Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Disneyland - Eisner - Still Missing You...

Michael Eisner was in my local paper recently, in an article about his being invited to speak at a local college's business school.

His lecture: "How To Turn A Warm Family Business Into A Global Corporate Machine That Occasionally Kills Guests While Waiting To Board The Columbia Or Riding Big Thunder" was not well attended, thankfully.

On seeing Einser's name, after choking back a bit of rising bile, I warmly recalled Roy Disney's campaign to have him ousted as chairman of the Walt Disney Company back in late 2003. Roy and his supporters set up "SaveDisney.com" and put on a media blitz to have Eisner removed by the board.

Here's a video Roy made at the time.

At the top of this post is a bumper sticker I got from an old friend of Roy Disney's.
He helped sail one of Roy's precious racing yachts, The Pyewacket IV, in a race event in Cork, Ireland, among other places.
After regaling me with stories of Roy and his sailing, I mentioned Eisner and the old SaveDisney campaign.
He said to me, "I still have some of the bumper stickers Roy was handing out."
"Really?" says I. "Might I have one??"

He gave me two.

I scanned one in and posted it above for you fine people.

Thankfully, the Eisner era came to an end before much more damage could be done to the Park.
I was definitely a shareholder carrying a pitchfork and a torch back then.

Then there's that park he helped build next door.
The folks at Disney now have to spend $2 billion just to make Eisner's "California Adventure" even remotely Disney-worthy.
It's like they were trying to make Walt spin in his grave when they originally designed that place!
It even had "Carney" rides and games, which Walt said he did not want!
I'm sorry, but I can ride a ferris wheel, swings, parachutes (ahem, "Jellyfish"), the cat and mouse coaster (er, um, "Mulholland Madness"), or throw balls at milk bottles at my local fairgrounds.
To be fair, I'll give them Soarin', Tower of Terror, Grizzly Rapids and Screamin'.
Okay, that's four (4).
Heck, I have that many readers for Goodness' sake!
Oh, and nice park layout.
I've never seen so many random walkways and shadeless expanses.
It's like Magic Mountain without the mountain or the youthful gang members.
Better yet, let's build a theme park in California that has as its main theme---California.
That's like going to Rome and visiting "Rome-land," instead of exploring The Eternal City itself.
Think that Golden Gate bridge thingy over the entrance to DCA comes anywhere close to the real thing??!!And Whoopi Goldberg was not exactly my image of the "Spirit of California."
Why not Rosie O'Donnell?
Barbara Walters?

Sorry, I promised myself I would not to launch into one of my tirades.

Requiescat in pace, Roy.



Anonymous said...

And if I am not mistaken, Roy also helped to save Disney from being acquired in a hostile takeover in the early 80's. Eisner was installed and the marriage went well for a good long time. But it's been 30 years and time does strange things to memories.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think you are wrong, Whoopi Goldberg is a perfect Image of the New Spirit of California, but I'm not gonna count the ways.

It was a sick and sad era when the park ran on momentum.

Now the rest of the state is running the same way...how long will it go on before it runs out?

Mike said...

"And if I am not mistaken, Roy also helped to save Disney from being acquired in a hostile takeover in the early 80's. Eisner was installed and the marriage went well for a good long time. But it's been 30 years and time does strange things to memories."

Anon:True and I agree. Eisner (and Wells) came as an answer to the hostile take over threat that loomed over the Company. Wells stabilized or helped to counter Eisner's more negative leadership qualities. My rant above was against what Eisner (and the Company) became, after much financial success. When Roy Disney and Stanley Gold ultimately turned against the man they helped bring to the helm, methinks there perhaps was a reason or two behind it. Read "Disney War" and "Storming the Magic Kingdom" for a good chunk of this complex story and history. Eisner is a complex personality, as is anyone. I am certainly not so naïve as to try and limit him to a mere caricature. What Eisner became was bad for Disney. When ousted, the time had long since come for him to leave. Roy was hardly perfect. Neither was Uncle Walt. It was sad to see Ron Miller pushed out and the painful changes that took place in the Disney company. The Park did not escape these changes, of course. It reflected them. Well intentioned people tried to run it like the Gap or a regular business, without keeping in context what made it special. Proverbial corners were cut and controls loosened to the point where bad things started to happen. A dirty Disneyland was not Eisner's fault, directly, but it was a symptom of the underlying disase that Eisner helped inflict on the Company. Egos and bitterness and corporate rivalries are not unique to Disney, nor do I expect it to be free of such strife. In the end, I think Roy's heart was in the right place. He grew up with the family. He knew what made Disney, Disney. Eisner never quite got the picture. To him Disney was Paramount with "Toons.". It was a media player that he wanted to make into a behemoth---and largely did. I have never had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Eisner, one on one. I do not pretend to know this man directly. I have seen plenty of evidence of his personality and handiwork. In the end, based upon a lot of things I saw, read and experienced,it was clear that Mr. Eisner needed to move on. I strongly disagreed with many of the things that were done to the Park during his tenure, many of them directly due to his leadership and micromanaging input. This blog is a collection of outbursts---some of them emotional, some creative, others nostalgic. However, I usually have a thoughtful and factual basis for my little ramblings here, even if I do not always lay them out in exhaustive detail. The fact is, things got better, but later much worse after Eisner became chairman. it was a Disney who declared openly and publicly against him, and for, I think, good cause. I run a nostalgic site. My memory's just fine, for the most part. I've been a "Walt" man my whole life, it seems. The Disney family had its own issues internally (whose doesn't?). This is not to say that I cannot understand or agree with the "Roy" side of the family. Without both sides' input, we would never have any of the things their family's business helped bring into the world---most of them were pretty darn good, too.
Still glad Eisner left.


Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


Well that was a brief clarification. Yes, I hold Roy in high regard for him "saving" the company twice. Originally from the Bass brothers. And as for those well intentioned others, you may be referring to Card Walker and Donn Tatum under whose tutelage I worked. It was a generally unispired time compared to the 80s as the company felt the effect of losing the rudder that Walt provided.

Reader #4.

Michelle said...

Once I was buying tickets and the cashier told me if in pay X amount more I could get a hopper pass. I told him that I was a Disney purist and was not interested in hopping. Without missing a beat he said, well if some time during the day you want to lose your purity, you can come back and buy a hopper pass. (I love Disney employees btw) I don't care for CDA. Bring back the parking lot!!!

Connie Moreno said...

LOL, I totally agree with you about Eisner....so glad he is GONE.

Anne said...

oh dear! This post had me cracking up. WHen ever I think of California Adventure, I think of the company stabbing Walt in the back, because along Walt wanted to stay away from a carnival theme. EWHWHEGH. this post was hilarious. Thanks for britening my day.