Thursday, January 11, 2007

Foundations for the Disney Business

The following vintage Walt Disney Productions article remains a relevant reminder for today's Re-Imagineers.

Foundations for the Disney Business

Disney entertainment speaks an international language that spans oceans, boundaries and cultural barriers. To people of all ages, everywhere around the world, the Disney name immediately communicates three things: Quality, Uniqueness and Value. And the Disney organization communicates a vivid understanding and relationship with its family audience, friendliness, and a dynamic inter-related diversity. Walt Disney's legacy for the future is far greater than the physical assets of our company. It involves a sacred public trust...an intangible that can't be bought at any price...an integrity that must be protected at any cost.

1. QUALITY

"When we consider a new project, we really study it - not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into the new project, we believe in it all the way. We have confidence in our ability to do it right. And we work hard to do the best possible job."
—Walt Disney

Today, the subject of Quality concerns itself with everything we do in the Disney organization. Disney is the only studio left in the world where a team of animators shun the gimmicks of cut-rate animation so prevalent elsewhere and adhere to the meticulous, painstaking, costly Disney approach to cartoons.

At Disneyland and Walt Disney World, extraordinary efforts are made on a daily basis to be the best by maintaining the quality of our show...guest service, food, merchandise and the thousand other factors which together make up a Disney theme experience.

Throughout the entire world-wide Disney organization, we try to do the best possible job with good taste in everything we do. To maintain these high standards, we monitor ourselves according to the toughest possible internal and external standards.

2. UNIQUENESS

"You hate to repeat yourself. I don't like to make sequels to my pictures. I like to take a new thing and develop something. There's really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting."
—Walt Disney

Exploring, experimenting and pioneering. They were all a part of the Disney tradition of Uniqueness that began on "day one" in 1923. Walt took the medium of animation and gave it a voice, introduced color, added depth to the visual dimension with the multi-plane camera, and finally proved that if done with Disney quality it could even be expanded into full-length features. Never to be content with the status quo, however, he then expanded the audio dimension with the first stereophonic sound.

Dissatisfied with "run-down" amusement parks, he bet his entire organization on a new idea...a unique concept called Disneyland and revolutionized American outdoor entertainment. He brought his animated characters "to life" through an electronic pixie-dust called Audio-Animatronics®. He proved to a nation that color television programming was a viable means of entertainment. And he started to prove to the world that the problems of man could be solved by the technology of man...someone just needed to pull it together. And the project would be the most unique of all...Walt Disney World.

These are just the highlights of the remarkable list of unique accomplishments and projects generated throughout the Disney organization during its relatively young history.

And we have always protected that Uniqueness...protected every character we created from outside misuse and duplications. And we keep our product unique...we don't franchise Disneylands across the face of the earth although we've had ample opportunity. Uniqueness will always be Disney.

3. VALUE

"We're not out to make a fast dollar with gimmicks. We're interested in doing things that are fun - in bringing pleasure and especially laughter to people...it's proven it's a good business policy. Give the public everything you can give them..."
—Walt Disney

Throughout the organization, we always try to provide the best possible value to our public while maintaining reasonable profitability within good business sense. Like many other entertainment organizations often do, we could command far higher prices from our "captive audience" at our theme parks, or through our films which today practically have a monopoly in the "G" rated sector. However, there is an absolute Disney policy against "price-gouging." Our paying guests must feel that they have gotten their money's worth...they must feel that they have received good value. We want them to keep coming back...it's not a one-time shot. We want our guests telling their friends, "It was worth every cent." The greatest Disney advertisement strength is "word-of-mouth."

4. UNDERSTANDING THE DISNEY AUDIENCE

Disney entertainment is not aimed toward the intelligentsia. You can take all the PhD's and CPA's, all the philosophers, psychiatrists and psychologists and all the intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals in the U.S. and together they wouldn't keep Walt Disney Productions in business for one week. The American families do. Everybody always said that Walt had some magical sixth sense for how something would be accepted by the public. Actually, he kept sight of who our public was. He said:

"Movie makers are often too introverted about their production. They tend to build up myths about audiences and to prattle glibly about shifting public taste and its unpredictables. In considering one thing: Americans are a sociable folk, we like to enjoy ourselves in crowds, at sports arenas, at picnics, fairs and carnivals, at concerts and at the theater."

"Above all, we like to laugh together - even at our own shortcomings. I don't like to kid myself about the intelligence and taste of audiences. They are made up of my neighbors, people I know and meet every day. Folks I trade with, go to church with, vote with, compete in business with, help build and preserve a nation with."

5. FRIENDLINESS

"Most of my life I have done what I wanted to do. I have had fun on the job. I have never been able to confine that fun to office hours."

—Walt Disney

Walt Disney Productions has been something of an anachronism in major industry by adhering to a first-name, open-door, informal code of behavior for its employees. And yet, these are the proven factors that lead directly to having fun on the job, maintaining a sense of humor and strong sense of internal friendliness. Ultimately, as Walt and Roy knew, it would lead to a strong external friendliness...a friendly efficiency with the public that would pay off in large dividends. No one can create the kind of friendly entertainment product we demand in a formal, unfriendly atmosphere. This important aspect of the Disney philosophy is universally recognized today by the public and press alike. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote that "You can see more respectful, courteous people in Disney World in an afternoon than in New York in a year."

