Saturday, August 26, 2006

Strange Priorities


I've been on some business trips the last couple of weeks, and while I was in L.A. I discovered that Disney is spending who-knows-how-many hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new headquarters for its most poorly performing division, the Consumer Products group. It's to open in a few months near the DreamWorks studios, and will feature a built-in Panda Express ... for no reason other than the division president loves Panda Express.

And all the while, Disney claims it doesn't have enough money to remove the maligned wand, to renovate Wonders of Life without a sponsor, or to upgrade painfully old attractions at Epcot.

Yet, it does have enough money to placate the spoiled head of the only division that has shrunk in size over the years.

At the same time, the company just promoted one of its executives to a higher position within the Disney Vacation Club, with plans to expand that concept even further -- no doubt leading to even more aggressive, more unattractive DVC sales kiosks shoved obtrusively into theme parks. So, while Disney can't, for instance, overhaul Spaceship Earth and bring its storyline into the 21st century, it can spend mega-millions to devise new ways to get more money from you.

I just don't understand the priorities of The Walt Disney Company.

Or, perhaps, I don't want to, because Disney is increasingly doing nothing to hide the fact -- even from its guests -- that a bottom-line mentality devoted to "shareholder value" is all it cares about. (Which is kinda funny, since I sold most of my stock in 2001 at 40 bucks a pop, and five years later it's not even close to that price ... so I wonder where the value for shareholders is?)

Sorry to rant and rave about money today, but it just angers me so much that Disney can spend money when it wants to on projects that do nothing but placate its executives or crassly pull more cash from wallets, yet it claims it has no money to restore the glory to what was once its most unique and exciting theme park.

35 comments:

Chris said...

Its in no way surprising, since that seems to be corporate mentality overall these days.

One question, I thought since Siemens was sponsoring SpaceShip Earth that they were going to pay to have it updated soon. I know they're building the post-show area again, though I thought the ride itself was going to be changed also.

Honestly I don't mind the ride in its current state, other than the very bumpy track that needs to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

And the fact that "future technology" refers to the ability to exchange information and live images at the speed of light, and to connect to each other across the continents.

You know. Sorta like that thing that everyone thinks may revolutionize the world ... the Internet, I think it's called? Wow. Can't wait for that communication technology to change my life! Seems so ... futuristic! I'm glad Epcot is here to teach me about what amazing things await in my future.

Twirlnhurl said...

I think it's unfair to compare one division of the company to another. They are really two different companies with two different budgets in the corporate umbrella. A more realistic question to ask is why Disney isn't making their theme parks a more important part of their company. The 50th Anniversary at Disneyland did wonders for it's attendance levels, so the theme parks obviously have the potential to grow quite a bit, if only they tried harder to make them special.

Epcot82 said...

It's not unfair at all. Each division is part of the whole, and the whole is supposed to be concerned about developing, growing, preserving and cultivating the name, identity, history, influence and prosperity of "Disney." When the worst-performing division gets a completely unnecessary new complex, but the theme parks "can't afford" to develop and grow, there is a very serious problem. Especially when some guy insists on building a restaurant inside the complex just because he likes it! It's not only FAIR to compare them, it's something I believe the company's management and its shareholders should be more concerned with monitoring.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading a book called "How to be Like Walt". In it, there is a story about Roy asking Walt to go to a stockholder meeting. At first Walt didn't want to go (he thought that those meetings were boring), but he evntually relented.

According to the book, Walt sat at the meeting and looked out at all the sour-faced businessmen in suits. He was disgusted by the sight. Walt then took to the podium for his speech to the shareholders.

Walt proceded to read a letter from a shareholder in Florida. The shareholder wrote: "I don't care if I ever get any dividends. You just keep up the good work and keep making good pictures". Walt then looked at the sour-faced businessmen and said, "I wish this Company had more shareholders like that one. He understands what Disney is all about. Now, it's been very nice to meet all of you, but if you don't mind, I have a studio to run". He left the meeting and Roy never invited him to a shareholder meeting again.

The point is that Walt wasn't in that position just to make money, nor was he there to ring people dry when they went to Disneyland. He wanted to make better PRODUCT for his guests and audience. He wasn't doing it for investors or "shareholder value". He respected people that knew what Disney was about.

