During a Q&A at Disney’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina, one audience member brought up a petition asking the entertainment company to “reconsider” the way in which it promotes “LGBT ideology” in many of its products for children.
The questioner, Caroline Farrow, who’s from an organization called Citizen Go, said, “We want to trust your brand. But we no longer feel safe. At a time when your stock is down by 20%, is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family-friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”
She added, “What would you say to those 700,000 people who signed our petition saying, please, let’s not have the gay prides in the Disneyland parks?”
Disney’s new CEO, Bob Chapek, took on the question, saying the company should reflect the “diversity that we find in our fan base and with our audience.”
“I believe that that will continue with an increased commitment as we move forward. We want to represent our audience. We believe, we want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear that reflects their lives,” he said.
Chapek also shut down the claim that LGBTQ themes affected the stock price, saying, “I think there’s a lot of reasons why the stock price might be down 20% and has nothing to do with the issue that you raise. It might have more to do with coronavirus and the worldwide pandemic that we’re facing.”
He added, “But thank you for your question.”
The “increased commitment” to diversity already seems evident in Disney’s upcoming slate of films and TV offerings. Though we’re still waiting for Elsa to get a girlfriend, new Pixar film “Onward” features an openly gay character voiced by Lena Waithe. Disney-owned Marvel has also confirmed queer storylines with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in “Thor 4” and in upcoming project “The Eternals.”
In terms of the real stock plunger, the coronavirus, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger opened the presentation by saying, “We’re all sobered by the concern that we feel for everyone affected by this global crisis.”
Iger acknowledged that times are challenging for everyone, but noted that the company has been resilient over its near-century-long history and will continue to forge ahead.
“Our future has always been bright and it remains so for good reason,” he said. “In fact, when you think about the world today, what we create at the Walt Disney Company has never been more necessary or more important.”
A couple of different tweets, including one from New York Times reporter Brooks Barnes, helped bring attention to the LGBTQ conversation from the presentation. You can hear the full exchange on the company website.