DEBATE: The Commerce and Business of WDW, and Walt Himself.

Discussion in 'Disney Rumors and News' started by DisneyKidds, Oct 4, 2002.

  1. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    I was going to submit this as a reply on another thread, but I thought it might be worthy of it's own discussion. My continuing Disney education, couple with the following quote, got me to thinking (and you know how dangerous that can be :crazy: ).......................

    Many would agree, myself included, that the commercialization of WDW is more so than what it ever was, or should be, and is perhaps out of hand. However, would anyone dispute the assertion that the Florida Project was but a means for Walt to finance his city of the future?

    I've been reading some more...........................:eek:, and it becomes more and more apparent that many believe Walt ONLY designed the Florida Project so that it could make the money that would build his city of the future. Some believe that, if not for Walt's dream of his planned and controlled working city, devoid of unemployment, poverty, pollution, the riots of the day, the poorly planned infrastruction, the inadequate facilities, the, the, the...... that WDW would not have been something Walt pursued.

    There is so much talk about Walt being the guiding force behind WDW (through the MK?, through Epcot?). Sure, the principles he employed in DL were improved upon. Sure, his penchant for 'artful' implementation was tantamount. Sure, his demand for quality was a mantra. However, did not Walt spend the lion's share of his Florida Project planning time researching what companies were doing that was cutting edge and could be implemented in his city of tomorrow? Did he not spend most of his time relentlessly pursuing concepts to be employed in EPCOT, a vision which is totally unrelated to Epcot? It appears that the passion Walt had for the MK paled in comparison to the burning desire he had to make his EPCOT a reality. Yes, Walt did see in WDW an opportunity to improve upon the mistakes of Disneyland, primarily related to proximity to the outside world. However, short of the realization of his EPCOT, WDW and the MK seem as though they may have been as much a business proposition as anything else.

    The Disneyland TV show on ABC was a means to finance Disneyland. The Florida Project was a means to finance an EPCOT that would never be. Maybe some would draw a distinction between commerce and commercialization, but can we deny that Walt was more a man about business and commerce than he is generally given credit for? Sure, his business was guided by art and uncompromising quality, that is what made him different, but it was still business. That business may have supported loftier goals than any other businessman ever could have thought of, but business has always been omnipresent.

    Agree? Disagree? Discuss........................
     
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  3. wdwguide

    wdwguide Ex Guide Book Author

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    Not sure if the Magic Kingdom was designed specifically to finance EPCOT - the original plans called for both to open at the same time, visitors would have had to pay an admission fee equal to that of the theme park to see EPCOT, and, of course, the company would have made significant amounts of money from rent and leases in the city.
    It's hard to say whether or not EPCOT would have been self-sustaining - it probably would have been in the long run, with the MK and the company's other divisions "subsidizing" the short run.
    Also, EPCOT was to be Walt Disney's legacy and a key point in his negotiations with the Florida government in getting the concessions that he needed to build anything on the property. One might say that without his plans for EPCOT, there would not be a RCID. In a way, without the MK there may not have been an EPCOT, and without EPCOT, there may not have been a MK.
    Of course, once Walt died and the company lawyer's found that they didn't actually have to build EPCOT right away, and that they didn't actually have to make it a city at all, they were able to drop the project while still benefitting from all the legal infrastructure that was created for it.

    I certainly agree with you that many people ignore that Walt was an excellent businessman, especially in his later years. After all, he was the one who set up and for the most part ran WED and Retlaw.
     
  4. Harryo

    Harryo Mouseketeer

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    Wasn't it actually Roy Disney was the buisnessman and Walt was the visionary?
     
  5. I agree with you Mr. Kidds. Had Walt been able to build his vision, the MK is the only theme park Florida would have received (IMO) and that would have been solely to fund 'the city'. Disney's expansion would have taken a more "realistic" turn, all profits would have been poured into making this 'city of tomorrow' -Walt's preferred legacy. DL would have been relegated to the role of cash cow along side of MK.

    I think Disney was virtually finished with theme parks at this point (certainly Walt was) and only because Walt died and those remaining (Roy, etal) didn't have the forsight or intestinal fortitude that Walt possesed to go ahead with 'the city' - the next step.

    Walt very well may have pulled 'the city' off, he WAS that bright and the Country would have been much better off for it, I'm sure...But had it failed the Company would have been gone (Roy's big concern, I'm sure).