Now that I've heard this, it seems that the higher-ups care more about the Wall Street sour-faced businessmen than they do about their guests and customers in the parks, especially Epcot. It's sad that it's come to this.

Anonymous said...

Well, it all makes sense when you consider that Disney itself is not the publisher of "How to Be Like Walt"!

For all the talk that management talks about Disney being a creative company, the last decade has proven that if Disney is anything these days, "creative" isn't it.

Chris said...

Disney is creative....when they don't have to pay for it...for example, Tokyo DisneySea

Anonymous said...

Currently consumer products is in rented space in the Burbank Tower building. Extremely expensive space, which will probably keep getting more expensive because there is a very low vacancy rate in the media district.

The campus that it is moving into has been in development since 1999. The goal, stated then was "We'd like to control real estate costs and, of course, increase planning flexibility," said Ed Chuchla, director of development at Disney. "Along with that comes operational efficiencies and creative synergies."

The current head of consumer products wasn't even with the company when this project was planned. In other words, this move is designed to save money in the long run.

As to how their commisary is built out, that area in Glendale isn't exactly known for their restaurant choices. Just like the studio has a Panda Express (and soon a Starbucks) and the ABC building has a La Salsa, the goal is to keep the employees from wandering too far afield at lunch.

Food operations, will be handled by Sodexho, I'm guessing, who operates every other food operation in the Glendale/Burbank area. If the head of consumer products had any input at all into this decision, I'm guessing it's he weighed in on whether they get a La Salsa or a Panda Express. I'm kind of sceptical that Panda Express is any high ranking executive's "favorite restaurant" though. Have you ever eaten at one?

Here's some more from that same article that I pulled the quote from -

The office vacancy rate in Glendale is topping 16 percent and speculative development has all but vanished.

So why is Wait Disney Co. undertaking a 125-acre redevelopment project on the southwestern edge of the city?

The answer has as much to do with the dynamics of the Glendale real estate market as it does with Disney's needs for the future.

While there is room to spare in many traditional Glendale office buildings, tenants are scouring the area for locations that can be converted into the kinds of industrial-tech work spaces - with exposed ceilings and beams and brick and steel architectural details - that have become the signature of new-media and entertainment companies.

First and foremost, Disney's aim for redeveloping the site known as Grand Central Business Centre is about controlling its own real estate facilities. But the company is likely to have no difficulty leasing out a portion of that redeveloped space to third-party tenants.

I'm not sure where you are getting your information from, but you really undermine your cause when you try to connect parts of the business that are totally not related at all, other than maybe some of the new giant complex will end up housing some imagineering facilities, given the proximity.

And, by the way, don't forget that consumer products is the second oldest division, much older than the parks. Just because they're having a slump now, doesn't mean the wheel won't turn again. Remember when it looked like the parks were the weak link? Oh, yeah, that's when Epcot almost busted the company.

Anonymous said...

Before you make comments like this, you really should get the facts. Your statements show that you know very little about DCP.

DCP is not the company's "most poorly performing division". That honor goes to the Studio which, if you read
"http://corporate.disney.go.com/investors/annual_reports/2005/financials/ar2005.pdf">the annual report
, shrank 15% in revenue and 69% in profit from 2004 to 2005, and has shrunk another 9% over the 9 months to date of fiscal 2006 according to the latest earnings release.

What is commonly misunderstood about DCP is that the majority of its revenue comes from licensing royalties. That means that the company takes NO RISK on any of the consumer products sold under the Disney brand because it does not sell them directly and makes HIGH PROFIT. That is why DCP was 11% of profit, but only 7% of revenue in fiscal 2005.

But even that is artificially low, because DCP houses the video games group which is investing over $200M to make Disney a player in the video games space, something the company must do to be relevant entertainment company in the future. So if you add that back in to the fiscal '05 results, DCP would have delivered over $700M in profit and 35% growth over fiscal 2004. That would have made it the FASTEST growing division at Disney, growing at TWICE the rate of the Parks.

If you really want to compare DCP to other divisions, you should do so by looking at retail sales. Andy Mooney recently gave an investor briefing - I suggest you read it if you really want to educate yourself on DCP - in which he said that when he took over DCP in 2000, it did $10B is retail sales of consumer products around the world. Today, DCP is a $21B retail business globally which is a 110% increase from 2000. Its hard to call that performance "poor", first of all. But more importantly, it shows that DCP is actually THE BIGGEST DIVISION of Disney when you look at money spent by consumer on the brand. It is 2.3x larger in this sense than the Parks.

