Bob Iger Makes Announcement, Disney Will Change Forever in 2026

in Movies & TV

Disney castle logo with Bob Iger in the foreground

Foreground Image Credit: Glennia, Flickr

Earlier this year, the current Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, made a string of announcements that shook up everything we knew about what the House of Mouse had to offer. In doing so, he seemingly made it clear that 2026 is set to be huge for the company, one that may match its previous landmark year of 2019.

Either way, everything will change in two years’ time. But first, how did Disney get to where it lies today?

Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Recent Troubles

What happened to Disney’s movies?

Since 2019, The Walt Disney Company’s movie slate has underperformed at the global box office. Following the smash-hit year of 2019–which saw the likes of Frozen II, Toy Story 4, Avengers: Endgame, and The Lion King live-action adaptation hit movie theaters and score over a billion dollars each–Disney failed to rally fans back to the big screen once the industry began returning to normal after the pandemic shut down.

Elsa riding an ice horse in Frozen II
Credit: Disney

Encanto (2021) was Disney’s first real foray into testing audiences at the theaters. While many were still reluctant to leave homes for leisurely outings, Encanto did manage to score $250 million at the box office before it became a breakout hit on Disney+, the streaming service that the Mouse House launched in 2019. Encanto‘s virality on social media helped the movie soar, so when former CEO Bob Chapek revealed the Columbian musical fantasy was an entire franchise, fans were hopeful that a return to the Casita Madrigal was imminent.

The Madrigal family in Mirabel dream sequence in Encanto waiting for a miracle
Credit: Disney

Since then, there has been hardly a whisper from Walt Disney Animation Studios about whether Encanto 2 will be happening. This takes us to 2022, when Disney had one of its biggest flops ever–not to mention Disney Pixar’s Lightyear bomb.

A spinoff from the hugely beloved Toy Story franchise, Lightyear failed to land with fans with the same power that the other installments have since 1995. The confusing story teamed with the polarizing depiction of a same-sex couple, led the Pixar movie to score a lukewarm $226 million.

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) traveling at lightspeed in the 'Lightyear' trailer
Credit: Disney Pixar

Then, just months later, Disney’s own Strange World hit cinemas and became one of the biggest flops in box office history. With just $73 million gained globally, Strange World failed to appeal to the masses. Many flagged Disney’s lack of marketing for the film, some the seemingly unclear story, but what became clear was that the studio’s inclusion of an openly gay teen as the lead character sparked a new “woke” row and led to the animated film being pulled out of some regions.

Not even the company’s centennial year could bring audiences back into theaters, with Wish (2023), starring Academy Award-winner Ariana DeBose, failing to capture fans in the way the studio hoped. Wish also became one of the studio’s most poorly received movies, especially from critics, with the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score sitting at 48%. The audience score is almost double at 81%.

Asha looks nervously at a dancing star in 'Wish,' the upcoming Disney movie.
Credit: Disney

On the live-action front, Disney pushed out another movie based on an attraction. Haunted Mansion (2023) from director Justin Simien grossed just $117 million at the box office. Its debut during the summer season seemed misdirected, considering the theme. It was later released on Disney+ in October, closer to Halloween.

Prior to Haunted Mansion‘s release, the live-action retelling of The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Halle Bailey as Ariel, swam into theaters and grossed $569 million. While this wasn’t a failure by any means, the casting of Bailey as Ariel continued to be divisive, with discourse centering on Disney’s “woke agenda.”

And not even legacy franchises could capture the attention of audiences. In late June, Harrison Ford returned as the famed professor and explorer Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023). This fifth outing for Indy caused Disney to lose $100 million, thanks to only netting $384 million on a huge budget.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Credit: Lucasfilm

Looking at Disney’s other subsidiaries, Marvel Studios only had one real highlight with James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023). The other two sequels, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) and Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels (2023), carved severe blows in Marvel’s once impenetrable fortress, with the latter becoming the lowest-grossing MCU movie ever made.

Did any Disney movies do well at the box office?

Yes. The aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 brought in just under $900 million for Marvel and Disney, and back in 2021, the Tom Holland-starring Spider-Man: No Way Home neared $2 billion.

As for James Cameron’s Avatar franchise, the sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time eventually became the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) was a big win for 20th Century Studios and Disney, cementing the series as one of the most powerful forces in Hollywood history. Another three movies are on the way.

Two Na'vi (Neytiri and Jake Sulley) interacting with bioluminescent organisms and plants
Credit: 20th Century Studios

Pixar’s Elemental (2023) became a sleeper hit. After opening to a lukewarm crowd, the fantasy romance gained a following over the months after its debut and neared $500 million by the end of its theatrical run.

What movies have Disney announced?

At the D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, California, Disney announced a slew of upcoming movies. Aside from Wish, Disney Pixar revealed that Inside Out 2 (2024) was coming, with (most of) the cast returning, as well as the original movie, Elio (2025), starring Academy Award-nominated actress America Ferrera (Barbie). Elio was initially intended for 2024 but was pushed a year later as part of the studio’s reshuffle.

