Thursday, October 02, 2014

At the Diz Co.

No guard tailing me at the hat building. I just flash my card, sign the register and stroll the halls....

There's been waves of layoffs as Big Hero 6 moved steadily through the various production departments. Lighting finished a few days ago, and the temporary production hires are now departing, while core staff members clean up odds and ends and sit down to figure out -- as a crew member told me -- how they can do the next movie better.

Everybody on the first floor is now more relaxed because the long work days have ended. But there are newer features being made elsewhere on the premisses. I saw some footage on an upcoming movie Diz Co. has in development, and it looked impressive.

Staff is going to be moving in November as renovations on the hat building start in earnest. the different feature units will be staying together, but there won't be room for everybody at Riverside Drive, so some employees will be moving to another building.

On a related but different subject: An article out of Britain interviews WDAS producer Roy Conli, who says ...

... What John [Lasseter] really believes in: that the directors will drive the story and must own the story. ... [in the nineties] "We got into an executive-driven era and now we’re back.” ...

I think Roy is mostly right about the above. But what's always left out, and what I find a teensy bit aggravating, is that minimal acknowledgement is made by company spokespersons that when a director drives the movie to a place the creative head of the division [Mr. Lasseter] doesn't want to go, the director departs.

And there's nothing wrong with this. The top guy is hired to produce profitable features in the way he believes they should be made. When a director doesn't give him what -- by his lights -- is necessary, then hesto presto! New director!

It's been this way since the days of Sam Goldwyn, Darryl Zanuck, and David O. Selznick. So wouldn't it be good to admit the way things actually work?

Lastly, the trades are full of praise for Disney chief Robert Iger, who will remain at the helm an extra few years.

Iger was supposed to retire in July 2016, and those two aforementioned guys were the leading contenders to succeed him (respectively the head of theme parks and the CFO). Problem was, neither of them was nearly as compelling a candidate as the guy already in the chair. And more important: The 63-year-old Iger looked around and decided there was nothing he would rather do, according to individuals with knowledge of his thinking. ...

The Disney board of directors was thrilled with that conclusion, according to a company insider. Under Iger's leadership, Disney has expanded its global reach, and the stock has soared steadily from $20 a share in 2010 to about $86 a share now. In 2013 the company made $6 billion in earnings on $45 billion in revenue. The company statement on Thursday noted that shareholder return has increased 311 percent since Iger became CEO in 2005, with Disney's market capitalization rising to $150 billion from $48.4 billion. ...

Sitting in a lighter's first-floor office this morning, I was trying to explain the difference between the Disney of 2014 with the Disney of 1976. But it's hard to do, because the company of today has as much in common with the mid-seventies version as an aircraft carrier has with a rowboat.


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