Thank you to the poster who correctly pointed out that the decision to move DCP to Glendale was a decision made by corporate - not DCP - as part of an overall shift of all divisions on to company-owned property and the motivation for the move was to save money over the long term.

Agapanthus said...

What they ought to try in Futureworld is to pair hot-shot inspired sales guys and energetic inspired designer idea guys, all who actually have track records of successful projects, budgets, and reputations, and all the types who live for the challenge of the PRODUCT. Make it so Disney has the last say on creative content in Future World. Then set 'em loose, let 'em go to work, and see what happens. All it needs is strong, reputable leadership on the part of Disney. If it works, great! If it doesn't work -- well, at least you tried something and a lot of folks had fun in the process.

The darkest indicator to me is that "Cranium Command" lies idle at the Met Life Pavilion. There was nothing wrong with it. Everyone enjoyed it, always. It was friendly and funny and all-immersive. To have it closed is a cold shoulder, indeed.

It's frustrating when I see what I think of as fixing something that ain't broke. Spaceship Earth's ride isn't broke, just the clanky track. Cranium Command was classic. There are so many other places and ways to accommodate sponsors without replacement. The whole corporate culture of Disney seems so ... white noise, anymore. It seems a case of marketers leading the product, instead of the product leading the marketers. The product comes first -- that was essentially Walt Disney's Rule Number One, correct? Giant wand on geodesic sphere ... hmmm, product-driven or marketing-driven? Man, that's a tough one ... NOT.

Whatever happened to the fantastic merchandise you could only find in the excellent nook-and-cranny stores so fun to explore at the theme parks? Kitchen gadgets, Polynesian stuff, Western doo-dads, Disney logo items, memorabilia, collectibles -- nobody had better shopping than Disney parks. The Disney-brand stuff was well-made and of nice quality, and the non-brand stuff was unusual and interesting. Then slowly at first, about 85 percent of the whole balance went into a nosedive. Now, nearly every store has the same old cheap stuff. No fun to explore, really. You were seeing the same "trend" names you find in the mall! It was heartbreaking, and stupid.

Is that the territory of current consumer products?

Epcot82 said...

First off, sorry, but Mooney's comments are dead wrong, and it's amazing that people don't check them. Retail sales were actually higher in 1996 than they are today. (Don't compare year to year, but look decade to decade ... compare DCP to where it was in, say, '94 or '96 and you'll see some interesting results.)

But retail is only part of the equation. I won't go into a discussion about DCP since this is a blog about Epcot, but I actually do know much more about the division than you might think, and I do have a problem with the way they report their "success" -- and question some of the numbers that they bandy about.

Nonetheless, to say that various parts of the company shouldn't be compared because they aren't connected is a specious argument -- I'm talking about Disney as a whole and its OVERALL success or failure on a creative level. The fact that Cranium Command sits closed while Disney builds out its Glendale office space is exactly the kind of situation that has been allowed to happen around Disney for more than a decade. And it's sad. While Parks & Resorts and the Studio have undergone sad creative slumps that value profit over creativity (something that another reader pointed out nicely that Walt simply would not allow to happen), groups like its real-estate development arm and its non-creative licensing business get enormous amounts of attention from the finance guys.

That's why I believe Disney has a strange sense of priorities. The fact that you even have to try to justify the rent at the Tower building (where Consumer Products has been for more than 15 years) and encourage people to look at comments Andy Mooney made at an investor meeting while missing the heart of the argument -- that Disney devotes more attention to business than creativity -- indicates you've fully bought into the Disney line. Part of my efforts here has been to focus attention on the fact that the company that was once known for (and built itself on) extraordinary creativity that no one else in the industry could even touch has become creatively stagnant and fixated on Wall Street not on Main Street.

As Agapanthus points out, there's the whole issue of the fact that all 11 Disney theme parks now contain almost exactly the same merchandise (with some rare differences). In its zeal to cut costs and "streamline," Disney has gotten rid of anything that was remotely interesting and exciting creatively -- from development of Epcot to the Disney Stores to exciting, challenging family films to the creative side of its licensing business to WDI. Everything that once set the company apart has been neglected, and it may be too late to get it back.

