More than just oustide forces?

Discussion in 'Disney Rumors and News' started by raidermatt, Mar 7, 2003.

  1. raidermatt

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

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    Maybe the brokerage house analysts don't get it yet (or if they do, they aren't saying so), but at least somebody sees more than just outside forces being at work in Disney's troubles.

    Motley Fool


    With tenuous relationships between Disney and its corporate sponsors and filmmaking partners, it's not just disgruntled investors walking out on the company. If you run an entertainment empire, the first rule is to keep the audience happy. Disney is failing on that front. The encore performance doesn't look any more promising.

    By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
    March 7, 2003

    The Cheese stands alone.


    While Disney (NYSE: DIS) has been scaring away Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH), Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER), and SoundView Financial analysts this month on fiscal 2003 profit concerns, those aren't the only big names heading for the exit turnstiles.


    Big business heavies like FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and General Electric (NYSE: GE) are bowing out of corporate sponsorships at the company's theme parks, while Miramax and Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR) want out of the studio if Disney doesn't give them a bigger piece of the action.


    Defections and dissensions may be customary in the workspace, but the implications are significant when it means even more nibbling at a picked-over bottom line. While Wall Street is worried about the impact of war on Disney's tourist-munching model, I'm equally concerned about how the company's defenses will hold up in light of the way its in-house movies are bombing at the box office.



    Park plays
    Reality TV show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here was a humbling fiasco for Disney, as ABC placed fourth in the Nielsen ratings throughout the show's two-week run during the critical February sweeps period. But has anyone noticed that corporate celebrities are playing the home version?


    At the theme parks, Disney relies on companies to help foot the bill for its signature rides and attractions. Lending millions in the development and maintenance of these marquee draws, which can occasionally top the $100 million mark (such as with Epcot's Test Track and Mission: Space), a corporate sponsor is more than just a pretty name on a ride. In the past, these contracts (which typically run for three years) were quickly renewed. It's a symbiotic relationship in which the sponsor ties its brand to a high-traffic, high-quality situation, and continuity is a given.


    That kind of marketing action is worth the fancy coin. But what happens when the quality distinction begins to fade, and no one's around to polish it? What happens when attendance dips? Amusement Business reports that attendance at Disney's four Florida theme parks fell by an average of 6% last year. That was the third consecutive year of attendance declines.


    You can't blame Disney for every corporate sponsor departure. These are lean economic times in which fiscal manicurists are filing down marketing budgets. Disney should be awfully concerned that the only significant attraction being added to its Florida theme parks this year, Mission: Space, is sponsored by Hewlett Packard's (NYSE: HPQ) Compaq -- a company that no longer exists as an independent entity. It signed a broad, 10-year alliance with the Mouse three years ago, before the nuptials.


    But if Disney blames its sluggish theme park attendance on general travel trends, someone should ask the company why other parks, such as Holiday World, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and Cedar Fair's (NYSE: FUN) Cedar Point, will have no problem drawing larger crowds this summer, just as they did in 2002?


    Any company caught counting dollars before smiles has no right to question why the public won't pay e-ticket prices for an A-ticket experience. Operating profits within the company's parks and resorts division fell by 26% last year. Rather than fight back with new rides and promotions, the company is standing akimbo. While Cedar Point is erecting the world's largest roller coaster, and Disney's neighbors at Universal Studios Florida will open two new attractions in the coming months, most of Disney's theme parks won't be upgraded with major attractions this year.


    Reel problems
    When you kick back to watch the Oscars in two weeks, take a good look at the Miramax nominees and try to picture where Disney's studio efforts would be without the Weinsteins. Of Disney's 44 nominations, all but four are the handiwork of Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. Yes, CEO Michael Eisner struck gold when he acquired Miramax 10 years ago for a paltry $80 million -- $50 million less than what the subsidiary produced in operating profits last year alone. But now Bob and Harvey Weinstein want more out of their relationship with Disney. More money. More control. Less Disney.


    The fire escape is much closer for Pixar. Two years and three theatrical releases from now, the company is free to bolt. Disney has been taking a generous 50% cut of the profits, and rival studios are lining up just for the sake of collecting distribution fees without digging deep into the royalties. Pixar has the money to fund its own releases.