6. THE DISNEY DYNAMIC: SYNERGETICS

"My greatest reward is that I've been able to build this wonderful organization."
—Walt Disney

Walt Disney developed the most diversified and synergetic organization the entertainment world has ever seen. Walt Disney Productions is actually what the conglomerates attempt to be...that is, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is because the Disney diversification is completely inter-related within our Disney product.

One sophisticated author writing for the Nation magazine as far back as 1967 put this diversification in excellent perspective, calling Disney a "ship of fantasy that is now a flotilla, all vessels controlled from a single port but each a separate identity and cargo. Until Disney, horizontal diversification was unknown in show business. In fact, it has a tighter logic than the fingers on one's hand. Disneyland advertises Disney movies and animal personalities. Disney TV plugs the park, where commercial exhibits by TV advertisers reduce overhead and raise profits. And the same golden symbiosis applies to publications, comic strips, toys and 2,000 other products."

Further, elaboration on the Disney synergetics and breaking it down even further, a long-time WED Imagineer said, "The individual things we do in Walt Disney World or Disneyland don't have to stand as separate profit entities like in other companies. We tell outsiders this and they think we're crazy, but that's the real secret to how it all works. We're looking for the total effect on the guest. That's the payoff. There's not a thing in either place that could be placed on the outside and stay in business. Not the Jungle Cruise...not the Liberty Tree Tavern...and not even our popcorn machines. But when you put it all together, and mix in the employees, the whole effect becomes something that creates the "Disney Experience."

"And frankly, you can apply that to our entire organization. Every Disney company and division draws strength from the other parts. It's a curious, in fact, a downright incredible phenomena." —Walt Disney

Uniqueness... Quality... Value... three vitally important aspects found throughout Disney entertainment. Understanding the Disney Audience...Friendliness...The Disney Dynamic of Synergetics...three vitally important aspects found throughout the Disney organization. All of these make up the basic foundation of our Disney business; producing "The Finest in Family Entertainment."

45 comments:

John said...

You really know how to depress a Disney fan. It's amazing how far the company has separated itself from the formula presented here. What's most depressing is that I don't ever see the company adopting any of those principles again. Maybe it's time to give up hope.

SirNim said...

Well, they still have the synergy...albeit a little misguided nowadays...

Anonymous said...

Well... that just about sums it up. If this blog was designed to figure out what was wrong with Disney and to fix it - well, that's it. The formula they need to follow is written there. The formula they've been following is a complete 180 from that. If you want Disney to turn around, go back to doing it the way it was done before - and to heck with what other people tell you that you need to do.

Anonymous said...

I would agree that the company has moved far from these principles in most areas.

However most of the public still perceives that Disney is the best entertainment money can buy, therefore the value aspect is still there, though obviously on a higher cost scale and more exclusive which is not how it used to be.

I hope the current cast of Imagineers and Management read this and strive to return to the elements and business philosophies in the article

Anonymous said...

What about "relevance?"

Florida - Chris said...

"The individual things we do in Walt Disney World or Disneyland don't have to stand as separate profit entities like in other companies. We tell outsiders this and they think we're crazy, but that's the real secret to how it all works. We're looking for the total effect on the guest. That's the payoff. There's not a thing in either place that could be placed on the outside and stay in business. Not the Jungle Cruise...not the Liberty Tree Tavern...and not even our popcorn machines. But when you put it all together, and mix in the employees, the whole effect becomes something that creates the "Disney Experience."
WOW, That is powerful, and completely lost too. Were all profit centers or cost centers now. It's a long road back, but I'm on board for the journey. One CM at a time, we can prevail!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me just how far Walt Disney World has fallen - quite, quite depressing...

"extraordinary efforts are made on a daily basis to be the best by maintaining the quality of our show"

A few years back, Walt Disney World built formal entrances to the property.
(http://home.cfl.rr.com/smileposts/images/0925-001.jpg)
The figures are mounted to the structure allowing them to be removed and relocated around. In preparation for the 'Million Dream' promotion, the Mickey at the LBV/Downtown Disney entrance was moved from its position on the right to the left, making room for a special castle to be mounted. No one bothered to notice that the purple paint had faded due to the constant exposure to the sun. If you look at the sign now, a 'shadow' of mickey is very clear behind the castle where the paint has not faded. I'm shocked that no one has bothered, or even cared, to give the structure a fresh coat of paint. It is a striking commentary at just how little Disney management cares about the details. This is not some out of the way corner in a resort or even a theme park. This is one of the key entrances to the property and one through which many cast members drive each day. (Even if the paint costed $10,000, that would only be 40-50 5D park hopper tickets.)

David H
Ex-Disney and Proud

David H

pragmaticidealist said...

How myopic does one have to be to not recognize that the only profit center at a gated attraction that truly matters is the gate, itself?

Cheshirekatz said...

