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  1. #1

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    5/17: Life During Wartime

    A Review of Disney War, Game Updates, More... Discuss it all here!
    "Politics is the profession whereby the inevitable is made to seem a great human achievement" - Quentin Crisp

  2. #2

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    The book is boring

    "Disney War" was a very tough read for me. If one is looking for one account after another of corporate ego and ineptitude, I suppose it will do. But well-before the halfway point, I was crying for mercy: "Yes, Eisner is full of himself. WE KNOW! After years of enduring a corporate culture that was built around one man, it's rather annoying to read a book that is ... built around one man.

    The story of any company doesn't lie exclusively in the boardroom and executive offices, but the author rarely strays from those areas. He barely touches on the experiences of Disney's rank-and-file under Eisner's tenure. There is no in-depth examination of the environment in the Animation department, decimated in a downsizing the likes of which would have been inconceivable ten years ago.

    Instead, the book is one near-endless corporate soap opera. The author seems intent on making nearly everyone look bad. Indeed, Eisner, Katzenberg, Roy Disney ... they ALL come-off looking rather petty in this treatment. But there is no examination of the workings of this singular company itself ... and mysteriously no mention of the Disney Cruise Line, perhaps Eisner's most notable and univesally well-received milestone. Apparently something that lacks dishy controversy isn't really worth mentioning?

    I'm not an apologist for Eisner. I'm glad he's on the way out. But this book, instead of discussing what makes Disney interesting from a business perspective, is meant only to air dirty laundry. The reader doesn't learn much more about Disney's leadership that he didn't already know. A lot of words ... not much point. I can't really recommend the book.

  3. #3

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    Excellent article, Kevin. I read Storming the Magic Kingdom but it sounds like this book is even more interesting. It's truly fitting that a company as unique as Disney would have such a seemingly work of fiction play out behind the scenes. It's almost as if an excellent writer wrote the turbulence going on behind the scenes at Disney today.

    Also, this is getting kind of off-topic, but Kevin did bring it up in previous articles and it does have to do with the creative bankruptcy the company is known for nowadays. It turns out yet *another* Disney-themed attraction is a casualty of Pixar! The Tarzan show in Walt Disney World is turning into a Finding Nemo show. Like Tomorrowland, Finding Nemo is an appropriate name because Disney is constantly trying to "Find" places to put it...it just doesn't belong in a jungle-themed area. This scares me on a number of levels:

    1) It shows Disney has now adopted a "scorched Earth" policy with Pixar and is doing everything in its power to squeeze every last Pixar reference into Disney parks before their contract expires.

    2) Imagineers don't seem to be imagining much nowadays except finding which Pixar film fits in which themed land. How can we call basing an attraction on an existing storyline with existing characters anything but a rehash?

    3) This is the thing that scares me the most, with these short-term decisions to incorporate Pixar into every single new ride come long-term consequences. Pixar is a reference to the outside world, it reminds us it's a movie we saw in the theaters. There is no escapism, creativity or imagination involved, it's just us being able to ride through a movie we've already seen.

    Seeing other parks stuffing Pixar rides into very ambiguous theming (Nemo in the jungle and Tomorrowland) really makes me think this is a company-wide decision. A few rides can be forgiven, after all Pixar is very popular. But this seems to be an ongoing trend and there have been no NEW rides since this trend started a few years ago. Don't get me wrong, Nemo is one of my favorite movies, but when you have half of Tomorrowland being themed to Pixar with more Pixar obviously on the way, it gets stretched a little thin.
    Last edited by Athlonacon; 05-17-2005 at 07:07 AM.

  4. #4

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    I read an advance copy of DisneyWar months ago, and I admit I'm not surprised that it took off like it did. It IS written as a soap opera and NONE of the characters come off looking good at all. I think there was only one agenda by Mr. Stewart -- to make a big name for himself on the talk show circuit and snag another book deal, a bigger one.

    I have to be honest here, I found the book pretty much to be a waste of time. I knew Eisner was egomanical. I knew he and Frank Wells weren't the best of pals. I knew that absolute power went to his head. I knew that Roy Disney was only well-thought of amongst the animators and some of the old guard. I knew Jeff Katzenberg was a weasel, albeit a talented one. etc ... etc ... there was no real insight in the book. They all hate each other. Wow. In major media? Who woulda thunk it?

