Thursday, April 3, 2008

In Memorium: Frank Wells...


On this day...

Fourteen years ago today...

The beginning of the end of Michael Eisner's reign as savior of the Mouse started...

While on a skiing trip in Nevada's 's Ruby Mountains, Disney's President and Chief Operating Officer Frank Wells is killed when his helicopter experiences mechanical problems and crashes into a slope at 7,500 feet. With Wells gone, Eisner has lost his balance and greatly over compensates...

Jeffrey Katzenberg now wants the top spot now that Wells is no longer there, Eisner doesn't give it to him and Katzenberg leaves the company shortly thereafter(a lawsuit later filed by Katzenberg will cost the Mouse millions). The first ten years under their leadership has been a stunning success, thus begins Eisner's downfall...

Of course, it would take twelve years and many disappointments before the axe finally came, but this is the event that set that all in motion.

Frank Wells will be missed. He was a very good leader, a fine Suit for the Mouse and well liked among his colleagues. He and his family were/are/will always be remembered in our hearts and prayers.

3 comments:

DCHall said...

Yeah, Frank played an integral part in Disney's resurgence. I read DisneyWar though, and it seemed like Eisner was headed down the wrong path regardless of Frank Wells' actions at that point anyway. Eisner was getting increasingly paranoid and power-hungry from what I understand.

One thing's for sure, I am glad Eisner did not offer that 2nd in command job to Katzenberg. He is a very good manager and I'm sure he would have made the Mouse House a lot of money - but if the choice was between Lasseter and Catmull being in charge now with the Pixar frame of mind spreading througout WDAS or Katzenberg turning Disney into what DreamWorks Animation is (oversaturating the market with average-quality films for profit), I'll take the Lasseter/Catmull combo, thank you...

...and in that case, thanks Eisner!

joshdj57 said...

I read that Eisner once said that there were only two people who could tell him "no": his own father and Frank Wells. With both gone, he had no more check and balance at the company.

I agree with dchall, things were going down before Wells' death. The first major mistake (theme park wise) was promoting accountant Judson Greene to be the head of Disney Parks and Resorts and relegating Dick Nunis to an ambassador role, where he had no decision making power. Nunis worked his way up in the company and made sure the parks remained in pristine condition like Walt wanted them. Whenever Disney had a new film come out that was successful, Walt would say, "OK Dick, now we can build a new attraction." When Greene came in, he made the rule that if they wanted to build a new attraction at a Disney park, they had to first shut down an existing attraction. This resulted in many more closing than new ones opening, for which Disney parks still haven't recovered from yet, not to mention reduced maintainance on the parks. Nunis retired in 1999 Greene left the company in 2000. In 2001, when Nunis was honored with a window on Main Street at Disneyland, he commented that the park still looks the same today, "except for the faded and peeling paint." Matt Ouimet and Greg Emmer fixed that beginning in 2004 and now Walt's Magic Kingdom looks great again.

The second mistake was putting the Euro Disney in France. Experts say that Germany, England or Spain would have been better since the French aren't into Disney as much as the other European countries.

Scissorhands said...

Great post!!

I knew the Wells' story only a couple of years ago. Before that I have always thought that the main artificer of the Disney Reinaissance of the 90s was Katzenberg. But now I strongly beleived that Wells was that man strongly helped by others (Muncker and Clements, Don Hahn etc...).
Katzenberg was "only" a talented business man. Isn't he?
Is it right?