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View Full Version : Imagineering R&D Gone?


meowthew2
09-18-2002, 10:45 PM
A poster on MousePlanet claims nearly the entire R&D department at Burbank Imagineering was eliminated today in a deep cost-cut move. Anyone know more about this?

DVC-Landbaron
09-18-2002, 10:55 PM
AV?

Another Voice
09-18-2002, 11:11 PM
Let's just say more news is coming.

hopemax
09-18-2002, 11:14 PM
good news or bad news?

Any iota of a possibility that it will be separate, like the way it used to be?

DVC-Landbaron
09-18-2002, 11:24 PM
good news or bad news?A perfect opportunity to put our 'faith' to the test, wouldn't you say!! I have absolutely no idea. And I would think, since AV is being especially cryptic today, that not many do. SO!!! How many think it'll be good news? And how many think it will be Ei$ner as usual?

Any takers? I'm giving odds!! ;)

SCOOP, you listening? Now’s the time to put up or.... :cool:

raidermatt
09-19-2002, 02:51 AM
Honestly, my natural tendency is to be optimistic about such things.

However, if I have to put money on it (by the way Baron, what odds are you giving?), its on the bad news.

I'd put it at somwhere around 6 to 1 against good news... (and that's probably being generous)

mjstaceyuofm
09-19-2002, 07:15 AM
not good news at all. :(

Well, if R&D goes, there goes any cahnce of anything new and innovative. There goes the: WOW!!!!!

:mad:

PKS44
09-19-2002, 07:50 AM
Don't know if anyone saw the movie I have been touting last week Executive Suite where the beancounter Fred MArch and the R&D gy WIlliam Holden jockey to take over a company...basic message is that taking profits and giving them to stockholders as dividends (or in this case to executives) is wasteful and inefficient...stop growing and stop innovating and a company dies. If they are truly ending R & D-- this might be a good time to sell Disney short, IMHO.

Harryo
09-19-2002, 08:14 AM
Well I think more bad news is forthcoming. Goodbye R&D! Goodbye innovation! Sad, truely sad. Eisner's replacement will truely have his work cut out for him.:mad:

Mop
09-19-2002, 10:12 AM
This might put more black ink on the bottom link for the short term and make investors happy long enough to help Michael Eisner keep his job (think about it... if investors want to see immediate results, wouldn't it behove ME to cut every single expenditure to ZERO to show a short term increase in profits?), but if you're Roy Disney, would such a thing make you MORE happy or LESS happy? There's nothing like seeing your family's legacy get desicrated by bean counters.

Mop

larworth
09-19-2002, 03:29 PM
Even for Eisner this sounds very unlikely. I think we should wait until this is confirmed.

Bob O
09-19-2002, 08:56 PM
With the actions of disney at as of late i would tend to believe the rumor. they have done little to inspire any confidence!!

mcdrinkyd
09-20-2002, 01:03 PM
Mouseplanet's got the scoop (http://www.mouseplanet.com/al/docs/update.htm) on this.

I'm speachless.

Bob O
09-20-2002, 01:20 PM
I just read the article and its another sad day for disney that happens way to fruequently as of late and just shows how sohrtsighted disney has become. I guess now every ride/attraction will be a clone that can be found anywhere with some cheap theming added after the fact which is what was done with rnrc. I guess we will have to leave it up to Universal and other parks to make new/innovative attractions/rides and wiat for disney to copy them.
And being a love of roller coasters even i wouldnt want to see one in Epcot as that isnt the park they should be put in, escpecially a ride like Cali. Screamin.

Bob O
09-20-2002, 01:28 PM
I just read the article and its another sad day for disney that happens way to fruequently as of late and just shows how sohrtsighted disney has become. I guess now every ride/attraction will be a clone that can be found anywhere with some cheap theming added after the fact which is what was done with rnrc. I guess we will have to leave it up to Universal and other parks to make new/innovative attractions/rides and wiat for disney to copy them.
And being a love of roller coasters even i wouldnt want to see one in Epcot as that isnt the park they should be put in, escpecially a ride like Cali. Screamin.

mjstaceyuofm
09-20-2002, 02:09 PM
OK – my first thought was,This is not good news at all. :( Well, now that it’s been semi-confirmed (I somewhat trust Mr. Lutz…) and there’s been a little bit of the thought process behind it put out there for our consumption, I’d like to (at the risk of being totally ostracized) theorize a little bit on this move… (please indulge me here for just a little bit)Al Lutz:
Basically Eisner and his "crack management team" has said they no longer are in the market to lead anymore, and they are content to pretty much sit still and live off the brands they've already built.Maybe the first part of this is correct and they are no longer in a position to lead. (Yes, this is a sad statement in and of itself….) But to me this news does not say that they aren’t going to come up with great ideas anymore. Outsourcing is a way of business. Often times, outsourcing leads to joint ventures that work out mutually for both companies involved. What if one the imagineers left standing has a great idea and Disney works with another company better suited to implement that idea? Let’s assume Disney has $$$ to spend on a new attraction and management has some gumption (i.e. new regime…)

imagineer: I have a great idea for a new ride that uses this great new technology involving (insert your chosen technology here….)

management: That sounds like a great idea, the new CEO has been looking to add a new, innovative attraction to (insert park here). That technology sounds pretty new and aggressive, I don’t think we can do it. Do you have any suggestions?

imagineer: Yes, (insert tech focused company here) is a leader in this field and may be interested in developing an attraction using this technology.

management: Great, make that phone call!

