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Checks & Balances: Enough with the Iger hero worship

Checks & Balances: Enough with the Iger hero worship

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When will Disneyana fans stop living in Fantasyland?

I mean, I just spent the last day and a half reading through dozens of Robert Iger-related threads at various Disney discussion boards around the Web. And to hear some of you people talk, you'd think that Disney's CEO-to-be was an actual magician. Someone who -- with a simple wave of his hand -- was going to wipe out every single mistake that Michael Eisner made over the past 21 years.

To put it bluntly, that's not going to happen. After all, Iger's a man. Not a magician.

More to the point, Bob's a businessman. A top executive who takes note of what price Disney Company stock is trading at the end of each business day. A suit who makes a point of paying close attention to what major investors have to say about the way he's been running the corporation. Those are the people that Iger will be going out of his way to impress once he takes charge of the Mouse House. Wall Street types. Not annual passholders.

So if you're thinking that -- once Michael Eisner's out -- Walt Disney Studios is immediately going to get back into the traditional animation business and/or Disney's new CEO is going to order the Imagineers to start building E-Tickets at each of the stateside theme parks ... Well, you're probably in for a disappointment.

I mean, sure. Iger will undoubtedly quickly greenlight a prominent project or two. Just to prove to the financial press that he is really his own man. To clearly demonstrate that Bob's no longer following Michael's orders.

But the really sad part of this story is ... Iger actually is still probably going to have to follow Eisner's orders.

To explain: Back in August of 2003, Roy Disney decided to sell off 7.5 million of his Disney Company shares to Credit Suisse First Boston. As a direct result of this sale, Michael Eisner then became the Walt Disney Company's largest individual shareholder.

This means that -- even though Eisner will soon be on the outside looking in -- thanks to the incredibly large number of shares that Michael now owns, Bob will still have to listen to what the Disney Company's former CEO has to say. Iger will have to go out of his way to try & make Eisner happy. In much the same way that Michael used to have to try & make the Bass Brothers happy. Back when Sid & Robert controlled a huge block of Disney Company stock.

I know, I know. This isn't the sort of thing that all you people who were raised on Walt Disney Productions' films want to hear. You want to believe that life is just like a Disney animated fairy tale. Where good will always triumph over evil. Where the villain will always get their comeuppance in the end.

Well, this is the real world people. To be specific, the business world. Where there are no happy endings. Just concessions and compromise.

But Disneyana fans ... They seem so desperate for a hero nowadays. Which is why -- seeing as their "Save Disney" dream (Where Roy was supposed to become the Disney Company's savior) has just fallen through -- these folks have now latched onto Bob. Making Iger the new repository for all their Disney-related hopes and dreams. Saying things like "Things will be so much better once Bob is actually in charge."

But, some people on the Web aren't even willing to wait 'til Mr. Iger actually takes over as Disney's CEO. They've begun insisting that virtually anything good that happens at the Walt Disney Company nowadays has come about as a direct result of Bob Igers' efforts.

So Disneyland's 50th anniversary and how wonderful that theme park looks nowadays? According to these fans, that significant change didn't come about because Roy Disney & Stanley Gold complained loud & long about how lousy Disneyland looked. Which -- in turn -- embarassed Michael Eisner. Who then then turned to Matt Ouimet and ordered Disneyland's newly installed president to make sure that the place looked spectacular by July 17, 2005. Which is why Matt mobilized hundreds of cast members (as well as blowing through millions of dollars to buy thousands of gallons of paint) in order to make sure that Disneyland did look great in time for the theme park's 50th anniversary celebration.

No, to hear the pro-Bob faction on the Web talk, Disneyland's makeover only occurred because of Iger's direct intervention. Which is just ... bizarre.

This same sort of theory is now being floated about Save Disney's recent decision to end its "Oust Eisner" campaign and shutter its website on August 7th. Some Iger enthusiasts are now insisting that it was Bob who persuaded Roy & Stanley to finally throw in the towel. Whereas anyone who's actually been paying attention to what Disney & Gold have been up to knows that "Save Disney" has basically been dead in the water since December 3, 2004.

Why December 3rd? Because that was the day that Roy & Stanley announced that they wouldn't be putting an alternate slate of directors up for election at Disney's 2005 annual meeting. Which then effectively left these two former board members toothless.

Oh, sure. Disney & Gold would continue to grumble & grouse for the next six months. But from December 3rd on forward, no one inside the Team Disney Burbank building considered these two to be a real threat anymore. They just viewed the whole "Save Disney" effort as sort of an annoyance. At best, a minor irritant.

So for Iger to now get credit for shutting down something that was already dead in the water ... That's just silly.

You know what this all reminds me of? 1985. That time when everyone was talking about what a hell-of-a-guy Michael Eisner was. How smart Disney's new CEO was for starting up Touchstone Studios, for releasing so many of the studio's titles on VHS, for getting the Disney Channel on the air, etc.

The only problem is ... Michael Eisner didn't actually start up Touchstone Studios. Nor did he decide to start releasing Disney's films on home video and/or start up the Disney Channel. Disney's former CEO, Ron Miller, was the guy who started up all those projects. But -- given that Ron was long gone by the time this trio of corporate initiatives finally began to flourish -- it was Michael who got to collect all of those accolades.

Of course, Eisner has rarely -- if ever -- made an effort to correct that impression. The only time that he's ever publicly acknowledged any of Ron Miller's contributions to the company was at last Sunday's rededication ceremony at Disneyland's castle. But most people believe that the only reason that Michael did this was a sort of a sop to Diane Disney Miller. Who took in this same ceremony. And -- more importantly -- is Mrs. Ron Miller.

Anyway ... Given that -- over the years -- Michael Eisner has gotten a lot of credit for work that Ron Miller really did, I guess that it's only appropriate that Bob Iger is now getting credit for projects that Eisner (and other people) actually initiated. This proves that the universe really is in balance. That the karma wheel actually does turn.

Anywho .... Just to recap here: I  think that it's dangerous that many Disneyana fans (as well as several prominent members of the press) have already started hailing Bob Iger as a hero. Calling him the would-be savior of the Walt Disney Company.

You know what else I think? I think that it really concerns me that Iger has worked at the Mouse House for over 11 years now, much of that time right at Michael Eisner's side ... And we still don't have a clue who this guy actually is. Iger's an enigma.

The way I see it, it could be months -- maybe years -- before we finally get a sense of what sort of CEO Bob actually will be. We'll have to carefully watch the sort of projects he greenlights, the kinds of films that he puts in production, the risks that he's willing to take with the Walt Disney Company before we see if he's really the right guy to be running the Mouse Factory.

So all I'm saying, people, is you might want to hold off on all the Iger hero worship for a while. Okay? At least until we see if this guy is actually a hero.

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