A few decades ago, I was sitting in a story meeting at Disney Feature Animation on Flower Street. Jeffrey Katzenberg and a few other people from his management staff were being shown a sequence of "Oliver & Co.," and a story artist (I forget which one) was putting his all into the presentation.
When it concluded, one of the execs who'd come in with Mr. Katzenberg began to expound on things that bothered him about the storyboards. He went on for awhile, and then, as he paused for breath, Jeffrey said: "It seems fine to me."
End sentence. End paragraph. Close quotes.
The executive who'd been nattering on about the boards' shortcomings swallowed and shrank about three inches in his chair. And made the tactical decision -- a smart one, it seemed to me -- to say nothing more.
It was kind of clear who had the final word in the meeting. And who wasn't afraid to use it.
Of course, things don't always turn out that way.
Late this afternoon I was sitting in the cubicle of a story artist who regaled me with the following tale:
"I was working on the story development crew at [a large animation studio], and we were finally getting a handle on a feature we'd been working on. There was a writer who the studio had just hired who turned out to be really good. And he'd written a great new outline and we had fleshed it out. And we pitched the new approach to a high-level studio exec and one of the managers.
"The high-level exec wasn't crazy about the writer who's work we liked, and wanted to put in two of his favorites -- neither of whom the story crew thought were any good.
"So we're in the conference room, doing the story pitch. And when we get to the end, everybody sits there waiting for a reaction. Finally the manager says: 'Needs more baby.'
"Except there was no baby. None. And the story would have been wrecked with a baby. It didn't fit. But the high exec says: 'Yeah! Needs more baby.'
"So naturally we put in a baby. And the good writer got replaced by the two favorites of the executive, and the project went downhill from there.
"After awhile it was canceled. And now, years later, all I remember from that meeting where it started not to work is 'Needs more baby.'"
Sometimes executives make right decisions. Sometimes the decisions are something other than right.