Archives » December 1st, 2003

December 1, 2003

Disney Shakeup

Roy Disney has decided to go out in style. The nephew of Walt Disney, Roy has been a member of the Board of Directors of Disney since 1967. In recent years he has been more and more vocal in his opposition to CEO Michael Eisner, trying to get him to step down or even be forced out. Eisner finally got the better of him, though, and Roy was scheduled to be forced off the Board due to, according to the official company line, company age limits. Roy felt that story was just a cover, that he was being pushed out because of his criticism of Eisner, and so he pulled as “You can’t fire me, I quit!” routine and tendered his resignation over the weekend. And he decided to get in one last jab at good ol’ Mike, by making his resignation letter public. You can read it here. In it he goes off on Eisner one last time, saying he is “no longer the best person to run the Walt Disney Company.”

Roy then goes on with an itemized list of greivances. The closest to my heart is #3: “The timidity of your investments in our theme park business. At Disney’s California Adventure, Paris and now in Hong Kong, you have tried to build parks ‘on the cheap’ and they show it and the attendance figures reflect it.” I’ve been watching Disney theme parks very closely for years now. It’s kind of a side hobby of mine. And when you look at the quality of the parks, both the new parks being built and changes to the exisiting parks, you can see a definite and sharp decline over the last decade. Everything nowadays is done as cheaply as possible. They’re counting on the fact that any theme park with the name Disney on it will pull in the crowds, no matter how awful it is. And that’s just not true. If you look in Anaheim, you can see that on any given day the attendance figures at the new California Adventure park are half, or even a quarter, of the original Disneyland right next door. And that’s because DCA was built fast and cheap, and they favored building more shops and restaurants rather than more rides. After all, rides do nothing but lose money all day. It’s the shops and the vending carts that are the real profit centers. They can’t seem to realize that it’s the rides that bring in the people, and if the rides are crap then nobody’s going to come. People online have been saying it for years, but it’s good to hear it come from someone with some real clout—and with the Disney name, no less. With Roy being pushed out of the company, upper management will now be comprised even more of Eisner yes-men, and there’s less chance of real change. Not that Roy was ever able to make any changes, but he sure fought, and did so publicly. He should be applauded for that, for trying to keep the spirit of his uncle alive.

Roy’s best shot comes in the closing paragraphs of his letter to Michael Eisner. “It is my sincere belief that it is you who should be leaving and not me.” Amen to that, brother. Amen to that.