    Why does Disney need Pixar? The computer animation studio has released four movies since 1995, which have grossed a collective $857 million at the domestic box office. That's an average of $214 million per picture. Disney has released dozens of animated features since Pixar's Toy Story. How many have topped Pixar's average? None.


    Disney can make overtures to other computer-fueled animation houses or Weinstein wannabes. But the end result is that, as bad as things appear for Disney right now, they will only get worse when these cash cows stop producing as much milk for the company's coffers.



    The Willard defense
    In a case of classic theatrical timing, a remake of Willard is now just days away from its big screen debut. Remember this one? About a luckless misfit who eventually trains his mice to do his dirty work? Isn't that Michael Eisner right now?


    Given that the board awarded Eisner and President Robert Iger $5 million and $3 million, respectively, in stock bonuses for their performance in fiscal 2002, you wouldn't guess the executive ranks are in trouble. Yet revenues dipped; operating profits fell by a third; and cash flow from operations tanked by $762 million from the year before. This performance was rewarded?


    The stock has surrendered two-thirds of its value over the past two years. However, it has simply aped the 64% decline in operating cash flow, which has gone from $6.4 billion in fiscal 2000 to $2.3 billion last year. Debt is up. Earnings are down. A bonus? Really?

    The company has chosen to define success by the same metric that it defines "celebrity" in casting ABC's Celebrity Mole and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.


    Later this month, the company will hold its annual shareholder meeting in Denver. Why the Mile-High City? Probably so no one will notice that the top ranks have their heads in the clouds. Between a chummy board of directors that seems complacent to be tethered to failure, and park-planning and content-programming decisions that border on Munchausen, where's the glimmer of hope?


    Disney isn't making its best movies. It isn't making its best animated features. It doesn't even own or operate its most popular theme park -- Tokyo Disneyland.


    It's ironic that cries for a more independent board have fallen on deaf ears, while the company's own lack of in-house production has it financially dependent on the shoulders of just about everybody else.


    But those shoulders are getting tired. Too tired. It won't be long before we hear the song...


    Hi-ho the dairy-o,

    The Cheese stands alone.


    Rick Aristotle Munarriz lives in Florida and can be found at Disney World far more often than he would care to admit. He owns a piece of Disney, more than just the brick that bears his surname in front of the last turnstile at Magic Kingdom's monorail side entrance. He also has a few shares of Pixar in his youngest son's IRA. Rick's other stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.
     
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  3. DVC-Landbaron

    DVC-Landbaron What Would Walt Do?

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    Sir Matt!

    I'm a little surprised at you. Most of the time you bring out the issues in a fair way, but this time... :confused:

    The Motley Fool is clearly 'Anti-Disney" and has been for some time.

    How do I know? Well, we were just in Disney not too long ago and we had a marvelous time!!! It was fantastic!! The kids loved it!! Heck! They even liked Dinorama and Aladdin! How can you argue with that kind of success in vacation magic!

    Geeze, Matt! Sometimes you just don't get it!! :(









    Hey, that's two in a row from the other side of the aisle!! This is getting to be fun!!! :crazy: :bounce: :crazy:
     
  4. pheneix

    pheneix Mouseketeer

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    I just read this in the Orlando Sentinel:

    >>>SHOW TIME. Sometimes, it's tough to measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Other times, it's easy as zapping aliens during a thrill ride.

    Universal Orlando's new TV commercial hit the air this week, and the company broke previous records for online and telephone sales of vacation packages in a single day.

    No word on what part of the ad was the most persuasive -- maybe it was the little swipe at archrival Walt Disney World. As the TV spot comes to a close, it asks: "Fairy tales and pixie dust not quite your thing? Then log on to Universal's Web site. . . . "<<<

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-susan030703,0,1695691.column?coll=orl-business-headlines
     
  5. Eyesnur

    Eyesnur Guest

    pheneix, correct me if I'm wrong but perhaps you yourself should be posting primarily on the Universal website...I see little indication of anything other than glee in any perceived Disney failure on your part. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong..

