Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Disney Tug of War

First of all, I want to welcome you to my blog....

Wait....I've had a blog for almost 2 years, what on earth are you talking about, Rikki?

I'm talking about, the new home I've made for myself I can now be found at No more being forced to type in .blogspot anymore!

So, with all that being said, let's get on with today's hot button topic. It's something that has been troubling me for a while now.

I love Disney. I really truly do. It is my happy place. It is what fills my head a majority of the day. And it really is the most magical place on earth!

That being said...things are not always as rosy as you would like them to be sometimes because, well, Disney is, of course, a corporation, who has shareholders they have to impress and budgets they have to keep. It's not bad to have these things at all, but the truth of the matter is, in a creative company like Disney, these are all issues that can muddle things up sometimes.

For a while now, I've been taking a look at how things are run within the company and I'm really noticing, especially in these harder economic times, a sort of tug of war game going on. In the past, it seems like each side was about evenly matched...with creative and money working together. Maybe not evenly of course, but with a good give and take. However, in the more recent years, it seems like the monetary side seems to be gaining momentum...slowly inching that rope over to their side.

This is what bothers me. Yes, as I've stated, I'm aware Disney is a company and a company's goal is to make money. However, with that being said, in the more recent past, it seems like Disney is being run more like a bank and not a media/theme park business, which thrives on the ability of using money to up the creative aspect. I'm hoping this is not entirely true...but to those on the outside looking in, it certainly appears that way.

So, why do many of us think that money is winning out? Because if you take a look at a lot of the more recent things built and the recent things that are coming, there is really one common denominator for the majority of them....and that's the most recent things are built are things that can help generate money. Merchandise sales, to be exact. (Along with other aspects, I'm sure.)

The most used example is something like Stitch. Yes, I know he's used in this regard a lot, but it's only because it's true. Stitch was mainly put into the theme parks because he was popular merchandise fodder. The same can be said about adding Finding Nemo to The Seas, and I'm sure in less regard to things like Toy Story Mania to the Studios, the Tron-o-rail (advertising to get you to see the movie and I believe they are selling Tron merchandise already as well) and yes, even something like American's there to 1. sell merchandise and 2. because putting this attraction in wasn't paid for by Disney. Also, we have new possibility for merchandise sales with the upcoming return of Captain EO and of course, the Fantasyland expansion.

Of course there is the fact that Walt, the man himself, would advertise his products in the past, as well. So we can't entirely say that it's only current management who uses this method for monetary gain. I mean Sleeping Beauty Castle was a full on advertisement for the movie. But I think the main difference is, Walt built things with quality and purpose. Not just as a quick way to make a buck. (I mean, hello, he built a castle! That's not just something that can be taken down quickly if the movie flopped.) Walt didn't seem to build attractions primarily for the sale of merchandise, as it currently feels it is today. (Although, he did build a theme park to advertise his hmmm....I guess it just didn't feel as in your face back then as it does now...)

And of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just seeing things in a negative light...but I don't think I am. I think that I'm finally seeing how things are working. I'm in the Disney bubble...but I can also see past the characters and magic that are in there with me and see what is on the outside on the rose colored bubble.

Which makes me pose this question. Do you think, in a creative company, like Disney is, that things should be run as a two head system? Much like it was with Walt and Roy or with Michael Eisner and Frank Wells...where there's someone who really champions the creative side and someone who focuses on the monetary aspects. It is a pretty huge job being in charge of both and I think sometimes being in charge of both can hinder things in some ways. I know it's always better for me having a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

Or do you think things are much better the way they are now? With one person solely in charge of everything? Making the decisions and being the one knowing everything that's going on can sometimes be a good thing too.

I really want to know what you this is such a hot button topic right now because of all that's going on with the Fantasyland expansion...something that many people claim that monetary issues (ie: the fact that Princesses and Fairies are big money) are the driving factors behind this expansion instead of pure creative talent. So, make sure to leave me your comments.

As I've mentioned before, and I just want to reiterate, I love WDW. I really do. I just want to see what's best for things all around...both monetarily and creatively.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say congratulations on your new web address. After listening to betamouse podcast I can say I now understand their is a difference. So again Congratulations!

On the topic, I am still wearing my rose color glasses and don't want to take them off even for a second. Your article was great, but I am just excited for new things at the parks. I did vote in the poll on the side for a two headed system, because like you stated, it seems to work better when you can bounce things off of someone else. Also, most creative people are at thier best when they don't have anything to worry about, except creating.

Thanks for two great years of blogging and here is to wishing for many more. Also Thanks for being apart of such a fanatastic podcast. 4 equal parts make one MAGICAL podcast.


username= chattwdw
Chattanooga, tn.

Unknown said...

Is it funny that I'm still behind and haven't listened to that episode of Betamouse yet. But they are definite the force behind what's making me make my blog better, for sure. :)

And thank you for the congrats. I'm not quite at 2 years yet...but I'm getting really close. June 4th is my two year anniversary! :)

Unknown said...

I think Disney has been focused more on the profits lately. I'm sure they are getting a lot of pressure from major shareholders to do so. There is nothing wrong with making's why businesses exist. Although I think Disney has missed the boat in a few areas. For instance the regular ticket price increases. Considering the economic climate, Disney could have chosen to freeze park admissions. It would have made for great public relations if they did it right and would have created a lot of good will among the Disney loyal. I think the leadership of the company should ask themselves "What would Walt & Roy do?"

Susie said...

I do feel like things were run better with the two-headed team of Walt and Roy, but look where they ended up...on different sides, fighting at the end of their lives. Maybe there's just supposed to be one CEO. Either way, I both agree and disagree with you. I miss the Living Seas the way it was before Nemo. I don't think putting Stitch in the park is a bad thing...I love seeing my favorite characters in the park (though I can't stand the Tomorrowland attraction with Stitch). It is a Disney park, so it makes sense that Disney characters should be present. I think the proof that they do it for money is in the little things, like the fact that we never see any Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Pete's Dragon characters, because most little kids don't know who they are so they wouldn't profit as much from that. I think they need to put more focus on quality and keep their loyal consumers (us!) in mind, when making decisions to cut promotions etc.

Very good, thoughtful post, Rikki.

Unknown said...

I think you make one comment in here that is something I want to clear up. I don't hate the idea of putting Disney characters in attraction. I understand doing that, wholeheartedly. It is a Disney park and they should be represented.

What bothers me though is that if you look at the numbers for the past 10 years, the number of character related attractions outweighs noncharacter related ones. And especially if you look at the trends from the past 5 years...that would really showcase that fact even more.

I'm not saying it's bad to include characters at all, but I think the focus has been (at least for the recent years especially) to build attractions where they can have some sort of tie in.

Unknown said...

I think Disney has actually done a decent job of balancing the economic and creative realities. The fact is in the middle of the worst economic times since the country was founded, Disney is rolling out new concepts for park modernization, new ships for DCL and new hotel properties for both DVC and non-DVC guests. Additionally, they have made acquisitions of things like Marvel and new resort property in Washington, DC to expand their footprint.

My one complaint would be the amount of giveaways that popped up in 2009 and early 2010 to get butts in the park. That bothered me a little as it seems like Disney could careless about people once they bought into DVC like our family did. Of course, our attendance isn't driven by promotions and I hope the deals of the past several years has opened Disney to families that normally would be unable to go.

On a side note-- as a stockholder I have been pleased with the price growth and dividends this past year!