Disney’s Dr. Abigail Considers Unfair Labor Practices at Disney – The Hollywood Reporter


In 2018, a Disneyland employee sent Abigail Disney a message on Facebook about working conditions there, prompting the documentary’s producer to pursue a search for the soul. Disney, granddaughter of co-founder Walt Disney Co. Roy O. Disney, was concerned about how the national problem of wealth inequality is being played out in a media company that shares her name and her own wealth, and she began talking about disparities publicly, in Congress, in cable news and on Twitter.

He co-directed Disney with director Kathleen Hughes The American Dream and Other Tales about the issue, including her on-camera interview with Disney staff, which will premiere Jan. 24 at Sundance. (Submarine replicates film in Park City.) Talk to Disney on the eve of the festival THR about her disappointment at The Walt Disney Co., the expectations of new CEO Bob Chapek and hopes the film’s audience will accept their reaction to the poll.

When did you start making this film?

Back in 2018 or 2019. I’ve already talked to workers at Disney, just quietly for myself. Everything I have is based on what they do, and for me to ignore what they said when they addressed me directly seemed just inhuman. Honestly, I wanted to believe that Disney was better than that. I know it’s really naive, and there are so many naive assumptions I’ve had to give up. But there was a time when Disney really considered itself a company that contributes to the world. I would go [to Disneyland] with his grandfather and almost every time he picked up a piece of garbage. I asked him why he did it, and he said, “Because no one is too good to pick up a piece of garbage, and I want the people who work here to know that I know it.” He told me, “These people work so hard, they need to be respected.” So I couldn’t just sit back and let it happen when I was raised that way and then years later listen to them that they have to choose between insulin and food.

What was your relationship with Disney as a company?

I’m talking about two emails I wrote [former Disney CEO] Bob Eiger in the movie. And after my second email came silence, and since then silence. On the recommendation of our attorney, we approached them at the very end when finalizing the film for comment. And so we got a full page of comments about why all is well and we shouldn’t bother them. There was a personal relationship. I guess I went too far. There is a chill, a certain chill.

What do you think has changed for Disney workers in the transition from Bob Eiger to Bob Chapek?

Bob Chapek was the man who led all the changes in Disneyland and Disney World that we talk about in this film – dynamic planning, a euphemism for pushing them so they can’t get a second job and they never earn 40 hours per week and they are not eligible for medical care. Take a department of 250, shave it to 200 and expect them all to do the same job in the same amount of time. There are thousands of ways to cut costs, and much of it came from Bob Chapek and under his command. So I don’t have very optimistic expectations. If anything, it will probably get worse.

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Abigail Disney
Gary Gershoff / Getty Images

How do the rest of your family feel about how vocal you are?

I have a couple of siblings who are very, very, very supportive. And then I have cousins ​​and more distant people who are not happy with me. It’s something that keeps me awake at night, and I feel bad about it, but then I go back to my moral center and say, “Will it matter and change the situation?” Yes, it will. “Am I right about that?” Yes, I absolutely. And then I just have to keep going.

Who is your ideal audience?

As for Disney, the audience is America. This is the last purple thing in the country. I really want ordinary Americans, voters, to see this. I want them to see it and think when they go to the polls. And I want them to think about it when they are approached about organizing a union. I want people to really think that shouldn’t be the case.

At Level Forward, which is one of your companies, employees have registered some of their own complaints of unfair treatment. Have you shaped your view of Disney’s experience running your own companies?

Either way, I feel more strongly that no matter the size of the company, you have to be prepared for an answer. Because people work for you. These are not robots, these are humans. Work should be a decent and respectful place. Yes, yes, I am very sorry for how difficult this will change for Disney. If everyone else is paying lucrative wages, then how can they jump out before that? But there are companies that do it: Costco, PayPal, Accenture, Bank of America.

How do you think the fact that this film is a harsh criticism of corporations will affect your distribution options? That’s why many large distributors are also giant corporations that are interested in doing business this way.

I knew it was a risk from the start, and I just say: you make the best movie you can make and then hope for the best. Of course, there are a lot of people in Hollywood who are not fans of the campaign, and as many bridges as they built, they burned. So I think we will be fine.

Can you assume you’re not booking appointments to sell this Disney +?

No, no.

The interview is edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the January 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.





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