    My biggest problem with the book lies in the way Stewart quotes people. He even admits that some of the quotes aren't exactly what were said, but reflect the tone. He also took much of what he wrote from other sources, meaning they aren't his quotes. He didn't conduct the interviews. He doesn't know what context they were meant.

    Finally, and most importantly, is the fact his book has many mistakes in it. From simple misspellings to having his facts wrong (often on major things like saying Disney owns half of the Tokyo Disney Resort when in fact it owns nothing) to things I can only assume were typos (having millions when the correct number was in the billions). I have been an editor before. I can't fathom how a major publisher like Simon and Schuster let that book go to press (well, actually since Viacom is the parent company and would love bad press for Disney, I can) with such a shoddy editing job. When I first read it, I stopped counting at two dozen mistakes. If those are just what I can pick up in a cursory read, it obviously makes me wonder what else Stewart got wrong in there.

    So do I recommend it? Sure, for a Disney geek who wants inside info. But I'd wait a while. Soon you'll find it on the Bargain Book table at Borders for $5.99!

  5. #5

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    One other issue with the book is it offers no real insight, it just tititlates with nastiness throughout. And you get the distinct feeling the author feels he's above the whole thing.

    As to the whole Pixar characters thrown in everywhere, well, I too have major issues with it. Whether it's Tomorrowland becoming Fantasyland or princesses invading Epcot or every shop selling character merchandise, I find it all part of the WalMarting of Disney (WDW is the worst). The MK has become one giant kiddie-land, and that's how they want to market the place. Forget about the fact the park was supposed to be a place for families (and people of ALL ages) to enjoy together. Characters sell to the stroller brigade -- whether it's Buzz, Nemo, Flik or Disney's own princesses, Pooh and Mickey. Sadly, that's all that seems to matter ... Creatively, Disney is adrift right now and the characters are the cheapest and easiest solutions for management.

  6. #6

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    Kevin, Thanks for the update!
    Too bad about Pixel Perfect. Neat concept though.... I guess people weren't ready for it.
    nice pics though. :-)

    Also I thought it was nice for you to put in a plug for the "Tales from the Laughing Place".

  7. #7

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    "DisneyWar" Is A Peak Experience, Simply Because Eisner Likely Hates It!

    Expedition Everest is coming together great. Thanks for the awesome picture, Kevin. The placing of the exteriors will be tremendously enjoyable to watch. Regrettably, DisneyWar is not exactly the best tome around.

    Yet, I have changed my opinion from earlier today.
    As with Expedition Everest, I rank the book at the top of the summit, based solely on the fact that Eisner is roasted like a pig at a Polynesian luau.

    Now for the negative:

    Granted, any story about currupt political power coupled with self-centered egos and personality conflict is always a recipe for a soap opera. Stewart goes overboard, though, where soap boxing and fictionalizing are concerned. The book is still a decent read. To the authors credit, there is an opportunity to understand the chronology of events that has, presently, led to the ultimate legal showdawn - Roy Disney and Stanley Gold vs. Michael Eisner and a board of devious cronies. Nevertheless, things would have been far more interesting and relevant had the tale consisted of actual accounts, minus moot words being placed inside the characters mouths.

    Quote Originally Posted by HyperTyper
    The story of any company doesn't lie exclusively in the boardroom and executive offices, but the author rarely strays from those areas. He barely touches on the experiences of Disney's rank-and-file under Eisner's tenure. There is no in-depth examination of the environment in the Animation department, decimated in a downsizing the likes of which would have been inconceivable ten years ago.
    No new ground was broken, as the story pretty much featured only the prominent high-ranking players from the headlines. As Kevin said, the author highlighted the fact that Eisner "doesn't play well with others" and his sick, twisted natire of pitting "underlings againsy eachother" and promoting whoever is left standing. However, the immersive element would have increased ten-fold with the inclusion of middle management, Imageneers, film production personnel, and ordinary Cast Members, etc. Alas, it didn't happen.

