Dan Cockerell, Magic Kingdom Vice President Retiring

According to multiple sources citing sources within the The Walt Disney Company, 49 year old Magic Kingdom Vice President Dan Cockerell will be retiring next month.

Dan, who is the son of former Vice President of Operations Lee Cockerell, became the Magic Kingdom Vice President in 2015 during a reshuffle which saw long-time Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes move to the Studios Vice President role in a leadership swap. Prior to the move, Dan was the Vice President of Epcot. Dan has been with Disney for 26 years.

According to the sources, Cockerell will be starting a speaking and consulting company, with plans to travel.

Disney has not yet named a replacement.  Cockerell’s final day will be May 11, 2018.


Bob Iger Could Stay at Disney Beyond 2019 if 21st Century Fox Deal Happens

Walt Disney has already delayed the departure of longtime chairman and CEO Bob Iger a few times. But if a much-hyped (and, currently, only rumored) acquisition of 21st Century Fox actually does happen, then Iger reportedly could extend his tenure beyond his currently planned July 2019 retirement date.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Disney’s board is likely to extend Iger’s contract once more if the company’s reported negotiations to buy a large chunk of Fox’s entertainment assets do, in fact, result in a deal. Rumors that Disney may be talking to Fox about acquiring most of the latter’s movie and cable TV assets, including its valuable regional sports networks, first popped up in early November. Now, reports peg the value of a potential deal at anywhere from $40 billion to $60 billion, based on anonymous sources, with the companies possibly set to reach a final agreement as soon as next week.

In March, Disney’s board officially extended Iger’s contract until July 2019, marking the third (at that time) postponement of his planned retirement from the company. The chief executive, who took the reins at Disney in 2005, had most recently been set to retire in the summer of 2018. The main reason for Iger sticking around has been Disney’s inability to name an heir apparent, though Fox’s James Murdoch is now being floated as a potential successor if the deal is finalized.

Disney is coming off a recent fourth quarter that fell short of Wall Street’s earnings expectations, marked by the continuing struggles of the company’s television unit. Meanwhile, the company is looking to mount a huge challenge on the streaming front, with plans to launch two standalone streaming services—one dedicated to live sports and another for movies and TV—over the next two years. So, it’s possible that Disney would prefer for Iger to stick around a bit longer to oversee the aftermath of a potential megadeal and the packaging of Fox’s vast entertainment assets with Disney’s for the two streaming services.

From Fortune

Walt Disney Company Commits $2.5 Million To Hurricane Irma Recovery Efforts

The Walt Disney Company has committed $2.5 million to help relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Irma. The donation will help aid humanitarian relief across Florida, the Caribbean and other places that Hurricane Irma has affected. The American Red Cross, UNICEF, Save the Children and other nonprofit organizations will be supported by the money. Donations from Disney employees to eligible relief organizations will be matched by Disney Employee Matching Gifts: A Program of The Walt Disney Company Foundation.

“As millions of people now face the daunting challenge of putting their lives and communities back together in the wake of these historic hurricanes, they need our help,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “We’re donating $2.5 million to support relief and recovery efforts in response to Hurricane Irma. This is in addition to nearly $16 million we raised after Hurricane Harvey to help ensure storm victims have the support needed to recover and rebuild.”

In addition, eligible Disney employee donations to qualified organizations involved in the Hurricane Irma relief effort will be matched dollar for dollar by Disney Employee Matching Gifts: A Program of The Walt Disney Company Foundation.

During Hurricane Irma, Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line donated meals, provided storage for supplies and power-utility vehicles, donated bedding to shelters, and made rooms available for first responders. Disney will also be donating goods and services throughout the region as other needs are identified.

The donation comes after Disney raised almost $16 million to help relief after Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, TX and the surrounding areas. The number includes donations to the American Red Cross, employee donation matching and money raised across the company though initiatives, social media outreach, campaigns in Disney Stores and more.

Disney Makes $1 Million Commitment to Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

The Walt Disney Company and Houston ABC affiliate KTRK jointly announced that they have pledged $1 million to the Red Cross to go toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

In addition, Disney is matching, dollar for dollar, employee donations to the American Red Cross and other organizations involved in Harvey relief efforts.

