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...

9 comments:

UncleMike said...

Bravo to you for your site and your post. I recently took Jim Hill to task for this very thing, for his relentless anti-Pixar/Lasseter/Catmull agenda, and made pains to show -- using his own data -- that his claims were based on cherry-picked facts taken out of context, that he wasn't considering the long view as you so clearly address it here, and point by point dismantled his arguments with facts and references.

For my pains my posts were deleted without comment and my account was banned. Lord knows if others have enjoyed this treatment.

Such a nice man, and he's among those eager to see John & co. fail.

Depressing. What a way to spend your life. I can't quite figure his motivation, but I can only assume it's either a ploy to drive up visits to his website, or he's bitter and angry that the Pixarian cone of silence has descended on WDAS and his contacts and thus his imagined "insider" status have dried up (since disgruntled suits are the only types he seems to be able to get dish from anymore).

Or maybe both, or neither. He won't even cop to having an agenda, which is really silly -- he presents this stuff as honest journalism. At least own up to it. I don't know why Chuck V. even takes his calls.

Anyway, thanks for a consistently informative and enjoyable blog.

Robert C said...

I've been visiting this blog for quite some time. It has to be one of the best, if not THE BEST, on the net today.

Their are those who thrive on negativity and are just waiting for any little mistake. For a company that they so passionately "care" about, they become vultures and await the final kill.

This has to be one of the most exciting times in Disney Co. history. I appreciate your refreshing views leading us in this celebration.

Ok...enough kissing @$$

Unclemike: Great comments as well

Anonymous said...

Great article! I totally agree with you, especially in regards to a certain website that keeps posting negative Pixar stories.

One thing though... PLEASE use "its" and "it's" correctly. "It's" always equals "It is"... not possessive.

So one of your sentences reads: "But the Walt Disney Company now has the vision and direction, which tempered with IT IS current leadership has the courage to follow through with IT IS plan and to weather the storm of negativity that comes IT IS way."

It seems so nitpicky but it would improve you already-great writing vastly.

Biblioadonis aka George said...

Honor--beautiful post.

It seems like so many people are shooting from the hip when they post to forums and blogs.

It is great to see some clarity and insight being brought forth in the Disney interweb.

Keep up the great work and the great posts!

Anonymous said...

Honor-- thanks for the great article you've presented here today. I feel that too many people these days want Lasseter to fail and fall flat on his face. I am particularly glad that Lasseter is also helping Iger in the Disney parks. I feel that Rasulo isn't going to do anything too "amazing" in the future, and it's up to them to correct Rasulo's faults. With this, I hope they can start fixing up DCA!

I really think this is the time to begin celebrating for what may become one of the best Disney eras for a long time. We can only hope that in the future, Disney will once again TRULY become the happiest place on Earth.

By the way, did they approve of the DCA budget, yet?

Anonymous said...

The Pixar Rat film is probably the best i've seen this summer. its sad that its going so unappreciated. 120M is still 120M!!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article and I couldn't agree more. Well said.

Someone above mentions Rasulo - I've come to believe that he's still at the root of a lot of problems at WDC. After all... WDS Paris... yikes. I'm hoping that somehow someone finds a way to replace him with a 'real' creative. Any gossip on this front?

/bsdb said...

And jumping on the nitpicking wagon...

it's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," not "Beneath."

RayChase said...

For whatever reason, too much success turns love to hate. This happened to Disney towards the end of the "success" years in the 90s; the Disney bashing began.

And the bashing grew as Pixar started to emerge as a force in animation; of course the Disney lay offs later in the decade didnt help.

As all the love switched to Pixar I told a friend "Watch, in a few years everyone will be hating on Pixar..people love to hate whoever is on top".

A low and behold....