Monday, August 20, 2007
Phophets Of Profits...
When it comes to the entertainment business, money isn't king...
No matter what people tell you, no matter what opinion they have about something, someone or someplace... nothing is as important as success. And success is measured by money in Hollywood even greater than the rest of the world. Others might tell you it was about the art or they're doing some project to save the earth... trust me, they're not. It's about the all-mighty-dollar. Not that there aren't other causes or dreams that people have... but when everything is brushed aside creativity is a passenger, not the driver in the entertainment industry. That's why we love Disney. That's what made Walt so special. Not because he didn't care about business(he did... but he let Roy handle that side because Roy was so much better at it), but because he was able to bring the creative process to the front where we didn't really notice the business side.
As much as we would like to think Michael Eisner got the boot for his disastrously bad creative mistakes over the last decade, it was the company's financial performance that put the last nail in his CEO coffin. Now, it could be argued that the reason for the poor performance was his creative decisions, but it all boils down to profits. Shareholders wouldn't give a "Ratatouille's assets" if money was still coming in like it had been during the first decade of Eisner. Quality and creativity be damned...
So looking at the new team in charge of the Walt Disney Company it's refreshing to see that their most important focus is...
Well yes, it is. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing and in this particular case it's a very good thing. Something that might help keep the company firing on all creative cylinders into the next decade... hopefully, even beyond.
Bob Iger has been in charge less than two years, but the way he deals with company is a world away from the corporate culture that Eisner instilled in the halls of Team Disney throughout the last decade... maybe even his entire tenure. While his plans definitely are aimed toward growth for the company and he is seeking other avenues to mine its properties there is a belief within the walls of the current leadership that many of the mistakes of the past were over quality.
Bad decisions = bad quality.
Unlike the way things were ran under Eisner... Iger seems to be following the motto: "Hire people smarter than you and let them do their job". He understands the problems faced and wants to make sure the right people are in place over the coming years. His ego doesn't seem to get in his way when it comes to handing out power and responsibilities. In-fact, the current structure with Lasseter and his people in charge reflects the first time since Walt where the Creatives are in charge of many executive decisions. There still are holdover Suits from the past regime that still don't like this, but thankfully there are fewer to put up a protest. Jay Rasulo not withstanding, the control over-which the Creatives have is a refreshing change and it has only come about in the last year and a half.
Iger has major growth plans. The profit motive is his motive, but Eisner's errors have given him a clearer roadmap to follow. Lasseter is no stranger to profits either and despite being concerned with the artist's point of view, he also wants the company to succeed and grow it's profits. And then there is the shadow behind Bob Igers chair...
He may not be the Chairman of the Walt Disney Company Board, but his persona casts a very powerful presence during the board meetings. Having come back and turned Apple, Inc. around into the darling of Wall Street while still running Pixar has compounded the mystic of Jobs' "Reality Distortion Field"... Also the weight of his friendship with Ed Catmull and Lasseter helps temper any flack they've received from other Suits within the walls of Burbank.
The record profits that Apple has been having, the relationship that it has with the media and the uber secrecy it has surrounding product launches have slowly crept into the fabric of Disney corporate culture. While not spread throughout the entire company, the changes are profound. There is a feeling in the air that has been absent since probably the opening of DCA(but not necessarily because of it).
With Jobs' finger on the pulse of pop-culture with the creation of iTunes, iPod and the iPhone among others such red hot properties, Iger and others on the Board have gotten direction as to where the technological opportunities can be explored from one of the preeminent leaders in this industry. Expect more influence of Disney's technological roadmap to be given to Jobs as well as a larger integration with services offered by Apple itself.
With Ed Catmull handling the direction and environment of the animation studios and John Lasseter handling the creative part of the animation studios... along with an ever-growing list of "Walt-Like" responsibilities around the rest of the company, this team plan on getting the heart of the Walt Disney company back at the top of its game.
Over in the live-action film making part of Walt Disney Studios you have Dick Cook and Oren Aviv respectively, seem to be handling that part of the studios very well. Disney's new slate of films will reflect of very broad range of branded entertainment intended to capitalize on the family label. While Aviv is new to this job and some are wary of him because of his marketing background... many, Dick Cook himself champion this young executive as having the right stuff to not only keep WDS successful, but even more profitable.
Now there's nothing wrong with making money. That's what corporations are created to do after-all. But it's good to see that many of the decisions in the near future, and hopefully the long term future will be based on creative decisions. If bad decisions equalled bad quality... hopefully over the coming years the creative decisions out of Burbank and Glendale will be good ones... my feeling is they will. In fact, I'm predicting it...
Not that I'm a prophet or anything...
Posted by Honor Hunter at 9:34 AM
Labels: Apple, Bob Iger, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney Company
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