5th International Celebrity Studies Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Presenting paper ‘“Somehow, Iger Returned”: Brand Fandom, Stardom, & Disney’s Celebrity CEOs’.

Fans of Disney are keenly aware of the people in charge of the Company, and fans of the Disney theme parks perhaps even more so. These ‘brand fans’ (Hutchins and Tindall (2016, p. 6) primarily demonstrate interest in the roles of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products. In 2020 when long-term CEO Bob Iger stood down as CEO, he was replaced by Bob Chapek who had previously been unpopular with fans as Chairman of Parks. Despite the appointment of his own replacement, Josh D’Amaro, ongoing issues within the Parks (e.g., price increases, poor maintenance, a lack of new attractions) were blamed solely on Chapek and viewed as rare examples of Disney’s failures or moments of brand crisis. When Chapek was removed in November 2022, and replaced by the returning Bob Iger, fans were elated, eagerly welcoming back the ‘good’ CEO and celebrating Chapek’s “fall from grace” (Wade et al 2008: 203).


This paper builds on Jo Littler’s suggestion that it would be “fruitful to use the tools of media and cultural studies to analyze the role of contemporary CEOs” (2006: 233). It explores the positioning of the Disney CEO, and the Head of Parks, as ‘authors’ of the theme parks even though these are designed, built, and managed by a range of Disney employees. Following Pringle’s argument that good CEOs are “walking talking brand stories that provide their companies with a compelling narrative drive” (2004: 72), the paper argues that Chapek failed to adhere to the appropriate Disney ‘brand story’. In response, fans displayed their own values and priorities by negatively highlighting his overt focus on profit and corporate synergy, his lack of understanding and respect for the Parks’ history, and his derision towards those who visit these places. Secondly, it explores how Bob Iger was initially framed as a ‘returning hero’ by many fans, but how this has been complicated and contested by Disney’s political conflicts with Florida Governor Ron deSantis (Hester 2023) and Iger’s responses to the 2023 Hollywood strikes which contradict his construction as a ‘good’ celebrity CEO figure. 

Period1 Jul 20243 Jul 2024
Event typeConference
Conference number5
LocationAmsterdam, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Disney Studies
  • celebrity studies
  • fandom
  • brand fandom