    By not taking the risk, Roy, then Card, Ron & especially Mike have all taken us down the path already travelled by Walt to what we have today, namely theme parks...

    Good, bad or somewhere inbetween we'll never know because realistically Walt was the only guy at that time who could imagine such a dream...
    :smooth: :smooth: :bounce: :smooth: :smooth:
     
  6. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    wdwg - didn't know that about MK and EPCOT planned by Walt to open at the same time, but the reading continues.................. ;).

    Harryo - Roy kept the books and tried to keep Walt grounded financially. Many simply see Roy as the business guy and Walt as the creative brains of the outfit. While Roy did handle most of the business transactions, I believe Walt was very skilled at making smart business decisions. Many thought those decisions were nuts at the time, but Walt new better than all the other 'businessmen' of the day. Think about it - he developed a very successful business model. Was that by accident? I don't think so. Sure, Roy may have implemented the decisions financially, but it was Walt who not only possessed the creative genius, but also the business vision to develop ideas to make that creative genius come alive. That is what a true businessman is all about - not only developing great ideas, but figuring great ways to bring those ideas to life. Anyone can surround themselves with bean counters, money crunchers, and creative financiers (not that I'm saying that is all Roy was). So, while Walt may have been a creative visionary first and a businessman second, it was a much closer second than many realize, IMHO.
     
  7. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    When all is said and done, I would much rather have had Disney taken down by a failed utopian city than a failed broadcast network.
     
  8. Six of one, half dozen of the other...
    Interesting comment but I'm not sure I understand it in this context. If 'the city' had been attempted we 'd never have experieniced the Disney we have had for the past 2 decades. The actual path has worked out great for me as my family has been able to enjoy these fruits. On the other hand I believe I personally would have supported the Utopian Plan that woul be of far greater benefit to mankind than any theme park could ever be were it to be successful...And of course I'd be out doing something else right now...
    :smooth: :smooth: :bounce: :smooth: :smooth:
     
  9. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    hmmmm..............assuming failure either way, have the company taken down 20 years ago by the utopian city, or take the 20 we've had and lose it now to a broadcast network? I guess I'm with the Captain - I'll take the 20 ;). Now if the utopian city had thrived and changed the way we live, would I have been happy to not have had a WDW vacation destination? Tough one. Maybe I'd be living in the utopian city and wouldn't need a vacation ;).

    AV - a question. Is there anything to be read into two seemingly unrelated posts by yours truely...........

    Have had = past tense? Soon to be junk?

    Is there more trouble brewing in the Atlantic, so to speak? Are there more storms on the horizon that haven't hit our radar yet? The cryptic nature of your posting history requires that I inquire ;).
     
  10. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    Ahhhhhhhh................the sound of silence. Gotta love it ;). Now if certain people could take those things they knew to be true and apply it to their general thinking..............
     
  11. DVC-Landbaron

    DVC-Landbaron What Would Walt Do?

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    OK, Mr. Kidds!! I was going to leave it alone. Maybe I don’t understand your point, but here’s my take on the subject you brought up:
    So what? I mean that kind of thing happens all the time. The question is, how did he handle it? Did he put out a cheap trinket hoping to dupe the public? Did he play a shell game with the public? Or did he put out a quality resort, rewriting the concept of family vacation, and at the same time maintaining and staying true, and perhaps even advancing, his principles and philosophy? In other words, did the public get their money’s worth?
    Sure. And again, so what!? At the time, he planned to build it! It’d be kind of silly not to research the project, wouldn’t you say? Now after his death, since he was the only guy that knew what he was doing, all those plans changed.
    Of course it was business!! So was Disneyland! But the question again is not if it was business, but how that business was carry out? Did he fleece the public with “sharp practices” or did he do it with unparalleled quality and ‘value’ (sorry Head, but I can’t think of a better word)?
    It seems as though you and I ultimately agree!!! The salient phrase, of course, is “supported loftier goals” and that makes all the difference in the world!! Don’t you agree?
     
  12. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    Well, I couldn't let that happen!!! Especially knowing how easy it is to hook you ;).
    We probably agree on more things than our 10 pagers would suggest. Fine lines, my friend. Fine lines :).