    Oh, and just to put things in perspective, Universal isn't even the second largest toursist attraction in the State of Florida (behind WDW) that distinction beongs to The Sawgrass Mills Mall near Miami...Oooohhhh....
     
  6. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    Perhaps not glee at a failure by Disney but just an indication that while things are bad there are some companies out there actually trying to attract guests and seeming to have much sucess.

    In the meantime we here in the "Disney Zone" are told over and over again that it's a good thing the meal portions are being reduced because we're all fat, lazy American slobs who do not show enough gratitude for our chance to contribute to fund future episodes of 'Power Rangers'.

    It will be interesting to see which company ends up with the #2 tourist attraction in Flordia - a company that tries to please their fans or one that relies on an ever diminishing pool of true belivers willing to tolerate any type of abuse.
     
  7. raidermatt

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

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    I hear the Roman Empire was pretty big once too...

    So, who is doing a better job is defined by how large they are at a given time?
     
  8. pheneix

    pheneix Mouseketeer

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    >>>correct me if I'm wrong but perhaps you yourself should be posting primarily on the Universal website...I see little indication of anything other than glee in any perceived Disney failure on your part<<<

    I really had this great response worked up, but AV pretty much hit the nail on the head.
     
  9. DVC-Landbaron

    DVC-Landbaron What Would Walt Do?

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    Yeah! He does have a nasty habit of doing that!!! I mean hitting the nail on the head!!

    Anyway, where do you suppose the car #1 people are? They sure aren't responding to this thread! Funny isn't it?

    Hmmmmmmmm..........

    ......................

    ......................

    I know!! Maybe their silence is their tacit approval of the piece!!!
     
  10. DisneyKidds

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

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    You slay me Baron :crazy:. Please, the laughter is really killing me.

    One doesn't need to read that piece to know where Disney has it's problems. One can recognize those problems and still not be one of your cronies, agreeing with every position you and your bretheren take :tongue:.
     
  11. raidermatt

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

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    I don't know, the investment community by and large doesn't seem to see it. If they did, they wouldn't be letting Eisner skate by on promises of lower costs and better efficiency. They would be asking for a plan to restore the creative soul of the company, and questioning the many moves that seem to not exactly be customer-friendly.

    By definition, a one'er believes the company is producing "Magic" with the same consistency as it always has. I don't see how someone could agree with the problems pointed out in this piece and still be a one'er.
     
  12. gtrist4life

    gtrist4life <font color=teal>May the good fairy be kind enough

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    I'm not a shareholder. My main interest in Disney is their Parks, Resorts, Curise Line, Disney Store, and Disney Entertainment(primarily movies). This to me, is obviously the core of the company and their quality and value should be protected, promoted, and cared for with the most priority and resources.

    The Angels are OK, since baseball is the greatest game IMHO, and they did win the World Series. I have no interest in Hockey, ABC (Except occasionally the Wonderful World of Disney), and only watch ESPN usually during Baseball season, NFL season, and March Madness. Touchstone and Miramax are to me, just other movie companies. The Disney Channel is maybe one step up from Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network.

    I read the Motley Fool piece before it was posted here, and agree that Disney is now involved with several issues/situations that have varying degrees of risk to shareholders/customers.

    1. Pixar
    2. Sponsorships
    3. Geo-Politcal climate, Economy, Park attendance
    4. The Board

    I won't speculate on how these issues will be resolved and the effects from the outcomes.

    But aren't the current cries of too many insiders/non objectivity on the board similar to what was being said about the board in 1984 before Eisner took over?
    At that time, were there similar cries of the Parks are losing their magic? I know the movie studio was in trouble?

    I'm grateful for (Eisner?) for the resurgence of Disney in the 90's, but it's 2003 and what have you done for me lately? Certainly nothing that warrants the bonus he's received

    I'm loyal, have yet to be disappointed, and continue to shell out my hard earned cash. But like any customer, if and when I see a serious decline in quality/value I will stop spending. I don't know what defines "serious decline", but I'll know it when I see it. And it cannot be argued that all the "Cheapquels" we've seen are going down that path. I had great hopes for Treasure Planet, and thought the quality was topnotch, but the timing was terrible. Hopefully the DVD sales will make up some of the losses.