What is truly sad to me, though, is that defense of Disney always comes back around to the financial figures and results ... not to the creative slump that its once-grand, untouchable theme parks are experiencing. As long as they deliver the numbers, as long as ANY division delivers its numbers, no one cares how much creative soul is lost.

Epcot82 said...

By the by, Consumer Products is NOT the second-oldest division. Merchandising was part of the Studio until the early 1980s, and was simply an ancillary business. While MERCHANDISING may be something Disney has done longer than anything except making cartoons, the division itself dates only to 1985 or so.

I actually do know a bit about the history of the division -- Kay Kamen, Roy Disney, Borgfeldt, publishing, etc. It's kind of fascinating, because top Disney management used to take its merchandising VERY seriously and used to spend a lot of time and effort making sure it matched the public vision of Disney ... something that arguably happens less and less. (Remember the disastrous "edgy, teen" t-shirts it tried to produce about five years ago?)

Anonymous said...

You really can't defend how ill informed and naive your original post was, so why not stop and move on? Your Panda Express example was ludicrous.

You may have a nostalgic appreciation for ride-thrus full of animatronics, but to assert that they are absolutely superior to their replacements is just a matter of opinion. One could argue that both Mission Space and Test Track are more in the spirit of Epcot in that they both feature innovative unique and innovative uses of technology. Yes, I wish they would have left Imagination alone, but even when Horizons was new, I don't remember actually waiting in line for it.

I think your blog would be more succesful if you focused on positive suggestions and less on poorly thought out griping and wishful thinking. Clearly Epcot needs something, because Future World is dated and awkward, but to act like building office space in Glendale has anything to do with what's going on there is nuts.

Epcot82 said...

I absolutely, 100% stand by my comment, which I have verified with three separate people, about the choice of Panda Express. But focusing on that is beside the point.

Unneeded office space to placate the egos of overpaid executives is VERY MUCH on the point, but you're right, I want to get away from that now. It is pointless to argue it. Disney is, it's almost impossible to deny, overblown with too many executives trying too hard to justify their jobs -- it is bureaucracy run amok, and Epcot is one of the prime examples of how that bureaucracy has ruined the creative spirit.

But, yes, I actually DO argue that the AA-filled rides are in every way, in every POSSIBLE way, superior to Mission: Space and Test Track -- rides that would be mind-blowing in a theme park not run by Disney. But in a Disney park, all they do is show how Disney has lost sight of its storytelling focus, how it no longer does the things it used to do better than anyone -- creating immersive, expansive entertainment that engaged all of the senses, not just the adrenal gland.

And I do believe it's all connected. If YOU don't believe it is (and since it sounds like you're a Disney employee, I can appreciate your desire to remain loyal to your company), then you need to remember back to the old childhood game of "connect the dots." To believe that simply because divisions are separate on paper means the actions of one have nothing to do with the success or failure of another is to either a) not appreciate the interconnectedness of the divisions; or b) show that Disney has become so large that the right hand doesn't know -- or care -- what the left is doing.

AVITWeb said...

Something simple, short, and to the point....Walt has got to be turning over in his grave!!! To allow a pavilion to just sit there uninhabited for as long as it has (Wonders of Life) is just rediculous! And that, alone, I think is one BIG testament to what you are saying!

Agapanthus said...

"To say that various parts of the company shouldn't be compared because they aren't connected is a specious argument." I agree. It's all symptomatic of the whole.

Anonymous says, "You may have a nostalgic appreciation for ride-thrus full of animatronics, but to assert that they are absolutely superior to their replacements is just a matter of opinion. One could argue that both Mission Space and Test Track are more in the spirit of Epcot in that they both feature unique and innovative uses of technology."

A vital consideration is ignored in both rides: people must belong to a certain physical profile or they are excluded. They can't be elderly, frail, or too little, or pregnant, or overweight. Only those fit enough to submit to extreme gravitational forces may ride. It's not that the rides aren't good, it's that they're exclusionary. That's okay for Disneyland (Indy Jones), but Epcot?