    What did I hope to accomplish with this thread, other than the potential to ignite some controversy (and almost any thread around here will do that :crazy: )? Just to share my learning, most of which many of you already know, and to remind folks (at the risk of making Walt sound dirty) that Walt had is eye on making a buck, for his reasons, as much as anyone else. You are very correct that he made that buck in a much better way. I also wanted to respond somewhat to many of the assertions that the MK was guided by the hand of Walt, a direct result of Walt's vision. It seems to me that the only Walt guidance in the MK is the standard established in DL - and that is a great thing. Otherwise, it seems Walt had little focus on the MK while most of his visions involved his EPCOT. That's all :wave:.
     
  13. raidermatt

    raidermatt Beware of the dark side. Anger...fear...aggression

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    Well, if you mean he wanted his business to succeed, then of course, your statement is true.

    But that's not quite the same as "making a buck", which implies that financial wealth is the goal, as opposed to a successful product and business.

    A subtle difference, perhaps, but an important one.

    We all know Walt wanted a successful business. If he didn't, he wouldn't have gone into business in the first place. The key is his philosophy for creating and maintaining a successful business. His philosophy of quality, showmanship, and "value".

    The many complaints about current management are not aimed at getting a more benevolent soul in the CEO chair. They are about getting someone who subscribes to business philosophies that are more in-line with the philosophies that guided the Disney Company to its tremendous success.

    Incidentally, I think a more accurate way of assessing Roy's expertise is to say he was far more skilled and interested in finance than Walt. Walt was a great businessman in the sense that he knew what the people wanted, and he believed in making that his first priority.
     
  14. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    Mr. Undefeated Raiders Fan - sometimes those differences are not as subtle as they would seem when you look at the cold, hard facts. I try to choose my words carefully (but am not always successful :(), so I did mean to say 'make a buck', with whatever connotations people would want to put with that phrase. Why do I say that? Well.............

    Let's look at the Disneyland television show on ABC back in the days before Disneyland was built. I'll give you that Walt made sure it was a damned good television program. Top notch entertainment. However, the sole goal of that television show was to produce wealth, to generate financial gain. Walt didn't desire to go into the business of producing quality television programming back then. He simply wanted to create the financial resources to build Disneyland. He wanted to make a buck, pure and simple. As I stated before, Walt may have had loftier goals for those bucks he wanted to create, but that doesn't change the nature of what he did with the television program. Now you could say all of this was in relation to making the overall business succeed, and you would be correct - but that just proves that the desire to make a buck is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Of course, if all you desire to do is make a buck for the sake of making a buck, it may be a bad thing. But Walt 'made a buck' before 'making a buck' gained any negative connotation.

    Let's look at the premise I presented for WDW - that is was solely designed to generate the wealth, the fiancial gain, the resources to bulit the City of Tomorrow. Granted, that which was to be created to generate these financial resources would be wonderful and full of quality. It would make the business more successful. However, I don't know that we can truely say that it was Walt's goal in WDW to make the company successful. He had an idealistic dream of a utopian society - a dream that needed to be funded. He needed to make some bucks to support that lofty goal. If you disagree with the premise of WDW as a fianancing vehicle, then the 'make a buck' characterization would be misplaced. However, if you don't disagree with that premise, how can it be seen as anything other than making a buck? I agree those bucks were being made for a noble purpose, but not necessarily one directly related to the success of the company.

    Questions, comments, concerns.............? ;)
     
  15. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    Mr. Disneykidds – are you trying to be provocative or do you actually believe what you’re writing is close to reality?
     
  16. BRERALEX

    BRERALEX That's a wrap.

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    I think the most important thing Walt knew was that if yu built regular boring crap Yes people would come but it wouldnt be successful.
    Which in turn means he knew, build something great, build somehting never done before, go over the top and people will come and come and come and tell their friends to come and he knew because it's common sense.

    I dont think he worried about money which is obvious before disneyland got off the ground that his brother had that worry on his mind. But after disneyland and with the beginning of WDW Imo it was in the bag. I dont think he had insecurities or worries about if this or that would make money. He kne wit would. He believed it would.

    Unlike how once again i like to point out that resort article in the Disney Magazine that they have to sell us on the resort and give us facts about how it was developed and created and how long it took blah blah. Walt knew his ideas and attractions would work cause to me he put every ounce of himself and every ounce of all creativity around him into anything with his name on it.