Elio being sucked into a portal upside down in Pixar's 'Elio'
Credit: Disney Pixar

Related: Disney Buries Live-Action ‘Snow White’ With New Princess

In terms of Disney’s polarizing live-action projects, this year will see The Lion King prequel, Mufasa: The Lion King (2024) debut from director Barry Jenkins. Then next year, Disney’s Snow White will be released in March 2025. The divisive adaptation starring Rachel Zegler as the titular princess caused immense controversy last year after comments from the actress resurfaced. The live-action version of Moana (2016) is also scheduled for a June 2025 release.

Rachel Zegler as Snow White in Disney's live-action version of Snow White
Credit: Disney

Then, during returning CEO Bob Iger’s first Earnings Call in early 2023, the leader revealed that a sequel to Zooptopia (2016) was in the works, as were new films in the Toy Story and Frozen franchises. Later in the year, Iger then said the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and co-director of the Frozen films, Jennifer Lee, was also working on an additional Frozen movie.

But none of that could have braced fans for the surprise reveal that Moana 2 (2024) would be coming to theaters this November. The reworked TV show will get an exclusive theatrical release in the hopes of drawing fans back to the big screen. Disney’s so-called “woke” reputation may still linger too heavily for some of the Mouse’s fans, but only time will tell if the oceanic princess has the power to get them back into seats. Moana 2 will sail onto screens on November 27, 2024.

Moana near a capsized boat at night with Heihei on top.
Credit: Disney

A year later, Zootopia 2 will hit screens. The first movie, starring Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps and Jason Bateman as Nick, grossed over $1 billion when it was released eight years ago and beat out Moana to snag the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. Zootopia 2 is slated to be released on November 26, 2025.

On the Marvel front, just one movie will drop from the superhero studio: Deadpool 3 (2024). After Iger commented on the sheer amount of films and content across theatrical and Disney+, the MCU is on a content course correction, and as such only Ryan Reynolds’ R-rated action film will hit the screen. In 2025, MCU fans can expect Captain America: Brave New World, Thunderbolts, Blade, and Fantastic Four.

Looking even further ahead, 2026 looks to be shaping up to be the year that everything will change for Disney–for better or worse.

Judy rescues Fru Fru in 'Zootopia'
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Future

Why is 2026 a big year for Disney?

In order to discuss why 2026 will be a make-it-or-break-it year, we first need to go back to 2019. The Walt Disney Company had a record-breaking year with six billion dollar movies in 2019, with the top five films of the year all belonging to the House of Mouse.

Disney netted $13 billion in 2019, including 20th Century titles, with Captain Marvel ($1.1 billion), Avengers: Endgame ($2.7 billion), Aladdin ($1 billion), Toy Story 4 ($1 billion), The Lion King ($1.6 billion) and Frozen II ($1.2 billion) all crossing the billion dollar milestone. By the end of its run, 2019’s Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker also surpassed $1 billion.

Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man getting ready to fight Thanos in Endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

This brings us back to now. Earlier this week, during the Q1 Earnings Call, Bob Iger shared that Frozen 3 and Toy Story 5 will be getting 2026 debuts. The release of these two animated movies coincides with the fact that Avengers 5Avengers: The Kang Dynasty–is also being released in 2026. The Marvel movie is expected to be released on May 1, 2026, although following the outcome of the Jonathan Majors (He Who Remains/Kang the Conqueror/Victor Timely) domestic assault trial, may end up being taken into a new direction.

In addition, Lucasfilm–which has been absent from movie theaters since The Rise of Skywalkerwill also drop its big hitter with The Mandalorian & Grogu in 2026. Jon Favreau will return to direct the film, which is separate from Dave Filoni’s Mando-Verse, or Heir of the Empire, movie.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) flies with Gorgu in-hand in concept art for Lucasfilm's 'The Mandalorian & Grogu'
Credit: Lucasfilm

So, with Frozen 3, Toy Story 5, Avengers 5, and a Star Wars movie featuring two hugely popular characters, Disney’s slate is looking remarkably like that of 2019, when Frozen II, Toy Story 5, Avengers 4 (Endgame), and Star Wars Episode IX were released. The former three are also the box office powerhouses of each respective studio: Disney Animation, Pixar, and Marvel Studios.

Iger’s announcement earlier this month cements the notion that Disney is looking at old and current favorites to drive back up its reputation and box office performance. It will be interesting to see if fans react to the many sequels heading down the pipeline or if, as we’ve seen before, they will cry out for new original storytelling.

All of the Bonnie's toys except Woody in a pile in the RV
Credit: Disney Pixar

Related: Close to 100% of Disney Animated Film Material Damaged and Lost

Either way, 2026 will be a landmark year: if the movies do well, it could see a resurgence of support for the once untouchable entertainment giant, and if they don’t, it will cement the idea that not even the studio’s most popular brands can clinch victory at the box office.

What comes after 2026?

After 2026, fans can expect Avengers 6, AKA Avengers: Secret Wars in 2027, and potentially other Disney live-action movies like Lilo & Stitch, Hercules, and Bambi. As for Frozen 4, there is no word on when the fourth movie could be released. It is likely that Disney wants to keep it close to Frozen 3‘s 2026 drop, but it also could be a way to get audiences to stick with the franchise for many more years if it was slated for further into the future.

What do you think of Disney’s 2026 line-up? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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