    I guess that's the real tightrope Disney must walk in this environment. Control costs to ensure profitability. Balancing shareholder interests with customer interests.

    Sorry for the long posts, but the thoughts were rolling.
    Peace
    G4L
     
  13. Eyesnur

    Eyesnur Guest

    The piece was anti-Disney drivel...The fact that more than a few of its concerns are legitimate make the whole piece seem credible.

    It's ok to discuss Disney's shortcomings but over and over no one ever really wants to discuss anything positive or possible other than "EISNER MUST GO!" This is so old and even if it's true it is irellevent. He doesn't appear to be going anywhere so it would seem that you car 3 pushing 4'ers might want to think about it. After all Walt's Disney is NEVER coming back. Even when they finally thaw the old coot out, the times will have passed him and his ilk by.

    AV always talks about quality (and as I recall touted TP pre- release) and then jumps on TP & Disney for its failure. I thought quality would ALWAYS win out??? The fact that such commercial drivel as LOTR, Harry Potter and Shrek have been huge money makers should be enough of an indicator that quality doesn't really make a difference, but somehow because LOTR was excellent literature and they spent boucoup bucs making it, this crap was considered quality. Meanwhile, what did "A Beautiful Mind make? 20-30 M? It's just a shell game that currently Disney is losing badly in the publicity wars.

    Further, you can dwell on creative diffences between the Weinsteins and Eisner or Jobs and Eisner...Meanwhile Disney's up for a record number of Academy awards. Does management get any credit? No, we want to talk about the Weinsteins play for more $$$ or discuss negotiations between two ego-maniacs like Jobs and Eisner (as if Job's is really going to go elsewhere - Even AV secrtly knows this).

    Talk about some reality, will ya? How bout how foolish a move will US/IOA have made if we do go into an extended war and tourism is just decimated? Will Disney's not haveing started several new e-tickets be a bad decision then? Of course, I agree that if war is averted US/IOA wll have made the right gamble...
     
  14. ohanafamily

    ohanafamily <img src="http://www.wdwinfo.com/images/sponsors/s

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    I read the article, didn't know about the Pixar loss; that will be a big one. I don't think the bonus is justified, but then again most people who are on this board would agree with that.

    Isn't Ei$ner leaving by the end of the year?
    Won't his replacement get a chance to "Clean the House of Mouse?"

    I also agree that "Wall Street" should insist on a longterm plan to restore profitability, Branding and "Magic" Draining the "Cash Cows" without feeding them is not a good idea IMHO

    :bounce:
     
  15. pheneix

    pheneix Mouseketeer

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    >>>somehow because LOTR was excellent literature and they spent boucoup bucs making it, this crap was considered quality<<<

    Just for the record, what planet are you from?
     
  16. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    "Talk about some reality, will ya?"

    Glad to.

    First – I never praised 'Treasure Planet' but instead said this was a troubled picture (which was why its released was delayed six months) and was subject to over tinker by Eisner himself which further eroded what little quality that was in the film. I did, however, write great things about 'Lilo and Stitch' for two years because that was a very good movie, made by talented and creative people who actually cared about their work. And Eisner never touched the thing. I don't mind people going after my opinions, but please attempt to at least state them correctly before you bash them.

    The cost of making all three 'Lord of the Rings' movies is about $300 million. I suppose "quality" is somewhat in the eye of the view so I'll pass on your ability to differentiate between excellent literature and cr_p. Yet Disney spent $150 million each on 'Pearl Harbor', 'Gangs of New York' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl'*. Leaving aside the drivel level of those films – it seems that spending 150% more on Eisner's trilogy of flops didn't really earn him many points from the shell game. Nor does whining about bad publicity allow all those accounts to book more dollars to the bottom line. And 'A Beautiful Mind' has earned $170,742,341 at the box office (check out the numbers here ). Again, "facts" and "straight" are words to live by.