    The REAL Disney War is being fought on several fronts:

    a) First and foremost, of course, it is a battle to select an independent CEO and
    Board that sre genuinely committed to returning the Company to it's
    creative and financially productive core - concentrating on family-oriented
    film production and quality theme parks.

    b) Next, there is a fight to end the mindset that places short term profits
    over longterm investment.

    c) Shareholder empowerment, with respect to corporate decision making.

    d) Better personal treatment and compensation for average Cast Members,
    creative staff, and, perhaps even middle management.

    e) Prevention of the outsourcing of jobs to the foreign shores of India and
    elsewhere.

    f) Bringing back Walt's inspirational "little bee" that buzzes about
    (encouraging fresh ideas and teamwork), and doing away
    with creative bankruptcy.

    g) The resolution of a number of other serious conflicts.

    Once again, I am willing to forgive each of my critical complaints, and highly recommend "DisneyWar" for one single reason; that being Eisner gets his head taken off, and then he's roasted like a cornish game hen.
    Last edited by Ride Warrior; 05-18-2005 at 07:29 PM.

  8. #8

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    Another great article Kevin! I am going to start DisneyWar soon I think, maybe it'll be a summer project for me.













  9. #9

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    Creative Validity of Pixar

    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    It turns out yet *another* Disney-themed attraction is a casualty of Pixar! The Tarzan show in Walt Disney World is turning into a Finding Nemo show. Like Tomorrowland, Finding Nemo is an appropriate name because Disney is constantly trying to "Find" places to put it...it just doesn't belong in a jungle-themed area. This scares me on a number of levels:

    1) It shows Disney has now adopted a "scorched Earth" policy with Pixar and is doing everything in its power to squeeze every last Pixar reference into Disney parks before their contract expires.

    2) Imagineers don't seem to be imagining much nowadays except finding which Pixar film fits in which themed land. How can we call basing an attraction on an existing storyline with existing characters anything but a rehash?

    3) This is the thing that scares me the most, with these short-term decisions to incorporate Pixar into every single new ride come long-term consequences. Pixar is a reference to the outside world, it reminds us it's a movie we saw in the theaters. There is no escapism, creativity or imagination involved, it's just us being able to ride through a movie we've already seen.

    Tomorrowland being themed to Pixar with more Pixar obviously on the way, it gets stretched a little thin.
    As to the rumor that Disney is looking to replace Tarzan Rocks with a Finding Nemo atraction at Animal Kingdom, I've heard that they are considering The Jungle Book, which is in keeping with the DAK theme and has nothing to do with PIXAR. So, Nemo might be misinformation.

    Another point to ponder is that a heavy-handed number of attractions prior to Pixar, and still remaining today, are based on well known non-Disney books, and were not created out of thin air...stories such as Tarzan, Peter Pan, Uncle Remus, Cinderella, Tom Sawyer, Little Mermaid, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jungle Book, Journey To the Center of the Earth, Winnie the Pooh and Aladdin; to name some. Why is it that there has never been much of a comotion over the creative imagination of the Company and its Imagineers with respect to the rides and attractions that were spawned by these tales? Disney has allowed us to relive these magical experiences through creative adaptation of books, plays, and its own films. That's why.

    In addition, I havn't noticed the Pixar trademark being added to one single Pixar-based attraction. So how is it that rides such as Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train and attractions like Turtle Talk with Crush are void of escapism (from the outside world), creativity and imagination. These films have also spawned popular books, which encourage kids to read. Walt Disney himself said that he had no desire for Disneyland to become a museum. I love attractions that are based on older books too. But, like a dead poet or painter, is there some sort of rule that Pixar should be disbanded and its films/books ancient before it qualifies as credible entertainment.

    Using this logic, The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror isn't innovative as Rod Serling's voice is a real recording tied-in with a popular tv brandname, viewed at home - and that spoils the illusion. Rockin' Roller Coaster: Featuring Arrowsmith fails to create escapism because the popular group reminds us of the outside world. Star Tours is slacking in imagination because it reminds us of George Lucus. So that fantasy is blown into outer space too. Ellen's Energy Adventure is worthless as it is also connected to a living celebrity - two in fact, counting Bill Nye, the Anti-Escapism Guy.

