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Disney criticizes Peltz remarks about casting of 'Black Panther,' 'The Marvels'

Published 03/23/2024, 11:56 AM
Updated 03/23/2024, 12:01 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Nelson Peltz founding partner of Trian Fund Management LP. speak at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Dawn Chmielewski

(Reuters) - Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Co on Friday said that remarks by activist investor Nelson Peltz criticizing the company for making movies dominated by female and Black actors is evidence that he shouldn't be on Disney's board.

Peltz, whose fight to join Disney as a director has become one of the year's most bitter and closely watched board battles, in an interview with the Financial Times said Disney's films have become too focused on delivering a message, and not enough on quality storytelling. He specifically took issue with "The Marvels" and "Black Panther."

“Why do I have to have a Marvel that’s all women? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that?" Peltz said in the interview, published on Friday. "Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?”

Asked about Peltz's remarks, a Disney spokesperson responded: "This is exactly why Nelson Peltz shouldn't be anywhere near a creatively driven company."

The fight by Peltz and his Trian Fund is pitting a prominent activist investor, who says he works well with target companies, against Disney's Bob Iger, a talented media industry CEO who returned to the company's top job in November 2022 with a mission to reinvigorate Disney.

Iger in his autobiography, "The Ride of a Lifetime," said he had pushed to diversify the Marvel films, which initially had been built around white male characters.

"Black Panther" is the sixth highest-grossing domestic release of all time, according to the site Box Office Mojo, and was the first Marvel film to be nominated for Best Picture. "The Marvels," released last year, brought in a modest $206 million, worldwide.

Peltz in the Financial Times interview also said he questioned the record of Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.

Iger himself has said that Marvel has "made too many" film sequels, which "diluted" the quality. Still, Marvel Studios has released 33 films that have grossed collectively nearly $30 billion globally.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Nelson Peltz founding partner of Trian Fund Management LP. speak at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Peltz's Trian Fund Management is vying for two board seats, one for founding partner Peltz and the other for former Disney financial chief Jay Rasulo. Another activist firm, Blackwells Capital, is pushing for three Disney board seats.

Disney's annual meeting, when voting will end, is scheduled for April 3.

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