Such is the regard with which Bob Iger is held at Disney that he was brought back for a second stint as CEO last November after less than a year in retirement.
Having settled back into the top job, Iger this week announced that The Walt Disney Co. would be making about 7,000 redundancies – 3.6% of the media behemoth’s global workforce – as part of strategic cost-saving measures. “While this is necessary to address the challenges we’re facing today, I do not make this decision lightly,” Iger reportedly said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
Yet “amid all the talk of downsizing”, said the Los Angeles Times, Iger also confirmed that new sequels to Toy Story, Frozen and Zootopia were in the works. Disney hopes the reboots can bring in big bucks, but some critics claim Iger’s return and his reliance on tried-and-tested movie franchises suggest the House of Mouse is running out of ideas.
‘No huge surprise’
“Disney hasn’t had the success it might have wished for in creating new animated franchises over the past few years,” said the BBC’s entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba.
The company’s first big post-Covid release, sci-fi animation Strange World, “was a box office failure”, Mzimba continued, “so it’s no huge surprise to see these sequels being announced”. The last instalments of Toy Story and Frozen each earned more than $1bn at the global box office, “as did Zootopia (Zootropolis in the UK)”.
The announcement of the latest reboots “is a clear signal to shareholders and audiences” that Disney will “continue to pour resources into areas that have served it well in the past”, according to Mzimba.
Euronews Culture agreed that “this news isn’t surprising given how profitable these franchises are”. But judging by comments on social media, “fans seem dubious over these planned sequels”, the site added.
Canada-based news site We Got This Covered reported that some fans were “of the opinion that sometimes it’s best to leave things alone instead of dragging them out”. And announcing the new sequels and the Disney job cuts in “the same breath” has “worsened” the pushback.
Critics have grown increasingly irate in recent years about the continuous stream of reboots and revivals from Disney and other entertainment giants. Last year Refinery29 asked: “Are we going through a nostalgia burnout right now?”
Go to the cinema and “chances are you will find at least two sequels, a reboot and a cameo-laden franchise film playing at any given time”, the New York-based site continued. But rather than having run out of ideas, film studios might simply be “wary” of spending money on “riskier” ventures in such a tough economic climate, “instead opting to invest in things they know will turn a profit in the end”.
Frozen director Jennifer Lee told Deadline in 2019 that she was “very done” with the hit series.
That same year, Toy Story 4 producer Mark Nielsen said his sequel “could be the end” for the franchise. But Disney executives at Disney clearly didn’t agree.
Confirming that Toy Story 5, Frozen 3 And Zootropolis 2 are now in the works, Disney boss Iger said: “We’ll have more to share about these productions soon, but this is a great example of how we’re leaning into our unrivalled brands and franchises.”