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Old 08-08-2002, 12:54 PM   #1
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DEBATE: Maintaining the Walt Standard

There is so much talk of the failure to maintain the Walt Disney 'standards' having led to the erosion of the Disney Magic and the ungluing of the Disney empire. Failure to put the Show above all else. Failure to 'do it right or not do it at all'. Failure to 'give the guest everything you can'. Failure to ask the question 'what would Walt do'? These can be easy things to say, but would they have been so easy to do?

But what exactly would Walt have done? While Walts 'ideals' may have been the basis for everything that WDW was, Walt never managed WDW a day in his life, which sadly ended long before the Orlando dream was realized. Walt built an empire that thrived under his 'standards'. But keep in mind, some of his other actions driven by those 'standards' had him near penniless at times. So, would Walt have changed his 'standards' throughout the years had he been alive to run WDW? Would that have represented a compromising of his 'standards'? Could WDW be all that it has been if all those 'standards' had been strictly adhered to?

Some consider excess to have been the downfall of the Roman empire. Adherence to a way of life that left them oblivious to those that would challenge them. As it goes in the American Adventure - excess and plenty as the greatest threat to a young America. All of that highlighting the risks of becoming successful and prosperous doing things a certain way, living a certian way, and only a certain way. Failure to change and evolve can easily lead to ruin - history tells us that.

Perhaps if Walt had been alive and refused to compromise his 'standards' we wouldn't have moderate and value resorts. Perhaps we would only have two theme parks. Perhaps a lot of things would be different in Orlando today. Would that have been such a good thing? Keep in mind that the theme parks represent half the operating profit for the entire company. Could strict adherence to Walts 'standards' have led to the same levels of success in the long term that The Disney Company has experienced? Or, could the refusal to adjust a way of living, a way of thinking, have led to the downfall of the Disney empire.

I know nobody really has the answer to the question 'What would Walt have done?' It is all speculation. Not that a lot of the decisions that represent departures from Walts 'standards' have not been mistkaes. Indeed, the Nepoleon that is Ei$ner may have met his Waterloo. But what if..........
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Old 08-08-2002, 01:07 PM   #2
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Nobody knows what Walt would have done with respect to any specific area. That's why the "What would Walt do" philosophy didn't work.

What we DO know is two things:

1- He would not have compromised his standards, unless it was out of financial necessity.

2- He would always be looking for new challenges to pursue.

Bottom line is that Walt showed the philosophy of not compromising standards does work. Yes, he had a good grasp on what people wanted (even if they didn't know it themselves), but he still made mistakes.

However, he never compromised unless he just plain had to.

There are companies today that set high standards and maintain them. True, not every company can be the "premium provider" in its industry. However, when you have acheived that status, its foolish to let it slip away.
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Old 08-08-2002, 01:16 PM   #3
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Excess and quality are not necessarily the same. I'm sure Roman excess was not quality excess.
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Old 08-08-2002, 01:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
However, he never compromised unless he just plain had to.
Agreed. However, would he have had to change? My guess is yes. How, I have no idea.

Quote:
Excess and quality are not necessarily the same.
Good point. But would it have been excessive if WDW had a dozen quality deluxe resorts that went for $250 a night. Yeah, you can find them discounted now, but if adherence to the standards would have protected WDW from the problems it is having there would be no need for the discounts.

Quote:
I'm sure Roman excess was not quality excess.
I'm sure they thought they had a qualiuty society at the time, and for the most part it probably was. Furthermore, they never realized they were being excessive. That was the trap. Could Disney have fallen in the same trap?
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Old 08-08-2002, 01:35 PM   #5
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But keep in mind, some of his other actions driven by those 'standards' had him near penniless at times.
As opposed to Eisner's actions, which have the company in an unprecedented state of decay while he personally walks off with four-fifths of a billion dollars?

If there's a choice between investing in something you believe in versus profiting off of anything you can... I'll take the investment. Other folks are free to prefer the pay-out, if that's the end-all of what's important to them. Let them eat Enron.

I'll take the three high-quality resorts that aren't competing for guests with Motel 6, and the two high-quality parks that don't have to support the dead weight of ABC, Go.com, Bubble Boy...

The Disney "empire" as you refer to it mostly benefitted a few high-end stockholders at the expense of a ton of guests. I say screw the Disney empire.