This article brings tears to my eyes as I sit here remembering what Disney was like before Scrooge McDuck took over. It brings it all back. Sadly, Disney truly is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Future generations will not remember the magic. To them Disney will be just another over priced, tacky amusement park and someday, somewhere a person will say "Why don't we build a clean, family oriented amusement park that doesn't gouge people and delivers quality and..."

Well, you know the rest. Disney might reappear someday but it won't be Disney.

Ted said...

While I agree that Disney does not COMPLETELY live up to these IDEALS. They do not COMPLETELY fall down either. And Disney in the recent past (under Iger), has made good strides toward these goals.
These are GOALS that are meant to be set VERY high and are rarely met.
The line of comments seems to be focusing on the VALUE question. Let's examine that.
I went to Las Vegas before Christmas and Vegas could easily be called the "Disneyland for adults" and is a comparable entertainment destination.
After being there for a few hours, I longed for Disney. Not only because of the smut and "lowest common denominator", but Disney value. The hotels were over-priced and poorly maintained, the food prices would make Disney blush, and don't get me started on the shows and attractions pricing ($14 for ONE ride on a roller coaster and $165 for the cheap seats at a show!).
We could spend ALL day complaining that the soda at Disneyland is more expensive than at the local supermarket or fast food restaurant, BUT that is NOT who Disney is in competition with! It is NOT a fair comparison.
AND we can complain about how Disneyland used to be $5 a day back in 1960, but these same people have NO PROBLEM spending >$100 to play golf or >$60 to go skiing or $9-10 to go to the movies (for 2-3 hours MAX).
I pay $149 a year for an annual pass. Since I try and go once a month, that works out to <$13 a visit. That's a bargain in my book.
Let's compare apples to apples and not apples and oranges.

dan_steinberg said...

However, there is an absolute Disney policy against "price-gouging."

Absolutely - they still have that policy! <*cough*> ...$2.75 for a Coke... <*cough*> ...$11 for parking... <*COUGH*> ...almost $6 for a slice of pizza... <*COUGH*>

Nah, no price-gouging at all these days...

/bsdb said...

Iger just received $15 million as a bonus on top of his annual salary of $2 million.



If Walt's ashes could spin, they'd hit 5 on the Fujita scale.

T said...

Wow. Negate every sentence in that post, and you get the current Disney philosophy.

Not to mention that they managed to take "synergetics", totally misunderstand it, and turn it into the bastard evil that is "syngery", plowed Big Brother-like via reminders all over the Burbank lot into employees who now feel just like the hidden Mickey cogs on those damn posters...

Ted said...

To Dan Steinberg:
Again, referring to my above post, those are the EXACT same prices at the movies, at the state fair, at a sporting event, at a concert, at EVERY other theme/amusement park, etc, etc, etc.
Don't single out Disney for doing what EVERYONE else is doing.

Merlin Jones said...

>>Don't single out Disney for doing what EVERYONE else is doing.<<

But that's the whole point... Disney used to be completely unlike EVERYONE else in their business practices, providing entertainment and services and value beynd expectation.

Walt and Roy made a point of NOT being like the others, nor even being influenced by their practices. Otherwise, there would never have been a Disneyland at all.

Anonymous said...

Quote: However most of the public still perceives that Disney is the best entertainment money can buy, therefore the value aspect is still there, though obviously on a higher cost scale and more exclusive which is not how it used to be.

They are...which says less about Disney and more about the quality of the competition. The Company has lost ALL sense of history, or at least history that doesn't boost the profit margins. I have been a huge fan of Disney the man AND Disney the company for many years. The Company is losing ground quickly. I agree with Merlin Jones: they used to do it different. Other organizations wanted to do it the Disney way. Now Disney wants to do it just like everyone else. Sad.

captain schnemo said...

You have to question how this situation could possibly change, however. Yes, Disney used to go above and beyond, but if they continue to be wildly profitable doing things in their current half-assed fashion, how can they be convinced to change their tactics?

What would be their motivation to listen to a bunch of powerless Internet nerds?

We can blog til the cows come home, but until we can come up with a concrete (ie, monetary) argument, I don't see us being much more than a mutual consolation society. They made the calculation to ignore us long ago, and it seems to be working out just fine for them.

Anonymous said...

Regarding my earlier comment about the faded WDW entrance sign...

I drove by the entrance yesterday and was quite surprised to see that it had been painted - after only 3 months. However, and this probably won't be shocking, the I noticed that while they did paint the one side, the company didn't paint the other. So now one side is a nice bright purple and the other faded purple.

Please refresh my memory, wasn't there a time where the company would have gone out and checked the paint on the other five* entrance ways as soon as a problem came up with just one and then taken steps to fix them all?

(For you WDW trivia buffs - Main Entrance, Epcot, LBV, Osceola Prkwy and Western Beltway)

David H

P.S. I have half the mind to send Meg Crofton a gallon of paint as a donation. (Hmmm...what if we all did that and sent them right to her Team Diseny address?)

Merlin Jones said...

>>We can blog til the cows come home, but until we can come up with a concrete (ie, monetary) argument, I don't see us being much more than a mutual consolation society. They made the calculation to ignore us long ago, and it seems to be working out just fine for them.<<

But real money is being left on the table. They are successful, but could be even moreso.

