Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Iger Acquisitions

Why Diz Co.'s CEO purchased Pixar:

... "If I didn't turn Disney Animation around quickly … there was a drumbeat that was going to get louder and louder in terms of whether I was worthy of the job and how long I would last and all those things," Iger recalled confiding to his wife, journalist Willow Bay. "So I knew that the pressure was on." ...

Robert Iger analyzes a problem, then decides on a course of action. Often it means Wall Street will decide his Hollywood conglomerate is overpaying for Pixar/Lucasfilm/Marvel (choose one ... or all three). But then the new acquisitions pay off like rigged slot machines and Robert Iger is proclaimed a far-seeing executive of the first stripe.

What Mr. Iger actually sees, I think, is the commercial/creative landscape in a clearer and more comprehensive way than his corporate rivals. He doesn't second-guess himself, but goes out and buys a complementary entertainment company that Disney can fit neatly into its corporate culture. He's transformed the Eisner-inherited Disney into the Berkshire Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates.

And like Warren Buffett (chairman of B-H), he is smart enough to know not to mess with the acquired management teams. (They ain't broken; so leave them well enough alone.) I know for a fact that Marvel Animation is run separate and apart from the Mouse. Marvel Entertainment in New York calls the shots, it's almost like Diz Co. has nothing to do with Marvel's little animation company.

When I was a young Disney employee back during the Ulysses Grant administration, some fellow animation employees were distressed that the company was wandering away from the family entertainment foot path, setting up Touchstone Pictures then committing commercial sacrilege by putting its animated feature library on VHS cassettes. And selling them.

At the time, I wondered about the videocassette maneuver myself. ("Won't it kill the theatrical re-issues? What are they dooiing?!") But at that point Walt had been dead for a decade and a half, and all things change. Today the Walt Disney Company is a radically different corporation than the one that Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg took over, and different from the one Mr. Eisner handed off to Robert Iger in that far-away time of 2005.

There are no constants in this wicked world, and wishing there were won't alter that reality. As Ward Kimball often said, "Walt's dead and you missed it," so there's nothing to do but enjoy the present. Take solace from the fact that many of the important players* in feature animation today had earlier stints at Disney.

* Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chris Meledandri, John Lasseter, to name a few.


Zombie Kid said...

Yes but Disney was always known as a creative company. Today all they are doing is acquiring companies. Back in the 1970's while Ron Miller was running the studio they passed on the original Star Wars. Now they paid $4 billion for it. Spending that much money could only mean they are probably passing on any new and original creative properties.

attmay said...

A 1970s Disney-produced Star Wars film wouldn't have been nearly the hit it became under Fox. If it ran so much as a second over 2 hours, Card Walker would have demanded at least 20 minutes of arbitrary cuts. And if by chance they did manage to make it successful enough to get a franchise out of it——hey, they made five Herbie movies, didn't they?——they would have nixed the part about Luke and Leia "getting together" in Return of the Jedi. IIRC, they passed on making Back to the Future for similar reasons.

In the real world with the Star Wars movies we actually did get, Lucas needed someone to rein him in. Gary Kurtz was able to do that. Once he and Lucas parted company, that was the beginning of the end.

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