If it's a "World's Fair" concept in Future World, then attractions need to be accessible to everybody. If Epcot will continue to draw an international vacation crowd, it must accommodate whole families in its rides and attractions, and what more universal interest could possibly exist than an optimistic view of the future? The challenge is to make it technically inviting to all. It's not complicated, but it is challenging. And it must be done in a way to foster the confidence and investment dollars of corporate sponsors whose technology is what inspires the whole Epcot forum. If the players are good at what they do, they enjoy doing it enough that budgets are part of the challenge. They put the product first, and the rest follows.

I hate that term, "dated." It is such a cop-out. Many things in the world around us are not dated and will never be dated. Thank God. To refrain from engaging in Futureworld ride and design for fear of being "dated" is like a man who hates women judging a beauty contest. Utterly futile.

What's really missing, at Epcot as throughout Disney, is leadership, vision, confidence. Optimism. But then again, we are living in a pessimistic era. Pessimism and confidence are mutually exclusive. No one has the confidence, as did Walt Disney, to lay down the gauntlet and go for it. It worked when he did it with the theme parks, before the thing grew so massive that marketing overtook the product.

Steve said...

Come now, Epcot82! I know a certain someone who is blindly supportive of the company they currently work for, so it's not very fair to criticize us Disney employees who blindly support our company. I say "us," even thought I'm certainly not one to withhold criticism of Disney.

I agree with almost everything Epcot82 says on this blog. It's nice to see someone draw attention to the slow disintegration of the theme parks. But the decision to buy GCBC and develop it for the remaining Disney divisions that are paying rent to outside companies makes perfect sense. It's a time-consuming and expensive process, but a smart one in the end. Planning ahead like this is never bad.

I can't fault Disney for developing GCBC. But I CAN fault them for not spending the same time and effort to properly maintain and update Epcot. That's where the issue lies for me. And asides aside, I believe that's all Epcot82 is saying. Maybe. Far be it for me to put words in his mouth.

Speaking of asides, since Panda Express already has a foothold in the Disney Studio commissary, I have a feeling the decision to put a Panda into the new DCP did not rest solely on some executive whim. That smacks of corporate urban legend to me. I wonder if Sodhexo might even have a deal with Panda, offering it among other brand fast food restaurants in its food service installations. I have nothing to back this up. It's just a thought.

Steve said...

Come now, Epcot82! I know a certain someone who is blindly supportive of the company they currently work for, so it's not very fair to criticize us Disney employees who blindly support our company. I say "us," even thought I'm certainly not one to withhold criticism of Disney.

I agree with almost everything Epcot82 says on this blog. It's nice to see someone draw attention to the slow disintegration of the theme parks. But the decision to buy GCBC and develop it for the remaining Disney divisions that are paying rent to outside companies makes perfect sense. It's a time-consuming and expensive process, but a smart one in the end. Planning ahead like this is never bad.

I can't fault Disney for developing GCBC. But I CAN fault them for not spending the same time and effort to properly maintain and update Epcot. That's where the issue lies for me. And asides aside, I believe that's all Epcot82 is saying. Maybe. Far be it for me to put words in his mouth.

Speaking of asides, since Panda Express already has a foothold in the Disney Studio commissary, I have a feeling the decision to put a Panda into the new DCP did not rest solely on some executive whim. That smacks of corporate urban legend to me. I wonder if Sodhexo might even have a deal with Panda, offering it among other brand fast food restaurants in its food service installations. I have nothing to back this up. It's just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Disney employee, but not in the parks, imagineering or consumer products. I don't blindly support anything, like all huge corporations Disney has the good and the bad.

What I was trying to point out is that if you want this blog to be more than therapy, you need to be realistic in your focus. Writing an outraged post over an office building in Glendale, no matter how hard you try to link it to Epcot, is very easy to dismiss as a fan rant akin to those "such and such character only belongs in such and such park" posts that litter the Disney fan boards. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to be a little more careful. I think the blogs showing photos of peeling paint in Disneyland actually had some impact, because it was solid, indisputable and not a matter of subjective opinion. To me, arguing that attractions that were no longer actually attracting guests were somehow superior to ones that are, on some vague opinion level, is never going to get you anywhere.

Pointing out that the wand is an eyesore, that Wonders of Life could be vital again, even that the free coke products are mainly non-existant in an attraction that was built to feature them, seems like the beginning of a winning crusade.