“Our hearts go out to everyone in the devastating path of this historic storm,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. “It’s hard to fully appreciate the impact, in part because it isn’t over yet. But we know thousands of people have lost everything and now face the daunting challenge of putting their lives and communities back together, and we’re using our unique resources and reach to help those in need.”

Disney ABC Television Group will also host a Day of Giving on Aug. 31 to raise money for hurricane relief. Starting in the morning with local affiliates and ABC’s Good Morning America, and continuing throughout the day on ABC, Freeform, Radio Disney and DATG social platforms, there will be a call-to-action to donate to the Red Cross.

Disney joins a number of organizations and public figures who’ve pledged sizeable donations to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

The Houston Rockets have donated $4 million to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s relief fund, the Astros have pledged $4 million to relief efforts and the Texans have pledged $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund, which the NFL Foundation agreed to match. Texans star JJ Watt launched his own fund, which has raised nearly $1.5 million as of Tuesday morning, thanks in part to a $50,000 donation from newly acquired Rockets player Chris Paul. Outside of Texas, the New England Patriots and owner Bob Kraft will match up to $1 million in Red Cross donations.

Amazon and Whole Foods agreed to match cash donations to the Red Cross made on Amazon.com up to $1 million. Apple made a $2 million donation to the Red Cross over the weekend and will match employee donations two to one. And Microsoft announced a $100,000 grant to the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, Houston native Beyonce is working to implement a plan to help “as many as we can.”Kevin Hart has donated at least $50,000 to relief efforts and called on stars like Jay-Z, The Rock, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Harvey and Justin Timberlake to contribute. Kris Jenner said Tuesday that she accepts Hart’s challenge and that she and her daughter will be donating $500,000 to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

From The Hollywood Reporter

Disney to Pull its Movies from Netflix and Start its Own Streaming Services

Disney wants to own a bigger piece of the streaming pie.

The company announced during its latest earnings report on Tuesday it intends to remove its movies from Netflix.

Instead, Disney plans to launch a branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019 starting in the U.S. and expanding globally.

CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin Disney had a “good relationship” with Netflix, but decided to exercise an option to move its content off the platform. Movies to be removed include Disney as well as Pixar’s titles, according to Iger. Netflix said Disney movies will be available through the end of 2018 on its platform. Marvel TV shows will remain.

The new platform will be the home for all Disney movies going forward, starting with the 2019 theatrical slate which includes “Toy Story 4,” “Frozen 2,” and the upcoming live-action “The Lion King.” It will also be making a “significant investment” in exclusive movies and television series for the new platform.

The company will also launch its own ESPN video streaming service in early 2018. The platform, which will feature about 10,000 sporting events each year, will have content from the MLB, NHL, MLS, collegiate sports and tennis’ Grand Slam events.

To power the services, Disney is buying a majority ownership of BAM Tech for $1.58 billion. Disney bought a 33 percent stake in the company, which was spun off from digital media company MLB Advanced Media, in August 2016.

“This represents a big strategic shift for the company,” Iger said to CNBC. “We felt that having control of a platform we’ve been very impressed with after buying 33 percent of it a year ago would give us control of our destiny.”


Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract to 2019

The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday that Bob Iger is extending his tenure as CEO again.

Set to retire from the entertainment giant in June 2018, Iger has now re-upped his contract until July 2, 2019 amid concerns among industry observers that there is no heir apparent within the company’s executive ranks.

“Leading this great company is a tremendous privilege, and I am honored to have been asked to continue serving as CEO through July 2, 2019,” Mr. Iger said in a statement. “Even with the incredible success the company has achieved, I am confident that Disney’s best days are still ahead, and I look forward to continuing to build on our proven strategy for growth while working with the Board to identify a successor as CEO and ensure a successful transition.”

The terms of his employment agreement “remain unchanged,” except for certain provisions, Disney said in a regulatory filing. His annual compensation for the extended employment period “will be determined on the same basis as his annual compensation for fiscal 2016.”

If Iger remains until July 2, 2019, he will receive a cash bonus of $5 million “in addition to an award for fiscal 2019 under the company’s management incentive bonus program,” it said. “Following the termination of his employment at the expiration date, to enable the company to have access to Mr. Iger’s unique skills, knowledge and experience with regard to the media and entertainment business, Mr. Iger will serve as a consultant to the company for a period of three years.”

