I know, I know. You came by JimHillMedia.com today, expecting to find "Why For." Or maybe you were hoping to find out who the winner was in last week's "Why For" logo contest.
My apologies, kids. But all of that stuff is going to have to wait 'til next week. Why for? (Sorry. But I'm contractually obligated to say that at least once every Friday. Anyway ... ) Because now we're going to talk about yesterday's big news. Or - rather - the "Big News!!" that I personally don't think is nearly as big as some of the other Disneyana web sites would like you to think it is.
I mean, were you to poke around the Web today, you'd find some folks out there who are positively giddy at the notion that Paul Pressler has left the Walt Disney Company. For those of you who don't already know this, it was announced yesterday that Pressler - formerly the Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts - had been hired away by Gap Inc. As of Monday morning, Paul will be the new president and CEO of the U.S.'s largest specialty retail clothing chain. You can learn more about the particulars by following this link.
After reading some of the stuff that's being written over at these other sites (It's all they can do to keep from bursting out into "Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead"), you'd think that Paul Pressler was responsible for everything that ever went wrong at the Disney theme parks.
Me personally? I can't help but think about how this whole scenario seems awfully familiar. I mean, does anyone out there honestly think that it's just a co-incidence that two days after Michael Eisner gets racked over the coals by the Walt Disney Company's Board of Directors ... Paul Pressler is suddenly exiting the Mouse House?
I mean, didn't this same thing happen back in January? ABC's ratings were in the toilet ... and suddenly Stu Bloomberg is stepping down as co-chairman of that network's Entertainment Television Group. Stu - who'd been with ABC for 22 years and really loved working in TV - heading out the door. Why? Because somebody had to.
And back in June 2001, didn't this very same thing happen over at Walt Disney Studios? The Mouse's movies weren't making enough money ... And suddenly Studio chairman Peter Schneider - a loyal member of "Team Disney" since 1985 - is out on the street. Why? Because someone other than the Big Cheese had to fall on their sword.
Now - if you know anything about the Walt Disney Company - you know that all major decisions go through Michael Eisner. He's legendary in the business for his micro-managing.
So - if ABC's rating were down - Michael had a hand in that. After all, he's the one who okayed running "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on ABC four nights a week during the 2000 - 2001 season.
And if Disney's movies weren't making enough money ... Well, Michael had a hand in that too. After all, he's the one who told Schneider to keep down expenses. Which is why Peter forced Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale to cut some of the more exciting (but expensive to produce) scenes out of "Atlantis: The Lost Empire."
And if Disney's theme parks were having attendance problems ... Well, Pressler's supposedly in charge. But Michael Eisner's really the one who actually has finally say-so on what got built in the parks. So if you don't like DCA ...then don't blame Paul. After all, he was just following Uncle Mikey's orders.
You see, this is what scares me about the Walt Disney Company these days. Michael Eisner calls the shots, but he NEVER takes the blame. It's always another lower ranking Disney exec who's ultimately persuaded to fall on his sword. (Thank goodness for that "golden parachute." That big pile of money that Disney traditionally hands its exiting execs really helps to cushion the fall.)
So - for those of you out there who are celebrating because you think that things are finally going to change at the Disney theme parks - think again. The man who's really responsible for what's been happening in the parks for the past 10 years is still in charge. And - if the stories that have been swirling around about this week's acrimonious Board of Directors are true - things could be getting a hell of a lot worse very soon.
What do I mean by "worse"? Well, Michael Eisner reportedly promised the Board that - in an effort to contain costs and raise profits - he would continue to make cuts at the theme parks. So no matter who eventually ends up with Pressler's old job (And - as of the moment - the three top candidates for the position are Disneyland President Cynthia Harriss, President of the Walt Disney World resort Al Weiss and Chairman & CEO of Euro Disney SCA Jay Rasulo), Uncle Michael will still be the one calling the shots.
That's why I feel particularly sorry for the poor slob that Eisner promotes to replace Pressler. Talk about your thankless jobs. Whoever takes this position next is going to be saddled with an absolute nightmare.
I mean, think about it: The new Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts is going to have face the public & the Disney cast member and be all happy & upbeat. They're going to have to say reassuring things like "I'm going to do things a whole lot differently than Paul. Just you wait and see ... " Meanwhile - behind the scenes - Eisner is STILL going to expect this new guy to do his bidding. To keep profits at the theme parks up by cutting corners wherever & whenever he can.
It'll be an absolutely thankless job. Particularly since Eisner's job is now riding on whether or not he can turn Walt Disney Company around in one year's time. Talk about working in a pressure cooker.
So - me personally - I'd hold off on hosting that "Paul Pressler is Gone" party. Yes, the front man, the guy who carried water for Eisner is gone. But the man who actually called the shots is still in the driver's seat.
And - from what I've been hearing - it looks like Uncle Mike may still end up driving the Walt Disney Company straight into the ground.