OK – a little far-fetched and optimistic, but cutting R&D does not mean an end to ideas. Disney went through the scenario above with Mission: Space (all though the jury is still out on this attraction) and had quite the successful joint venture with Pixar.

Just some food for thought.

For the record, I’m still not pleased at the cut-happy nature of the moves at Disney and I’m hardly a Disney apologist, but if Disney really perceived this department as an open wound that was leaking a significant amount of blood, I guess I might understand the amputation…

Luv2Roam
09-20-2002, 04:00 PM
Like placing a small band-aid over a widening gap. :rolleyes:
They make the worse decisions...
I think that chimp in the Monsters Inc bonus DVD would be better in management than ME. He would be cheaper too.
I really think it woud be much cheaper in the long run to buy ME out of his contract now before the damage and reputation is too far gone.
Other theme and thrill parks should be jumping for joy! Their jobs just got much easier.

hopemax
09-20-2002, 04:26 PM
I really wish AV would show up and give us his POV. I was hoping Al would shed some light on the history and evolution of R&D, but he didn't really do that.

For those of you have read Bob Gurr's columns on Laughing Place, might remember his comments on Dick Scherer. For those of you who haven't read the columns, Dick Scherer was a scientist from Lockheed's Skunkworks who was hired as a consultant to work on an alternate monorail design. From Bob's perspective Mr. Scherer spent a lot of time playing with someone else's money and created a design that would have cost a fortune to implement.

Here's Bob's article (http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID108180.asp)

I've been wondering if over the last 20 years Eisner's "Hollywood" strategy has resulted in a lot of this types of person brought into R&D (especially during the 'virtual reality will be wonderful' period) and have been wasting a lot of time and money. If they have, then maybe it's good that there has been some housecleaning. Especially if their are people like Bob Gurr still within the organization who are capable of still creating the new things when called for.

Or if good, qualified, capable people have been let go in favor of letting consultants do the work (not really getting away from the Dick Scherer's of the world) or not even trying to do anything innovative. If good people have been let go, that could also be dangerous for Disney because that means they will be free to devlop new great ideas for the competition (not good for Disney).

I still need some more information before I can begin ranting.

Luv2Roam
09-20-2002, 05:35 PM
hopemax -- I see where you are coming from and have good points.
Guess if something had been left behind I would not as skeptical. But to wipe out basically a whole division/group pretty much means they aren't returning. It's not like they were just cleaning out dead wood.

If good people have been let go, that could also be dangerous for Disney because that means they will be free to devlop new great ideas for the competition
Which is why I think Disney has made it too easy for their competition.

DVC-Landbaron
09-20-2002, 06:27 PM
No takers on my little wager? Scoop!?!? I'm still giving odds! 10 will get you 100!! What about it!?!?

manning
09-20-2002, 06:28 PM
When is the next annual stock holder meeting? I'm going to vote against every current director on Eisner's side. If enough of us vote, it may be enough to boot them out, or at least make them very nervous!!!!

SAKPEG99OKW
09-20-2002, 07:51 PM
Anybody have the email address for compliants directly to Eisner or the board. I really want to send them my thoughts. I would strongly suggest that we all send our thoughts. If enough of the diehards voice thier views maybe we could bring about some change. Afterall, don't you think disney values the diehards, the people who got 2, 3, 4 times a year and spend their hard earned money on mickey dolls and lillo buttons and pooh flash lights for fantasmic. I am so tired of Eisner screwing things up. He's been their long enough, give him his golden parashoot and push him out the door.



Scott:mad:

LarryM
09-20-2002, 11:29 PM
SAKPEG99OKW Don't even waste your time e-mailing the board. Last year during Nov. I wrote a letter to every member of the board, ME and every managing director for each area I was not even acknowledged just wasted my time and postage!

DVC-Landbaron
09-20-2002, 11:35 PM
It's nice to know they care isn't it? Scoop, any comment?

UncleKyle
09-21-2002, 02:04 AM
This is just so sad.....the company is going to go down the tubes

Luv2Roam
09-21-2002, 07:43 AM
They will make the bottom line look good for awhile, to keep ME in his position --maybe.
But it will soon resurface and probably faster than we (and they) think and worse than we think too.
I think if the keep up at the pace they are now they will be eventually be bought out when they finally hit rock bottom.
And who can you blame? There are a lot of people who know ME and know what he does and who he has as his cronies. But I only see a few trying to stop him.
The pressure is building and seems he will stop at nothing to keep his job. Doesn't matter that the end result is junk.
But I could very well be looking at this wrong from all sides. Hopefully I am.

