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Disney’s Bob Iger wanted to fire Marvel’s Ike Perlmutter even before he backed a proxy war



Disney boss Bob Iger unceremoniously sacked Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter for his redundant management of the company, not as retribution for leading a proxy war against the Mouse House. 

In an interview with Time published on Thursday, Disney’s returning CEO claimed turfing out Perlmutter from a company he had once owned should not be misconstrued as payback for mounting a boardroom challenge via an affiliated activist investor Nelson Peltz. 

“This decision would have been made regardless of that,” Iger said during a cover shoot for the magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2023.

The frugal billionaire Perlmutter—who had been sidelined from creative decisions ever since Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige emerged victorious from their bitter power struggle eight years ago—played a key role in encouraging the Trian Fund Management CEO Peltz to buy $1 billion in Disney stock and campaign for a seat on the board.

Peltz has since dropped his quest after Iger announced cost cuts of $5.5 billion to stop the bleeding at its loss-making streaming business Disney+ as well as layoffs affecting 7,000 employees.

Perlmutter is not the only high-profile victim of the cuts—Feige lost one of his two chief lieutenants as well—but he was likely the biggest surprise.

“This was a necessary step in the direction of us creating a more efficient company. There was redundancy specific to the way Marvel was being managed,” Iger said, declining to comment further on the controversial move. 

The Disney CEO’s comments are surprising given Perlmutter was notorious for being obsessed with efficiency. Indeed the billionaire said this month he was fired for complaining about just how costly Marvel movies had become. 

Retreading old ground with live-action remakes

Disney’s stock may have rebounded 13% since January, but the company appears to be firmly stuck in a creative rut, in particular when it comes to its animated offerings.

Lightyear, a loose spin-off of the character from Pixar’s Toy Story, disappointed last year, while Strange Planet proved an outright bomb. Meanwhile the box office success of Comcast’s Super Mario Brothers—based on a classic Nintendo video game—demonstrated just how much money can be made with the right family-friendly movie.

Seemingly unable to come up with fresh compelling stories able to lure parents and their children into the cinema, Disney is resorting to yet another live-action remake of a beloved Disney animated film—next month The Little Mermaid is up for the treatment.

Critics of the film have panned its dark and dreary palette of underwater colors as well as its laughably bad CGI renderings of Ariel’s animal sidekicks Sebastian and Flounder, while yet others bemoan its “woke” choice to race-swap the main character for no clear story-driven reason. 

The retreads aren’t set to stop either. At this month’s shareholder meeting, the biggest news Disney had to announce was the live-action remake of Moana, an animated film barely seven years old.

Iger defends modern retelling of classic tales: ‘certain stories stand the test of time, others don’t’

Lucasfilm, which Iger acquired a decade ago, has fared little better. Fresh from the cancellation of Willow after just one season on Disney+ and the disappointment of The Mandalorian’s third outing, the Star Wars subsidiary unveiled plans last week to bring back Daisy Ridley for another theatrical outing.

The decision came despite box office receipts that showed her overly idealized character Rey—often referred to as a “Mary Sue”—helm a trilogy that suffered a precipitous fall in audience numbers with each successive film.

Iger defended his company’s creative choices in the magazine interview, arguing “understanding that the world has changed” with modern spins on classic tales was core to franchises remaining relevant over longer periods.

“While certain stories stand the test of time, others don’t,” he said. “You have to be incredibly adept at being able to read the room, so to speak, or the world, in order to maintain brand relevance.” 

Disney’s politics has triggered the ire of conservative voters, a cause Florida governor Ron DeSantis has latched onto to earn political points. The presidential hopeful has anchored his likely run for the country’s highest office on the back of his culture war feud with Disney.

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