One of Disney’s own stars could return company to its former glory

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Major Disney stockholder Nelson Peltz is waging a massive proxy fight against Disney for mismanagement and non-accountability. He is not only correct to do so, but has the support of millions of “Disney Kids” like myself who are shocked at what the far-left leadership has done to the iconic company.  

As for me, in some real and lasting ways, the “Wonderful World of Disney” and Disney movies helped to keep me sane by providing moments of escape and happiness during a childhood which saw me evicted from 34 homes by the time I was 17 years of age. 

Aside from the seemingly never-ending evictions, my older brother Jay, younger sister Janice, and I also found ourselves frequently without electricity. Just one of the many bills our alcoholic and highly dysfunctional parents never seemed to pay. 

KURT RUSSELL CROSSED PATHS WITH O.J. SIMPSON, TED BUNDY AND MANSON FAMILY

As the evictions, lack of electricity and accompanying sadness and humiliation were a regular and predictable occurrence, I came up with something to distract our minds in the midst of the literal darkness and despair. 

Long-time star Kurt Russell has been part of the Disney family since he was a child actor. (Mark Davis/Getty Images)

That was to use the battery-operated tape recorder my grandmother had given me to record the audio from the Disney shows on television – when we did have electricity – as well as sneak it into the occasional movie theater to tape the audio from a Disney movie. 

The idea being that when our electricity was turned off or when we were living in the back of a car, I would play the Disney movies on my tape recorder to both distract us from the constant misery while also providing much needed entertainment. 

The very first Disney movie I recorded – after a few Disney shows on television – was “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” starring Kurt Russell as “Dexter Riley.” As I was in Little League at the time and knew Russell was an excellent baseball player, I gravitated toward him as an actor and as an escape. 

I literally lost count of how many times my brother, sister, and I would listen to “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” or “The Barefoot Executive” in the dark. Russell will likely never know it, but in a very real way, we will always be in his debt. 

Now, flash ahead to today. In my mind, and certainly the minds of tens of millions of Americans, the Disney of now is far removed from the company envisioned, created and nurtured by Walt Disney 100 years ago.  

The company took a left turn politically years ago and has progressively moved from the liberal lane to the far-left lane to the woke lane while driving away those tens of millions of former fans. 

In some real ways, I was the “poster child” of a Disney kid. Its programming in the late ’60s gave me the escape needed to decompress my mind and fight another day. I loved Disney then and love the idea of that Disney now. 

Except, Disney of today seemingly wants to politicize every single thing it creates or controls. Its leadership is deeply political and now continually pushes the agenda of the Democratic Party as well as divisive “identity politics.” 

October 1966: American actor Kurt Russell (C) smiles at the Spotlighter Teen Awards dinner with his parents, Bing and Louise Russell. (Photo by Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images)

October 1966: American actor Kurt Russell (C) smiles at the Spotlighter Teen Awards dinner with his parents, Bing and Louise Russell. (Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images)

As someone who tries to espouse common sense and pragmatic thoughts and solutions – I don’t want any politics from any party in Disney entertainment. I would argue just as loudly if Disney was trying to insert conservative dogma into its programming and movies while bashing those who sided with the Democratic Party. 

As one who did grow up in abject poverty, I am here to remind current Disney CEO Bob Iger and his leadership team that tens of millions of Americans are fighting every single day of their lives to overcome the worst that life has to offer. A nightmare often foisted upon them by partisan politics. 

Those deeply hurting and continually frightened Americans don’t want to be lectured or talked down to by “entertainment” companies. They want – and desperately need – to be entertained. Unless you have walked in the shoes of some of these people, you have no idea the mental struggle it takes simply to make it to the next day. 

Now, flash ahead to today. In my mind, and certainly the minds of tens of millions of Americans, the Disney of now is far removed from the company envisioned, created and nurtured by Walt Disney 100 years ago.  

According to news reports, Iger – who is already worth hundreds of millions of dollars – was paid almost $32 million in total compensation by Disney in 2023. Good for him. 

But as he thinks of all the ways he can spend that money, he should remember that for much of his core customer base, $3,000 can be a life-changing or lifesaving amount. For decades, Disney was in the business of serving that customer base. It can be again. 

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I am quite serious when I say this, but if he ever were to be open to it, I believe Russell could not only save Disney, but restore it to its core mission of entertaining children and adults. 

For years, Russell’s name was synonymous with the Disney brand. He was just 15 when Walt Disney passed away at the age of 65. Prior to that moment, the two did have numerous conversations as Disney felt his young star had a real future. And, as has become a bit of an urban myth, two of the last words Disney did write in his notebook before passing on were in fact: Kurt Russell. 

Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Kurt Russell, Pom Klentieff, James Gunn and Michael Rooker attend the European Gala Screening of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” at Eventim Apollo on April 24, 2017, in London. (Rune Hellestad – Corbis/Contributor)

All of that to say that in many ways, Russell did – and does – know the mindset of Walt Disney as well as his values. More than that, Russell is a libertarian who would bring common sense, pragmatic and non-political thinking and creativity back to Disney. 

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If ever there was a time for the baseball-loving Kurt Russell to step up to the plate and swing for the fences to save Disney, it is now. I truly believe he could do it. 

*** Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the book: The 56 – Liberty Lessons from those who risked all to sign The Declaration of Independence. 

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