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Disney CEO Bob Chapek Outlines Vision Of Blending Streaming With Theme Parks, Responds To “Wokeness” Charges, Reflects On Lessons From Florida Gauntlet

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek outlined a vision of blending the company’s potent streaming operations with its thriving theme park business, in order to deliver a more “customized and personalized” consumer experience.

“It’s the physical and the digital aspects of your Disney lifestyle coming together,” he said during a half-hour sit-down at The Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live conference. “If you’re on Disney+, we should be aware, assuming you give us the permission to have that awareness, of what happened, what you experienced, what you liked the last time you visited a park. And, vice versa, when you’re in a park, we should know what your viewing habits are on Disney+.”

Efforts to unify those two branches of the company’s operations operations are under way, Chapek said. “We’re putting the arms and legs on it right now inside our own technical groups. What we’re trying to do is build a toolbox of utilities that then can be used by our creators at Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucas who then take those utilities and use them to tell stories in a more customized and personalized way according to your interests.”

In this scenario, which is Disney’s “next-generation storytelling” spin on the metaverse, someone who rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, for example, would then find Pirates-themed titles highlighted on their home page of Disney+ upon log-in.

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The wide-ranging conversation also saw Chapek reflect on the tumultuous stretch of weeks earlier this year when he and his management team found themselves whipsawed between internal dischord and harsh public criticism by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. On a related note, the Disney boss also responded to charges of “wokeness” in the company’s activities. And he discussed how he sees the crowded streaming field shaking out, ESPN’s plans in the hotly competitive sports space and his expectation for an “emotional” premiere of Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever after the death of franchise star Chadwick Boseman.

Chapek also declared that the company does not intend to be “a buyer in the open marketplace” after paying $71.3 billion for most of 21st Century Fox in 2019 and doing several other multi-billion-dollar M&A deals in the preceding years. The notion of Disney not being a buyer is a widely understood one, given that it faces a key decision point in 2024, when it has the option to buy out Comcast’s 30% financial stake in Hulu at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. (The price tag will be determined closer to the date.) Chapek has indicated strong interest in completing that deal and also a willingness to fund production and sports rights acquisitions, both at robust levels.

Asked by WSJ Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray about criticisms of creative choices (the same-sex kiss in Lightyear or Pinocchio accepting his wooden self in the latest film version, for example) that have prompted the “woke Disney” label, Chapek replied with a different description. “We want our content to reflect the rich, diverse world we live in,” he said. “We live in a world now where everything seems to be polarized, but I think we want Disney to stand for bringing people together.” Pressed by Murray, “To be clear, you don’t think Disney’s too woke?” the exec responded, “I think Disney is a company that has survived for 100 years by catering to its audience and it’s going to thrive for the next 100 years by catering to its audience.”

ESPN will remain a part of the company, Chapek has recently affirmed after activist investor Daniel Loeb and several Wall Street analysts had called for it to be spun off. Anyone saying, ‘Well, is it really right at Disney? Is it not right at Disney?’ I think what they’re failing to see is that ESPN is a power brand. It represents, like Disney does, in terms of its family audiences. For sports fans, it is the power brand out there.” As to speculation about Disney entertaining offers to either acquire or take a stake in a spun-off ESPN, Chapek said interest was inbound as a result of press reports. “Our phone started ringing,” he said with a grin. “We must have something great in ESPN because everybody seems to want it.”

Strategically, as ESPN seeks to stay competitive in a sector now featuring deep-pocketed tech players like Amazon and Apple in addition to legacy rivals like NBCUniversal, Paramount and Warner Bros Discovery, Chapek said the ESPN brand is built to transcend cord-cutting or other shifts. “We talk about, ‘Well, what’s happening with the cable bundle and cord cutting?’ That is a particular execution of that brand that happens to have been very powerful and relevant for many years — still is, in many ways — but that is not the essence of that brand. The brand is much larger than that.”

Asked what he thinks he did right and wrong during the Florida situation, which prompted staff walkouts and rancor from without and within, Chapek said, “The lesson is the lesson we probably always knew, which is that at Disney, it’s all about the cast.”

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Recalling his tenure running the theme park division, Chapek said “99%” of the letters he would receive from patrons were about their interactions with “cast,” aka the employees dressed in costumes who bring the parks experience to life. When the Florida affair came to light, Chapek revealed that Disney had tried unsuccessfully to lobby DeSantis and other state legislators to persuade them not to sign the bill derided as “Don’t Say Gay” for its limits on classroom discussion of LGBTQ+ themes. Once it went public, DeSantis seized on it and said he planned to punish Disney financially. As the situation blew up, Chapek — who at that point had not inked an extension to remain CEO through 2025 — was attacked by employees for being too willing to allow a law to pass through the statehouse despite the ill effects it would have on a large number of workers.

“We were reminded, through the passion of our cast’s reaction, how important their sentiments are on these issues,” Chapek said. When people ask him for advice on navigating choppy political waters, Chapek said he tells them, “Stick to your values, to your north star. Simplify the cacophony of voices out there and do what you think is right.”

The session began with a note about tonight’s world premiere of Wakanda Forever. While Chapek noted that his 30-year Disney tenure included nearly two decades at the film studio and attending “quite a few” premieres, he said this would be something different. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotion tonight,” he said, in large part because of the legacy left by Boseman.



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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