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Disney executives Bob Chapek, Bob Iger and LaTondra Newton sent an email to all of the entertainment giant’s employees this weekend promising “real change” and commitment to “diversity and inclusion everywhere.” The message was later made public and has since been circulating widely, just one of many statements offered up over the past few days by entertainment creators in response to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests that have spread throughout many cities in the United States.
The four paragraph letter argues Disney will work to foster “a culture that acknowledges our people’s feelings and pain.” It also admits that many of those calls for change are coming from Disney employees themselves, which is why it’s important the letter came from Chapek, Iger and Newton. LaTondra Newton may not be a name familiar to many outside of Disney, but she’s a Senior Vice President and the Chief Diversity Officer for the Mouse House.
The former Toyota executive was hired three years ago to help elevate other voices and bring more inclusion to Disney. She’s participated in campaigns like Lean In in the past, and now she’s front and center on this statement alongside Disney’s two biggest names: Chapek and Iger.
There are few companies in the United States that reach more people and have created more positive memories than Disney. From the company’s beloved animated classics to its incredibly popular theme parks (which remain closed), Disney has no specific target consumer. So, if it wants to push for real change by amplifying more viewpoints and projects from creators of color or even just featuring a wider, more diverse collection of characters in its stories, it has the power to do that. Those stories will be seen, especially now that it has millions and millions of Disney+ subscribers.
You can read Disney’s statement in full below, which now appears on its website…
Dear Fellow Employee,
The recent killing of George Floyd as well as other instances of lethal attacks and harassment of unarmed black citizens in our nation continue to drive outrage and calls for action by people of all cultural backgrounds, including many of our employees. Feelings of grief and anger cause us to confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable – and less worthy of dignity, care and protection – than the lives of others.
While these devastating incidents are not new, there’s something unique about what’s happening in this moment. The pandemic coupled with these recent injustices have pushed the issues of racial disparity into the open.
We, too, are struggling to make sense of the recent tragedies that leave us feeling overcome with sorrow. While we don’t have all the answers, we resolve to use our compassion, our creative ideas and our collective sense of humanity to ensure we are fostering a culture that acknowledges our people’s feelings and their pain. We also realize that now more than ever is the time for us all to further strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere.
We intend to focus our efforts and resources to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly as we seek solutions. We intend to keep the conversation going, not just today, but for as long as it takes to bring about real change.
Bob Chapek, Bob Iger & Latondra Newton
Committing to diversity and inclusion isn't a goal that is solved overnight, especially because projects, particularly animated ones, can be in development for years. Disney can't just snap its fingers and immediately make this a reality, but with hard work and strong buy-in from its executives, we should start seeing more and more viewpoints moving forward. We'll keep you updated when Disney starts announcing more direct steps or starts greenlighting some specifics projects as part of this initiative.