The biggest race that you may not be following closely is who will replace Tom Staggs as the heir apparent of Disney CEO Bob Iger. But you won’t get a straight answer in this column. You’ve Got to be Kidding is parody. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is purely coincidental . . . or something like that. . .
A little over a month ago, the business world was caught by surprise when it was announced that Tom Staggs was stepping down as Disney Corporation’s COO. The presumed successor for Bob Iger was gone and the race to become the next president of Disney was wide open.
In incredibly short order, a wave of candidates stepped forward more than willing to assume the mantel. The rush of candidates was overwhelming and it seemed that Disney characters were crawling out of every nook and cranny in the belief that he or she was the obvious heir apparent.
Luckily, there is a grueling process in place that provides stockholders and voters an opportunity to really get to know the candidates. And, in this case, that process has been revelatory, entertaining, and, sometimes, a little depressing. However, it has served its purpose and the number of potential candidates has been significantly reduced.
Some of the early drop outs were no surprise. One of the first was Tigger. No one gave him a serious chance, partly because they still remembered his faux pas from an earlier campaign where he famously said “The three wonderful thing about Tiggers are that, one, Tiggers are wonderful things, two, wonderful things are Tiggers and, three…What’s the third one there? Let’s see. The third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops. Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!” It didn’t matter that he came to this new campaign wearing glasses; no one believed he had suddenly gotten smarter.
Early on, former governor and current used-car dealer Pete, Sr. had been seen as a strong candidate. However, he was unable to overcome the public relations disaster that occurred when it was revealed he was responsible for permanently shutting down the Jolly Trolley in Mickey’s Toontown. What really pushed people over the edge was the revelation that this was done in retribution for Mickey’s refusal to endorse Pete for pretty much anything.
At the outset of the race, everyone assumed Tweedledee would be one of the final candidates. Many noted that he was better than his brother, Tweedledum, and there was quite a political machine behind him. But it was soon revealed that the machine was nothing but a house of cards and he would need more than the campaign slogan “Dee!”. The ultimate moment of failure occurred when, while speaking to a group of those cards, he ended a speech and received nothing but silence. His request “Please clap” was met by someone saying “Off with the campaign’s head!”, a request that was accomplished in rather short order.
Another popular favorite that surprised people by not making the cut was Piglet (or as one candidate kept referring to him, “Little Piglet.) His demise was sealed when he couldn’t even carry his home territory – The Hundred Acre Wood.
Many were surprised by how long Sleepy remained in the race. Part of this may have been the confusion that resulted when people thought he was Doc. However, he quickly began making statements no one believed could come from an educated man, including the comment that the Matterhorn had been built to store corn dogs and churros. However, others have conjectured that his staying power was the result of the voters’ admiration for his ability to effectively sleep through every debate, ignoring the rhetoric that was being spewed around him.
Dorie also lasted much longer than many expected. However, she plummeted in the polls when she was first quoted as saying she approved of a bailout of Shanghai Disneyland, then, apparently forgetting what she had said, came out against the bailout. When pressured about the change in attitude, she was heard saying “Just keep running. Just keep running.” Eventually, she was talked out of continuing her presidential aspirations. But there was a sequel in the works for Dorie, and it was coming from one of the last candidates to drop out.
The fact that Grandpa Munster was running was surprising on many levels. First, he was one of only two non-animated characters. Second, he did not come from Disney, which led to questions about his eligibility because of those origins. But somehow that strange pointed face and pallid complexion resonated with some voters and he plugged along as though death had no meaning. As if to prove the point, well after it was apparent that he would not be in the running for the position, he went ahead and announced his nominee for COO. Dorie was called on stage and accepted the appointment gracefully, apparently not remembering that Grandpa Munster had previously been one of her rivals.
However, even Grandpa Munster had to recognize when a campaign could no longer be raised from the dead. The announcement of his withdrawal from the race will be most remembered for the moment where he apparently slugged his daughter, Lily, while trying to hug everyone around him. As the withdrawal was announced, Dorie ducked an uppercut and was overheard saying “Just keep running. Just keep running.”
The latest to drop out was George Banks. As the only other non-animated character vying for the position, it was somehow apropos that he was one of the least animated. Many knew the end was near when he was barely able to carry London. Universally, the response to his dropping out has been “You mean he was still running?”
So there are now three finalists. (Well, there are three as of this writing. Who knows what might happen in the next couple of days.)
The longest shot is Carl Fredrickson. While counted out long ago, the lovable curmudgeon, flying his house across the US, has tapped into something the voters seem to like. It may be his constant attacks against the fat cats on Buena Vista Street, it may be his unwavering support for the Wilderness Explorers, or it may just be his promise of free Mickey balloons for all.
Considered the candidate to beat from the very beginning, Lady Tremaine is still running strong. She has never made any bones of the fact that she desires the same power her husband once wielded and has spent a long time grooming those around her while hiding anything which may prove embarrassing. The biggest question is whether she can survive the scandal caused by her secretive destruction of what she called “meaningless shoes” – shoes that many believe held the key to secrets Lady Tremaine would rather not have unlocked.
And then there is Hades. A punchline when he first announced his candidacy, he has perplexed the pundits and naysayers by running a campaign that flies in the face of convention. It started by him saying that Mickey Mouse’s origin story was untrue and he had evidence that Mickey actually came from a New York sewer. He also said he could spit gum on the sidewalks of Main Street and people would still vote for him. And he has promised to build a bigger berm around Disneyland to keep Universal Studios out, even stating that he would make Universal pay for it. (And the less said about his comment regarding the length, beauty, and blueness of his hair, the better.) In response to Hades success, many have stated that, if Hades becomes president, they will just move to Knott’s Berry Farm.
So there they are. However, even with the winnowing down of the candidates, no one is sure who the next president will be. (We just know it won’t be Tom Staggs.) Will it be Hades? Will it be lady Tremaine? Or might it even be Goofy? There has been a popular push for his candidacy, but he has responded “I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination. Gawrsh, why would anyone want that job?” Or will it be one of the candidates already considered to be no longer viable? And what is that voice we keep hearing that says “Just keep running. Just keep running.”