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Disney reveals film plans at annual shareholder meeting

Walt Disney Co. held its annual meeting in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday and used the occasion to reveal a few tidbits about its forthcoming film projects, including a pair of animated sequels and the company's first "Star Wars" picture.

Shareholders of Disney, the world's largest entertainment company, also confirmed all 10 members of the board of directors who were up for reelection.

The meeting was also notable for what did not transpire there.

The Burbank company was able to avoid a vote on a proposal put forward by a group of activist investors who wanted to amend the process by which candidates are nominated to the board.

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Disney headed off the proposal by making a key change to its corporate governance guidelines. According to a regulatory filing made public just hours before the meeting, Disney will now require its board of directors to provide annual justification for having one person hold the chairman and chief executive positions.

Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger has had both jobs since 2012.

Disney's filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that if the board determines in the future that the chairman role should not be filled by an independent director, the board would provide a written statement in its proxy materials discussing why the arrangement would be in the best interest of shareholders. Iger is scheduled to leave both positions when his current deal ends June 30, 2016.

Then, each year after such an arrangement remains in place, the board would determine whether it is still in the best interest of investors and state in writing reasons for this conclusion.

A group of investors that included the California State Teachers' Retirement System was seeking a shareholder vote on whether owners of 3% or more of company stock could nominate candidates to the board.

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The group, which also included the Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds and Hermes Equity Ownership Services, withdrew its proposal after discussions with Disney, according to the company's filing.

Iger, speaking in prepared remarks and later answering questions from shareholders, discussed some of Disney's forthcoming movie and theme park plans.

Detailing the company's animated film pipeline, Iger said Disney's Pixar Animation Studios plans to make a sequel to the 2004 hit "The Incredibles" and a third film in the popular "Cars" franchise.

However, Iger, in a response to a question from a shareholder, said that Disney has no hand-drawn animated features in development. The last one released by the company was 2009's "The Princess and the Frog."

The company's Walt Disney Animation Studios is riding high: Last year's "Frozen" is on track to become the biggest-grossing animated film in history. The film has taken in more than $1 billion and is still playing in theaters four months after its release.

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Iger also discussed Disney's upcoming "Star Wars" film, which is slated for released Dec. 18, 2015. He said the movie, "Star Wars: Episode VII," would take place 30 years after "Return of the Jedi" and feature "some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads."

Iger joked that the only cast member he could confirm for the movie, which is expected to start filming in May, is R2-D2.

Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the production company behind the "Star Wars" franchise, in 2012 for $4 billion.

Iger had less to say about a fifth film in the multibillion-dollar "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. The executive said a sequel is in development but not approved for production. In September, Disney said that the next movie in the "Pirates" franchise starring Johnny Depp would not be released as planned on July 10, 2015.

However, Iger revealed some "Pirates"-related news, saying that the company's first theme park attraction based on the movie franchise will open at the forthcoming Shanghai Disney Resort. (The movie series itself is based on a long-running ride at the company's flagship theme park in Anaheim.) That theme park would include a land called Treasure Cove and a ride called "Battle of the Sunken Treasure."

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The Shanghai Disney Resort, a nearly $4-billion theme park project that Iger has been working on for more than 15 years, is slated to open by Dec. 31, 2015.

"I was there just a few weeks ago and there are construction cranes everywhere you look," Iger said. "The progress is truly phenomenal."

Disney shareholders voted down a proposal that would have limited the accelerated vesting of equity awards to senior company executives when there is a change in control.

Shares of Disney rose 60 cents on Tuesday to $81.99. The stock has climbed 7.3% in 2014.

daniel.miller@latimes.com

Follow @DanielNMiller

daniel.miller@latimes.com

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