    "Disney" is not up for a record number of Oscar awards, Miramax is. And no, Eisner deserves no credit for it because he had nothing to do with any of the nominated films that Miramax produced (except for 'Gangs' where Eisner approved both the initial budget and the overruns). In fact, several of the films including 'The Hours' were made in cooperation with other studios. And looking at Miramax's upcoming schedule it looks like more films will be released domestically through Universal than they will through Disney. Interesting, non? One wonders what Harvey is up to in Paris these days. And what I secrtly [sic] know is that Steve Jobs is running away from Eisner so fast and so furious there are "rumors" they are already in pre-production on a film for another studio.

    In fact I yearn for the day when I talk about great upcoming Disney movies instead of Hollywood politics (what you've heard is nothing compared to what's really going around Disney's lot these days). But in order for them to do that, they need to make good movies. I've heard some good things about 'Holes', but they seem to ignoring this family movie. And I really wanted to say some great things about 'The Alamo' – but then they trashed its excellent literature script so they could blow things up real good. 'Bears' had promise has now been trashed by Eisner decision to cut a full year from its production in the rush to close down Feature Animation. Even on the commercial side they can't get their act together: 'Tron 2.0' is Disney's only shot at a franchise picture yet it remains stuck in development hell for reasons no one in Hollywood understands.

    Lastly, you're right that the cry of EISNER MUST GO is very old – but it's more relevant now than ever before. This man does damage to the company with each and every decision he makes. Had he left five years ago when it was clear he didn't have a clue about running the company things could have been repaired. But now it is certain that Disney will be broken up in the near future. The only uncertainties are if anything resembling "Disney" remains in the ruble and if Eisner or intelligent people supervise the disassembly.

    You can rant and rave all you want about Eisner's staying power and his business genius. But the facts – the real ones – speak for themselves. A company that's lost 2/3 of its value, a first to fourth plunge in both ratings and box office, a decimated creative staff, a pariah status in Hollywood, falling attendance, and curl-up-and-die attitude towards the future…those are the his achievements.

    I'll take the old coot, thawed or frozen, any day over a lame duck.


    * - Lastest rumors are that Disney is going to drop the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' title to avoid the stigma of being "a ride movie". The costs of the film have ballooned so high that they are looking at every angle to avoid another 'Pearl Harbor' fiasco.
     
  17. airlarry!

    airlarry! Did you know some ferns date back to Prehistoric t

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    First, M. AV did predict a disappointing feature in TP. (I never told you this, but I was secrtly disappointed in your comments back then, AV, b/c I happen to like the two director's works, and the subject of the film. I hoped you were wrong, wrong, wrong. But you weren't, of course.)

    Second, we've said this many, many times over the past three years. The cuts in Feature Animation, WDI, the development of the "Ei$ner Philosophy" of park creation and fillout, all remind me of darker days than the darkest days of "Storming The Kingdom."

    Where are the Bass Brothers of 2000s? Where is the Frank Wells of 2005?

    Who will be willing to destroy the ring?
     
  18. Eyesnur

    Eyesnur Guest

    Ahhhh, I struck a chord. Pheneix, my planet?...Oh my, most certainly not earth...But LOTR is really trashy, isn't it?

    Mr. Voice, my humble apologies for mistating your views on TP. I surely must have misread your L&S reviews and remembered incorrectly, and you are certainly correct on the final numbers for 'A Beautiful Mind'... and with 'Chicago' doing so well I guess quality can triumph...Just not to the tune of such uninspired commercial fare.

    Don't mistake my complaints as homage to Eisner or the direction the company has recently taken. Mikey's past his prime and bad decisions are, well, bad decisions. And for the record I never ranted or raved about his genius, so I guess it's fair to say perhaps you should pay closer attention to your responses as well.

    Disney is what it is and right now it has Michael Eisner as its head. Also, giving no credit to ME for Miramax and Pixar success is just unfair. He cut the deals, even if he eventually pisses them away. (could this be considered ranting & raving?)

    Further, Disney is up for a record nominations...I read it on "E"! Disney owns Miramax, so.....It must be true!!

