Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Suits Vs. Creatives, Heroes Vs. Villains...


After some of the e-mail I've received of late, I figured it was time we labeled the players in this game. A scorecard is in order...

You know that proverbial story of a you man at the ball park... shouting with a pamphlet in his hand - "Get your scorecard, you can't tell a player without a scorecard!".

So I deemed it necessary to come up with one for the "Walt Disney Company Game"...

Now in this game as I've talked endlessly about there are heroes. There are villains. There are people who have switched sides and people who could do no wrong in Disney lore.

Having just read the screenplay to "Thor" by Mark Protosevich... which is awesome, I might add. It's like "Lord of the Rings" meets Conan/13th Warrior while still staying true to the comic and the Nordic legend. This will be a great movie if the right casting takes place. But, I digress... anyway, the great Nordic gods (the Aesir) face off against their enemy/opponents, the Frost Giants (the Jotun). Now this is not to say that there are good and evil people within the Disney company. But there are good and bad... both are trying for what they see is best for themselves and the company. I'm sure neither want bad to be done to the company as Paul Pressler never really intended to have the company be perceived as it while he was in charge of the parks. Even people whose action result in grave harm usually do so without ever intending to get that result. Heroes, Villains and Adversaries. Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has the Joker, Spidey has Doc Ock... and in the Disney World we have our pathos. All part of of the Disney echo-sphere, I believe.

Like the gods of mythology, we have two sides in this game...

On one side of the company we have the Creatives. These are the ones within the company that believe in creativity. Art is the highest achievement. The creation of something noble, something entertaining that captivates the observer. These would be the Imagineers, the directors, writers and other storytellers with in the company.

The on the other side of the company we have the Suits. These are the people whose main concern is the bottom line. The essential part of the company where cost is all that matters. Everything has to be looked at through the prism of how it affects the bottom line.

Now this belief that the Suits have is really not a bad idea. The Disney company can't spend endless amounts of money on projects... it does have a finite supply and it's goal is to make more. I have no fault with this general idea.

Now before I begin, I wish to say one doesn't have to be bad to be a Suit. As well, someone may not be good who is a Creative. And lastly, some people can be a combination of both.

Ok, are we clear? Good, here we go...

Bob Iger(CEO & President, Walt Disney Company) - A Suit. But a prime examples of how one should run the company. He has a clear grasp of where his expertise is and how to cultivate and mine the talent of those around him. And the one thing he has over Eisner... his ego doesn't seem to need to be pampered to let everyone know that he's the boss. The results speak for themselves.

Steve Jobs(CEO, Apple Inc., Walt Disney Company Board Member) - A Creative with strong organizational skills... Jobs used to be just a creative known for his temper tantrums, but his years out in the wilderness away from Apple served him well. When he saw the potential of Pixar, after initially thinking it would be a software company is a prime example of a keen eye toward creativity and quality. As well as his return to Apple as it's triumphant savior, his position on the board is a hugh asset to guide the Walt Disney Company into the next decade... both for Suits and Creatives. Oh, and being the largest share holder in the company counts for something.

John Lasseter(Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering) - A Creative. Of course he has Suit skills, but like Walt his primary focus is on the creative aspects of the company. John is all about the creative process and his dealings with WDI, WDAS and Pixar are directed toward relationships that fuel and stoke this process. As I've said in an earlier post... John is Walt Disney 2.0.

Ed Catmull(President, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios) - A Suit. But one with excellent organization abilities. He's a brilliant organizer of internal structure of business. His ability to tap talent and make it grow while watching the bottom line is a prime skill that will help him guide WDAS back to its former glory. Think of Ed as the new Roy Disney.

Tony Baxter(Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering and Head of WDI development for Disneyland Park) - A Creative. Tony has handled Suit responsibilities for a long time, but he is a prime example of a Creative. He's done good and bad, creatively speaking... but mostly the good that has come from his proposals greatly outweigh the negative. It should also be said that most of the bad projects he were in charge of were underfunded and not his fault.

Tom Fitzgerald(Former Executive Vice President and Senior Creative Executive, Head of WDI development for Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot Park and Disney's Hollywood Studios Park) - A Suit... that used to be a Creative. Tom is a Creative, but over the past decade he's recessed back into the order of a Suit... so much so that some of the creativity he once had has been forgotten. Now that he's been put in charge of WDW we will see if he can regain that creative spark under the watchful eye of John Lasseter.

Joe Rodhe(Head of WDI development for Disney's Animal Kingdom Park) - A Creative. Joe came up with the creation of DAK in the early 90's and has been its head creatively since the beginning. While Joe has the skills to deal with Suits and knows his limitations, he is at heart a Creative... always was, always will be.

Bob Weiss(Head of WDI development for Disney's California Adventure Park) - A Creative/Suit, having run departments within WDI and then his own company in Florida: Design Island Associates. Bob is one of the best examples of what I call a blend of both. Based on his designs for Disney-MGM Studios Paris and Disney's America he knows how to properly balance both... now with DCA he's been given the chance to show his chops. By the end of the decade we should be seeing some prime examples of his work.

Michael Eisner(Former CEO & Chairman, Walt Disney Company) - A Suit. A Suit that had taste but let it fly out the window when ego and the bottom line got in the way. Eisner has creative taste... after-all, he's the one that realized the WDW property was undervalued and set out to exploit it. His first step was the decision to build the Grand Floridian which I commend him for. His support of Creatives in his first decade earn high marks... his abandonment of them during his last decade show ones own self worth can be very destructive.

Paul Pressler(Former Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) - A Suit of the highest mode. The Uber Suit... Pressler was Eisner's Angel of the Death of Creativity. He will NOT be missed. I could say much more about Paul, but that would be giving him much more time and space than he deserves... way more.