If your goal is to make Epcot a better park, I think it's possible to have an impact at a netroots level. But as long as you keep on self indulgent tangents with circular logic like, "Why are they spending money on an office building? Oh, to save money? Why is it always about money with you corporate types?", you will be dismissed as a naive crank. I'm not saying that as a judgement, I just know how most executive veiw extreme fan passion on the internet. Another bugaboo, is when internet fans jump all over some proposed new addition (like you did with the cell phone scavanger hunt being tested) with few actual facts to go on. I happen to know something about the technolgy they're testing, and your ill-informed reproting on it defined over-reaction.

It's not like Disney's going to jump in a time machine and bring back 1982 Epcot, complete with giant head walk arounds, so you have to ask yourself, realistically, "What are my goals and how can I achieve them?" Me, I'd go one battle at a time, starting with the wand. Maybe trying to target the new sponsor of the pavillion.

But if you just want to vent and spew half baked accusations AND be dismissed out of hand by the powers that be, just keep doing what you are doing.

As to the "dated" hater above, I think it's just a fact that some design ages well and some doesn't. Disney's always had problems with their "future" architecture looking old and tired very quickly. I think much of future world, even if it was perfectly maintained, just looks wrong. To my eyes, The Land is the only of the originals that seems to hold up and achieve a timeless look. But that's just my opinion. One thing that's fogotten is that Epcot was always this cobbled together compromise from other concepts. Future World looks like world's fair, circa 1980 architecture, but the nature of world's fairs is that they are torn down after a year or two. Ideally, I think a future world attraction should be rethought every ten years on a rotationg basis.

St. Chris said...

Excellent argument, Anonymous. I've been struggling with the feeling that we (including myself among the complainers) need to find a more constructive, practical approach to saving -- or, at least, properly evolving -- Epcot.

Twirlnhurl said...

The comment about targeting Spaceship Earth's sponsor is probably the best idea yet. Why not send the petition of signatures to Siemens about it. Talk to the money. If accountants are keeping it there, have other accountants argue it out.

Epcot82 said...

I like what everyone's saying -- people are talking here, which is the point, whether you agree with me or not.

As for "blindly supporting," you might be surprised at how non-blind that certain someone is. Supporting something while accepting and listening to and valuing criticsm is one thing; blatantly ignoring fans and condemning anything they say is another. And that's what Disney seems to do these days.

As for that whole Grand Central Buisness Center thing, Steve's right -- I don't give a flying flip what they do ... except when they start valuing nice business digs over the things that impact the people who pay money to "enjoy" Disney. Most would call them the fans, Disney execs tend to call them the "freaks," and that right there says something. So, when the people who care about Disney most are saying, "Please so something about the theme parks" and Disney responds by upping executive pay, building new buildings, investing in new media and everything BUT its "core" businesses, yes, I see a problem.

Saying it's not connected is simply trying to gloss over the fact that Disney has, as I've headlined this, "strange priorities."

I promise a new topic is coming very, very soon!

Epcot82 said...

By the way, it's a comment like this from Anonymous above that gets to the heart of the problem:

"But if you just want to vent and spew half baked accusations AND be dismissed out of hand by the powers that be, just keep doing what you are doing."

All around the Internet, the "powers that be" are getting free, unsolicited advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from absolutely passionate individuals, many of whom understand and know Disney (yes, it's true) BETTER THAN DISNEY EXECUTIVES UNDERSTAND THEIR OWN COMPANY.

But Disney ignores it, dismissing it as ranting from ignorant fans who just want a return to past days.

Instead, they pay millions a year to "consultants" to help them understand their own customers (primarily because they continue to insist that Disney is a company primarily for kiddies). No matter what you think of my own blog, the Internet is filled with wise, thoughtful, valid, constructive, sometimes "ranting" but usually passionate and genuine, feedback on how Disney could improve.

Disney ignores that feedback at its own peril -- not because the fans will revolt or anything dire like that, but because by ignoring those people who care about Disney the most leads them to create a Disney designed for the people who really don't care about it much at all. It will succeed in the short term, but in the long term ... well, the business history books are filled with dire stories about companies who choose not to listen.

Anonymous said...

