Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Responding to others blogs, part deux

First, read this. Then read this. Then read what follows.

"This is what happens when you let a bean counter run a creative company."

First of all, as a Certified Public Accountant, I hate, HATE, the term 'bean counter.' Nothing grates on my nerves more. But that's beside the point.

Michael Eisner is NOT a 'bean counter'. He graduated in 1964 from Denison University where he majored in theatre and literature.

Prior to joining Disney, he worked in the programming departments of CBS (1964?-66?) and ABC (1968-1976) in 1976, he became chairman of Paramount, and in 1984 he took over at Disney. When he took over, Disney was financially unhealthy, and mired in a creative slump.

I will agree that Eisner is an arrogant a-hole, whose best achievements have resulted in his ability to hire the brightest creative minds (Barry Diller at Paramount, Jeff Katzenberg at Disney). Of course, he, like Jerry Krause of the Chicago Bulls, believes that it is HIS genius that's responsible for the success of Disney the last 20 years, but it's not.

The reason that Disney is in a down period is simple - it's all about the money. And who do we blame for that? Eisner? Ok, to some extent. But what about Disney shareholders? I have worked for several large companies, and some good ideas have been flushed simply because they didn't offer the short-term, 'quick hit' to the bottom line that shareholders and stockbrokers love. What you can say, creatively, about Disney, you can say about Universal, Paramount, Columbia, and even MGM. Movies and TV today is profit driven, and until the movie-going public votes with ticket sales for quality movies, it always will be.

Like Moxie said, it's corporate hedging. What Disney is engaging in may be reprehensible to some, but it's financially smart - it wins either way, and actually, can win on both fronts. Chicken shit? Maybe. Two-faced? Definitely. Possible ramifications? Few, as most people wouldn't understand the complexity of it all, and a good spinmeister could make it work fairly well. Besides, other companies engage in seemingly contradictory behaviour, and we, the general public tolerate that, so why not this?

Please understand - I'm NOT condoning what Disney is doing. I'm just trying to balance out the discussion here. As a Chicagoan (read: Democrat) I'm not overly fond of a lot of George Bush's policies, but I don't believe Moore has a leg to stand on, either. His speech at the Academy Awards was inappropriate and incendiary, and made without factual basis. His film, Bowling for Columbine, has come under criticism for factual misrepresentations. And September 11th is a poor choice upon which to base critical analysis, since it was so unusual that it's hard to determine if Al Gore would have acted any differently in the same situation. Personally, Disney should stick to handing out the passes, and leave the asses elsewhere.

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