    Finally, it seems to me that Disney is still creating quite a few rides and attractions as if out of thin air, i.e. that are not based on any other media.
    Consider Mission: Space, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Test Track, Maelstrom, Kilimenjaro Safaris, and the list goes on. There is Buzz in DL's Tomorrowland, and possiblly one or two coming Pixar-based attractions - and pretty much the same scenerio at MK. On the whole, Pixar is not taking over, nor is it dumbing down Disney's creative conscience. In fact, it is an inspiration that has brought new life to Disney resorts that would not otherwise exist..

    Eisner, Mitchell and the Board have all got to go. Roy and Stanley have brought worldwide attention to their egotistical, self-serving leadership - or lack thereof. This, I firmly believe is the only reason they have allowed for the amount of money that is being used to polish-up Disneyland, refurbish the attractions, and create new shows and rides the world over. While all of the attention is wonderful for the parks, the cold dark hearts of the CEO and the Board are likely detesting everything about the capital outlay and risk.
    I hope Roy, Stanley and their legal team succed in removing them permanently. There will certainly be no tears lost over Eisner's soon to come demise.
    Last edited by Ride Warrior; 05-18-2005 at 09:34 AM.

  10. #10

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    Another fantastic article, Kevin. It's great to see someone really getting in-depth to our east coast parks, especially with your superlative writing skills and clear-eyed interpretation of what transpires at Reedy Creek.

    About DisneyWar ... Mr. Stewart did a fantastic job interpreting what's gone on with Team Disney the past 20 years. I do believe he gave some short shift to the impact of 9/11 on the parks, though. My ex was a Disney employee on the day of the attacks. From the second impact on, the effect on Disney was devastating and endured for quite awhile. She told me the DRC call queue went from over 250 to zero within ten minutes of the second tower impact, and business never picked up again over the seven months following until she quit (hours were cut for even full-timers due to low call volume). Those of us who live here can recall how the Brazilian tour groups and their bicycle flags disappeared from WDW seemingly overnight.

    In response to Ride Warrior... while I agree that, in a perfect world, outstanding guest care, livable employee compensation, and a high-quality product would result in maximum return on equity, unfortunately... in the early 21st century, that's not what interests the institutional shareholder. Cutting costs is the easiest way to ensuring the best trading value for a share of Disney, and with the majority of the CEO's compensation derived from per-share value, we can expect nothing but corporate ops at the lowest possible cost - that's how we wound up with Paul Pressler running Parks and Resorts at the turn of the century.

    Mr. Eisner believed that the average Disney visitor will come to Anaheim or Lake Buena Vista to make the kids happy, regardless of whether there's a fresh coat of paint or if Animal Kingdom is worth no more than a 2-hour visit. Sadly, he's been correct - we hard-core Disneyphiles are a big pain in the butt compared to Mr. and Mrs. Sioux Falls who might make it to Disney two or three times in their lifetimes.

    So what do those of us who believe that Walt's dream is more than another tawdry Six Flags nightmare do? Keep your passes up to date, buy Disney stock as the family budget permits, and most important, treat those cast members with respect - they know who you are, and they appreciate the simple human respect that simple "pleases" and "thank yous" demonstrate. The cast members are really what make the whole place work, and the "I-paid-sixty-bucks-so-I-can-treat-everybody-as-badly-as-I-want" attitude of the tourist crowd gets real old, real fast.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seatac Toad
    In response to Ride Warrior... while I agree that, in a perfect world, outstanding guest care, livable employee compensation, and a high-quality product would result in maximum return on equity, unfortunately... in the early 21st century, that's not what interests the institutional shareholder. Cutting costs is the easiest way to ensuring the best trading value for a share of Disney, and with the majority of the CEO's compensation derived from per-share value, we can expect nothing but corporate ops at the lowest possible cost - that's how we wound up with Paul Pressler running Parks and Resorts at the turn of the century.

