Abigail Disney makes some pretty harsh critiques of the entertainment giant that her grandfather and great uncle founded nearly 100 years ago in her new documentary The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, which screened at Sundance this week. And yes, she realizes that by pointing fingers at Disney and the way it treats its employees, she’s risking her own financial well-being. But it’s a risk she’s willing to take.
“It’s clear if I succeed in really centering a pretty trenchant critique of the company in the consciousness of this country, there’s a risk that the company will be hurt in a big way and share prices will drop and I’ll be hurt personally by that. But isn’t that the nature of solidarity?” Disney said during a virtual Q&A at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. “You can’t be in genuine solidarity with people who have less than you without running some kind of risk.”
The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales raises a lot of questions about the wage gap between Disney’s highest-paid executives, like CEO Bob Chapek and his predecessor, Bob Iger, whose salaries are in the tens of millions, and its thousands of theme-park and retail employees who make minimum wage.
To illustrate this wage disparity, Abigail Disney and her production team got to know several Disney employees living in Anaheim, California where Disney Land is based, who still struggle to afford rent, food, health care, and other living expenses even while working full-time at Disney.
“It may have to be that the company gets worse before it gets better — before it begins to understand that it’s so uniquely placed in American culture and it has this incredibly redemptive capacity to lead other companies into this new century and this new period of understanding that it’s not only shareholders [that] matter. Employees matter, communities matter, the environment matters,” she added. “So I yeah, I have learned to tough out my misgivings about what I’m doing to my own well-being because I believe so firmly that solidarity is the more important position.”
Main Image: A still from The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales by Abigail E. Disney and Kathleen Hughes, an official selection of the Special Screenings section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.