The problem is that money men can "prove" these qualities won't be worth it in advance of taking the risk - - because that is the pre-existing theory of the managers and what is taught in MBA school. Surveys can be easily crafted to prove any point.

But with Disney, its the immeasurables that matter.

Whenever they break out of the conservative reinvestment pattern with artful material (or simply doing the right thing), they tend to "surprise" themselves with even more profits. For example, before Disneyland's 50th, the financial types were moaning and groaning about refurbishing costs for "old" stuff paying any dividend - - but a bit of paint turned to gravy in ways they couldn't have predicted on a spread sheet.

With Disney products, unlike dry goods and pharmacueticals, emotion turns to money, but accountants will never understand that part of the WDP equation -- even Walt never expected them to.

It takes a PERSON, not a SYSTEM to "get it."

captain schnemo said...

It takes a PERSON, not a SYSTEM to "get it."

I agree, but how do you propose going about getting the right person to get it?

Disney stock is way up. WDW is a creative cesspool, but a massive cash suction device.

Almost all of us agree with the basic premise of this blog and that there is more money to be made by acting in a manner more consistent with core Disney ideals, but Disney fanboys have been saying this kind of thing for at least a decade now, to no effect (at least in the case of WDW).

Other than the intellectual exercise of documenting Disney's decline, I wonder if this isn't all just a huge waste of energy.

I don't mean this as a criticism of the blog or any of the writers here (who I largely agree with), just as analysis of what we're doing here.

Anonymous said...

Champions make changes. leaders inspire nations to win even against all odds. Steve Jobs stepped up to lead his company to the future. He is doing it. He is the Walt of technology. Bob Iger has to be just as passionate and lead his company to it's next plateau. Everything about Apple is a reflection of Job's unflinching passion for his vision. Bob needs the Disney mantra and can rise to the occasion too. He has shown promise thus far. Let's inspire the management that's there to seek a higher (and long term) more profitable ground, encouraging them by celebrating their near term successes and point out that quality gets results. Not just pointing out their failures. Steve Jobs does not look back at the Newton. His products are out to change the world.

Merlin Jones said...

>>how do you propose going about getting the right person to get it?<<

Shine a light on those who step-forward to build, as well as on the usual opportunistic hatchetmen. Shine a light on the work, good or bad, in context of relevant ideals.

>>Disney stock is way up. WDW is a creative cesspool, but a massive cash suction device.<<

As we have seen in the past, if seeds are not planted in the good times, it all comes crashing down in the bad.

>>Disney fanboys have been saying this kind of thing for at least a decade now, to no effect (at least in the case of WDW).<<

Internet watchdogs have had a huge effect on Disneyland - - and with the SaveDisney campaign.

>>I wonder if this isn't all just a huge waste of energy.<<

Why should it bother you if writers strive to convey a more optimistic vision for Imagineering?

>>I don't mean this as a criticism of the blog or any of the writers here,<<

Don't be disingenuous. Your language ("fanboys") betrays it.

>>just as analysis of what we're doing here.<<

As I see it, we're perpetuating concepts toward a better tomorrow. How about you?

captain schnemo said...

First of all, merlin, you're completely misinterpreting my intent. I consider myself to be a Disney "fanboy", in the best sense of the word.

[It should be noted that I'm talking about WDW here. I realize that improvements have been made at Disneyland, in part due to contributions from the Internet, but the Disney corporate culture seems different there.]

WDW is much worse off now than it was when people began complaining about it, pretty much at the dawn of the popularization of the Internet amongst regular civilians. The "shining a light" argument is philosophically sound, but so far has had zero impact.

Why should it bother you if writers strive to convey a more optimistic vision for Imagineering?

It doesn't bother me at all. I've been doing it for years myself. I'd simply like to see all this energy transferred into something functional as well as intellectually stimulating.

Forgive me if I'm a little cynical here, but I've seen purists grumbling about this kind of thing for ages and when there is a response at all from Disney (which is almost never), it is always dismissive. And, in fairness, they have a certain right to be smug, when you consider their profits.

So the question is, how do we change our image from a bunch of lunatic doomsayers to constructive criticizers worthy of attention? Is it even possible as long as profits are up?

As you've said, what it takes is a man on the inside to spur change, but what conditions are present that would allow such a person to be taken seriously? Is there anything we can do at all to promote this?

Internet campaigns that focus on concrete issues such as chipping paint, burnt out light bulbs, and filthy eating areas have had some success, but how can we convince WDW that a Monsters, Inc. attraction is Tomorrowland is completely asinine?

PARISINJUNE said...

Merlin-
Thanks for taking the time to write this post.
Now Iger needs to makes copies of it and hand it to each and every manager so that they have THE guidline in which to work from. It is time for him to step up to the plate and do the job he was really hired to do--weed out those whom do not understand this outline and can not execute it properly. After all, this is primarily why Eisner was taken down in the first place. In the end, Iger will be the one taking responsiblity for these executives. If the proper team is not in place, I agree- it will all come crashing down. Who will bother to invest then?

Ted said...

