Saturday, May 03, 2008

Eisner and Lasseter

Eisner was a man of action and business. He did great at ABC and Paramount. He came to Disney and did amazing things.

I agree that the man deserves credit for being a man of action and business. He motivated people and brought everything together.

However, he was not a man of relationships and entertainment. He did not value creativity and show the value to the creative individuals. Eisner drove away the head of animation, Katzenberg (who left after Lion King, not a coincidence that Lion King was the peak of the Disney animations), he drove away a few other key directors, he drove away Roy Disney (not a last name you want to mess with), and he almost succeeded in driving away Pixar. Eisner did a few great things, but he concentrated more on the business rather than the relationships and the creativity/entertainment. He was great when surrounded by creative geniuses. Without them, well, read about Roy’s Save Disney campaign to see how everything went downhill.

A great CEO doesn’t have to be creative; he just has to value and reward creativity. That’s what happened with Robert Iger. Iger was Lasseter’s second in command (so many people were worried), but he quickly showed that he knew what he was doing. Not only was he great at relationships (he remained friends with Roy Disney and Michael Eisner at the same time), but he quickly showed that he knew how to reward talent: he immediately bought Pixar, brought on Steve Jobs, made Lasseter CCO and head of Imagineering, brought Roy back onto the board, and, to top it off, he fulfilled his promise to Diane by bringing Oswald back home:

From Wikipedia...

Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, issued the following statement after the deal was announced:
“When Bob [Iger] was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.”

Because Iger made Lasseter the CCO of Disney (animation and parks), this is what has happened:

• Introducing all the Pixar characters into the parks
• Plans to revitalize Disney California Adventure
• Reworking current Disney animations in production (Meet the Robinsons and Bolt)
• Bringing back the directors of Aladdin to do another 2D animated film (Princess and the Frog)
• Redoing the planned Tinker Bell series to be in 3D and to be faithful to the original film (the current film was not)
• Revitalizing Disney film shorts, starting with a Goofy short

So overall, yes, Eisner deserves credit. But because he wasn’t good with relationships and rewarding creativity, the elixir that saved Disney became its poison after 10 years of value (such is life; not every Disney savior can be flawless).

After taking off to start Dreamworks animation, Katzenberg has had 10 animated films make over $200 million, worldwide:

- The Prince of Egypt

- Chicken Run

- Shrek

- Shrek 2

- Shark Tale

- Madagascar

- Over the Hedge

- Flushed Away

- Shrek the Third

- Bee Movie

After he left, Katzenberg has had 5 animated films make less than $200 million, worldwide:

- Antz

- The Road to El Dorado

- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

- Sinbad: Legend of the 7 Seas

- Wallace & Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (winner of the Academy Award for best Animated Film)

After Katzenberg left, Eisner had 9 (non-Pixar) movies make over $200 million worldwide:

- Pocahontas

- Hunchback of Notre Dame

- Hercules

- Mulan

- Tarzan

- Dinosaur

- Lilo & Stitch

- Brother Bear

- Chicken Little

After Katzenberg left, Eisner had 9 non-Pixar movies make less than $200 million worldwide:

- James & the Giant Peach

- Fantasia 2000

- The Emperor’s New Groove

- Atlantis: The Lost Empire

- Treasure Planet

- Home on the Range

- Valiant

- The Wild

- Meet the Robinsons

(Plus 9 ToonDisney films which weren’t hoping to make much money)

Bottom line: If Eisner had kept his relationships with Katzenberg and Pixar and let the creative people make the creative decisions, Disney would be a powerhouse with no strong competitors (maybe the Ice Age team would be a tiny threat).


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