Jewish chair Dana Walden shapes creation of Disney content

No. 6 on The Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews of 2022: Chairwoman of Disney General Entertainment Content Dana Walden.

 Dana Walden, the Jewish entertainment industry leader at Disney. (photo credit: BRIAN BOWEN SMITH)
Dana Walden, the Jewish entertainment industry leader at Disney.
(photo credit: BRIAN BOWEN SMITH)

“It’s just a phenomenal time to be in the content business.”

Dana Walden could not be overlooked for our list of most influential Jewish people, and the quote above, given in an interview with Variety, characterizes her more than most.

As chairwoman of Disney General Entertainment Content, Walden oversees the creation of the massive collection of Disney content, including on Disney+ – which recently reached Israel – as well as Hulu, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic Content and more.

She previously worked as chair and CEO of Fox Television Group, during which she brought Fox Broadcasting Company from fourth place to first.

Her latest role at Disney comes after a long time – 25 years, to be exact – at 21st Century Fox. During her time overseeing the studios there, they amassed 184 Emmys, 29 Golden Globes awards, 17 Screen Actors Guild awards, 24 Peabody awards and Humanitas prizes.

Dana Walden (credit: REUTERS)Dana Walden (credit: REUTERS)

The movements within the company throughout the past few years, specifically those surrounding Walden’s promotion as the chairperson, have been quite aggressive and difficult to follow. Long-time CEO Bob Iger left the position, after which Bob Chapek took over as CEO. Chapek then fired Peter Rice, who had been chairperson before Walden, in what was seen as a longstanding industry mystery. Walden, instead, was promoted to chairperson. Until that point, Walden and Rice had worked closely together for years.

What has Dana Walden done in her position at Disney?

In her new leadership role, Walden oversaw the creation and successes of shows like Modern Family, This Is Us and Empire.

She describes the current television arena, so largely focused on streaming, as incredibly versatile. In the aforementioned interview, she told Variety that “it’s almost as if any great idea a creator comes up with now, there’s a place for it in the streaming universe.”

She clarified, “There is a business model in the streaming business, of course. But it’s not as rigid in terms of the creative as what we used to deal with.”

“There is a business model in the streaming business, of course. But it’s not as rigid in terms of the creative as what we used to deal with.”

Dana Walden

When Walden was interviewed at the 2017 INTV conference on innovation in television in Jerusalem (when she was an executive at Fox Television Group), she was asked whom she would contact, from the past or present.

According to an account in Variety, she answered without hesitation, “I would call my Grandma Rose.”

Rose Freedman, her maternal grandmother, who died in 2001 at 108, was the longest-living survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. Her quick thinking as that tragedy unfolded saved her life.