Merlin, I agree with almost everything you have said in your comments, I just disagree with the value question.
I believe that Disney is still a good value (compared to all the other entertainment choices).
I agree that Disney shouldn't be "doing what everyone else is doing", but we shouldn't fault Disney for selling Cokes for $3. We SHOULD be faulting them for building poor attractions. If their parks and entertainment are BRILLIANT wouldn't it be worth the cost? (Within reason of course).

Merlin Jones said...

Captain Schemo said:

>>I consider myself to be a Disney "fanboy", in the best sense of the word.

He also said:

>>Disney fanboys<<

>>powerless Internet nerds<<

>>mutual consolation society<<

>>purists grumbling<<

>>lunatic doomsayers<<

>>regular civilians<<

>>such a person to be taken seriously<<

>>a huge waste of energy<<

Un huh.

Merlin Jones said...

>>We SHOULD be faulting them for building poor attractions. If their parks and entertainment are BRILLIANT wouldn't it be worth the cost? (Within reason of course).<<

That does seem to be the model for the future. But then the lowball offerings like the Poohs and Buglands really become even bigger issues, as well as closure of classic attractions and abandoned facilities and fewer shows or poor maintenence. The whole show needs to click.

Still, one hopes the Disney experience remains affordable to all income levels. Walt certainly was the great populist.

Anonymous said...

Captain Schnemo said:
>>how do you propose going about getting the right person to get it?<<

Merlin Jones said:
>>Shine a light on those who step-forward to build...<<

Perhaps that is the fundamental question and answer. At the absolute very least, the opportunity to come here and express our distaste for the inversion of philosophies so nicely gathered together in this article, gives us a place to refine our sensibilities, our choice of words and ability to express ourselves for a time when it will truly make a difference.

But beyond that, there is, again, an intangible quality that cannot be quantified by simply forcing the regime at Disney to "see the light". There is the invisible impact our words have on the people who do read this, and who, one day, will have the power to invoke change.

Think of all the great historical figures of whatever culture or aristocracy you hail from. In each of those individuals lives, were the words of other people who empowered them, inspired them to attain whatever laudable or seemingly unachievable goal their heart desired.

Often, great change does not come about as a result of facts or figures presented to the powers-that-be in document form. Rather, great change comes about from the words and thoughts of other people, from their justifiable complaints all the way down to their minor gripes and grievances, that shape the minds of one or two individuals who took it all in, and who use that knowledge for building better tomorrows.

It's unlikely that we'd ever see a change in the hearts and minds of a group of businessmen who's sensibilities are firmly built on the foundation of quantified stats and figures. But never underestimate the power your words have on those who do understand the "unquantifiable"; the "magic", if you will. We come together and complain, gripe, maybe even bitch every now and again. But when we do, the power of our words has impact on every single person who reads them. At some point, those words will have a greater impact on Disney then we could ever imagine, then any document or fact sheet could. Someone, or a group or someones, is listening intently. Someone who will one day hold the place and position to invoke the proper change and make Disney great again.

If you think about, our words may be shaping the next Walt Disney.

Anonymous said...

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There was a server error when I posted this originally. I'm double posting just ensure it went through. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused
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Captain Schnemo said:
>>how do you propose going about getting the right person to get it?<<

Merlin Jones said:
>>Shine a light on those who step-forward to build...<<

Perhaps that is the fundamental question and answer. At the absolute very least, the opportunity to come here and express our distaste for the inversion of philosophies so nicely gathered together in this article, gives us a place to refine our sensibilities, our choice of words and ability to express ourselves for a time when it will truly make a difference.

But beyond that, there is, again, an intangible quality that cannot be quantified by simply forcing the regime at Disney to "see the light". There is the invisible impact our words have on the people who do read this, and who, one day, will have the power to invoke change.

Think of all the great historical figures of whatever culture or aristocracy you hail from. In each of those individuals lives, were the words of other people who empowered them, inspired them to attain whatever laudable or seemingly unachievable goal their heart desired.

Often, great change does not come about as a result of facts or figures presented to the powers-that-be in document form. Rather, great change comes about from the words and thoughts of other people, from their justifiable complaints all the way down to their minor gripes and grievances, that shape the minds of one or two individuals who took it all in, and who use that knowledge for building better tomorrows.

It's unlikely that we'd ever see a change in the hearts and minds of a group of businessmen who's sensibilities are firmly built on the foundation of quantified stats and figures. But never underestimate the power your words have on those who do understand the "unquantifiable"; the "magic", if you will. We come together and complain, gripe, maybe even bitch every now and again. But when we do, the power of our words has impact on every single person who reads them. At some point, those words will have a greater impact on Disney then we could ever imagine, then any document or fact sheet could. Someone, or a group or someones, is listening intently. Someone who will one day hold the place and position to invoke the proper change and make Disney great again.

If you think about, our words may be shaping the next Walt Disney.

Merlin Jones said...

digital jedi:

The Force is most definitely with you!

captain schnemo said...

...the power of our words has impact on every single person who reads them.

True, but when the audience is a self-selected one such as this, these words are of limited power.

I agree with the sentiment that these outlets allow us to shape our words and ideas and help us to work out for ourselves just what exactly is wrong with Disney. I know a lot of people can see that something is off, and thoughtful media like this open their eyes and help give shape to their thoughts.