WEDWAY100
09-21-2002, 10:37 AM
Originally posted by mjstaceyuofm
Outsourcing is a way of business. Often times, outsourcing leads to joint ventures that work out mutually for both companies involved. [/B]

I understand what you are saying, but I don't think the outsourcing argument applies here. IMHO, outsourcing works best when it's not your core business. Ex: Large long distance company has 4,000 employees on site and 10 cafeterias to feed those employees. Outsourcing the caferterias makes sense, because feeding people is not even close to the core business of telecom.

I would argue that R&D is close enough to Disney's core product that this outsourcing doesn't make sense. I enjoy the Disney parks because they offer amazing attractions that no one else does. Designing and building these attractions requires R&D. Walt's team included people like Bob Gurr and Yale Gracey, who made things happen that people hadn't seen before. I think Disney needs to continue to develop, design and patent new technologies in order to recapture their competitve edge.

Maybe if they will outsorce R&D, they can outsource casting to Kelly Services. Just think of the money they will save.

Guest: Where is Space Mountain?

Kelly Services Cast: I don't know...would you like me to photocopy something for you?

I have never been one to call for Eisner's resignation, but if he has actually closed the R&D side of the company, then I think he has to go. The great Mr. Landbaron was right, Ei$ner "doesn't get it".

Mooobooks
09-21-2002, 11:37 PM
I know two imagineers, one in Anaheim and the other in Orlando. Both got fired on the same day along with at least half of the people they know in R&D. My friend in Orlando has worked there for over a decade. His desk has to be cleaned out by next Friday!

mattjs
09-23-2002, 09:26 AM
We really have no information to go on with this one so it's kind of tough to speculate on it. Too many variables. The change could have been made for any number of resaons, only one of which is cost cutting. One thing's for sure though, Disney is not going to have zero R&D.

DisneyFanGuy
09-23-2002, 10:00 AM
Let's put this one in perspective. Many companies are outsourcing as a way to cut costs and still remain competitive. WDI (From everything that I have read) STILL employs 1600 people. They simply wish to add folks for specific projects without paying huge year-round salaries and benefits. It sounds like prudent management to me.

In fact, I can't really see how this particular cut back affects finished product, other than perhaps providing fewer patents for Disney in transportation systems.

What they lose is definately the cream of the crop folks. These folks defect to other firms as they begin to see people of similar tenure being let go. Some may become consultants, but the vast majority are gone. What they gain is a more focused approach to design work and the costs associated with each individual project. The vast majority of R&D work ends up being unusable anyway.

My company scrapped most of it's R&D department years ago and is much better for it. Most of their work involved figuring out how to replace labor costs with technology. They now use existing technology developed by outside companies for everything and are much better for it and have saved tons of money.

Disney is saying that they are willing to give up some more of their competitive advantage in cutting edge design in return for a better bottom line. Most of their attractions are built on standard industry technology anyway, so why spend so much cash inventing stuff that won't ever be used? The real difference in Disney attractions vs. the competition is (IMHO) the back story and immersive theming, which are still doable with current staff and resources.

I would bet that R&D remains at the level that new ideas can be farmed out to outside vendors for development.

Their recent design flubs, DR, DCA, multi-spinners, are much more a result of unwillingness to spend on the final product than a result of internal cuts in the design itself. That silly spinning coaster at AK smacks to me of budget cuts, not of a lack of R&D. If Disney wants to again build immersive, full blown story focused attractions, then they can again do so at any time. It has nothing to do with WDI cuts. It has to do with a decision logic that says that they can attract the same number of guests with lower cost attractions. Time will tell if they can. Most griping on this board revolves about our concern with what actually appears, not what could have been built.

In the meantime, we will still get great theming in new restaurants, shops, hotels, and anything that directly generates revenue. That current direction is the real issue, not the reduced number of folks at WDI.

Mission Space is a big key. It was developed using outside techology and internal design work. It is expensive, big, and is being placed into a theme park that needs a big jump in attendance. If it increases attendance without carving it out of the other parks, then I think more new stuff will be approved. If it shifts attendance from other parks without attracting additional business, then it will be another ten years before anything like it comes our way again.

Much of WDIs fate rests with this as well.

daannzzz
09-23-2002, 10:59 AM
Disney is saying that they are willing to give up some more of their competitive advantage in cutting edge design in return for a better bottom line.

Certainly tightening the belt and streamlineing can help any company. But when your company has been build on imagination, experimentation and R&D AND you make your main focus on giving up the competative edge for bottom line... year after year, you will no longer be competative you will be equal and possible fall behind you previous competitors. All for the bottom line.