He will the provide “assistance, up to certain specified monthly and annual maximum time commitments, on such matters as his successor as chief executive officer may request from time to time.”

For his consulting services, Iger will receive a quarterly fee of $500,000 for each of the first eight quarters and $250,000 for each of the last four quarters of the consulting period. “For the three years following termination of employment, the company will also provide Mr. Iger with the same security services (other than the personal use of a company provided aircraft) as it has made available to him as chief executive officer,” the filing said.

Former Disney COO Tom Staggs was considered Iger’s likely successor until his abrupt departure last spring. At the time of Staggs’ exit, the Disney board vowed to “broaden the scope of its succession-planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates.” It has since been mum about its succession planning. At the time, industry observers mentioned Facebook COO and Disney board member Sheryl Sandberg as a possible candidate.

Disney’s stock as of 11:10 a.m. ET was up 0.7 percent at $112.88, near its 52-week high of $113.16.

“Given Bob Iger’s outstanding leadership, his record of success in a changing media landscape, and his clear strategic vision for Disney’s future, it is obvious that the Company and its shareholders will be best served by his continued leadership as the Board conducts the robust process of identifying a successor and ensuring a smooth transition,” said Orin C. Smith, independent lead director of the Disney Board.

Otherwise, experts cited industry executives who all seemed happy in their respective jobs, such as NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. Under the leadership of Iger, who turned 66 on Feb. 10, Disney has done well. The company has said that total shareholder return during his tenure has been nearly twice that of other entertainment conglomerates.

Iger’s latest extension marks a change of mind for the executive. He originally planned to step down as Disney CEO in 2015 after running the company for a decade. But he extended and then did so again a year later.

Back then, he said about his plans to depart in mid-2018, “I really mean it.” Succession at Disney seems a perpetually thorny going back decades when Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz each jockeyed to take over from Michael Eisner. When Eisner finally stepped down in 2005 it was under such strenuous conditions that even Roy E. Disney, the founder’s nephew, was publicly attacking him.

From The Hollywood Reporter

Disney Is Working With an Adviser on Potential Twitter Bid

The Walt Disney Co. is working with a financial adviser to evaluate a possible bid for Twitter Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

After receiving some inbound interest, Twitter started a process to evaluate a potential sale. Salesforce.com Inc. is also considering a bid, working with Bank of America on the process, according to other people, who declined to be named because the matter is private.

Representatives for Twitter and Disney didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Speculation that Twitter will be sold has been gathering steam in recent months, including last week’s news about Salesforce’s interest. Twitter’s share price soared 21 percent Friday following reports of the talks. Disney, if it decides to make a bid, would be able to help the company further its video-streaming media strategy. Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer of Twitter, is also on the board of Disney.

From Bloomberg

Disney Donates $1 Million to Support Orlando Shooting Victims

The Walt Disney Co. is giving $1 million to a fund created to help support victims of Sunday’s mass shooting.

The City of Orlando went live Tuesday with the One Orlando Fund, which will support the organizations involved in the recovery efforts after the events at Pulse nightclub.

Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the One Orlando fund at Monday night’s vigil at the Dr. Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts, including a $500,000 donation from Darden Restaurants, and $100,000 donations from air carrier JetBlue and the Orlando Magic.

Disney’s donation was confirmed by the City of Orlando.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Disney Releases Show Time and Seating Information for The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic will begin on May 28th at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with two shows nightly.

The first show will be at 9 PM, with the second show being at 10:30 PM. Because of the timing of the show the park will be open until 11 PM.

FastPass+ guests will be seated in the theater on the Asia side.

Rivers of Light Asia Seating

Standby and dining package guests will be seated on the DinoLand side theater.

Rivers of Light Dinoland Seating

The show is approximately 20 minutes long.

Guests with strollers seated on the Asia side will park their strollers near the gibbon exhibit. Guests on the DinoLand side with strollers will park in the Finding Nemo stroller parking area.