On the other hand, as I said, this has been going on for years now, and there aren't a lot of ideas here that I haven't seen expressed a decade ago. I think it's time to start thinking outside the box.

I understand the value of this as planting seeds, and the long term aspect is potentially important, but I've been watching this kind of thing go on for a very long time with no results except for the sharpened minds of those who have no power to effect change.

Given the amount of energy that's put into projects like this, however, I was hoping that there might be some motivation to move beyond this phase.

Anonymous said...

How do you put a price tag on the smile brought to a child's face when a cast member, after seeing the child's name, proclaims loudly to Mickey that 'Sam!', has finally arrived to see him and have his photo taken?

While we've bitched, moaned and complained about the paint, the attractions, the trash cans and the rest of the infrastructre, what about the staff? Walt himself said that you could build the most amazing park in the world, but its the people that make it happen. The Decade of Disney, greatly expanded WDW; but it had a terrible side-effect. The expansion placed the company in the dire position of needing 50,000 staff. They gave up the right to SELECT who they hired for they're current situation - "Give us a reason why we shouldn't hire you." The result is that the quality of the average cast member has declinded. I challenge you to stay at the Ritz-Carlton and then stay at the Grand Floridian. The contrast is nothing short of depressing. You may argue that the Ritz is "THE RITZ" and that no one can match them, but remember one thing - There was a time when DISNEY was the pinnacle of service placed there by the staff that they hired upholding Disney Tradition not because they were told to, but because of who they were.

David H
Cast Member '93 - '03

Mr Banks said...

I'm left scratching my head while reading Captain Schnemo's comments. I've never sensed a bigger "Can't Do" attitude in my life. Walt would have thrown him out of the board room before he'd gotten the cap off his pen.

As this blog started in the halls of Pixar and grew, I can only say that if it was ONLY read by the generous handful of Disney Park aficionados that work there and fanned its flames then it would have served its purpose.

I've always known that the Pixar contingent 'gets it' but it's SO refreshing to find so many other passionate Imagineering fans also get it.

That SaveDisney.com moved mountains is reason enough to keep the debate open.

Disneyland is still your land.

PARISINJUNE said...

If I may-
Can we please add a #7 to our list for "Finest in Family Entertainment": A clean image.

It is time for Disney to clean up her act! Walt is most likely vomiting at this point in time with things like Grey's Anatomys recent issue, A constant drunken Linsay Lohan, A foul group of middle aged women on a panel spewing idiology and crap, and a group of overweight teenagers whose backsides look like 45 year old woman whose given birth to five children.

Whatever happened to the Julie Andrews and Annette's of Hollywood? Give me a group of women, like Anne Hathaway, whom actually know how to act in public and on screen. It's time for Iger to pull the plug on much of this mess. It's time Disney start demanding better of it's image!

captain schnemo said...

I've never sensed a bigger "Can't Do" attitude in my life. Walt would have thrown him out of the board room before he'd gotten the cap off his pen.

Walt was an optimist, but also a realist. You can't deny that 10 years of people saying what's been said here has had almost no effect in WDW.

You also can't deny that Disney execs think we are crazy and should be ignored, and that this strategy is currently working out just fine as far as they are concerned.

You need the ability to understand what is motivating the other side if you ever expect to accomplish anything. Know your audience, as Walt did. You also need to realistically understand how you are being perceived.

What I'm saying is that this blog is very good, as have been many of the other things that have been written in this vein for at least a decade by myself and others. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with this sort of writing, only that an honest analysis of the situation is that it's not doing enough.

Some are so beaten down that they think the greatest thing they can hope for is the removal of something they don't like (eg, the Wand, the Hat, etc.).

savedisney.com had Roy. We need to figure out what we have that can make a difference.

I thought perhaps people might be interested in a little innovation, just as Walt always wanted to move beyond his past accomplishments.

Merlin Jones said...

Captain Schnemo offers:

>>I'd simply like to see all this energy transferred into something functional<<

>>I was hoping that there might be some motivation to move beyond this phase.<<

>>I think it's time to start thinking outside the box.<<

>>We need to figure out what we have that can make a difference.<<

>>I thought perhaps people might be interested in a little innovation<<

Okay, Captain, you have our interest. A new idea is on the tip of your keyboard, but you haven't quite spilled it yet...

In this thread, we have been inspired by Walt and Roy's "Foundations of the Disney Business," and now you are offering something new and positive - - a new approach to acheiving these things in today's stubborn business-centered atmosphere - - That's great!

Beyond continued negative suggestions: to shut down internet conversation, ideas, analysis, criticism, watchdogging and historical inspiration (your opinions in that regard are duly noted) or pointing out the "geeks" (we know who we are and are comfortable with it) and reminding us how certain Disney execs may feel negatively about creative passion (something many of us know all-too-well and first-hand) or stressing the futility of it all while profits are high (we hear you) or underscoring our powerlessness (got it) - - Beyond these "realist" projections - you clearly have something important and positive you want to add.

I'm sure we all welcome fresh approaches to Re-Imagineering. We seek inspiration by the definition of the blog.

