PHILADELPHIA -- A day after a stunning fireworks display here, Disney ( DIS) shareholders can see the light at the end of a dark, lavishly compensated tunnel.

Michael Eisner, the embattled longtime CEO whose many perks and imperial style finally stirred up a storm of opposition, finds himself firmly on the defensive after Wednesday's annual shareholder meeting. Investors rebuked his leadership, big institutions called for his departure and hostile bidder Comcast ( CMCSA) renewed its call for a change at the top in Burbank, Calif.

Eisner reacted late Wednesday by surrendering a bit of the iron-fisted control he'd held for 20 years, saying he'd give way to George Mitchell as nonexecutive chairman.

The move allows Disney to cast itself as responsive to shareholder concerns and to note its devotion to improving its corporate governance. But it's far from clear that Eisner's decision will quiet the company's many critics.

Most glaringly, several investors said Wednesday that the Disney management team and its board had lost touch with reality. They said that the company can't move forward without finding a new, more responsive chief.

"It was just clear these guys don't get it," said an investor who owns shares of both Comcast and Disney, and withheld his votes for all Disney's directors Wednesday. The investor, who has spoken with Eisner in recent weeks, added, "Eisner does not think that Disney has had performance problems or issues."

Those comments, and the results of Wednesday's voting, suggest that dissidents Stanley Gold and Roy Disney have struck a nerve with their criticism of the company, which has focused on Eisner's deficiencies at the helm. Indeed, Gold pointed out Wednesday that excluding votes exercised by brokers -- cases in which the beneficial owners surrendered their right to vote -- Eisner got just 47% of votes cast.

Disney continues to stubbornly defend its direction and Eisner's vision. In its statement late Wednesday, the company said that in Wednesday's no-confidence vote, "There was substantial focus on the question of whether the Chair and CEO functions at the Company should be split. ... Taking all of these factors into account, we believe the action we have taken today is in the best long-term interest of the shareholders of the company. "

But like it or not, after years of treading water in the market, Disney shareholders are ready to ride a new wave.

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