If it were not for her last name, Abigail Disney would be just another alumna of Yale (B.A.), Stanford (M.A.), and Columbia (PhD) living in Manhattan. No one would pay much attention to her opinions, none of them especially unique or different from others shared by her class. But she is a Disney, dammit, and in America in the twenty-first century we must heed the rich and privileged, especially if they parrot the left wing of the Democratic Party. Abigail Disney's father was Roy E. Disney, who instigated an animation renaissance in the 1980s; her grandfather was Roy O. Disney, the co-founder of the Walt Disney Company; her great-uncle was that company's namesake, one of the most important cultural and business figures in American, maybe world, history. Abigail is not a fan.
Uncle Walt was "hella good at making films and his work has made billions of people happy," Disney conceded in a 2014 Facebook post, but, c'mon, he was born in 1901 and died more than a half century ago and didn't have the enlightened views of whenever I happen to Tweet this so Meryl Streep was right to call him racist and sexist. Granddad Roy was somewhat better, Abigail told the Cut last month, because he "gave us money directly, which was great because I never had to go to my parents and ask for anything." Which would have been awful, since dad "lost his way in life" when he, Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg revolutionized Hollywood and made Abigail and a lot of other people incredibly rich, and mom "was somebody who really liked having nice things," for Heaven's sakes, "like Chanel suits." Nowadays it's Robert Iger, Disney's chairman and CEO, who's gotten under Abigail's skin.
"I like Bob Iger," she wrote in a Twitter rant this week. "I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself." And she has nothing to do with the company other than holding shares "(not that many)." But Iger's compensation in 2018 of $65.6 million is "insane." Someone has to "speak out about the naked indecency" of it all, she wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, a newspaper owned by the richest man on Earth. The Trump tax cuts are to blame. Yes, Disney is raising its minimum wage, and gave more than half of its 200,000 employees a $1,000 bonus last year. But it has spent billions more on stock buybacks to—ohmigod—"enrich its shareholders." And among those shareholders are such undeserving folk as Vanguard and the New York State Common Retirement Fund and CALPERS. Did the retired teacher in Bakersville produce the Emmy award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell? I didn't think so. Abigail did, so talk to the hand, Mr. Mutual Fund Investor.
Abigail Disney's stand for the proletariat is absurd and self-righteous. There is, for starters, the fact that everyone involved in this psychodrama—from Disney to Iger to the owner of the Washington Post—is a super-affluent liberal. Everyone, that is, but many Disney employees, who are not an undifferentiated mass of drones but men and women with a diversity of political views, economic circumstances, work schedules, skill sets, and personal ambitions. Some of them probably liked their tax cut and bonus—and profited from the buybacks as individual shareholders and as holders of retirement accounts.
Iger is a great chief executive. He has brought Marvel, Star Wars, and Twentieth Century Fox into the Disney fold, while maintaining quality and preparing a streaming service that will compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime. He's just about doubled the global revenues of the company, from $34 billion in 2006 to $59 billion in 2018. Disney had more than a quarter of the total domestic box office in 2018, almost twice as much as its closest competitor. Abigail admits that Iger and his lieutenants "have led the company brilliantly." So what's her problem? It's that the world doesn't conform to her subjective vision of social justice. And since she's a Disney heiress known only for criticizing her family's company—sorry, Fork Films is not yet a household name—the media can't resist giving her publicity. It's the ultimate man-bites-mouse story.
Here's where things get complicated. In all likelihood—it's hard because we don't have precise data—Abigail Disney is wealthier than Bob Iger. His net worth is estimated at $350 million, but Disney may very well be worth much more. She's kicking down. "I could be a billionaire if I wanted to be a billionaire," she told the Cut, "and I'm not because I don't want to be a billionaire." And this is supposed us to make us feel … what, exactly? Sorry for her? Proud? Even if she were $250 million away from the nine-zero club, she'd still be twice as rich as the man she's being celebrated for spitting on in print. It wasn't the board that compensated Abigail. Why would it, she didn't do anything. It was luck. And yet she isn't using her platform to call for an inheritance tax. Odd.
According to Inside Philanthropy, the Robert Iger and Willow Bay Foundation has assets of $100 million and recently provided $1 million in grants. Presumably the foundation will ramp up its activity after Iger retires. He's already closing in on Disney's rate of giving. "I've given away in the range of $70 million in the last 30 years," Disney told the Cut, for an average of a little more than $2 million a year. Which doesn't strike me as all that much for someone as woke as she. That's why it's called virtue signaling.
What sacrifices has Abigail Disney made, other than denying herself billionaire status? About 20 years ago,
I had to fly out to California for a meeting but I had to get back to New York by the next morning for a conference. And the guy who ran our family's company put me on the 737 alone. I flew across the country overnight, by myself on that giant plane, and I was sitting there thinking about the carbon footprint and the number of flight attendants and the other pilot on-call and what it was costing, and I just wanted to be sick.
No more private jets for Abby!
Around the same time, she joined the board of the New York Women's Foundation.
I remember this wonderful Korean lady came over for a meeting at my house, and the next day she called me and she said, ‘You didn't offer me a glass of water.' And that never crossed my mind, but I have to be conscious of the fact that people who come into my home are coming into a place that feels daunting and intimidating [where does she live, Arendelle Castle? Ed.], and I need to go the extra mile to make them feel welcome. … Just like I watched my father increasingly surround himself with yes men, I started to deliberately surround myself with no ladies.
Sorry, Bob, but you're going to have to give up your bonus because 27 years ago a "wonderful Korean lady" made Abigail feel bad.
Reading the interview with the Cut, her op-ed in the Post, and her over-the-top Twitter feed makes you understand why Disney insists she doesn't speak for the rest of her family. I wouldn't want her to speak for mine.
It's a wonderful thing, this country's genius for allowing men and women with great ideas and drive to become rich beyond reckoning, indeed so wealthy that they are able to provide for their family for generations. Why do their descendants want to ruin it for the rest of us?