Disney Unveils Playmation, Toys That Play Back

Friday, May 15, 2015 in Encino, Calif. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Invision for Disney/AP Images)


For more than two years, inside a Walt Disney laboratory built to resemble a child’s bedroom, grade schoolers have been secretly testing an at-home version of Iron Man’s high-tech armor.

Disney’s goal: Use wireless systems, motion sensors and wearable technology to strike a balance between what children want to do (tap screens and play video games) and what parents would prefer (more running around).

The Walt Disney Company unveiled a resulting toy line on Tuesday called Playmation, which will arrive in stores in October. For about $120, an “Avengers” theme starter pack will include a red Iron Man “repulsor” glove that players wear on their right hand and forearm and four smart toys, including two action figures.

Used together, the parts lead players on villain-destroying missions — run, duck, dodge, jump, shoot. A related app provides access to additional assignments and powers. “It’s physical play for a digital generation,” Thomas O. Staggs, Disney’s chief operating officer, said in an email.

Analysts who have had the opportunity to scrutinize Playmation said it could solve a puzzle that had largely stumped the traditional toy industry: What if toys could play back? The answer could ensure the relevancy of companies like Hasbro and Mattel — and Disney — to future generations of children.

“I see this as a breakthrough item, especially in the action and role-play aisle,” Jim Silver, the editor of TTPM, a toy review website, said in an interview. “What Disney has done here is so sophisticated that I actually don’t like the word ‘toy’ for it.”

This can be tricky terrain. Smart toy efforts tend to prompt swift and severe reactions from watchdog organizations, with privacy as a main concern. The latest example is Mattel’s new Internet-connected Hello Barbie, which records children’s speech, analyzes it and provides pertinent responses.

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston advocacy group, instantly deemed that toy “Eavesdropping Barbie” and began organizing parents against Mattel. The toymaker, whose profit fell 45 percent last year, in part because of declining interest in traditional Barbie products, has defended the digital doll, citing substantial privacy safeguards.

Mindful of this pitfall, Disney has “doggedly designed Playmation with privacy in mind,” said Kareem Daniel, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Disney Consumer Products. The Playmation components, for instance, are intentionally not tethered to an Internet connection during play, he said.

Disney is speeding ahead with the rollout of Playmation. “Star Wars” theme sets will arrive next year; prototypes shown last week to a reporter involved Jedi training and Darth Vader skulduggery. A “Frozen” version is scheduled for 2017. Aimed at children 6 to 12, the toys can also be worn by adults.

With a plethora of characters in the Disney stable and a flexible technology platform to tap into, “Playmation’s potential is tremendous,” Mr. Staggs said.

The core Playmation toys reveal a subtle but important shift at Disney Consumer Products, which has recently experienced rapid growth. (The unit generated $1.4 billion in operating profit last year, a 22 percent increase from 2013.) Disney traditionally has not designed its own toys but rather has licensed its characters to companies like Hasbro and Mattel.

But Playmation was created inside Disney, reflecting an attempt by the company to become more assertive in the creation of new toy categories and generate more growth. In success, Disney will also shut out competitors: Non-Disney characters will not be allowed into what the company is calling a “toy ecosystem.” (Sorry, Batman.)

Playmation has a few challenges. For starters, the line arrives during a management change at Disney Consumer Products. Bob Chapek, the executive who most ardently supported Playmation, was promoted in February to take over the company’s theme parks. His merchandising successor, Leslie Ferraro, has adopted Playmation, but her experience has been entirely in marketing.

In addition, only two people can have the full Playmation experience at one time, at least initially; that could frustrate children.

Depending on how Playmation is marketed, the toy line could also bump into Disney Infinity, a video game and toy product sold by a separate Disney division. To play Infinity, users collect character figurines, which resemble the Playmation action figures. Infinity 3.0, focused on “Star Wars” and costing a cheaper $65 for the starter set, will also arrive in stores in the fall. (Disney said it saw no threat of cannibalization.)

Still, toy analysts said they were encouraged by the depth of Playmation. The “Avengers” set comes with 25 missions out of the box. Disney will also sell add-on Playmation toys — Hulk hands, various action figures — starting around $15 each.

“I don’t think this is something that kids are going to play once and forget about,” Mr. Silver said.

Originally Published in The New York Times