By Erich Schwartzel 

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger pushed back forcefully at criticism from acclaimed Hollywood directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola about Marvel Studios' superhero movies, saying he was "puzzled by it" and that they failed to appreciate the impact the films have on audiences.

Mr. Scorsese, known for movies such as "Goodfellas" and "Raging Bull," had said earlier this month the productions were more like "theme parks" than cinema. Mr. Coppola this week called them despicable.

"I reserve the word 'despicable' for someone who committed mass murder," said Mr. Iger, speaking at the WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. "These are movies."

"They want to bitch about movies, it's certainly their right," Mr. Iger added, saying he'd gladly put those directors' movies up against features directed for Marvel by Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler.

Mr. Iger is weeks away from launching his company's Disney+ streaming service, a dramatic shift in strategy for a company that for years has profited handsomely from the traditional TV and movie business. Disney+ will feature Disney movies and television shows for a $6.99 monthly subscription. The launch of a flagship streaming service has reoriented his company's managerial ranks and prompted an influx of production in anticipation of the Nov. 12 launch.

Mr. Iger said he is piloting the service himself. He spent two hours on Tuesday exploring the app and offering notes to engineers. His feedback: Make the product rely less on algorithms to predict what consumers want.

Mr. Iger's idea came after he had clicked on a category called "Mickey Mouse Through the Years." In addition to Mickey Mouse programs, the app serviced up related suggestions, including Pixar Animation Studios features.

"I think if people are clicking on Mickey Mouse, they mostly want Mickey Mouse," he said.

Mr. Iger has delayed retirement several times but is now scheduled to step down in 2021. He said the Disney board discusses succession and potential CEO candidates at each meeting, adding that he expects the handover to go more smoothly than the protracted interview process that preceded him getting the top job.

"I hope it is a more clear-cut decision," said Mr. Iger.

(More to come.)


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 23, 2019 00:36 ET (04:36 GMT)

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