The Fall of Bob Chapek

Mickey & Mini

Changes in the House of the Mouse

Chase P. Gonzalez, Staff Writer

These past few years have been hard on the entertainment business as a whole.  One of the biggest of these companies is Disney, a media company that suffered greatly from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic up until recently. It is ironic that the same man who caused the money mouse’s deterioration is also the man who would be cheered at the end of his ledger…though rather unceremoniously.  You may be asking, “why?”  How can the man, given the responsibility to continue the legacy of the happiest hub on earth, be booed from his prime seat at a table of supposed joy-makers?  And if he is so bad, why was he even hired in the first place?  Well, simply put, Bob Chapek was not prepared for the role of a lifetime as the CEO of Disney, and here’s why.

First off, let us get a sense of who Chapek exactly is.  Bob Chapek began his career at Disney in the early nineties, working in the Home Entertainment division, or Buena Vista Home Entertainment.  Here he quickly rose to the top, becoming president of the corporation in 2006 and rapidly moving to the presidential position of Walt Disney Studios Distribution in 2009.  From here, his career in the house of the mouse would only rise. Chapek became the president of consumer products in 2011 (accompanying the massive Star Wars brand two years later), and, penultimately, his role as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  This last position before his eventual rise to CEO of the company overall brought him great criticism amongst fans due to his extensive use of intellectual property, having implemented Star Wars and, most recently, Marvel into various parks.  This focus, though it steers away from classic Disney properties, was a choice that tells much of Chapek’s mindset throughout his “magical” career as a “money man,” not necessarily a magically inelegant and free CEO like the prior (Bob Iger).  This is the most likely, basic reason for the choice to make him CEO in 2019, a choice Iger would soon regret.

To simplify the complexities, the fall of Chapek will be broken into two main reasons: the firing of Peter Rice and the Scarlet Johansson affair.  These reasons reveal more of the events that lead to the fan communities’ disdain for the then-CEO and many Disney partners’ dislike of him (including those working under the mouse).

The Firing of Peter Rice

Peter Rice, the highly beloved and once executive leader of Disney’s TV division, was swiftly and seemingly carelessly (yet meticulously) fired from his position just a mere six months ago this year by Chapek.  In his CEO position, Chapek was to act akin to Iger’s more loving and caring personna yet embodied a more typical business-like approach, an attribute that had gotten him to great places.  However, Rice was a highly operational and sufficient exec, especially during the Fox Searchlight era (before the still recent Fox buyout).  Disney sources, according to, attested to Chapek’s reasonings for the firing as “…Rice was unhappy with the massive reorganization of TV operations that Chapek implemented in October 2020” (Steinberg and Littleton).

Basically, this is code for “Rice was not on Chapek’s side.”  If anything, at his high position, Rice would spout negatives about the CEO’s choices and rise to eventually overtake his role (by choice of the board).  Although it says plenty, this occurrence tells of Chapek’s attitude towards his position, a position he saw nearly as a throne he must protect from others.  So, in a move much like the HBO show Game of Thrones, Chapek rid away the rising tide…but without a magical sorcerer’s hat (similar to that of the headdress worn by Mickey Mouse himself in Fantasia) and rather the powerful stride of the demon from the presentation of the same name.

The Scarlet Johansson Affair

Marvel is widely known today as the ever-successful entertainment pumping machine of Disney’s forever-growing IP, and one of these movies was Black Widow (2021).  After the Covid-19 pandemic’s prime time of destruction in 2020, Marvel had to make a big splash in theaters in order to open the gates back to the movie theater experience.  Still, it was a fact that all in the entertainment business were weary of the outcome of implementing big-budget films into theaters at such a time (a notion that would eventually be proven severely false).  So, somewhat in following with Warner Brothers Discovery’s choice to debut new films on their HBO Max streaming service alongside in-theater releases, Chapek chose to do the same, except with a twist…he put a pay wall on such films, the first Marvel product being that of Black Widow, featuring Marvel mainstay Scarlet Johansson.

However, this choice led to a breach of Johansson’s contract.  So, Johansson went to Chapek and Disney asking for a new deal to be made (most likely angered at the choice, as nobody told her before it was to be set in stone).  This led to Chapek full-on ignoring the solidified actress, who would eventually file a lawsuit. states, ‘“…The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”’ (Masters and Siegel).   Johansson would eventually be paid much-deserved compensation for the matter before it could move into court, as to be expected.  So, if Chapek were a qualified businessman for such a job as Chief Executive Officer of one of the biggest entertainment businesses in the world, why show this lack of professionalism?  All one can say is that Chapek was unfit for the job presented to him.  He knew not what to do and instead chose to ignore the situation rather than handle it accordingly.

Altogether, there are plenty of reasons to be happy Chapek is out and the one true Bob is back in business, mainly for the reasons presented above. Whether it is his show of disrespect toward the Asian community calling Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021) an “experiment,” or his choice to send Disney Pixar’s Turning Red straight to streaming, there is a great deal of “when” to point to in relation to the “why.” Still, understand that Chapek took over in a time of great turmoil when it comes to the world as a whole, and being the leader of Disney of all companies is no small task.  But alas, the hardest challenges only bring out the best leadership, a job Bob Chapek was in no way prepared for.  Goodbye Chapek, and welcome back Iger (for two years at least).