Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Previews From the Crest of the Wave

Disney wows 'em at Cannes:

With Inside Out one of the most warmly received films here in Cannes, Disney and Pixar rode the wave of good will this morning during a two-hour presentation of upcoming titles from both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

In contrast to Disney’s 25-minute CinemaCon showcase which was followed by a screening of Inside Out last month, there was much emphasis placed on the upcoming toons for an audience that lapped up every second. Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and WDAS, John Lasseter, highlighted art and scenes from Thanksgiving release The Good Dinosaur; followed by 2016 sequel Finding Dory; animal tale Zootopia and Polynesia-set musical Moana. ...

Once he was done with the Pixar slate, which also includes Toy Story 4 in a “brand new chapter that’s very personal,” Lasseter switched gears to Walt Disney Animation Studios. He marveled that it had been 10 years since he and partner Ed Catmull had taken over WDAS. “When we came in, we realized there was tremendous talent.” So they “redefined the culture to make it filmmaker driven.” Now, he says, after such mega-hits as Frozen and Big Hero 6, “Walt Disney Animation Studios is back. Ed and I always believed what would heal this studio — because it was quite broken when we came in, the morale was really low — what would really heal it is if we can make a movie to be a really big hit. These guys are on fire now.” ...

Kudos should be given here to Robert Iger, Disney's CEO, who set this era of good feeling (and big profits) in motion when he took the reins from Michael Eisner.

Ten years ago, Mr. Iger commenced making a lot of big corporate decisions that were questioned at the time: He mended half-destroyed fences with Pixar, and had Diz Co. purchase the company for what financial experts characterized as a tall premium ($7.2 billion). He brought an alienated Roy Disney back into the corporate fold. And I remember well the excitement at that first Disney/Iger stockholder meeting at the Anaheim POND, when John Lasseter mounted the hall's stage to make his first presentation regarding Disney Animation's future.

Time passed. The company's wheels kept turning. And by and by Mr. Iger "paid too much" for Marvel and Lucasfilm, as analysts' eyebrows (again) lifted.

But that was then and this is now. And the old adage "Based on results, how are you doing?" comes to mind. Based on Diz Co.'s corporate ledger sheets, the company is doing just fine. Profit margins, stock prices, and corporate net worth don't lie.


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