-WFH

PS: Since we had the big Carpool shake-out, I find myself agreeing with a good 90%+ of what raidermatt has to say about things, including 100% of that last post.

If I may add to/refine what you are calling "compromise," it seems to me that Disney used to create in the service of a creative visionary, and the sharp pencil guys were tasked with financing it, somehow. Now, Disney creates in the service of the sharp pencil guys, and the creative visionaries largely work elsewhere. Instead of focusing on a product, they focus on a measure, a number to be hit.

I play golf, with the intention of getting better at it over time, and I keep score to mark my progress. The score means nothing in and of itself; it is only of value in describing the relative quality of the round I played. I could easily post a 67 on every round, if I decided to take my balls and go home after about fourteen holes. If all I care about is the score, I can maximize my performance on that measure while completely missing the point that my game has failed to improve... in fact, my round really isn't even "golf," anymore, as most people have come to understand the term.

By focusing too much on the measure, you can completely lose sight of the goal you intended to measure, in the first place.

I don't feel like Disney bothers to play golf. They just post scores that mean little in and of themselves, while the real point of it all withers and dies.
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Old 08-08-2002, 01:45 PM   #6
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Don't forget about that Walt Disney was one to put his personal assets (selling his first car, cashing in his Life Insurance policy, mortgaging his home) to realize his ideas through the company. He also had Roy O. to reign him in when necessary.

Could you imagine Ei$ner forgoing his guaranteed bonus? Drawing no salary until the stock is back where it should be? Without Frank Wells to reign him in, short term gains have become the norm (econo resorts, shorter park hours, off the shelf rides - etc.) rather than long range planning.

I don't think it's realistic for anyone to expect The Disney Co. to live up to standards established during Walt's lifetime. However, to totally disregard them is not realistic either.

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Old 08-08-2002, 02:03 PM   #7
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As opposed to Eisner's actions
As I said - it looks like that little Napoleon will get his. Yes, he will laugh all the way to the bank, but is he perhaps more about ego?

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I'll take the three high-quality resorts that aren't competing for guests with Motel 6, and the two high-quality parks that don't have to support the dead weight of ABC, Go.com, Bubble Boy...
But could Disney have survived on three high quality resorts and two high quality parks?

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I say screw the Disney empire.
For a moment, forget the mistakes of the past 5 years. The 'empire' was growing before that. Without the 'empire' where would the money have come from for all the things people say Disney should have done? Should they have done nothing or would it have been considered stagnation if WDW was nothing more than three resorts and two parks?

In keeping with the golf analogy, Walt would have faced many a day like Tiger struggled with at Muirfield. That most certainly would have required him to improvise his game, no?

Now I'm not trying to turn this into a current management love fest. On the contrary, since we had the big carpool shake-out I find myself agreeing with what a lot of other people have to say as well - that's a good thing - we are communicating. I am just lookig to spark a little fun discussion and debate.

It seems sometimes that people view things as very cut and dry - if Disney followed this formula we wouldn't be in this mess today. Can that be so? Perhaps - I really don't know. I do think Lisa is correct.....

Quote:
I don't think it's realistic for anyone to expect The Disney Co. to live up to standards established during Walt's lifetime. However, to totally disregard them is not realistic either.
But others don't feel that way - so share with me why. Lets not get into the same old rhetoric, lets answer some fundemental questions and imagine a WDW under Walts hand.
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Old 08-08-2002, 02:23 PM   #8
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A WDW under Walt's guidance.

A few guesses:

1) New attractions that utilize today's technology - not technology from a park he opened 47 years ago (The Magic Carpets of Aladdin).

2) Refurbishment that takes place at night or out of view during operating hours unlike the current situation with Horizons/Mission Space in Epcot.

3) Keeping away from "carnival" type attractions - Dinorama being the prime example.

4) Guest satisfaction as a main priority.

I'm sure I'll think of some others later.

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Old 08-08-2002, 04:20 PM   #9
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Sorry Lisa but most of this wouldn't even exist had Walt stayed around - or been a younger man...He didn't want to repeat himself & he mostly cared about HIS visions.