Jay Rasulo(Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) - A Suit. An uncreative Suit to be specific. The only thing Rasulo has going for him is the fact that he stays out of the way of Lasseter because of Uncle John's direct access to Iger. In turn, he winds up looking good from letting Lasseter push through projects that Rasulo wouldn't had the wonder boy not been hired by Iger to begin with.

Matt Ouimet(Former President, Disneyland Resort) - A Suit. Just like Iger though, one with great skills dealing with the Creatives. He'd make an absolutely outstanding head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts... as I say this I pray Rasulo is planning a retirement party and Iger is looking up Ouimet on his rolodex.

Lastly, we have...

Bothans(Imagineers, WDC Executives, Various Park Employees, and Mysterious Others) - These are the ones within the Mouse's kingdom that are working on preserving the legacy. These are the ones that risk sending Blue Sky Disney and other websites the info to give us hope or warn us of impending doom. In the last two years they've been mainly harbingers of hope... let's hope their position doesn't change anytime soon.

Beyond all these players we're all just geeks... but Disney Geeks.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should include the titles of those individuals as well, even though some are obvious others are not.

Anonymous said...

Let's just hope many Bothans don't have to "die' in order to bring you this information.

Honor Hunter said...

Agreed... agreed. I want my Bothans health and living long, long lives.

Anonymous said...

I am a glad to read that you have a great reality on the good bad and ugly. As you can tell by my postings that I am not a "yes" man. I do believe that there are really good people in both areas mentioned. At WDI ..I believe that Tom can overcome his latest faults if he finds his inner child again.

Tony though ..is a different animal and do not ever be lured into believing he has creativity. His creativity is lifting concepts..ideas and taking credit by making deals with the brass. I gather he wants to turn Disneyland into Baxterland.

Although I have mentioned before that he took BTMR from Marc Davis..then threw the WRE portion to the accounting wolves. Figment and Dreamfinder really came from some great minds at Kodak. Toon Town started out as Duckberg and was proposed by then Imagineer Bob Kurzweil. At the Toon Town opening.. Tony tried to take credit for it as his own. Do not be deceived by his Disney PR or that he shows up for openings. I could go on but John seems swayed by Tony's bs.

I apologise to the many readers here and to you Honor as being negative. The truth should come out so that those "real creative souls" get some recognition for what others take from them.

Thank you . RWR

Grumpwurst (Ray) said...

Honor,
Thanks for filling out the scorecard

Anonymous said...

--Previous anonymous wrote:

”Tony though ..is a different animal and do not ever be lured into believing he has creativity. His creativity is lifting concepts..ideas and taking credit by making deals with the brass. I gather he wants to turn Disneyland into Baxterland. ”--

It appears that you have missed a group: those who have particular grudge against certain creatives (or suits as the case may be) that they have taken a personal disliking to. This poster has some issues and has made accusations about Baxter that are, for the most part, untrue.

While no one is perfect, your blog provides a balanced assessment of Baxter. This person looks to tear down everything he’s done and write him off creatively in spite of the outstanding achievements he’s accomplished. As opposed to those that challenge those who actually damage the creative output of the company (and support the real talent), these people appear to be motivated by jealousy or other reasons of hostility.

It’s apparent that this poster is a Fitzgerald supporter, one of the key people who have subverted the true creative capabilities Baxter was capable of.

Keep up the good work. And now that I know you’re here, you have another Bothans to support you.

Anonymous said...

I write again to bring up more about the "grudge" I might appear to eminate in my writings. Although I am not a Tom Fitzgerald supporter as implied. I do not feel he has ever lifted something directly. The problem Tom has is that his attractions/films all follow the same basic formula..something always goes wrong then we are saved. Works sometimes, but not all rides need this. I just feel he may be able to get around this "routine".

Yes..I do not care for Tony Baxter. In the next 2 weeks I will be in Paris. I have been before. The park is the Rolls Royce in design and ass backwards in concept. Pirates is reversed and this was Tony's idea. Other areas suffered as well. All due to Tony's wanting to recreate the experience. Sometimes things do not need to be reversed to be new.

Normally, I would have said that these were just bad creative decisions. However, every information source has pointed to Tony's hand wanting to recreate every aspect into his
own "vision".

I.E..Phantom Manor looks gorgeous but Walt was right when he said that the exteriors should be pristine. It is one of the mood effects that lures one's mind into thinking this house is neat and tidy.and normal...then the shock of the dilapitated interior sets the mood at just the right moment. Tony ignored this and other set concepts.

His aim seems to be to put his stamp onto the projects. Again he takes others concepts..reworks them and then "voila" presents as new and "better". I would not want to share my creativity with him..

I have seen other areas to this pattern but I do not want to personally attack him. I know that the sqweaky wheel gets the oil and he can sqweak with the best of them. Unfortunately...many creative people have a hard time sqweaking or have been told that to sqweak is to lose one's positon..job...but sadly their voice and creative input.

This is why Tony got by..he made a deal with Marty to back him up and never question anyone higher up. Tony had carte blanche and used it.

Beyond this I do not know what to say. A creative bully who should have been stopped long ago. End of story for now. RWR

Anonymous said...

What does RWR mean?

Anonymous said...

Someone as what RWR is..no meaning just my handle for now.

hugh Hogwarts said...

Well RWR,

If you know so much about Tony you must be somehow connected to WDI???

Why don't you e-mail Honor and tell him what you do know about Baxter. Maybe he'll change his opinion of him then.

Fred said...

We are having a similar debate on our site regarding the suit versus creative battle http://www.standoff.co.za/creatives/anti-creativity-checklist/

Very interesting. I like how you mentioned that suits aren't "bad" people. There is a place in the world for all of us.