What is your proactive idea to affect positive change - - to compliment and perpetuate the Foundations of the Disney Business?

captain schnemo said...

It seems that you continue to misunderstand me.

A new idea is on the tip of your keyboard, but you haven't quite spilled it yet...

My intent is not come here with some great idea that will save the World, only to encourage discussion on the matter. What's being done is not working, and I think it's worthwhile to put some energy into thinking about what might.

Based on the assumption that change must come from within, perhaps some targetting of Lasseter personally might have some effect. He at least is willing to give lip service to "magic" (although I am not impressed with his actions so far), so he could be a logical starting point.

...to shut down internet conversation, ideas, analysis, criticism, watchdogging...

Never have I suggested that these things be shut down. I think blogs such as this one are important. Just keeping this line of thought active has value.

At the same time, on its own, these articles do not actually impact WDW. If something else needs to be done, it reasonable to imagine that the people who participate in this site would be the most likely to do something.

You've collected a group of people with a lot of passion and energy, and I hope that we can figure out a way to, as I said, do more than simply record and analyze the downfall of something we all treasure.

...pointing out the "geeks" (we know who we are and are comfortable with it)...

A geek who is comfortable with their geekdom should not take offense to being addressed as one. I take pride in my Disney geektitude and meant no disrespect by addressing my peers as such.

There are many things working against us and simply acknowledging that they exist should not be cause for conflict. As Clint said, we've got to "know our limitations" and then work from there.

I am encouraged by Kevin Yee's Decling by Degrees columns. They address problems which are on a much more practical level than those discussed here, but they present an indisputable picture of things that need to be done.

I don't know if there's a way to translate this report of tangible issues into the more philosophical realm that is discussed here, but Al Lutz gained access and credibility similar basic efforts and positive changes have been made at Disneyland that go beyond chipping paint and decaying signage. (Whether this is a direct result of Al's work is debatable, I suppose, but it gives one hope.)

The point is that even though Al continues to preach to the converted, he also worked out a way to communicate realities to Disney. At the very least, he made the point that not everything that comes from an Internet fan site is nonsense to be ignored. He got those with the power to make change into the habit of checking online articles and actually responding to them.

Whether or not we have an angle to play here (in terms of WDW) is not known to me, but I would hope that no one is hostile to the idea of looking for one.

Nothing wrong with a little brainstorming.

Anonymous said...

I recognize you have the best interests of Disney at heart, Captain Schnemo. But while you mean well, by saying that 10 years of "blogging", as it were, has had absolutly no effect, you inadvertently diminish the endeavours made over the years and in this blog, as if they've been empty words. As if they've had no power. I'm certain that was not your intention, but it was the impact felt first, nonetheless.

I don't think anyone wouldn't jump feet first into a new, viable graduation of what we do here on this blog. I would, no doubt, be trampled by the authors of this blog trying to get on that line.

Maybe I'm being presumptuous here (more then likely) but maybe the next, or future, blog article(s) could be about just that. The options that the regular Guest, the past and present Cast member and the former Imagineer have to facilitate real, effective change. Protests? Signed petitions? Carefully placed moles?

I'm not trying to be silly with those statements, it's just this is new territory for me personally. I would be curious to see what the more experienced would ascertain to be more or less feasible in this area.

Merlin Jones said...

The best use of the internet in the past has been to help shine a light of truth and information and inspiration on issues and problems with the actual product. Calls to action can be less successful or even divert eyes and ears from the discussion at hand.

These articles are read and taken seriously by enough people to have an effect on the merit of words, ideas, truths and pictures alone.

The effective authors use their words to support those who "get it" and let those who do not show themselves (and their work) for what it is - - sooner or later they always do.

Knowledge is powerful, which is why corporations dislike the opnness of the web so much. Unlike publicity and publicists and marketing, it can't be controlled or distorted, even by negative terms and associations or group facilitation. The passion persists despite all efforts to contain it.

Ten years of Truth online has done wonders for Disneyland - even if its been slow going - and hopefully the trend will continue across the company with Pixar in a leadership postion, and Bob Iger showing a management openness not seen in some years.

There is cause for optimism that at least some principles of Walt and Roy's "Foundations for the Disney Business" will continue.

But it will only happen if we help pass those ideals on to new generations and continue to give those ideas a platform. Collectively, we are the ones who keep the torch - - so we must keep that fire burning. We can't let the theories of the founding Disneys, the Nine Old Men, the Imagineers - the artists and craftsmen who created commercial miracles - dwindle to a distant memory.

Walt was seldom a >realist<, but always an >idealist<, and I hope we continue to follow his lead. Some have been keeping the fire lit for decades already. Like Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life," it may not always show, but over time, does make a difference.

Given the passionate discussion and debate in this thread on an article that dates back 30 years or more, I think the contributors to Re-Imagineering are right on track.

Keep shining the light, boys. The old ideas still draw a crowd.

Just think what could happen if applied to the new possibilities...

Mr Banks said...

I'm fully convinced that, if given the chance, Captain Schnemo would have hunted down Martin Luther King after his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech and begged him to stop with all the blustery words and high-minded pontificating, to quit while he was ahead, that there couldn't POSSIBLY be any way his words could affect positive change in the future!

