DisneyLies.com

Selected Books

DisneyWar

DisneyWar, poet and acting legend Jimmy Stewart's 572-page tome on the inner dirt of the Walt Disney Company, created quite a stir when it was released in February of 2005. The book details Michael Eisner's "leadership" of Disney, and how he first turned it into a global media powerhouse beloved by all who so much as caught a whisper of its name, and then, through overexploitation and short-sighted shortcuts to short-term profits, made it the business-partner-annoying, penny-pinching producer of outsourced direct-to-video-via-movie-theater cartoons and creator minor amusement parks with major ticket prices that we all know today.

The book also spends a fair amount of time discussing Disney president and COD Robert Iger, who is thought by many people to be the perfect replacement for Michael Eisner (if by "many people" one means "Michael Eisner"). In 2006, Michael Eisner is expected to step out of his position as CEO of Disney, and has agreed to have nothing more to do with the company beyond perhaps heading the board of directors. At that point, according to DisneyWar, Iger will step in and continue to run the company as a toady akin to that kid that always followed the red-headed kid around in the movie A Christmas Story, with true lovers of Disney playing the part of Ralphie.

Michael Eisner denies that he is Iger's puppet master. Asked about the portrayal of his and Iger's relationship in DisneyWar, Eisner said, "Robert Iger is his own man. He doesn't need anyone to pull his strings." Iger added, "I'm my own man. I don't need anyone to pull my strings."

But it's Eisner who's the book's real target. Rather than go over the whole story in gory detail, we will share just a few of the book's startling revelations:

  • Eisner proposed that Disney make an R-rated cartoon about a prostitute working for an enchanted prince. Fortunately, animation department heads convinced him that Pretty Woman and the Beast should be split into two unrelated films.
  • Calling into an important meeting from his cell phone, Eisner called Jeffrey Katzenberg, "a know-nothing moron who wouldn't know a good TV show if I slapped him in the face with it," little knowing that Katzenberg could hear every word from the next stall.
  • Eisner wanted to buy ABC because it was easy to spell (the same reason he pushed for the company's purchase of Go.com). He went after the Fox family channel, Muppets, and Power Rangers because they were "current and hip," and is negotiating for global rights to The Thunderbirds for the same reason.
  • Eisner's vanity often gets in the way of his judgment. For example, he pulled all funding from Disney California Adventure's high-speed animatronic-spectacular "The Gold Rush" (because he never liked playing cowboy as a kid) and ordered it poured into Superstar Limo (because it would have caricatures of his friends in it).
  • Because "nobody likes that Dungeons and Dragons crap," Eisner ordered Miramax to pass on film adaptations of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Studio heads asked him what he thought filmgoers would like instead, "People want stories that are relevant to their lives. Rousing tales of current events that had an impact on them, like Pearl Harbor and the Alamo." Eisner had other suggestions along these lines, and only time will tell if productions such as the upcoming $250 million epic War of 1812 will prove him right.
  • Eisner originally wanted "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to have a top prize of $100,000.
  • Eisner on Katzenberg and Ovitz: "If it's not worth nine figures to fire someone, it's not worth firing them at all."
  • Eisner on Pixar: "We made Tron and Dinosaur -- who needs them?"
  • Eisner on Disney California Adventure: "People aren't interested in rides, they're interested in atmosphere."
  • Eisner on Hong Kong Disneyland: "People aren't interested in rides, they're interested in atmosphere."
  • When asked why there wasn't more money put into Disneyland for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, Eiser replied, "Where?"
  • In an internal e-mail, Eisner referred to Iger as "my bitch."

The book's center section has dozens of behind-the-scenes photographs, including a series of shots of Eisner and Iger taken at a drunken hot-tubbing party that anyone who has just eaten should probably skip over.

In a final quote in the book, Eisner denies that he is grooming Iger for his position. "He might be a good CEO," Eisner says. "Who knows? Frankly, I can't think of anyone who could replace me, although I do have an idea where we could find someone." The week before making this statement, Eisner invested a quarter-billion dollars of his own money in ImageGen, a biotechnology firm experimenting in human cloning.

In writing this review we tried to contact Disney executives for comment, but they were all unavailable for some inexplicable reason. Fortunately, we were able to contact a Disney spokesperson who was willing to speak to us about the company's official stance on the book. She said, "We remain focused on the company's excellent results, high performance, and bright future, and will continue to maximize shareholder value and fully support our CEO and board of directors, no matter how much of the truth gets out. Oh, and tell Roy I miss him."


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