    He didnt have to give us a bullet list of facts to sell us on the idea all he needed was his enthusiam andd your attention for a little bit and you were sold. The problem today being when they have our attention they let us down(with a couple of exceptions ofg course) but few and far between.

    I dont think his goal was to make the company successful his primary goal was to entertain us fully and at all costs possible and achievable to the best of the disney ability and he knew the company would be successful thereafter.

    He had creativity imagination and all that good stuff wrapped up in his self but the one thing he had that people overlook is common sense.
     
  17. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    AV - I simply endeavor to continue my Disney education. Based on some of the things I have read - yes, I do believe what I write has some basis in reality. Maybe I shade toward the provocative in my presentation, but I want to make my education fun ;). Of course my sources could be flawed, hence this thread. Please correct my misconceptions, as it appears you feel I am incorrect in some of my thinking :crazy:.

    Am I wrong about the Disneyland television show? Am I wrong about Walt intending to use WDW to generate the money to build EPCOT? I very well could be, but I would rely on additional sources such as yourself to clear up any misconceptions I might have as books can only convey so much. Is it the characterization of Walt 'making a buck' that is so unrealistic? What is it you find so provocative about my musings? Please do tell. I am a sponge. Educate me. Really, I mean that most sincerely.

    BRERALEX - I agree with everything you wrote. Very well put. Especially this sentence..........
    But I am asking the follow on question to this thought. Walt knew that WDW would make money. He believed it. But what for? Based on my readings, he counted on WDW to make money, and he counted on it so that his EPCOT could become a reality. Now maybe AV will say that is a bunch of hooey, but I haven't heard that yet. And if someone believes it to be hooey, what is the basis for that opinion?

    Your humble Disney student awaits............
     
  18. FantasticDisFamily

    FantasticDisFamily <font color=navy>Sent <font color=red>on a <font c

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    Hello folks, I hope you won't mind a newbie to this area of the boards dropping a thought or two into the mix. First may I say I only WISH my students would dig as deeply and think as critically as you all seem to do here for "fun".

    That being said -

    there are many definitions of business person. Roy was definitely the more financially oriented of the two - a "bean counter" if you like. Walt was the visionary. And as any student of management knows (or should) no organization is going to be successful if both aren't present. In addition, the visionary must clearly communicate the vision to others in the organization. Whether or not Walt did this successfully is open to debate. There are some who will point to the "what would Walt do" program as "proof" that he did. There are others who point to the seeming mis-steps over the years to say not.

    EPCOT did not turn out to be anything close to Walt's original vision - in part because of the logistical difficulties in having this sort of community in which people were working/living as well as visitors coming through. In some sense Celebration has some of those initial elements of live-in community although not nearly as utopian as Walt's original vision.

    Based on the amount of land Walt originally acquired one can speculate that the utopian community alone was not the plan. It has been pretty clearly documented from Walt's own statements that the reason he went to Florida was first to recreate Disneyland in an improved format. There were 2 compelling reasons for this. First, he had become disenchanted with the tacky hotels, eateries, etc. that surrounded Disneyland. His vision of theme park included exclusion of all the tackiness of the "carnival". By owning and controlling the access land the route into and out of the park was in essence themed as well.

    Second, he was land locked. It wasn't economically feasible to acquire additional land around Disneyland to eliminate the tacky hotels, etc and expand the attraction.

    Was Walt interested in making a profit? Of course. He purposefully created 5 dummy corporations to acquire the land. Once word did get out that it was the Disney Co. making these purchases, land prices skyrocketed from $200 to $1000 an acre.

    The television show was indeed a way to help finance Disneyland but more importantly it was a marketing tool. It was a communication medium to educate people on this new concept - theme parks did not exist yet in the format we know them 40 plus years later. It was also a win-win with ABC, they were looking for programming. This relationship continued for some time and successfully - as both were innovators. This loss of innovation in the television industry is one of the reasons network television as a whole is faltering to cable.

    Ok, this is long - especially for a new participant. Thanks for your patience in reading through. The classroom calls but I will be eagerly awaiting your thoughts and responses upon my return.

    Deb
     
  19. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    To borrow some quotes from Sir Landbaron’s book, let’s see what Walt said about the topic.

