive salaries were restored to pre-COVID levels in. Photo by Trey Ratcliff.

On December 10, during Disney’s four-hour investor conference, the company announced a long list of spin-offs and series for its Disney+ streaming service. Fans rejoiced over upcoming “Star Wars” and Marvel movies.  Disney shares hit an all-time high and stockholders celebrated too. Well, most of them. 

On Twitter, Abigail Disney had a different reaction. Her take was that share prices were divorced from what was happening to the company’s workers and called that “a complete moral breakdown of this entire system.” She wrote, “The higher share prices go, the more disgusted I get. Even as they enrich me.”

As a Disney, Abigail is well aware that she has reaped tremendous financial rewards her entire life. But she has given much of her money away, and has no qualms about calling the company out when she believes it has gone astray. She also hosts a podcast called All Ears

As the company that bears her family’s name was forced to close its parks because of the pandemic, it laid off 28,000 workers. Another 4,000 will lose their jobs at the end of the year. Meanwhile, executive salaries were restored to pre-COVID levels in August. 

Abigail Disney’s father was Walt’s nephew Roy. In 2004, he led a successful shareholder revolt against Michael Eisner after getting fed up with his management style. Now, Abigail is the one speaking out against Bob Iger’s tremendous compensation while laid-off park employees wait hours in line at food banks. She says she has nothing against Iger personally and believes he’s a good manager, albeit “in the Ebenezer Scrooge sense.”

“A little tiny part of me sees this as an extension of my father’s work,” Abigail Disney says. “Because I don’t believe the company and the magic can survive this kind of corporate behavior. I don’t think that the brand, as solid gold as it is, will last.” 

She says, “The company needs to be saved from itself.” And how to do that? Well, Abigail Disney thinks they could start by giving $100 million, which is the amount top executives received as a bonus last year, to a relief fund for the 32,000 laid off Disney workers. At nearly $3,000 a person, that would be more than the federal government has been able to provide, and would shift some of the burden away from taxpayers. 

This is the first of a two-part conversation with Abigail Disney. We’ll air the rest, which focuses on Abigail's experience growing up as a Disney, early in 2021.

Credits

Guest:
Abigail Disney - Filmmaker, philanthropist, activist - @abigaildisney

Host:
Kim Masters

Producer:
Kaitlin Parker