At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at the Bellco Theatre in downtown Denver, Colorado, I found myself watching a 2-minute clip filled with fireworks, castles, and stormtroopers.
It was an epic way for Disney to kickoff their 2017 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. Like other shareholder meetings, it was an open invite for any of Disney’s numerous of shareholders to attend, but only about 200 were in attendance, including myself.
That sizzle reel, that starts every Disney shareholder meeting, was important because it ultimately made us the handful of people in the world to have seen the first footage of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, a first look inside of Pandora aka Avatarland in Walt Disney World, and much more. By now, you’ve probably read the stories regarding all of what we saw and I can tell you that first half hour of the meeting was something special.
The meeting itself was split into 3 parts: a status update on the operations of the Company and those sneak peeks I mentioned above, the business part of the meeting where shareholders discuss and vote on issues, and finally the closing Q&A.
As one of my friends put it, the general Q&A portion of the meeting has to be one of the other most entertaining parts of the meeting. That’s because that’s where shareholders, young and old, can speak directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger. After having listened to these meetings remotely for years, I can tell you nothing is ever predictable during this time.
Questions and comments can range from older men who’ve been shareholders for decades complimenting Iger to little girls asking for tours of the closed-to-the-public studio of Pixar. This year’s Q&A questions had a little bit of both, but also had a deeply political undertone. While the shareholder meeting is never meant to be a place to discuss politics, many of those who attended the meeting were proxies (people who represent shareholders) and many of those activists wanted to get a clear message across to Iger – leave President Trump’s committees.
Iger, who clearly wasn’t enjoying their barrage of politicized questions, defended his decision to join by quoting the Broadway musical “Hamilton” in his response saying, “I want to be in the room where it happens…” and then went on to say that he isn’t supporting the administration’s agenda in his service but simply serves “as a voice to stand up for issues that Disney cares about most.”
While I was disappointed that Iger ended the Q&A early (and I was the next person to ask a question), it was overall a unique experience that I can liken to Disney’s D23 Expo. In fact, reps from D23 were there trying to solicit memberships to shareholders, who arguable are Disney’s biggest fans who have bought into the Company’s vision and future.
Like the Expo, the future of the Company and how that is shaped by its past are what makes the meeting quite unique. If you’re a Disney shareholder, you’ll get the opportunity to talk directly to Disney’s governing body. If you’re a Disney fan, you can bet that you’ll get to see sneak peaks before anyone else.
If you’re both, just know that it will be a revealing experience as you get to know the inner workings of one of the most beloved entertainment companies in the world…and potentially ask Bob Iger for a tour of Pixar.
Full disclosure: I attended the meeting as I am a shareholder of The Walt Disney Company. My financial support of the Company does nor will not influence my writings on this publication.