Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The Blessing Of A Curse (Theme parks)...
It's funny how life works.
I mean sometimes we expect something and when it doesn't happen we feel it's the end of the world. Or sometimes we focus on the negative things that have happened to us. And later down the line we realize that what happened helped us.
Made us stronger.
That is what has happened to the Walt Disney Company.
Most people feel that DCA is a disappointment. WDS would be a colossal disappointment. HKDL is an avoidable disappointment. But you know what?
I'm glad they happened. Really... I am.
Why, you wonder?
Well, if you examine the administration of Michael Eisner you can see a disturbing trend. If you look at the majority of the first decade he ran the company it was a very positive run. With the exception of a few things(ahem, Port Disney... ahem, WestCot) it was a very successful and smartly ran period. I've mentioned it before, but in 1994 when Frank Wells died in that helicopter crash the whole Disney world changed. Eisner lost his balance... the yin to his yang was gone. Wells was the counter-balance to Eisner. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire... he completed Eisner. With him gone the ego that was kept in check was let loose and we had the second half of Eisner reign. The one that turned out to be utterly disastrous.
But corporations like people, will make mistakes because they are ran by people. And just like people, corporations will go through times where they make bad decisions and if they are smart they'll learn from it. They'll grow... and respond to the bad decisions they made. Hopefully for the better.
Think about what would have happened had DCA been a success. What would have been the response had WDS been a roaring success in Paris. How Hong Kong would have responded had HKDL had unbelievably high attendance.
What would have happened?
Those parks would have shown Eisner the way for the future of the Mouse House. We'd be looking at Micro-Parks. Bland, unthemed parks would have become the norm for Disney. We wouldn't likely have a new park coming or an incredibly large makeover of DCA.
Instead we have a track record over the past decade of how NOT to construct a theme park. Now, since Disney has been designing these parks for over 40 years you would have thought they would have known better. Hubris can affect companies as well as people. Sometimes it's good to get their attitude adjusted. Eisner and his collection of Suits had their egos cut down closer to size. Maybe not down to where they belong, but closer to the point where they realized they had made a tragic error in judgment. The Suits thought that taking Knotts/Six Flaggs Land and slapping the Disney name on it was enough to bring people in droves. It didn't happen and they learned... more importantly, the stock holders learned. They finally realized the damaged Eisner had done to the company over the last decade.
It was painful. But it was necessary... Where do you think we would be today had this not happened.
Would we be getting the incredible reboot of DCA?
Would we be seeing WDI drawing up proposals to turn WDS into a much better park?
Would we be seeing the expansion ideas that are on the drawing boards for HKDL?
Would we be seeing the reworking and eventual growth of WDW that is supposed to happen in a few years?
No, we wouldn't. And I know it would have been nice that we could have avoided this painful chapter in a company we all love. But sometimes you have to go through the fire to realize what you have and where you're going. Sometimes you can't see what is in front of you. Sometimes you don't believe what is most obvious. Sometimes you feel you can do no wrong. As humans we fail all the time. Michael Eisner felt he could do no wrong... and he was wrong. But now that we're on the other side of it...
Don't you feel the Walt Disney Company is a better place? It's management is better. It realizes what went wrong in the past. It will try not make those mistakes in the future. Growing pains are not comfortable, but sometimes they are necessary. The next decade could be a Golden Age for Disney and its fan base. Hopefully Bob Iger will have the wisdom to avoid Eisner's mistakes... or at least most of the mistakes. He's not perfect of course.
After all, he's only human.