Updated from 4:49 p.m.

The calls for Michael Eisner's scalp had some effect Wednesday.

A huge number of Disney ( DIS) shareholders sided with the dissidents seeking to take down the embattled longtime chief executive, and an influential institution took issue with his leadership as well.

After a contentious board meeting Eisner gave up his chairman's job but said he'd stay on as CEO. Disney said the board has "confidence in the strategic direction of the company."

The events deepened the turmoil surrounding the media conglomerate, but the Burbank, Calif., company signaled its intention to slug it out with its foes.

The company said 43% of votes cast in its annual director election withheld support for Eisner. Dissident ex-director Stanley Gold, who with family member Roy Disney is battling to force Eisner's removal, had predicted a strong showing in favor of shaking up Disney management. The California Public Employees' Retirement System, a big shareholder, seconded Gold's call for Eisner's departure by year-end, saying giving up the chairman's job isn't enough.

"This discontent is too wide and way too deep in the marketplace, and it has led us to believe that Eisner should go and the Board should get quickly to work on planning for an orderly transition," said Calpers exec Sean Harrigan. "While Mr. Eisner has made some noteworthy contributions in the past, the long term performance of the company, plus the resounding lack of confidence expressed by shareholders bring us to the conclusion that The Disney Company needs to resolve this situation and move on."

But in a late-evening press release, Disney said it would separate the chairman and CEO posts while keeping Eisner on as chief. The company named its presiding director, former Sen. George Mitchell, as its chairman.

The move seems unlikely to quell the dissent building around Mickey Mouse's mansion. Earlier on Wednesday, would-be suitor Comcast ( CMCSA) stood by last month's takeover offer for Disney, indicating it won't raise its bid but saying it believes the vote shows shareholders want change.

"Today's unprecedented withhold vote by Disney's shareholders sends a powerful message that Disney's Board and management need to focus more on shareholder interests," Comcast said. "Consistent with this focus, Disney's independent directors should immediately meet with Comcast so we can directly present our full and generous proposal and the benefits of the merger."

Disney again rejected the Comcast bid in its late evening statement.

Meanwhile, Disney continued to stand firm. As it has ever since Comcast launched its $48 billion all-stock bid in the middle of last month, the company highlighted what it calls its improving performance and its bright future as an independent entity.

At a news conference following the annual shareholder meeting here, financial chief Tom Staggs said to much applause that he believes Disney can achieve Comcast's postmerger financial targets "on a standalone basis." Last month Comcast said it hoped to achieve cash-flow benefits of $1 billion over three years after the merger.