Wednesday, September 26, 2007
A "Solsbury Hill" Moment...
This is a reflective post. You see, a couple days ago was the anniversary of Michael Eisner being voted in as Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. I deliberately chose not to report it. I've had a great deal of post that reflected negatively on him and the Suits he brought with him so I felt like it would have been piling on unnecessarily if I had mentioned it.
Now as much as I criticize Mr. Eisner, I have mentioned the good he has done, but probably it bares repeating so that people don't get the idea that I'm trying to bash him for the sake of it. I want to get across the fact that I believe the success that the Mouse has had over the past two decades wouldn't be possible without Michael Eisner and Frank Wells...
My gripe has always been that Eisner overstayed his welcome and basically lost his balance in 1994 when Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash. During his first decade, I feel he got eighty to ninety percent of what needed to be done right. The problem was he spent the next decade doing the exact opposite and doing eighty to ninety percent wrong. If he would have retired by, oh say... 2000 he would have gone down in history with a much kinder record. I believe he'll still be remembered rather well... just not as high on the ladder as he could have been.
Sometimes people have to know their limitations. Sometimes people have to know when it's time to leave the party. Sometimes it's necessary to call the game and head home. That takes humility and perspective... these are two things missing from Eisner once Frank Wells exits the stage in this play.
Now, what does this have to do with the title of this post? Solsbury Hill? Well, it refers to a song. My favorite song by my favorite solo artist. Peter Gabriel.
The song has a very colorful and interesting history. You see, he wrote it after going insane... alright, that's the politically incorrect way of saying it. The PC term would be that he had a mental breakdown. He lost his wife because of an affair he had with someone... presumably, Kate Bush. He realized that he'd made a mistake and the world around him was crumbling because of his own mistakes, his own stupidity and his mind just snapped. He was put in an insane asylum... oops, sorry. A mental institution, I mean. And he spent some time reconstructing his mind, going over the details of his life and trying to piece it back together until one day it was over. Someone famous came to take him home. Now the song was written about his experience being there... supposedly, he used to look out the window and see Solsbury Hill and it became a symbol for him. It became his freedom. Not so much from the place he was at physically, but where he was emotionally. For when he could finally get out and go to it... well that meant that everything was back to normal. Everything was fine.
Now, I'm sure you're saying... "nice story, but again, how does this have anything to do with Disney? Well, as I said at the beginning of this post... this is a reflective post. I'm just in that sort of mood so bare with me a bit.
See, I tend to use a lot of analogies(and if you don't know that you've not been reading the blog very long)... what this has to do with the Mouse is in how it mirrors the time of Eisner's reign. See Eisner was riding high at the company, its stock was high and the success was making him feel like he could do no wrong. Like he could do what he wanted and nothing bad would come of it. Like Peter Gabriel when he cheated... he wasn't thinking clearly. Anyway, the disaster for Gabriel was the infidelity and destruction of his marriage. The disaster for Disney and Eisner was EuroDisney.
Eisner's first mistake was in locating the park in Paris instead of where it should have gone, which was Barcelona. This was the location that the park was originally going to go. The area was good and the weather was much closer to the American parks so that the company wouldn't have had to deal with the harsh winters that made them design certain things for the Paris theme park. Well, France dangled all these goodies... all these financial incentives in front of Disney and Eisner gave into temptation and took it. Just like Gabriel... he then started building far more hotels than the resort could fill effectively. Eisner indulged in his excesses the way Gabriel continued his affair not thinking of the repercussions and not believing he would get caught.
When it all started coming together... when the park was a hit, but the hotels weren't being fill, the realization of overspending took place. And everything... EVERYTHING Eisner had planned to come after it would suffer from the bitter sting of EuroDisney. Port Disney with it's DisneySea park... gone. WestCOT with it's immersive worlds... canceled. The "Disney Decade" that Eisner announce earlier... dramatically cutback. Several other projects fell by the wayside. Everything afterwards was overly cautious... dealing from the sting of his excesses... Eisner now did the exact opposite and the results of that fruit are DCA, WDSP and HKDL...
This was Eisner's mental breakdown. And the company's as well... and of course I'm being metaphoric in using these things. You see, for Disney and it's fans... well, to see the return to glory we've been wanting? That would be us looking out on Solsbury Hill, wanting to be free again. The symbolic nature of the Mouse being alright again comes with Eisner realizing it was time to go and moving on. Essentially the process of knowing what has to be done. The rebuilding that has to happen so that we can go back to a better time when everything was well. That's where we were last year and today. We're in a state where we know what is right, we know what went wrong and as Iger himself has said about knowing what went wrong so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Now some of you will take this analogy as a stretch... that's understandable. But I like it... it's good for me and that's all that really counts right now. I hope you got an understanding of what I was trying to convey though...
It's good to finally have the Mouse be in a position where it knows what was done right, what was done wrong and what needs to be done over the next decade or so to bring about some form of sanity. For the Mouse, the Shareholders and the Fans.
Now does that sound crazy?