“Why are they so reluctant to be transparent about their political contributions?” the filmmaker and outspoken shareholder told IndieWire.
With a last name well known around the world, Abigail Disney uses the full power of that recognition to fight for economic justice. The filmmaker and philanthropist first caught the eye of most people when she addressed the company’s then-CEO Bob Iger in a viral Twitter thread in 2019, in which she took no hits to name his “insane” salary, which he earned in this year, 1,424 times the average Disney employee. As her remarks went viral, she saw an opportunity to tell the story of America’s income inequality and corporate greed the way she does best — in a movie.
Taking a personal approach to a subject very personal to her, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales follows Disney and her activist work over a two-year period. Directed by Disney and Kathleen Hughes, the film, which premiered at Sundance in January, covers a wide range of subjects, blending the intimate struggles of actual Disney employees with a comprehensive look at how we got here. As she observes how families can’t afford basic necessities on their meager Disney salaries, she searches for traces of the values espoused by her grandfather Roy and great-uncle Walt.
As she notes in the film, even if a Disney CEO made huge changes to employee compensation tomorrow, the company would lose profits and the CEO would be out. It will take a huge turnaround to quell the current tsunami of wealth inequality.
“Any system like this is made up of individuals, it’s like a brick wall,” Disney said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “What if all the stones decided not to stand there? What if all individuals within this system made the choice to be different? Each of us has the ability to behave differently within a system. This is how systems change. And it’s really hard to get a person [to change]. It feels useless. But build, build, build on the solidarity and alliance of people with each other, then you build power.”
Though her primary focus is corporate greed, the filmmaker isn’t afraid to hold Disney accountable for other missteps. The company made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that Disney had contributed to anti-LGBTQ politicians amid the buzz about Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law. When current Disney CEO Bob Chapek rambled on about the initial reaction, thousands of Disney employees walked out in protest.
In response to the massive pushback, Chapek announced that Disney would be suspending all political donations in Florida until further notice. As a longtime student of corporate behavior, Disney is skeptical.
“If he has [paused donations], he has to prove to us that he has it,” she said. “I think for the last three consecutive years there have been shareholder motions around Disney that are transparent about their policy contributions. And in every case, management has recommended voting against. Why? Why are they averse to any transparency of their political contributions? That seems to me to be something that should be the law, that every company should be transparent about their political contributions. So if they’re against transparency, I daresay they haven’t changed much.”
However, she welcomed the company’s recent response to the settlement of the Roe v. Wade, in which Disney joined Facebook parent company Meta and pledged to cover employee costs related to travel to access abortions.
“I’m glad they said that. I hope it’s true I mean, honestly, it’s a very bold position for Disney and I commend it,” Disney said. “There are things that are said within the company and then the way they are actually implemented for the people below and there is always a gap between those things. That’s why I say it was a brave position. I have no way of knowing if it will actually happen or not. … It’s a very significant number of conservatives who really, really, really love Disney, and they’re in a position right now where they’ve been threatened with boycotts. So I felt it was a strong position for Disney.”
The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales premieres in select theaters and digital platforms on Friday, September 23.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/09/abigail-disney-documentary-interview-1234765818/ Abigail Disney’s documentary highlights the company’s lack of transparency