You really don't understand what I'm saying about hurting your cause, do you? About being focused and realistic?

Sorry, but the fact that you won't recant your office building rant, even in the face of facts, is quite revealling.

Big businesses make big business type decisions, like owning versus renting. It's not really all that complicated and statements like "start valuing nice business digs over the things that impact the people who pay money to "enjoy" Disney" really are ignorant in the true, not insulting, sense of the word. I'm guessing Bob Iger has spent about 15 minutes pondering the Glendale development for every full day he spends trying to lead the parks in a very transitional era for the theme park industry. It's obviously a huge part of the company and you better believe he's vitally interested in making them thrive. If you read the Jim Hill piece about his meeting with the Imagineers who worked for Walt, you've got to at least give him a bit of time to make his mark.

For the last time, they're building perfectly fine, functional office space with an employee lunch room. Nothing to do with anything at any of the parks anymore than what ESPN pays for NFL rights does.

But I tried. I salute your passion, and rue your political skills. Good luck.

Epcot82 said...

The irony of your comments are greater than you think. Since we don't know each other, and you don't know anything about who I am, what I do or what background I've got (nor what insight I might have), it's interesting to note how little you seem to be gleaning of what *I* am saying.

You seem fixated on the GCBC issue, and perhaps you're getting me to fixate on it, too. Partly, this is all about image. Remember when Nancy Reagan bought the china and the media went wild? They claimed the Reagans were out of touch, that they weren't focusing on the sentiment of the people, that Nancy's actions were harmful to Ronnie's presidency. You know, the china had to be bought; it was one of her responsibilities as First Lady to do so. The china had nothing to do with policy or politics.

But it was the wrong move at the wrong time and gave the wrong impression to critics.

You see, then, how things that aren't connected actually are? Or, no, maybe you don't see.

It's about image. It's about seeming to care. It's about showing that you understand the issues.

Whether it's right, wrong, a good decision or a bad decision, necessary or unnecessary, flawed or worthwhile ... it's all beside the point.

Moreoever, my blog's for expressing my opinion ... not for being politic or "right." It's for getting people to think, to talk, to wonder, to consider what might be possible. Seems like I might have done that, so call me all the names you want, make all the assumptions you'd like; I'll call it a successful day.

Thanks! (And, with all sincerity, thanks for reading, too.)

Anonymous said...

True, we don't know your background, but we now know you suck at analogy.

The difference is, Nancy Reagan didn't buy the china to SAVE MONEY. It was a legit criticism to point out that she was spending like royalty there. It is not legit to claim that building an office building that is humbler than what it replaces somehow represents misplaced priorities.

The image Disney presents with this deal is of a company that is investing in a community and saving money on a pretty mundane part of the business. If you think the actual employees will be thrilled to move from the middle of the media district to the middle of the Glendale light industrial center, you really are out of touch.

And as for painting it as a vanity project of Andy Mooney, as noted previously, that would be a nice trick since it was first announced when he was still at Nike.

I could go back to your previous posts and point out things you got completely totally wrong when you conjecture about what's going on behind the scenes, but really why bother? I only picked on this one because it was so laughably off base and I could speak up without betraying confidential information.

But as you correctly pointed out, it's your blog and if you want to base your arguments on misinformation and misinterpretation, that's certainly your right. I was giving you advice (which you rejected) on how not to make this a waste of time. I've seen succesful fan movements work wonders in the company, this has all the earmaks of the ones that go nowhere.

Exhibit A:

"Whether it's right, wrong, a good decision or a bad decision, necessary or unnecessary, flawed or worthwhile ... it's all beside the point."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, if you can be anonymous, so can I, and I will hide behind this identity to suggest that you might consider controlling your desire to control. You're working too hard to tell Epcot82 and the rest of us what we should be doing here and how we should be doing it.

If you really believe it's such a waste of time, why are you here? We all of us recognize you, we've had to work with you in every company we've ever known, we've had the unpleasant chore of keeping you in the loop on projects, we've had to put up with your petty self-importance in meetings, your lack of ability to sense when to move ON, and your tossing of cold water on every idea or opinion that isn't yours. Your tone of contemptuous condescension makes us roll our eyes when you're not looking. You come across as a know-it-all, and nobody likes a know-it-all.

Anonymous said...