    Mr. Eisner believed that the average Disney visitor will come to Anaheim or Lake Buena Vista to make the kids happy, regardless of whether there's a fresh coat of paint or if Animal Kingdom is worth no more than a 2-hour visit. Sadly, he's been correct - we hard-core Disneyphiles are a big pain in the butt compared to Mr. and Mrs. Sioux Falls who might make it to Disney two or three times in their lifetimes.

    So what do those of us who believe that Walt's dream is more than another tawdry Six Flags nightmare do? Keep your passes up to date, buy Disney stock as the family budget permits, and most important, treat those cast members with respect - they know who you are, and they appreciate the simple human respect that simple "pleases" and "thank yous" demonstrate. The cast members are really what make the whole place work, and the "I-paid-sixty-bucks-so-I-can-treat-everybody-as-badly-as-I-want" attitude of the tourist crowd gets real old, real fast.
    The primary concern of the vast majority of institutional shareholders is the bottom line - rising stock value in conjunction with low tax rates. These people don't care whether the increased trading value of stocks is achieved by a given company cutting costs, or through generous compensation packages across the board (including the rank and file (cast members). Under the directives of Eisner, cutting costs is about all that Pressler did for around a decade. This mindset resulted in a low-performing Disney's California Adventure, and lower attendance rates for Disneyland as well - due to unreasonably high admission prices, ride closures and poor maintenance. This same policy of cutting costs was/is also responsible for a long line of Disney flops in the cinema

    Ultimately, stocks failed to perform, and Roy Disney was able to get enough shareholders on his side (including the hardcore institutional crowd) to apply enough pressure on the Board to strip Eisner of his chairmanship. The average wage earner, when better compensated with higher pay and benefits, is going to perform better. Poorly paid employees negatively impact a company, especially where turnover, training and public safety are concerned. Granted, factors like these are of no concern to the institutional shareholder. Only, in the real world, no man (or woman) is an island. Ultimately, even the smallest concerns can effect stock prices A financially unstable rank and file becomes
    more dependent on government services, directly and indirectly. This, in turn, is a factor that effects tax rates, which is another shareholder concern. In the real world, what goes around comes around.

    I commend you, Seatac Toad, for caring as I do about treating cast members with the upmost respect. They've earned it. It's also important that we buy Disney stock, as you have suggested, for various reasons - including having a vote or voice.
    Last edited by Ride Warrior; 05-20-2005 at 05:28 PM.

  12. #12

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    Good article, Kevin. The book, judging from the review, seems to point out what is already obvious to many of us. Still looks interesting, to buy and read, though.

    Also, wasn't is Rasulo or someone else who said that every Disney attraction should be connected to a movie, hence the Pixarized attractions?
    J.B. Opie

    "Doubt is the rust of a feeble mind. The only way to seize the future is to grasp the present. Let's Go!"

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  13. #13

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    I am about 2/3rd's through the book. It's simply amazing. As a stock holder, I find myself getting angry at this companys short-sightedness and Eisner's petty BS that has cost the company BILLIONS. As someone who is in the corporate world, I find it fascinating to read the accounts of the child-like behavior of people making 100's of millions in compensation.

    BUT...BE WARNED !
    If you are looking for DisneyLand or other park information, you will be very dissapointed. Other than a account of the Euro-Disney fiasco, the talk on the parks is very limited.

    This book will also be boring to people with no interest in corporate politics or the decision making process.

    This book should be REQUIRED reading for all voting share holders !

  14. #14

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    Disneywars

    Didn't this book come out like, months ago?


    Thomas
    "Decisions are easy, if you know what your values are" - Roy Disney

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    In regards to the Fox Family purchase for the $5 billion some odd dollars. I'd like to point out that Epcot was built for about $1 billion. (Speaking of which...)

    I had known for sometime that the WDW Swan & Dolphin were nothing but a settlement between the TWDC and Tischman Corportation pertaining to some contract that Disney reniged on. I learned recently a few other things...

    1. The hotels are as gawdy as they are to slap Disney in the face.
    2. The spire on the Dolphin is there as another slap in the face.
    3. The final (and in my opinion the best) slap in the face is the shear profitablity from both hotels as the result of the volume of convention business that they do.

    David H

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