Center Stage at Disney After a Career Out of the Spotlight

Mr. Chapek, 60, would gladly skip a red-carpet premiere to spend a quiet night at home, friends say. He lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles, far from the fashionable Brentwood and Pacific Palisades neighborhoods where most power players reside. He and his wife, Cindy, have been married for 38 years. At media events, such as the 2018 opening of Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World in Florida, Mr. Chapek amiably performs his role (in that case, yukking it up with Buzz Lightyear on a stage). But he is happy to not be the center of attention.

Mr. Chapek, known as “Bob C” inside Disney, has almost no experience in television, which remains a $25 billion annual business for Disney and where Mr. Iger — cool and charismatic — made his name before taking over as chief executive in 2005.

But comparing Mr. Chapek to Mr. Iger may be missing the point.

No one can reasonably be expected to fill Mr. Iger’s shoes, not only because he has a singular personality but because the company has changed so much during his tenure. When Mr. Iger took over as chief executive, Disney had two movie studios. Now it has eight, including Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Blue Sky and Searchlight. The company had two cruise ships in 2005. It will soon have seven. Annual theme park attendance has grown to 159 million worldwide, from about 115 million. Disney has two major new streaming services, Hulu and Disney Plus, both of which are making original programming to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the coming HBO Max.

With all of the sprawl, not even Mr. Iger can run Disney the way he has run it. In the past, he has been more involved in creative decisions than people might realize. He personally pushed ahead “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel.” He tasted all of the food planned for Shanghai Disneyland, gave feedback on ride-operator costumes and personally chose the spot where a statue of Walt Disney would be placed.

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