    Lastly, you lumped GONY in with PH and some other 'losers' but in fact both GONY & TP have been nominated for Oscars in various catagories. How many awards has LOTR garnered thus far? And though they're nominated for 6 Oscars, do we think they will actually win any?
     
  19. ohanafamily

    ohanafamily <img src="http://www.wdwinfo.com/images/sponsors/s

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    Why do I feel so depressed now?

    If the doom and gloom continues, I may have to call Chantelle to sell my DVC before it gets too late.

    I sincerely hope that they come up with some more magic since you all seem to think it is too late. I am still in car 2 looking for more Pixie Dust.....

    :bounce:
     
  20. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    No apologies need Mr. Eyesnur. Perhaps it's because of the town where I work is so notorious for it's rather loose association with reality that I tend to be oversensitive to what I see as "facts".

    And it is a very sad fact that the Oscars only have a passing relationship with quality. I would never personally use number of nominations or actual wins as any kind of barometer. Except, perhaps, of the political skills involved. Harvey Weinstein is the master of Oscar politics: remember the Best Picture nomination for 'Chocolat'? Hardly a distinction of the year's best and brightest. Ask yourself, is 'Titanic' really a higher quality movie than those it beat out its year: 'L.A. Confidential', 'Good Will Hunting', 'As Good As It Gets' or 'The Full Monty'?

    This year's sure sweep by 'Chicago' has nothing to do with the quality of the film. For the final awards all members vote in all categories. The largest single block in the Academy are the actors; the same actors who love big, bold, loud musicals that employ lots of actors. The fact that next year at the time only 10% of the public will remember that the movie 'Chicago' even existed doesn't really matter.

    These same fossil Hollywood types that love to reward big time set pieces also hate everything else. Personally I would put 'The Rookie' on the best picture list in place of half of the nominees. But small pictures (unless they're British and/or have Harvey buying votes for them) don't get nominated as "quality". And certainly popular, stunningly brilliant movies that shatter Hollywood Rules like 'The Lord of the Rings' haven't got a snowball's chance in Mordor. Of course, fifty years from now people are still going to be watching 'Rings'. Films like 'The Hours' will only be remembered by those creepy video store clerks that sneer at you for renting the dubbed version instead of the subtitled one.

    Sure, Disney owns Miramax, but I don't gush about how wonderful Summer Redstone is for the great quality of the microwave popcorn down at my local Blockbuster. Nor do I think that Steve Case should remain at AOL because they own New Line and 'The Matrix' sequels. Hollywood is a freelance town. Credit belongs to the people who made the project. It doesn't automatically flow uphill to their temporary employer.

    Instead an executive is judged by his/her ability to consistently hire the right people at the right time for the right projects.

    Eisner's track record at this is abysmal. The project he passes over is staggering, the people who won't deal with him are a legion, and the movies he interferes with (to worsening results) are painful to list. This can be clearly seen in Disney's track records. Those movies made outside the notice of management thrive: 'Lilo and Stitch', 'The Rookie', Miramax. Those that he's involved with collapse ('The Alamo', 'Black Hawk Down') or fail ('Pearl Harbor', 'Tuck Everlasting', 'Treasure Planet').

    People should get credit or blame for what they do.
     
  21. Eyesnur

    Eyesnur Guest

    Mr. V, we're going on two threads simultaneously? Whew!

    If the Oscars are no indicator of quality and as you mentioned, big box office numbers are no real measure for quality what can we possibly have? Chaos? Or maybe just a further trend toward 'reality' productions (EEEK!!! Head for the hills!!!!!).

    I honestly thought Shrek was mediocre at best, Hary Potter was ok for what it was and LOTR was a bit presumputous though entertaining. I disagree that any of these will have staying power...I really truly like Treasure Planet, so I'm thinking this might mean I have no taste at all!:o

    As for Eisner, while his track record may be abysmal by your standard, it is still fact that his deals put Pixar & Miramax in the Disney fold...No credit for this move? Certainly he's no film maker, heck, I'm (starting to) think he's not much of a business man, but still if all blames are at his tremendously uncreative feet then the few good decisions he's made in this same realm must be applauded.
     

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