Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Apple Mentored by Disney (?)

It had never, honest to God, occurred to me before but after reading Jason Schwarz's think-piece on the subject, I'm sorta, kinda partway convinced:

... Steve Jobs has carried around the blueprint for Apple’s success since he took back the permanent CEO spot back in 2000. During his latest tenure at Apple he has completely transformed the company from a one trick pony into a four-tiered empire. Has anything this dramatic happened before?

Welll, says Mr. S., it certainly has.

... [O]n June 3rd, 1984, Disney stock closed at an adjusted price of .78 cents. The widespread disgust over this valuation led to hostile takeover threats and even the near distinction of the company. Disney was out of sync with the times, their animation division was near dead, and their growth was non existent - until October of 1984, when Michael Eisner came in as CEO and began the turnaround. He took them into new markets where they flourished. He created a brand called Touchstone films and television that allowed them to produce box office hits for the masses ...

Schwarz belives that it's not a coincidence that Apple has revived in much the same way that Disney revived:

In May of 1985, Steve Jobs was relieved of his duties as head of the Mac division in the very company he had founded in 1976. Isn’t it interesting that the Disney renovation of the 1980s happened just as Mr. Jobs left Apple? It is no coincidence that he used the Disney growth strategy as the blueprint for Apple’s success, as he had plenty of free time to observe what they were doing. While he was away from the company, Apple suffered through a period of mismanagement and outdated product lines. When he returned in 1997, he began the process of implementing a Disney-like strategy. Just as Disney did with Touchstone, Apple did with the iPod. They opened up their brand to a new generation of users. This led to the development of iTunes music, movies, television shows, podcasts and games.

Apple also opened up their own international chain of retail stores - just like Disney did ...

Here in 2008, Steve Jobs is Disney's largest share-holder, and Jason Schwarz figures that the Apple/Disney revival and later marriage is more than just a happy accident. And he's betting that the similar rises in stock price for the two companies will continue in the years ahead.

Okay, maybe it's not far-fetched to think that Steve Jobs was taking notes at Michael Eisner's knee, even though Jobs is reputed to be less than a starry-eyed Mike Eisner fan. I think I'll wait for Jobs' memoirs to come out before I make any final decisions on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Touchstone Pictures was created BEFORE Michael Eisner got there. Ron Miller created it almost a year and a half before Eisnery took over the company. I wonder what else this guy got wrong if he missed a basically simple fact like this?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above opinion. Furthermore, the contributions of Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg were totally ignored in the article's statement about Touchstone. The fact is, after Wells died and Eisner's ego shoved Katzenberg out (thus turning a talented ally into a rival, nice work, Mike) Disney's animation division began to falter. I remember how let-down I felt when I viewed "Pocahontas". After the high of "The Lion King", the flick was a real disappointment, and that's because there was no Katzenberg there to correct the movie's story problems, among other things. Katzenberg's exit was the beginning of the end of Disney's second Golden Age, hastening the end of 2D theatrical animation, and Eisner added to his sins by making those crappy cheapquels (thus tarnishing the Disney films they were based on) and making stupid acquisitions like the Muppets. If it weren't for Pixar - and we know what Eisner nearly did to THAT deal - Disney's theatrical presence would be scanty indeed.

Steve Hulett said...

Touchstone's first release (as I remember) was Splash with Tom Hanks.

The Miller regime also started the Disney Channel, which has been a big profit-center for the company over the years.

I'm not sure Mr. Schwarz's theory up above completely pans out.

Justin said...

Crediting Eisner completely with Disney's turnaround may be over-simplifying the issue, but the point of the article remains. It is the method that Disney and Apple turned around their businesses that is key and not just the person responsible.

