Thursday, July 12, 2007
The Success Of Failure...
I've heard all the chatter. I've listened to the rumors. I've ease-dropped on the comments people have made about it.
What am I talking about?
The people on various sites that seem to talk about "sources" at the Walt Disney Company that are just waiting for Pixar to fall flat on it's face. These people that are quoted seem to relish the day the little company in Emeryville turns out a dud. They wait, rubbing their hands, fingers crossed and eyes darting around wondering if this is the time they can say "See, John Lasseter isn't perfect"... Sigh...
No one has ever said he's perfect. I don't even believe he can walk on water. But certain people seem intent on proving that the man has flaws and Pixar's not perfect. It shows how no success in Hollywood goes without the punishment. Some of these people are the Suits in middle management. Some are the Executives left over from the Eisner Era that want to wash their hands of any blame for the mediocrity that's been churned out over the past decade. Some happen to be the wonderful Bean Counters that Lasseter told have no business being in the animation building because they can't draw. Then of course there are the views of some people on the internet that report the box office numbers that don't match up to the last film. As if every film HAS to make more than the last.
You get my point?
The focus of this post is mainly on the ones who work for Disney. Most of these people are suffering from a severe case of the "Envies". Quite a few are by my definition "Deadweight" and will hopefully be sending out job resumes to other film companies by the end of the year. But that's only a semi-hope. I don't expect Iger, Catmull and Lasseter will have excised themselves of all the negative nabobs by the end of this year... or ever for that matter. All companies have their bad apples. But I think that these people should reflect on the fact that they work for a company that happens to thrive upon the success of it's Creatives. If they fail... somewhere down the line, maybe not now, but at a point in time it'll come back and haunt them. It may even cost them THEIR jobs. These people wishing for John Lasseter to fail is akin to a member of your family wanting one of their siblings to fail because of the success he's had and they have not. Some of these groups will point to the box office or merchandise sells or the favorite beaten to death story of Pixar's purchase price. None look at this from a long perspective and most don't have any perspective to work with in the first place.
Take for example how everyone was so disappointed with "Cars" when it didn't do as well as the last Pixar film. Even though it made close to half a billion world wide. The letdown was tempered by the fact that "Cars" merchandise sold so much better than was expected. Now as we've reported earlier, "Cars" is on track to make two billion dollars in merchandising this year and that's without a film to back it up. I'd say that the majority of executives over at Team Disney are pretty happy with the situation. I sure know the ones in Disney Consumer Products are. There's supposed to be a new cars short that is working it's way down the production process which will only add to the credibility of these characters. And I'm not saying this because "Cars" is a favorite of mine. If you remember my review of "Ratatouille" I placed it almost last in my opinion of Pixar movies. Still there are those that always see a dark lining in every silver cloud and refuse to think about anything further than the next fiscal quarter.
I'm certainly glad the founder of this company never thought like this. Most people forget that "Snow White" was a tremendous success, but most of Walt's other animated films up until after World War II were considered failures or disappointments at the box office. What would we think of someone criticizing Disney for it's decision to make these films that are now considered classics? History has forgotten that these films were initially disappointments...over the passage of time we've come to realize them for their value and the company has more importantly profited greatly from them. It's my belief that the films released by Pixar will be properties that can be mined well into the future. The hand-ringing certain people on Wall Street and other members of the web community have been doing will be forgotten. The films will not. The stories won't be forgotten. The ideas will remain and the profits that the nay-sayers wonder about will drown out their cries. Hopefully, the people that wish for part of their own company to fail will have moved on to bankrupt and ruin some other company. Maybe the Suits that helped lead Walt Disney Feature Animation to this point can move over to the Weinstein Company and help them with the brilliant animation decisions they've made.
The company is now being led by people who realize that the business community takes an instant gratification view toward profitability. But Bob Iger, Steve Jobs, Dick Cook, Ed Catmull and Uncle John are thinking about long term. Not next year or five years, but what will the company look like in a decade or more. I realize that changes to these plans will be made. Changes always happen... they must and will happen because life throws problems at you. But the Walt Disney Company now has the vision and direction, which tempered with its current leadership has the courage to follow through with its plan and to weather the storm of negativity that comes its way. Am I saying that they are perfect? Am I saying that there are no flaws to this plan? No to both. WDC is being run by people and people make mistakes. But I believe Iger and his crew have the unique prism of Eisner's reign to guide it clear of most of the difficulties that are ahead. My one worry is the direction that Jay Rasulo is taking with his "Disney Parks" strategy. His direction has the potential to turn certain aspects of the resorts into "McDisney" destinations. Luckily, we have Lasseter's sway with Iger to temper his strategy and as Lasseter's power grows he seems to be a correcting compass for some of Jay's plans for the resort... not all of them, but a good deal of them. Were Matt Ouimet to take control of the Parks and Resorts I'd consider this to be Disney's strongest leadership since Walt Disney ran the company.
You remember how people critiqued Walt in his decisions? How "Snow White" was being talked about in Hollywood as "Disney's Folly"? How "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" was going to bankrupt the company. That anyone investing in that carnival Disney was building down in Anaheim was crazy. Many times Walt Disney showed everyone just how wrong they were about him. Iger and crew are not Walt, but I have a feeling they too will show the critics how wrong they are. It's easy to think negative. It's hard to succeed, otherwise everyone would already be a success. The only success these people have is in failure. What a horrible way to see Disney... to view the world... to live your life. They wish to have Lasseter and Disney fail, but it's their own failure they seem to be most afraid of. For Lasseter to fail helps them validate their worth and erase the bitter sting of the bad decisions they made.
I don't envy them...