Hi ho, low thinking...
Today was an example of the repercussions of good/bad business...
Good for DreamWorks Animation and bad for the Disney corporation. Not totally bad for them, but an example of what can happen when you are short sighted in your business concerns. And to that I have to thank Michael Eisner for not being able to see over the next hill. Disney California Adventure's birth and squandered first decade for identity aren't the only mistake he made. Now, I'm not using this to say that he's wrong on everything (he wasn't), but I am using it to show how he lost the rights to something that he could have used to expand the already large collection of Disney properties. What am I blathering on about?
The Lone Ranger.
Sure, next year the Mouse will put out a film that will have cost around a quarter of a billion dollars on a property that it doesn't own, but once did. That's correct, the Masked Man was owned by Disney and was sold for a song. And it will now have to pay more for a license to a property that it could have used for free. If you've read Blue Sky regularly then you probably know this because I've mentioned it in the past.
Back in the late Eighties when the Walt Disney Company was looking to expand the Disneyland park into the Disneyland Resort, there were several things they had to do and wanted to do. One of those was reacquire the rights to the "Disney" name and property from those that owned The Disneyland Hotel. That's right, the Disney Company didn't own the rights to the hotel or the use of it's name until it bought them in the late 80's. Back when Walt Disney was planning on opening the park, he knew he would have to have a hotel for them to stay in, but being as he had all his money invested in building the park, he didn't have the cash to build it. So he turned to Jack Wrather, a friend and businessman to build it. In exchange for him building the hotel, Walt gave Jack the exclusive rights to build hotels in California with the name "Disney" for a 99 year lease. He only built one thankfully, or it would have been a much more tangled mess to unravel.
So back to the story. As Eisner and company moved forward to expand the park to a resort and add hotels, he wanted to purchase the Disneyland Hotel. The company played hardball with the company when they weren't really looking to sell. They were going to increase the lease for the Monorail stop at the hotel to a point where it would be excessively cost prohibitive for them to use. Can you imagine how angry guest would have been to stay there and see the Monorail go on by and not stop to allow guests to take it into the park. Well, the negotiations works. But in a different way, because the company that owned the hotel may not have been willing to sell the hotel back to Disney, but it was willing to sell itself to Disney: the entire company.
So, to get the property and name back, the Walt Disney Company agreed to purchase the Wrather Corporation. It was more than just that hotel you see. Now, being as Michael Eisner didn't like having to pay so much for other parts of a business he didn't want, he had the company get rid of part it didn't (he felt) need or want. There were good things that came from this, and bad things as well. You see, Tokyo DisneySEA's seed was planted when this happened, because one of the things that Wrather's company had the rights to was the Queen Mary. And when Disney was looking at making Disneyland into a resort, it also wanted to see what other opportunities were available as well. With this newly acquired area in the Port of Long Beach, Eisner set the Imagineers at WDI to task with finding a way to exploit it. And that is how "Port Disney" came to be. The Long Beach Project as it was known internally had a resort with 5/6 hotels, a shopping district, ports for the Disney Cruise Line and a theme park called Disneysea. Although it wasn't fully formed, it was the fetus that became Tokyo DisneySEA a decade after the American project was cancelled.
But there were other properties that Wrather owned also. And one was the Lone Ranger. It was sold in a fire sale to try to make back some of the millions that were spent on the purchase of the iconic hotel. No thought was given to mining the classic character for television like was done with the Zorro property that Disney didn't own. No thought was given to creating a movie for such a well known character. No thought was given to the merchandising profits that could have been had with Disney's marketing behind them. It was just something to get rid of. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but fans of pop-culture would see the opportunity that this American character represented to an American institution like Disney. A company known as Classic Media bought the rights to Kemosabe. Let's hope that the rights to the character are locked for a long time if this film is successful. Perhaps Disney's lawyers were forward thinking and included the rights to possible television series as well, otherwise Jeffrey Katzenberg's company could have a DreamWorks television series up on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon to take advantage of the new Disney film. Don't thing that could happen?
Then you've never heard the story of Antz...