Disney enters Oscars weekend in chaos over the Don’t Say Gay bill

Hollywood gears up for its biggest night of the year at the Oscars on Sunday, but chaos at Disney already looms over the event – with internal discord and an escalating backlash from staff at Mouse House threatening to spoil the party.

Disney is trying to contain the fallout of its response to a Florida law that would bar teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues like sexual orientation or gender identity with students unless they are in fourth grade or higher.

The issue sparked an internal struggle among company employees, who disagreed over whether Disney should get political.

Left-leaning employees staged walkouts this week, arguing the company had failed the LGBT community by initially not denouncing the bill.

A separate group of conservative employees urged the company to remain “politically neutral” – arguing that Disney has created an “environment of fear” for workers who do not adhere to “progressive orthodoxy.”

Bob Chapek
Disney CEO Bob Chapek had to apologize after employees slammed his initial silence on the Florida bill.
Getty Images

The battle over Disney’s political leanings extends into the C-suite, with current CEO Bob Chapek reportedly preferring to stay out of partisan debates – and complaining about interference from his progressive-minded predecessor, rumored retired CEO Bob Iger. annoys.

The heated situation could overshadow the Oscar show for ABC-owned Disney — with studios like Marvel and Pixar and high-profile celebrities like actor Oscar Isaac and HBO host John Oliver among those who have pressured the company to take a stand .

Disney tried to stay out of the public debate about Florida’s law, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

But the situation worsened on Feb. 24, when Iger tweeted that he agreed with President Biden’s stance that the bill was a “hateful bill” — even as Chapek-led Disney declined to publicly take a stand. Chapek reportedly felt undermined by his predecessor.

Bob Iger
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger has criticized Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law while the company’s current executives remain silent.
Getty Images for Disney

After days of mounting pressure from LGBTQ rights groups, Chapek broke his silence on the bill on March 7 in an internal memo, often further dividing the public.

Chapek’s initial memo infuriated many Disney employees. A group that self-identified as “LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar and its allies” said the CEO’s words “ringed hollow” and accused Disney executives of active censorship.

“Almost every moment of overt gay affection will be cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when both the creative teams and Pixar management protest,” the employees said.

Within days, Chapek apologized for not being a “stronger ally” — adding that Disney would halt all political donations in Florida and donate $5 million to LGBTQ rights groups, including the human rights campaign.

Disney has restored a same-sex kissing scene in Pixar’s upcoming feature film Lightyear — a reversal that came after the scathing letter from Pixar employees. The company also held a “town hall” style forum Monday to ease tensions among its workforce.

The measures appeared to have had little effect — some Disney employees reportedly walked over Chapek’s head and complained to Iger about the company’s response to the Florida law, CNBC reported.

Disney protests
News of Disney’s internal struggle has dominated the entertainment industry ahead of the Oscars.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Despite Disney’s efforts, employees still staged walkouts last Tuesday – with protest organizers saying the company put them in an “impossible and untenable position” that required drastic action to bring about change.

Meanwhile, Disney’s increased involvement drew criticism from a separate faction of employees, who argued that Chapek got the “right idea” by staying quiet at first. Disney has yet to publicly address this group’s concerns.

“We often see those who share our opinions condemned as villains by our own leadership,” the workers added. “This politicization of our corporate culture is damaging to morale and leading many of us to believe that our days with TWDC may be numbered.”

Disney protests
Disney’s internal critics say the company hasn’t done enough to stop Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Getty Images

The Happiest Place on Earth could face additional barbs during the Oscars broadcast itself, with the show serving as a potential platform for Hollywood progressives looking to intimidate Disney from the stage. Disney enters Oscars weekend in chaos over the Don’t Say Gay bill


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