A very plausable scenerio (IMO) is that Walt would have pushed everything into the biggest dream he ever had...EPCOT. The living & working EPCOT, not the Epcot theme park. Looking back and seeing Walt's propensity for having things 'Walt's way' I think there is a good chance that everything would have been gambled into EPCOT, a vision of astonishing ideology & deserving of platitude on many level. But this vision could possibly have caused the end of the Disney. Hindsight shows us that the self contained, one way or the highway ideology hasn't been too successful (perhaps Walt would have once again been the exception) But Walt wasn't into 'empire building' and Walt wasn't into being the best. Walt was into Walt and his dream du jour and to his credit his dream seldom compromised quality, but it is foolish to think that Walt would have continued historic development of the theme parks - after all he was already virtually done with them (been there, done that). They would have fallen to managers and they would have to fight Walt's new projects for the budget dollars (sound familiar?). Who do you think would win those battles?

This sets up the possibility of collapse. Disney skirted disaster on many occasions and the odds are that sooner or later the good luck would run out (as it may be running out now under Eisner's misguidance). At that point Disney would have been dismantled and the growth precendent set by Disney under Eisner would have never taken place. Certainly parks would have evolved but I seriously doubt that theme parks as resort destinations would have taken the same turn without the circumstances that allowed Disney to set the pace.

So, my friend Disneykidds, I believe that this Walt wishing is pure hogwash. He was a great man who did great things and history will show that. Eisner led Disney to a place that Disney would never have gone under Walt and although it pains me to say it, it is too bad he can no longer see the forest for the trees...
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Old 08-08-2002, 04:33 PM   #10
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Good to see you Pirate - that was quite some time out at sea . Those are some interesting thoughts. I do hope to gain a little more insight into such things as I am awaiting my literature on good old Walt himself. You'd be surprised at how many book stores don't carry books on Walt.
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Old 08-08-2002, 04:41 PM   #11
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We will never know. What did Walt want with all that land???
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Old 08-08-2002, 06:11 PM   #12
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WELCOME BACK THE PIRATE!!!!





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Old 08-08-2002, 07:28 PM   #13
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But could Disney have survived on three high quality resorts and two high quality parks?
Absolutely, but they wouldn't have had to. There is always a market for the highest of quality, and demand would easily justify building more high quality resorts and parks. WDW would have grown less spectacularly but more supportably, with a deeper and richer foundation.
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Without the 'empire' where would the money have come from for all the things people say Disney should have done?
Actually, it was the parks that provided the money for the empire, not the other way around. Reinvesting in the parks could have meant Anaheim DisneySea, "empiring" bought us Fox Family and DCA. Take your pick, Eisner did.
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Hindsight shows us that the self contained, one way or the highway ideology hasn't been too successful
Hindsight? Eisner's right in front of us. You are right about his ideology bringing the company to the brink of collapse, though.
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What did Walt want with all that land???
Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, Walt hated the cheap hotels and general tackiness that sprang up around Disneyland, and wanted to make sure there was a buffer zone between his Magical World and the mundane outside world. He also became interested in engineering an "outside world" that wasn't so mundane. That grew into E.P.C.O.T., Walt's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow... as Peter alludes, a living, working, producing community.

-WFH
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Old 08-08-2002, 08:53 PM   #14
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Scoop, I think EPCOT was Walt's dream, but I don't believe it was ever anyone eles's...I mean when Walt died so did the EPCOT dream. After all Walt had little to do with the completion of the Florida Project & I think the plans to duplicate DL at MK was the 'weenie' to Roy & the bankers, et al...But I believe Walt would have built EPCOT...

Married to the Mouse didn't give me any indication otherwise & I don't think I've read Vinal Leaves...Your side Counselor, will be appreciated...
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Old 08-08-2002, 09:16 PM   #15
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I'm a little confused...are you saying (1) that Walt didn't really want the 'ideal EPCOT' and (2) the whole Reedy Creek deals were just land-use based? - I must say I agree with the second part but not the first after all by the time these negotiations (with the State) were taking place Walt was pretty much out of the picture - meaning (as you suggest) Walt's EPCOT was never going to be built (by Roy, Card, Ron or whoever) but not meaning that had Walt lived and/or been in good health that the same would be true...Had his health held up I believe his plan WAS to build EPCOT & thats the basis of my original post...
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