However I still find the article a little bit of a stretch.

scottnichol said...

also, apple and disney are not "married". disney aquired another one of Jobs' companies named Pixar, but Disney is in no way beholden to Apple or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

"I remember how let-down I felt when I viewed "Pocahontas". After the high of "The Lion King", the flick was a real disappointment, and that's because there was no Katzenberg there to correct the movie's story problems"

No doubt Katzenberg was a major player and contributed to the success of several of the animated movies from Mermaid to Lion King , but he didn't do it all alone . JK was also the major influence in pushing the story on Pocahontas in the direction it ended up . Most of Pocahontas was finished up before JK left Disney. The version of Pocahontas that was released is largely JK's vision for the picture. And then he supervised animated films at DW like The Road To El Dorado, Spirit , and Sinbad which were not exactly the greatest examples of compelling story and characters (beautiful animation in all those pictures , the amazing animation crew at DW did the best they could with the material they had to work with , but those movies are by and large very superficial, boring movies ... some of the worst examples of what paved the way for the "2D is dead" myth to take root in the conventional wisdom .

Anonymous said...

and that's because there was no Katzenberg there to correct the movie's story problems

As the poster above replied, this is an absolutely ridiculous statement. Pocahontas is the way it is BECAUSE of Jeffrey Katzenberg (he left only after the movie had been creatively locked down). After Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, he became obsessed with creating 'serious' animated dramas that would clinch the actual win for the category.

You see the continued focus on that goal with his first Dreamworks movie, "Prince of Egypt", and later, "Spirit". Unfortunately, he lost track of the fact that the films have to be actually entertaining.

It was only after repeated failures in his quest for Academy Award Best Picture status that he went back to making stories that were lighthearted and comedy-oriented--and not surprisingly, money-makers.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, without JK at Disney to screww up the films Disney did a stellar job of storytelling. He might be responsible for the 'more serious' projects, but he was also responsible for refusing to greenlight Treasure Planet. I'll take Pocahontas and Hunchback over the Hercules, Atlantis and Treasure Planet.

Anonymous said...

No, you've come to the wrong conclusion. JK may indeed have some good story instincts, but the fact is, Pocahontas and Hunchback are in the same lackluster category as Hercules, Atlantis, and Planet.

It took the guys at Pixar to show that storytelling could be fresh and relevant. With or without JK, Disney was increasingly in a creative rut, doing similar movies over and over again.

Anonymous said...

No one can argue with Pixar's success, but despite the rhetoric it's not due to their storytelling. If their films had been made in 2D does anyone really think the storytelling would've been enough?
I will grant you that Toy Story1 and the Incredibles were well told stories and might've survived in any medium, but not the other films. All the others were so wrought with bad storytelling that you can right a doctorate on what not to do in screenplay writing and the fact that the films were successful have little to nothing to do with their storytelling.

Anonymous said...

Uh...ok. I'll let you "right" your doctorate on how awful Pixar's storytelling is. Even their worst movie, "Bugs Life," was heads and shoulders above 98% of the storytelling found in all forms of film. But I'm sure your doctoral dissertation will explain how the beguiling novelty of CG somehow brainwashes audiences to like their substandard stories.

If "Finding Nemo" had been made in 2D, would it have been successful? Yes. Yes it would've.

Anonymous said...

"If "Finding Nemo" had been made in 2D, would it have been successful? Yes. Yes it would've."

No way in hell.Even if it had done OK box office it sure wouldn't have done the huge BO it did. Don't kid yourself and stop drinking the kool-aid

Anonymous said...

There is no way to know precisely how well it would have done if done in another medium. If your contention is that Finding Nemo is not a good story, and only did well because of the novelty of CG, I can only shake my head at the abject silliness of this notion. While it's easy to poke holes and find flaws in any story, Finding Nemo is an excellent story, and an excellent movie. I also make no apologies for liking Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.

I only hope you're not the same person who posted above that Jeffrey Katzenberg's departure was the reason Pocahontas sucked. I would question how anyone could get through the day with a brain so filled with wrong conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Beleive it or not, but there seems to be many different anonymous poosters that are not enamored with the ground Pixar walks on.
Mnay clearly love Nemo, but it will never be a shining example of good story structure or storytelling and is easily Pixar's weakest stories. I know many will never be convinced of that anymore then you could be convinced that Shrek is actually an extremely well told story. I won't waste my time trying to convince you because you'd never be convinced of either one.
I personally don't think Pocahontas sucked (at least not in the way Atlantis sucke). I hated the way they played fast and loose with history and the over the top enviromental message, but it really wasn't a bad film and I have no idea what was JK's fault and what wasn't.
Pixar's has had a pretty damn good track record, but that can't all be put down to their exquisite storytelling abilities.

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