Sunday, September 7, 2008

Disney's Michael Eisner was Weird

I've been reading DISNEYWAR by James B. Stewart for quite some time now. It's more than 500 pages and I'm a slow reader so by "some time," I mean many, many months.

I've learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes corporate structure of Disney and all the drama that happened during Michael Eisner's time as chairman and CEO there. Really there is SO much drama, much of it stemming from the fact that Eisner considered himself to be The New Walt Disney...There are also lots of interesting tidbits about how and why Disney and ABC chose to produce the things they did, or didn't. For instance, ABC passed on Survivor twice before it became an insanely huge hit for CBS. Of course, being the drama queens all the execs were, no one would claim responsibility for passing on the show. There's just a lot of "It was her fault."/ "No it was HIS fault!" stuff going on.

One of the funnier things I've read was about the sequel to Walt Disney's Fantasia. When the animators and producers were working on what would eventually become Fantasia 2000, Michael Eisner put in his 2 cents about what he wanted to be in the film. He had just attended his nephew's graduation and felt that Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" should be one of the compositions used in the movie. He also had a specific, and incredibly bizarre way he wanted the animators to stage it:

Eisner proceeded to outline a plot for the segment: all the classic Disney heroes and heroines--Cinderella and Prince Charming, Ariel and Eric--march in a wedding procession carrying their future babies, which they would present in a ceremony. There was dead silence in the room.

Understandably, all the animators and Roy E. Disney thought the idea was terrible and an "appalling abuse of the characters." Still, Eisner insisted that they use "Pomp and Circumstance" whether they do the Disney baby thing or not.

This is what they eventually came up with:

If you ask me, the Noah's Ark segment with Donald Duck is still pretty weird. But, I mean, I didn't have to animate "Pomp and Circumstance" so I can't really say what I would or would not have done.

The moral of the story is: if you're a Disney fan, or want to be an executive, or just want to see what goes on in the business of entertainment, I definitely recommend reading DisneyWar. It's a good one! (And it's only 5 bucks on Amazon).

--Quote from: James B. Stewart's DisneyWar.

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