    “I’ve always said there will never be another Disneyland, and I think it’s going to work out that way. But it (Walt Disney World) will not be the equivalent of Disneyland. We know the basic things that have family appeal. There are many ways that you can use those certain basic concepts and give them a new décor, a new treatment. This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida.”

    -- Walt Disney


    Basic company legends have it that the Vacation Kingdom section of the Disney World project was presented as a bigger Disneyland only to sell Roy and the bankers on the idea. Walt had learned from rather bitter experience that the only ideas that sell are those based on something that’s already been successful (times haven’t changed much, have they?). Walt had simply followed the oldest Hollywood tradition – he dumbed down the presentation of his ideas get money from the suits.

    And at the time of his death, Walt was working on many substantial changes to entire concept of a “theme park”. One of which as that all of the hotels would have been built inside the Magic Kingdom so that the distinction of park vs. everything else was completely gone. In Florida he had the room to experiment and explore, to take what he had done at Disneyland and expand the concept. Walt tinkered with everything he ever got his hands on. Had he lived I’m sure the Magic Kingdom would have been a very, very different experience.

    In fact, the reason why WDW is located where it is because Walt was first thinking about fun and not his city. The company legend is that Walt was being flown over Central Florida looking for land. He saw Bay Lake with the island in the center (the former Discovery Island). When he landed, he told his men to start buying the property around Bay Lake. The reason – as a boy he always dreamed about deserted islands and pirate adventures, and the island in Bay Lake was the perfect place to build that.

    So it was hardly accurate to say Walt was simply building a cheap Disneyland replica in order to gouge money from the public to fund his town. Yes, Walt was more excited by EPCOT (because it was a more exciting concept), but he certainly did not view the other sections of the project as nothing but money pumps. The Magic Kingdom was going to be a unique and different attraction in its own right.

    When I get some more free time I’ll post something about Walt and television.
     
  20. FantasticDisFamily

    FantasticDisFamily <font color=navy>Sent <font color=red>on a <font c

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    Another Voice -

    I think you misunderstood my point on WDW. It was not intended as a cheap imitation. I thought I had noted getting away from the cheap, tacky, tawdry and building on and beyond what was taking place at Disneyland was precisely the point. The idea of having hotels on property, if not actually within the park. That theme park was not a limited idea but could encompass mutliple themes was part of the process. Perhaps I did not express that clearly.

    However, that MK was not intended solely as a funding source for EPCOT anymore than Wonderful World of Disney was intended solely as a funding source for Disneyland.

    Or perhaps now I am misunderstanding your post.

    Deb
     
  21. DisneyKidds

    DisneyKidds <font color=green>The TF thanks DisneyKidds for mo

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    FDF - not sure how many of our little 'chats' you have dropped by, but if you think your post was long you ain't seen nothin yet ;). Thanks for the input. Regarding Walt, I think he communicated his vision rather well. Regarding EPCOT vs Celebration - well, let's just say that, as speculated in a book I recently finished, if Walt was unfrozen from that cryogenic chamber he is in ;) and saw Epcot and Celebration, he'd climb back in and tell them to thaw him out when the real EPCOT arrived. On TV, I realize the wider implications of the DL show as a broader marketing tool for the entire company, but I still believe it had it's roots in making DL the theme park a reality. Of course I await Mr. AV's thoughts on that - when he has the time.

    Mr. AV............
    The nuggets for which we look to folks such as yourself. You see, as many books as one reads, book smarts can only get you so far ;).
    I am familiar with Walts's difficulties in this regard. Sadly, no - times have not changed much :(.

    Now I do have to take exception to this.............
    ............because it is not at all what I have been saying. Maybe it is that communication medium getting in the way again. I don't believe, and never said, that WDW was a cheap DL replica. Nor have I implied that Walt had any intention of gouging, or that the MK was solely a money pump. I have said many a time (but not in this thread - sorry) that WDW was Walt's opportunity to improve on the shortcomings of DL. For a time I believed that was the only, if not the major, motivation for the project. However, there are two sides to every coin - a book can't be judged by it's cover. So, I dig deeper and learn more. There were certainly a number of things at play in Walt's decisions - most of which we will never know. I'm guilty as charged in taking the provocative line in this thread regarding the idea that WDW was only developed as a funding source - but I am just conveying what others believe to be true. I realize there was a bigger picture, but I am still filling in the colors.
    Bring it on - and thank you for taking the time :).
     

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