You're right. You guys just want talk amongst yourself. Sorry for interrupting with a bit of perspective from those you're trying to reach. Have fun kids!

Anonymous said...

So, what you're saying is, we need to "play by Disney's rules" or not play at all? That if we don't couch our arguments, our opinions, our thoughts, our ideas in exactly the way you guys want, you won't listen?

No wonder Disney has lost so many of its once loyal fans.

Anonymous said...

You are kind of misunderstanding what I am saying.

Lest I leave you with the wrong impression, I should clarify that I am on the creative side. I agree with many points made here. I was trying to convey my experience from twenty years of dealing with executives. In my job, if you don't at least understand their rules, you don't get very far when you're trying to persuade them.

As far as fan input, I welcome it and engage fans on my projects quite frequently. I'm sure parks and WDI creatives do likewise, which was my original point. They can't show their executives this site as any proof of fan opinion as long as valid points are mixed up with, to use an example other than the office building, stuff like the premature freak out over a very limited test currently being housed in the upstairs of Imagination.

There's a difference between a know-it-all and someone who would just like to get the facts straight.

Anonymous said...

There may be "a difference between a know-it-all and someone who would just like to get the facts straight," but your tone here is that of a know-it-all who wants to be the boss. You demand a "recant of your office building rant," you tell the creator of the forum " ... you suck at analogy," you scold the folks here for not being "focused and realistic" and do it all because you work for Disney -- not WDI, but you've had 20 years experience of working with these executives, etc. You assume (probably incorrectly) that no one else here has experience like yours, inside or outside of WDI.

If Disney theme park "executives" are so out of touch that they can't separate the wheat from the chaff on a fan web site, then I submit to you that they're the incompetent ones, not the folks here.

I suspect that down deep, it's simply that you like to be in control of other people. You tell yourself you're doing it to "help" Epcot82 be taken seriously, but I'm not buying it.

Laura said...

If the execs won't look at this website because of one post that they disagree with or think has flawed logic, then they are really more lost than I ever imagined!!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm new tho this little chat just to let all of you know I am not one of the previos "anonymous" posters. I do have experience in WDI and executive offices within Disney and I can promise all of you that none of the current decision makers is Glendale give any regard to fan opinion. WDI Glendale Executives hold fans in such disdane as to refer to them as "foamers." To assume things are handled in Glendale the way they are in the other parts of the company is foolish in the extreme. WED/WDI has always had its own culture, completely removed from the rest of the company. This was once a positve, but for the past 10 years its insolation has bred a diseased disconected culture.

That is not to say that fan sites can't have influence. The real world is invading WDI more and more these days, and believe it or not, these days that's a good thing.

I have to say...I love this blog. I check it every day and I know a few folks in Burbank check it too (but no one in the executive offices in Glendale that I can think of). However, this is the weakest post I've read here. Sorry Epcot82, you do great work but this one is a little weak...not inacurate or wrong in any way, but weak. Mr. Anonymous up there offers you some good advice, but he is more than a little obnoxous (and for some reason believes Jim Hill--only once sentence in Hill's article was correct). As a loyal reader who completely agrees with your agenda, I do recommend you avoid subjects you are not well versed on such as DCP. But the point is made that Disney does pay too much attention to backstage concers than on-stage. It's great that Disney is thinking long-term with regard to it's investment in DCP office space, but it is too bad they can't think long-term with regard to what was once their most ambitious project--EPCOT.

Kee p up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Obnoxious? No doubt. But I'd argue that I'm responding in kind to the prevailing tone of the host's posts. Take no prisoners seems to be the operating philosophy here. It's not like he treads gently around our egos.

Control freak? Guilty. It's a plus in my line.

But I was trying to give sincere input, if that was misconstrued, I apologize. I'm a fan of the parks too and I thought I might help.

I wish you well in your cause.

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated note: congrats Epcot82 on keeping up a great blog! (35 responses on this post alone, and climbing!) Like many others here, I frequently check this site and enjoy reading everyone's thoughts (even though I may not always agree.) I think it's great that yourself and Mr. Anonymous above (albeit not in agreement) can commence in discussion over the perceived pitfalls of Disney execs and the current, mixed-bag state of Epcot.

Keep up the good work!

- Mike
Tampa,FL