The passionate debate this blog and others like it have inspired in and out of the Disney company since Bob Iger got down to business has been a joy to behold.

Positive change isn't going to happen overnight and there will be plenty of wrong-headed flops in the interim but there a healthy number of incredibly talented and intelligent creative leaders now wrapped up in the fold to warrant optimism.

And these are the very people who not only pay attention to 'internet conversation, ideas, analysis, criticism, watchdogging' but actively celebrate and solicit it.

All of us at Re-Imagineering are honored to keep on with the drumbeat.

captain schnemo said...

I'm fully convinced that, if given the chance, Captain Schnemo would have hunted down Martin Luther King after his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech and begged him to stop with all the blustery words and high-minded pontificating...

No, you're not.

(And, again, I have never advocated that anyone stop blogging.)

What is so wrong with even considering the possibility of doing anything other than exactly what you have been doing (which has so far not produced visible results)?

MLK did more than speak words in a closed room to his friends, call it a day, and hope the innate goodness of them somehow managed to seep into the world.

Yes, things have changed in Disneyland, but DL is a fundamentally different environment from WDW, and, to the extent that the online community had any impact at all, it was not a result of only the kind of pontificating done in this blog.

As I have said repeatedly, I think this blog is important, but it's naive to think that the job is done and now all we have to do is wait for the sheer power of your words to overwhelm a multi-billion dollar corporation.

...by saying that 10 years of "blogging", as it were, has had absolutly no effect, you inadvertently diminish the endeavours made over the years and in this blog, as if they've been empty words.

I do no such thing, I merely report the facts as they stand. Reality is there whether we like it or not.

I am encouraged to see that there have been discussions about these topics under the Iger regime, but so far things have continued to spiral downward at WDW. Projects which should have been dismissed out of hand have been given the green light and simple (and cheap) steps towards improving the parks have not been taken. (It also seems unlikely that Lasseter will be able to control himself and slow the random Pixarization of the parks.)

Surely it is possible that this is just the end of the Eisner era working itself out, but without evidence to the contrary, and with a proven track record of ineffectiveness, I do not understand why trying to actually accomplish something viewed as an attack.

I hestitate to bother to make other suggestions, given the way you have simply ignored mine (and those of digital jedi), but I will continue. I suppose I'll take a page from the bloggers, wish upon a star, and wait for someone else to make the dreams come true...?

Have you considered trying to package something for the Orlando Sentinel? (This should jibe well with the keep-doing-what-we're-doing plan.) The Orlando local media is about the only outlet where this kind of talk could possibly be taken seriously. Given that their economy lives and dies with Disney, they are averse to printing negative stories about Disney, but there are ways to go about it.

Contact the tech section of the paper and give them a free story about the Disney "blogosphere". That will make them seem trendy and in touch without having to generate much content on their own.

Or frame it as a human interest story...citizen reporters who visit the parks and (gasp!) have ideas about them.

At the very least, please take a moment to consider that this is not the absolute pinnacle of what you could do (and what you would enjoy doing) to work towards your goals.

Merlin Jones said...

>>The Orlando local media is about the only outlet where this kind of talk could possibly be taken seriously. <<

Only recently, both the Los Angeles Times and OC Register jumped on the Disneyland's-Tom Sawyer Island-turns-to-Pirate Island story after it was reported on the net - - and that exposure helped alter the course of the project, potentially saving part of Disneyland history.

Nobody cares? Sure they do. People everywhere have an emotional connection to the Walt Disney material of their youth and want to help pass it on to the next generation. It's the corporate types that often tend to dismiss this idea, as they tout branding, product, profit and loss theory. They can miss the important emotional component that actually sells "Disney."

In major media, the light is better focused on that common emotional bond and product than net "personalities." Badly maintained facilities or poorly received attractions are not subjective, while people, priorities and politics can be.

captain schnemo said...

...the Los Angeles Times and OC Register...

As I've said, the WDW situation is completely different from the DL situation. There isn't the same sense of history and the AP holders aren't as engaged. Test Track is considered a great success. The sort of things you mention aren't present in the WDW environment.

SMacLeod said...

Awesome post.

1983horizons1 said...

Why is it so difficult to understand what Shnemo is trying to say?

Of course blogs are important and to an extent useful for swaying what Disney does, but they’re not going to bring back EPCOT Center or rid the Magic Kingdom of its seven Fantasylands. Using bogs which evaluate why Disney was so great is only the first step to making Disney great again. We’ve created a base and now working off of that base we must find a way to get even closer to the inner-workings of the company. We shouldn’t just abandon everything we’ve done, and you’ve done here on Reimagineering, but we need to continue “moving forward” if you will, rather than ONLY blogging. We can’t build upward without the base you’ve created, but we still need to build upward at some point.

At this point, the only thing Disney cares about is money, so the only way to convince them to do anything is to take control of their money. A boycott in the name of the Disney blogging and internet community is the only way I can see Disney ever listening strongly to our opinions. However, we will never be able to put together something as grand as that unless we can first agree that something more needs to be done.