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It’s Not Just WBD: Bob Iger Says Disney Has Quietly ‘Killed a Few Projects’

You guys can back off David Zaslav for a minute: Bob Iger says Disney too has “killed a few projects.” The difference? They’ve done it quietly and at (presumably) a much earlier stage than, say, “Batgirl” or “Coyote vs. Acme,” the two most infamous (and most egregious) last-minute movie cancellations in recent Hollywood history.

“When we talk about improving our film slate there are really three approaches, one is you have to kill things you no longer believed in and that’s not easy in this business, because either you’ve gotten started, you have some sunk costs ,or it’s a relationship with either your employees or with the creative community, and it’s not an easy thing, but you’ve got to make those tough calls,” Disney CEO Iger said Tuesday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “We’ve actually made those tough calls, we’ve not been that public about it, but we’ve killed a few projects already that we just didn’t feel were strong enough. That’s very, very important.”

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Sure, that’s just doing good business in business. It still sucks for the creators whose projects have been axed, but it surely stings less than some of the recent WBD headlines we’ve seen — and written — would.

Disney reps did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment on specific titles.

In Fall 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery pretty much announced its presence by essentially deleting “Batgirl” from its servers before anyone could stream it on HBO Max (now Max). That caused an uproar in the creative community, though it is now one that pales in comparison to the backlash after the company gave the same treatment to a new Looney Tunes feature film. “Coyote vs. Acme” was destined for theaters, it was cheaper, and it tested a lot better than “Batgirl.”

While WBD has been the most visible major media company to scrap finished or almost-finished titles in favor of a tax write off (essentially), we’ve known (and reported) that Disney is no innocent bystander here. The company removed 2023 film “Crater” after just a few weeks on Disney+ in an effort to accelerate its useful life, for one example.

Philip Alberstat, a former WME agent who’s now the managing director of M&A advisory firm Embarc Advisor, told IndieWire in February that he believes Disney to be a “worse” offender in this category than even Warner Bros. Discovery. Alberstat understands the decision, even if he (and us, and you) doesn’t it like.

“It’s not very popular, but at the end of the day, it’s driven by finance,” Alberstat said. “It’s not art, it’s just business.”

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‘Wile E. Coyote’Everett

“Coyote vs. Acme” starred Will Forte (and John Cena, and your favorite Looney Tunes animated characters). Count the “Last Man on Earth” alum as those feeling devastated by WBD’s decision, and credit him for putting it into (public) words. Forte said he “fucking” hates it, to be as clear as humanly possible.

Forte called the live-action and animation hybrid film “super funny throughout, visually stunning, sweet, sincere, and emotionally resonant in a very earned way.”

“As the credits rolled, I just sat there thinking how lucky I was to be part of something so special,” Forte wrote on social media. “That quickly turned to confusion and frustration. This was the movie they’re not going to release?”

Apparently.

“Look, when it comes to Hollywood business stuff, I don’t know shit about shit. Even when a movie tests very well (like ours), there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a hit. And at the end of the day, the people who paid for this movie can obviously do whatever they want with it,” Forte continued. “It doesn’t mean I have to like it (I fucking hate it). Or agree with it. And it doesn’t mean that this movie is anything less than magnificent.”

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